Joe Boyd: Between Two Kingdoms
By Hannah Goodwyn
CBN.com - Twelve years in the making, Between Two Kingdoms is the fictional work author Joe Boyd created as he contemplated the meaning of true Christian living.
The story follows the exploits and transformations of a seven year old boy named Tommy. His home is in the Upper Kindgom, where all of the people are eternally children. There lives the Good Prince and his father, the King. Adventure ensues when -- at the Good Prince's bidding -- Tommy and friends travel down to the Lower Kingdom to save those whom the other prince, Senkrad, wishes to deceive and control. It's a classic tale of good vs. evil, and our role in it all.
Author Joe Boyd recently spoke with CBN.com about this new book and the faith behind it.
CBN.com: Between Two Kingdoms is an allegory about children, but I read somewhere that you wrote it for adults?
Joe Boyd: Yeah, we called it a fairy-tale for adults or a children's story for adults. I actually started writing 12 years ago and really didn't intend on it being published. It was a little bit of personal therapy. Everything I've been learning about God in my head, I was trying to get it in my heart in a story or a world that I could sort of work with it and think about it more like a kid… referring to the verse where Jesus says, "You have to receive the Kingdom as a child". I also read a book by G.K. Chesterton called Orthodoxy. He says the greatest form of truth is a fairy-tale, because it just has a way of getting into our hearts. So those sorts of things just led me to start creating this world where I could express some of the truths that were stuck in my head.
CBN.com: The main characters we follow in Between Two Kingdoms are children though. What really compelled you to write this for adults instead of focusing on reaching kids through this fairytale?
Joe: Yeah, well it really came out of pastoring and trying to teach people how to receive the Kingdom as a child. So even when I can give someone the book, I can say "You have to read this through the eyes of a child or it won't make sense." I guess there's a secret plan on my part to just try to have people really embrace that. Because you know some people only think it takes a few pages to get into it, but sometimes it does take something to open up what may be considered something that's for children. So that was definitely what was behind it.
And you know it really is genre-wise more in sort of the Narnia and Lord of the Rings kind of world. Those books I read when I was a kid, and then I read them again several times as an adult; so, personally just sort of as a fan. That's one of my favorite forms of literature, something a tween or an adult could read. It's something you could still read when you're older. That was the goal. I'm not as smart those guys, but I'm a disciple of them and tried to learn from them.
CBN.com: What was the initial inspiration for it? You start talking about that about your own walk, and how it came out of that.
Joe: I had grown up in the church and always wanted to be a pastor and start my own church. I went to Bible College in the seminary, and what started to happen is after I started my church in my 20s, I came to a suddenly different understanding of what the Gospel really was. I read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John a lot, over and over again. And it just seemed a little different than the pretty simple, "You're a sinner, you need a savior" kind of Gospel I had been presented with. Jesus kept on talking about this idea of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. When I read that early on, I always assumed it meant like, "Heaven when you die…way out there." But, I came to realize that Jesus was talking about some sort of reality in the present that would also be real in the future. So I wanted to try to unpack the idea that the Kingdom of Heaven is here and now, and sort of doing battle with the Kingdom of the world. I think we do ourselves a disservice when we delegate Heaven to the future. So that is the main intellectual motivation. Let's try to understand this as the two Kingdoms doing battle in the present.
CBN.com: Tell us a little bit about lives of the main characters.
Joe: Tommy is kind of the reluctant hero. Everyone in the Upper Kingdom is seven years old. They are eternally seven and they never age. Before the book even starts, we find out he's been on one sort of expedition with the Good Prince down to the Lower Kingdom where people do grow old and age. So the story starts with Tommy interacting with his best friend, Mary. And Mary has never been down. She doesn't want to go down. She thinks it's too scary and dangerous. If Tommy is a reluctant hero, Mary is the very reluctant one; she doesn't want to go at all.
