AU alumnus Ron Patty, a retired minister and gospel singer, released his first novel, “Maria’s Letter: Joshua’s Quest” on Jan. 1.
The story retells the birth and life of God’s son, stripping the characters of 2,000 years of tradition and placing them in modern America.
Ron calls the novel “controversial to the conservative Christian” as the book takes issue with a number of church doctrines.
“A lot of know-it-all preachers will just write me off as an infidel and I’ve passed that a long time ago,” he said, adding that the people he’s really trying to reach would be attracted to the issues he confronts.
“If I were me years ago,” he said, “I wouldn’t think a person like me could be a Christian.”
The idea for the story came in the 1970s when Ron was pastoring a church in San Diego.
Attending a weekly Bible study together, he and a friend began comparing the church’s doctrines with scripture. Upon finding several discrepancies, they decided to study the Bible holistically.
“From that point on, I began to see things differently,” he said. “If I stayed, I would’ve split the church because some believed what I did and others didn’t.”
Instead, he and his wife Carolyn stepped out of the church and spent the next 25 years traveling to, singing in and studying churches.
“I discovered they all had the same problem,” he said. “People don’t really know why they believe what they believe.
“It hurts me how twisted we’ve made Jesus appear by some of the things we believe about him that the Bible as a whole doesn’t teach,” he said. “I want people to know the Jesus that I know. I felt like I had to do something.”
Ron first pursued writing a personal translation of the New Testament in order to bring Jesus into the modern world and out of the cultural tradition of his time, substituting words like “Kingdom” for “business.” He decided that that seemed out of place.
“Maybe I could get that story into modern terminology by having Jesus make a surprise visit into our modern culture,” he said and thus, main characters, Maria and Joshua were created.
Maria is a multi-racial Oklahoma teenager who is a talented softball pitcher and well-liked among her many friends.
Though a virgin, she finds via home pregnancy test that she’s expecting.
Confused, she seeks the help of her parents who pressure her to put baby Joshua up for adoption.
She instead escapes from the hospital to raise her son on her own, telling him of his unique origin after he graduates college through a letter she wrote at his birth.
Joshua’s worldwide quest for truth leads him to meet some who love and accept him and others who are threatened by him.
Hunted by corrupt business leaders and government officials as well as notorious hate groups, Joshua relies on the love of an ex-prostitute as he comes to understand his true identity.
Like most authors, Ron looked to personal experiences to develop characters and scenes for his novel.
Seminole University, the college Joshua attends in the novel, is modeled after AU. He also used characteristics of Carolyn and their marriage.
“Carolyn had a difficult time having Sandi, our first child,” he said. “I incorporated that into the story when Maria had her second son.”
Carolyn has also had an active role proofreading the novel from its beginning. “He calls me his editor,” she said proudly.
“This [book] is so Ron Patty,” said Carolyn. “When our children read this book, they will know their dad because this is him.”
Their daughter and AU alumna Sandi Patty, who is known for her traditional gospel singing, wrote the foreword for “Maria’s Letter.”
“To be perfectly honest, when he shared with me that he had written a novel, I panicked. ‘Oh dear, what should my response be,’” she wrote. “Still hesitant, I asked to read it. Soon after reading it, I asked if I could be the one to write the foreword for it.
“I think this book will undoubtedly cause people to sit up and go ‘Whoa, really?’” she told the Andersonian. “But that is what my dad and I hope will happen.
“I may not agree with every position the book presents, but I don’t usually fully agree with any book I read,” she said.
Sandi bought the first copy of the book on Amazon.
“I was determined to be the first buyer,” she said. “I felt like I can say with my words that I love and support him, but to buy the first book just seemed important.”
“I know how people see me,” Ron said. “They see me as this old-fashioned Church of God gospel singer. I knew what I believe had to come out some time.”
Ron spent 12 years writing and editing the novel, even hiring CreateSpace, a branch of Amazon that provides free tools to help individuals self-publish and distribute a number of media forms.
He also spent hours online teaching himself writing technique and grammar.
“I wouldn’t dare let anyone look at my first manuscript.” Now, he said, “I feel like it’s finished and I’m relieved that it’s finished.
“I hated writing,” he said, laughing, “and yes, I will keep writing.”
Ron is currently working to finish a New Testament translation.