Let Us Prey is the third published work of local New Orleans writer Don Spears. In his most recent work, Spears exposes the soft underbelly of organized religion, particularly the proselytizing and extortion that preys upon the faithful. A subtitle of the novel “Predamus” is derived from Latin and means let us prey, basically a play on the words of the clergy who invite the pious to pray.
The book is well researched, and according to Spears, it reflects a spiritual journey that took him over seven years to complete. The depth and breadth of that research is reflected in its extensive bibliography.
Spears begins the non-fiction work with a retrospective depiction of post-Katrina New Orleans, which is both daunting and tragic. His first hand view of the City from the vantage point of a native, shows the pain that only those who bore witness to the devastating initial view can relate.
In his extended preface, Spears details life experiences, particularly the traumatic experience of surviving the worst natural disaster in US history that led him to re-examine his own faith, his beliefs and his understanding of organized religion and the effect it has had on him and others. For some their faith is even stronger, while others are no longer believers.
A professed skeptic, Spears exposes myths, propaganda, and many other untruths that have been propagated through the ages by the Church in an effort to control the masses. Spears contends that it is that control that has led to much abuse and corruption by clergy and other people of faith and has rendered many African Americans to make questionable life decisions as they have been duped by matters they would normally question were it not for the source of the misdirection.
According to Spears, the book is one man’s attempt to help readers understand “how and why your spiritual and secular worlds work or do not work.” As Spears says, “Life itself is much too short, and time much too precious, to keep going around in circles, only to find yourself cheated out of most of both in the end.”
Spears begins by examining a universally accepted belief among Christians of the creation. He questions the notion that the first family was composed of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel. As Spears queries, where did Cain’s wife come from? After Cain murdered his brother Abel, and Cain was destined to wander the earth and be killed by anyone who would meet him? But who could kill him if there were no other people on earth? And are we to believe that Cain procreated with one of his sisters or one of his nieces?
Spears central thesis centers around three basic questions. The first question: Is today’s church helping or crippling its members? The second question: Is the church a benefit, a liability or even relevant in the 21st century? And finally: Has the church stifled the creativity and growth of society? His book does not answer these questions, but rather encourages its readers to examine and make their own decisions about the impact of the church on their lives.
Another belief that has long been upheld by the church is that of the “virgin birth.”
The book contends that since the mother of Jesus possibly had other children, are we to believe that since subsequent offspring were born to the union of Mary and Joseph, Mary was not a virgin all her life “semper virgo” as the Catholic Church maintains. Spears also challenges the notion of Mary and Joseph embarking on a 100-mile journey on a donkey during the dead of winter when she was in an advanced state of pregnancy. Similarly, Spears raises many other questions including the fact that Mary came from a very wealthy family and Joseph, a craftsman, was probably of middle class income, however they are typically portrayed as poor. Spears attributes much of the biblical story as we know it to be linked to a combination of mythology, Christian, Jewish and pagan.
Christians have generally accepted the biblical history of Jesus birth without exception because the gospels corroborate each other, but Spears boldly suggests that Jesus himself may have been illiterate since none of the accounts are known to have been written by him. And in fact, the most prolific writer of early Christian doctrine was Paul (or Saul) someone who actually never met Jesus. Paul, in fact, had been a fierce defender of the Jewish faith, an ancient bounty hunter, until he was transformed by an experience on the road to Damascus. This combination of his Christian experience and his Jewish upbringing is yet another factor Spears attributes to a possible merger of the two theologies.
This blending of multiple theologies is self-perpetuating and serves to satisfy the masses while promising something for everyone. The problem for early Christians and Jews was that these emerging views challenged the authority of the ruling classes and diminished their control. With so many conflicting beliefs, the masses craved something or someone to follow, and that something or someone became Jesus Christ and the early church.
Spears imagination is supported by the artistry of William Jamison and Gail Pomes whose illustrations capture the challenging nature of the book. Jesus and other early Christians are mostly depicted as people of color who frequently display a passionate nature in contrast to the docile, peaceful demeanor in which we often see early Christians portrayed.
Thought provoking, controversial, and some may say blasphemous, the work is definitely a page-turner that is difficult to put down. In Let Us Prey, Spears presents another aspect of his prolific writing that reveals doubts and thoughts many of us have wrestled with but were reluctant to discuss. It is truly an interesting read.
Copyrighted 2018 by Don Spears