I started church in Las Vegas in my 20s, and my church was mainly made of people who weren't Christians before. People go to Vegas and sort of make a mess of their lives and then look for God. What I find is that after about a year of them coming to church, they didn't have any friends anymore that they used to have. Sometimes that's good if you're coming out of an abusive relationship or addiction, but it just seemed kind of overkill to me and kind of odd that all of these people that were important to them … they don't talk to anymore, they're just in the church. So especially when I first started writing this, I was trying to let people know that it's not supposed separate like that; you're supposed to have friends. And not even friends for the subversive purpose of trying to convert them. God sent us into the world to interact with people and to love people. We miss out on a lot of what the Kingdom is if we only stay with what I would call "Upper Kingdom" people, if we never really live our lives out in the world.
CBN.com: In Between Two Kingdoms, it's obvious that the Good Prince represents Jesus and the King, God. This Senkrad character, the other Prince, how did you come up with that name?
Joe: Yeah, there may be a secret. If you read it backwards, it's darkness; it's symbolic of the reign and rule of the Lower Kingdom. It's purposely not, as the book unfolds, not obviously Satan. I wanted to present the evil presence of the Lower Kingdom, as sort of … of course there's parts that are reminiscent of Satan, but also just sort mankind in our own evil tendency. I might have really bad demonology or whatever, but I'll always have this feeling like I'm sort of evil enough that I can make lots of bad decisions without the devil's help, you know what I mean? So I just wanted to express that; it's sort of a micro and a macro thing in the book that all of the kings are at battle with each other, but every character is having a battle between the Upper and Lower Kingdom in their heart. And Senkrad represents someone who's fully given into the Lower Kingdom. I'm also a big Star Wars fan, so he's my Darth Vader pretty much. And there's even hope for redemption for him at the end.
CBN.com: You mentioned before about how Tommy is seven years old. All of the main characters are eternally seven when they arrive in the Upper Kingdom. Why that age?
Joe: Yeah, it seemed like a good age if you're going to be an age forever. You don't want to get too close to being a teenager.
CBN.com: Was seven a good age for you?
Joe: It wasn't bad. There's a little symbolism in the number of perfection being seven. But for the most part, there's an age where you're obviously not totally dependent on your parents anymore, but you're still very much a child. And that's the age I was going for, so it could have been eight or nine I guess. I remember when I was seven or eight. I could first ride my bike three houses down to my buddy's house without my parents having to walk alongside me. So it's at that age where you get your first freedoms, and yet you know that you're a kid. There's no doubt. When you start to get to 12, 13 you start to think you're sort of an adult. So I wanted an age that they have freedom to have fun and do things on their own, and then still know clearly that they're a kid.
CBN.com: At one point in the book, Tommy starts believing he was born to fulfill the mission the Good Prince shares with him. How important was it to include this in the book?
Joe: Yeah, I think honestly it was a theme that emerged after I finished the book, and I looked back and saw. It must be in my heart because it was in there a lot. I didn't really realize how much it impressed all of the characters. But I do think that's probably a little autobiographical -- is just trying to find how God made me and how I experienced His joy when I knew how He made me. I'm a storyteller, so I've done lots of different things in my life. I've been an actor, a screen-writer, a teacher, pastor, and author, but it's all the same thing to me. Realizing that God made me to tell stories, I'm not really content in Him unless I'm doing that. So I just want other people to find how God has made them and what He has made them to do.
The New Testament is really clear on spiritual gifts; and I have a hunch there are a few gifts that Paul didn't mention that could still emerge. Jesus builds this church, and the way He does it is by gifting people. It takes some research, and developments, and experimentation to figure out how you're made and wired. So hopefully after reading this, people will have a little more energy and courage to try some things to see, "Maybe God did make me this way". I think we've seen here that it's OK to fail if you're trying things for the right reasons. It's through the failures that we really find out who we are, what we're made to be.
Hannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for CBN.com. For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.
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