At the end of Divine
While I've been quiet online, my keyboard has been humming. This past year I've been hard at work on two new projects. One of them is the real-life true story of Tommy Garcia. Tommy was "adopted" by a famous and very wealthy cult when he was a child. His mother gave Tommy and his sister up to her church so that she could join and be one of the believers.
This book reminded me of a real-life Forrest Gump, not that Tommy had intellectual deficits, but he was a young boy who traveled through history, meeting people who would later become extremely famous and important to history. He used to catch rides with the Jackson Family. He went to Canada on a road trip with a famous Hollywood Starlet. He played guitar for Bette Midler at a birthday party. His sister was married in Elvis' home with Elvis as a witness. On top of all this he lived as the son of one of the nations foremost civil rights leaders, after he was taken from his biological family.
It was a fascinating story and I have Tommy's permission to share the opening section of the book. I hope you enjoy it and would love some feedback.
When I was four years old, a meeting took place between two men who were said to be gods. That meeting, thousands of miles away from me, would influence American history and change the lives of countless numbers of people. I was never mentioned, but that meeting would forever transform my life.
One of those gods, a young preacher named Jim Jones, would become one of the most notorious mass murderers of the modern age. The other was world-famous preacher Father Divine, featured in March of Time newsreels, called upon by presidents and senators for advice, and revered by millions as the Lord incarnate.
It was 1958. Father Divine was wildly successful. He was, at the time, the wealthiest African American man in the world, owning properties in California, New York, New Jersey, Germany, Switzerland, and New Zealand among many others. However, his health, like all he had acquired, was fading and Jones knew this.
Taller and younger, with new ideas and a different view of the world, Jones presented a great threat. Although he was new to the business of being a god, he had movie-star good looks and a charisma that came close to rivaling that of his renowned mentor, Father Divine. He was still riding high off a 1956 revival he had held in Indianapolis, which had featured a famous healer named Oral Roberts. The revival had drawn large crowds, making him popular in the religious community.
That warm July day when Jones was invited inside the gates of Father’s palatial estate, he might have thought he was out of his league. Father lived in a French Gothic mansion situated on a hilltop estate in a posh Philadelphia suburb, an exclusive neighborhood that encompassed the high-class Philadelphia Country Club. This place would one day become my home.
Jones would have seen the estate in full bloom. The grounds were meticulously kept by a team of gardeners, who made sure the property always brimmed with seasonal flowers. Every blade of grass was cut to uniform height, and the gardens were always pristine.
Past the entryway, with its soaring ceiling that reached into the sky for over three stories, and the heavy oak doors that led to the office, Jones took his seat opposite Father and the meeting commenced. This meeting would be covered in newspaper articles in the years to come. It would even be depicted by James Earl Jones and Powers Boothe in the 1980 movie Guyana Tragedy.
One of the half-dozen witnesses to this meeting was Edna Rose Ritchings. She was known by Jones as Father’s virgin bride, once named Sweet Angel and later, upon marriage, christened Mother Divine. Mother Divine recounted the events of that meeting in her book The Peace Mission. She stood at Father’s left.
At first, the two men talked about ideas they had in kind, for example, that men, regardless of color, should be treated equally, and that wealth should be shared communally. Father Divine spoke of the logistics of keeping people fed and healthy, taking care of them when they worked solely for the good of the whole, never keeping any of their excess for themselves.
Then the conversation turned to other ideas, ones that were not so palatable. These ideas would come to define them both in history books. They believed their followers should revere them as gods. They thought their words should be law among those who wanted a place in their coveted religions.
It didn’t take long for Jones to shift the conversation and announce his true purpose in calling for a meeting. He wanted to lead Father Divine’s people once Father was gone.
Within moments, Father’s armed security team came to usher Jones off the property. Afterward, Father and Mother spoke in hushed tones about what had just happened.
Jones could not lead. They thought he was too self-centered and egotistical. However, with a determined Jones as a looming threat to the church and Father’s ailing health, the question remained: Who would lead?
At this time this book is being read by agents and even a production company. I don't know where it will find it's home but I think it's an exciting project that will find it's place on the shelves soon. I would love to hear your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org
Update coming this week on Saints Book Four, Searching for Saints...