Category Archives: Writing

My Buddhist Journey to Jesus

I’ve published a new book, “Journey Out Of Nothing: My Buddhist Path to Christianity.” It is the story of the years I spent in Zen Buddhism, when I lived in Japan in the 1970s and 1980s.

Journey Out Of Nothing - CoverHere is the blurb I wrote for Amazon:

While in his twenties and thirties, international journalist and best-selling author Martin Roth, living in Japan, became deeply involved in Zen Buddhism. So much so that he co-authored a reference work on the subject, “Zen Guide.”

Now he explains the attraction of Buddhism to himself and to other young Westerners. He also recounts – often in amusing detail – some of his adventures.

He became possibly the first Westerner to complete a famous pilgrimage to thirty-three temples in northern Japan. On another pilgrimage he spent three days hiking through some of Japan’s holiest mountains, sometimes standing under frigid waterfalls in purification rituals. He stayed at famous monasteries, often participating in morning worship services full of dazzling ceremonies.

He introduces some of the fascinating people he met. These include the young priest who lived and meditated in a giant soy sauce barrel; the professor who devised “commuting Zen” meditation for his strap-hanging one-and-a-half-hour rail commute to work each day; and the American advertising executive who became head of his own Japanese Zen temple, a place where Caroline Kennedy, now US ambassador to Japan, stayed during her honeymoon.

But he also explains why his interest in Buddhism began to fade, and why, today, he is a Christian.

This short book (18,000 words), part travel adventure, part memoir, part spiritual odyssey, will entertain and inform.

Contents:

Introduction
Chapter One – First Steps
Chapter Two – Learning about Buddhism
Chapter Three – A Series of Newspaper Columns
Chapter Four – Writing a Book
Chapter Five – Zen Adventures
Chapter Six – Was I a Buddhist?
Chapter Seven – Kyoto
Chapter Eight – Heading North
Chapter Nine – Christian Zen
Chapter Ten – Buddhist Art
Chapter Eleven – Doubts
Chapter Twelve – Becoming a Christian
Chapter Thirteen – Buddhism and the Book of Ecclesiastes
Chapter Fourteen – Talking with Buddhists

The book is available, as a download or in paperback, at Amazon.

Encouragement for Christian Authors

Peter YounghusbandIt seems that everyone who has ever written a novel is uploading it to Amazon Kindle and launching a marketing campaign. No wonder that readers are dizzy from too much choice.

That is why we need gatekeepers, authoritative voices who can sort the good from the rubbish, and advise us accordingly with well written reviews that spell out the charms of the books they admire and recommend.

In the Christian fiction sphere one of the finest reviewers in my opinion is Peter Younghusband who runs the Christian Fiction Review blog. And yes, I am biased, because he has been very generously reviewing my books.

It is clear from his reviews that he loves novels, particularly those with a Christian theme, and he is enthusiastic about guiding readers to the best. More than that, he provides an enormous encouragement to writers.

It is a lonely job writing novels, even when you somehow feel that it is what you are called to do. Good reviews are great. But a good, long review is even better. I find that I learn from Peter’s detailed reviews of my books. I like to think that he is helping to make me a better writer, and for that I thank him enormously.

 

Sex, Swearing and Violence – Is It Appropriate in Christian Fiction?

By Martin Roth

I’ve been a little taken aback by an interesting discussion at the local Aussie Omega Writers forum. It started as a debate on when – or whether – it is appropriate to include sex or swearing in Christian fiction. But then the question turned to violence.

In the words of one participant:

Personally I never use swear words in my fiction…Though, having said that, there are perhaps words other people would consider swear words that I am totally unaware of. Swear words are so subjective in a sense you will never please all of the people all of the time, particularly when it comes to the very mild ones.…To be honest, I have a much bigger issue with violence in Christian fiction. We’re divided over swear words, we don’t tolerate sex but it doesn’t matter how high the body count rises.

That struck a nerve. I never include swearing in my fiction, even though I think the context – I write mysteries and action thrillers – would at times justify it. Nor do I include sex scenes, even though my first novel, “Prophets and Loss,” involved the murder of a man in a brothel, and included scenes with the hero visiting the premises to interview one of the prostitutes there.

But violence? I have lots of that. My Johnny Ravine private detective mysteries have a hero who killed innumerable people as a freedom fighter in East Timor, and, even though he came to Australia to escape his past, he keeps finding himself in brawls.

My Brother Half Angel international thrillers have as a theme the persecuted church, with a team of  fighters helping to defend churches from attack. Here’s a very brief excerpt from one of them, “Festival in the Desert:”

Bobby was not sure what happened next. It was all instinct. In one swift movement he dived to the ground and seized his father’ gun. Then from his position on the ground he pointed the weapon straight at the gunman and fired. He fired again. And again. And again and again.

The gunman slumped forward, hitting his head on the windscreen, and leaving behind a smear of blood. For an instant it seemed that the steering wheel was supporting him, but then his body twisted sideways and he tumbled out of the vehicle to the ground, right in front of Bobby and his father.

Bobby sprang to his feet and aimed his gun squarely at the man’s head. But he lay inert, blood streaming from his body.

Bobby helped his father to his feet. Then John cried out from inside the SUV, “Dad, is that you?” Brother Half Angel had removed John’s blindfold and was cutting away his bindings.

“It’s me,” said Harry. Blood stained his shirt, and his left arm hung limply.

I do not include swear words because I believe we are saturated with them – just turn on the television – and they degrade our culture. I do not include sex scenes because I believe that they provide stimulation and temptation to weaker members of our society, whom we as Christians should be protecting.

But violence? I lived in Tokyo for 17 years, the most peaceful of major cities, even though television, books and manga (comics, read, it seemed, by at least half the men on the trains each day) were full of the most graphic violence, far more gory than anything I had seen before my arrival in the city. So I don’t have an issue with violence in Christian fiction.

But I’ll leave the final words to a couple of participants at the Omega Writers forum:

Justice without mercy leads to violence in a broken world, as by the way, does mercy without justice. Righteousness without peace leads to violence too. Peace without righteousness leads to tolerance. (Which I do not see as a good thing, since it leads to toleration of evil.) I already think Christianity has too much of a warrior mindset. When that unbalance happens, the default filter has a tendency to move towards violence and a warfare model.

I agree that the warrior mindset can be taken too far….But by the same token, men are called to be courageous, and if anything, passivity is a bigger problem among us men than it has ever been. We are told to stand firm. If having a warrior mindset encourages more men (and women) to have the courage to stand up for the truths of the bible rather than conforming to this world, then I would suggest that is a good thing. We seem to agree though, it is about balance, and anything we do needs to be motivated by love for God and love for people, particularly their eternal destination.