Hubert is a disappointment to the grandfather who raised him. He is skinny, timid, submissive, and at twenty-nine years old, has never had a girlfriend. Hubert has had a strict religious upbringing as part of The Church of God’s Intended Love, regularly listening to the pious teachings of Reverend Jarvis and his “Holy Unbreakable Truth.” However, Hubert guiltily lives with the secret that he is attracted to men, his fantasies frequently featuring one certain congregation member, Big Jimmy. Hubert is ashamed of this lust he harbors, having been indoctrinated with the belief that homosexuality goes against “God’s Intended Love.”
On Halloween in San Francisco, Hubert and other followers of Reverend Jarvis take to the streets with signs bearing slogans, such as “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” It is here that a fight breaks out between Big Jimmy and a group of hecklers and Hubert is accidentally killed. Luckily, Bartholomew, Hubert’s angel, is there to guide him to heaven — but which version of heaven will Hubert be content to spend eternity in?
Sin to Get Saved is a short story, but Michael P. Thomas’ narrative gives the reader plenty to ponder, even after the last page has been turned. It would be easy to presume, from the story’s description, that Sin to Get Saved is an attack on religion as a whole, however, I do not feel that this is the case. Instead, Thomas’ story raises questions about the individuals behind organized religion. The important aspect is that Thomas does not generalize, although my own experiences meant that I could relate to many of his observations, particularly about the hypocrisy of Reverend Jarvis. Rather than approaching this directly, Thomas uses humor, which increases the entertainment value of the story.
I really like the fact that the humor also adds to Hubert’s character. He initially seems meek and compliant to the limits the church and his grandfather have forced upon him, but Thomas’ use of a stream of consciousness type narrative reveals that Hubert is aware of more than even he realizes:
But if there was one message Reverend Jarvis strove to hammer home above any other — especially since last Fall when The Demon Satan Himself had sent those loose teenage girls, all that cocaine, and those cops to his hotel room in Bakersfield to test him — it was that Passion is the Gravest Sin of Sins
Thomas ensures that we feel empathy for Hubert, especially because of his confusion and shame about his sexuality and more so, his reluctance to accept his own version of heaven.
Bartholomew is Hubert’s opposite; he is free, frivolous, and accepting. I love the fact that he is so patient with Hubert and gently encouraging. Hubert resists Bartholomew’s advances at first and the reader understands this because of his upbringing, though Thomas does make subtle hints at the possibility of a romance between them. However, the physical aspect of Hubert and Bartholomew’s relationship is contained and very rightly takes a backseat to the message that Thomas is sending to his readers within Sin to Get Saved.
Thomas’ style of writing will not suit every reader, but Sin to Get Saved is a refreshing change from other books in the GLBT fiction genre, which strictly adhere to tropes. Sin to Get Saved is thought-provoking and topical and a strongly recommended read from me.