Andrew Klavan (b. 1954) is a well-known author and commentator (1). He boasts internationally bestselling novels True Crime (1995), filmed by and starring Clint Eastwood, and Don’t Say A Word (1991), made into a film starring Michael Douglas. Klavan has also been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award five times and has won twice, and his books have been translated around the world (2).
Klavan has participated in an informative interview with the organization Jews for Jesus (3). Jews for Jesus is a group of Jewish people who believe that Jesus is the Messiah and wish to share this belief with others.
Klavan left the faith of his childhood behind to live most of his life as an agnostic in the secular, sophisticated atmosphere of New York, London, and Los Angeles. He does, however, recount that he believed in God when he was a child,
“I guess I had the usual kid’s relationship with God. “Hi, God. Help me. Give me stuff.” That sort of thing. I remember calling out to him in times of trouble. But I don’t think my belief ran particularly deep. I certainly never associated him with religion or my religious training.”
After his bar mitzvah he says that he was “done with the religious part of Judaism. Or any religion.” Although identifying as secular, he remained “comfortable as a cultural Jew, though. I kind of liked being a bit of an outsider in that way. It didn’t mean very much to me but it was there. As for God, as I became more of an intellectual, I became an agnostic. For a brief, though important time, I was an atheist.”
Klavern experienced guilt because he received thousands of dollars worth of gifts at his bar mitzvah and really loved them. He eventually became ashamed of them because he realized that he had essentially lied to get them. This is because by participating in a bar mitzvah, a Jewish boy is entering not only the Jewish community as someone responsible for his own actions but also entering the Jewish religion as someone ready to observe the precepts of the faith and take part in public worship.
But Klavan had no intention to ever do these things expected of him and felt that his bar mitzvah was a lie. He threw away the gifts he received.
Klavan began reading the Bible when he was fifteen. He did not read it because he had any intention of seeking God but rather because he wanted to be a writer and viewed the Bible as an important work of literature that had influenced billions of people’s lives. Klavan notes how reading the gospels caused conflict with his dad,
“One day my father walked into my bedroom without knocking and caught me reading Luke’s Gospel. He was livid. He told me if I ever thought of converting he would disown me.”
Interesting, however, is that his dad was not religious at all especially when it came to the religious aspects of Judaism. His father’s anger was most likely a result of his father viewing Judaism as essential to Jewish culture. Klavan’s father must have thought that his son dabbling in another religion or converting to another religion would essentially be to reject Jewish heritage.
Klavan’s interest in the Bible as literature also made him encounter Jesus,
“I knew who Jesus was, of course. I had plenty of Christian friends and he was all around in the culture. But I think my first serious engagement with him was literary. When I was about fifteen, I read the King James Bible—not religiously, but because I wanted to be a writer and I knew it was a seminal work of literature, like Shakespeare’s plays.”
Jesus interested Klavan because Jesus was a figure of such importance in Western thought: “I wanted to explain him, to interpret him, to understand why he stood at the center of everything. But again, it was an intellectual and literary endeavor, not a spiritual one.”
But Jesus soon proved to be more than just another character of history. Jesus began to impress Klavan: “If you think of God as a great city you have to explore, it was like, every street I walked down, there was Jesus waiting for me.”
This urged Klavan to begin praying despite him having left prayer behind many years earlier, “No one could’ve been more surprised than me, really. I had started to pray—almost off-handedly, almost as an experiment.”
Klavan says that over time he began to see changes occur in his life,
“But the effect of it on my life was huge. In fact, over the course of, say, three or four years, I realized that steady personal prayer had changed and improved my entire life, inside and out. And I was humbled by that, you know, and I sort of said to God, “Dude, you’ve done this incredible thing for me, and I’d like to do something for you. But I’m just me and you’re, like, God. What can I possibly do?” And the answer came back to me almost instantly: I had to get baptized. And I was, like, “You gotta be kidding me! Do I even believe in that?” But when I started to think it through, I realized that I did.”
Klavan got baptized at the age of fifty. This frightened him given his nominal Jewish background,
“One of my biggest fears confronting baptism—took me five months to work through it—was I didn’t want anyone to think I was turning my back on Jews, trying to escape my Jewish identity. The default mode with some Jews is to assume you’re trying to “pass as gentile” or blend in or that you hate your Jewishness and are joining the enemy. All understandable, because the Jews are the most mistreated group of people on the face of the planet and some of that trouble has come out of Christian sources, which stinks. Oddly, though, accepting Jesus made me feel more Jewish than I ever had, religiously at least. I had no connection to the Old Testament particularly, until I accepted the New.”
Today Klavan is an outspoken Christian and has since authored a book called The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ (2016).
1. Proslogion. 2016. Secular Jew Becomes a Christian. Available.
2. Jews for Jesus. 2011. Andrew Klavan. Available.