Your Basic conversion story

basic instinctI don't know what's more surprising. That Joe Eszterhas became a Christian or that a mainstream media paper did such a good job of telling the story of his conversion. Joe Eszterhas wrote Basic Instinct, a movie I accidentally watched with my mother when it came out. We were in the mountains of Colorado and had already seen the other movie showing at the theater (Fried Green Tomatoes), so we decided to check out the one on the other screen. Let's just say it was a memorable experience. My mom, reading over my shoulder here, thinks I shouldn't mention this and opines that it was a "horrible and eye-opening" experience.

Anywho, Toledo Blade religion editor David Yonke has the story:

Joe Eszterhas' latest book is a shocker, but not the kind that made him rich and famous.

The upcoming release from the man who penned dark thrillers such as Basic Instinct and Jagged Edge tells the story of his spiritual conversion and his newfound devotion to God and family.

Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith, will be published Sept. 2 by St. Martin's Press. It tells the story of his conversion. Yonke sets the stage, describing Eszterhas' diagnosis with throat cancer, tracheotomy, and direction to stop drinking and smoking immediately. Struggling with his urge for alcohol and cigarettes, he prayed for the first time since he was a child:

"I couldn't believe I'd said it. I didn't know why I'd said it. I'd never said it before," he wrote.

But he felt an overwhelming peace. His heart stopped pounding. His hands stopped twitching. He saw a "shimmering, dazzling, nearly blinding brightness that made me cover my eyes with my hands."

Like Saul on the road to Damascus, Mr. Eszterhas had been blinded by God. He stood up, wiped his eyes, and walked back home a new man.

In a phone interview this week, Mr. Eszterhas said it was "an absolutely overwhelming experience."

He went from doubting if he could make it through life without tobacco and alcohol, to knowing that he could "defeat myself and win."

He and Naomi have been faithfully attending Catholic Mass on Sundays ever since, and as the book title states, Joe carries the cross down the aisle. He asserts his nonconformity, however, by wearing jeans and Rolling Stones T-shirts when he does it. Despite the rebel attire, he says he carries the cross with more reverence than most.

It seems like most times I read a conversion story, it fails to tell the details of the actual conversion experience. There's a reason why the word "story" tends to follow the word "conversion."

This story went through lots of details about Eszterhas' disgust for priests who are pedophiles and "boring and pointless" homilies. It's a terribly interesting read.

Take this intriguing detail, something that most religion reporters wouldn't even know how to handle:

When Mr. Eszterhas visited a nondenominational megachurch, he heard a sensational sermon. But he felt empty afterward, missing Holy Communion and the Catholic liturgy. . . .

"The Eucharist and the presence of the body and blood of Christ is, in my mind, an overwhelming experience for me. I find that Communion for me is empowering. It's almost a feeling of a kind of high."

And then the writer of that other memorable film, Showgirls, talks about how out of touch Hollywood is with most Americans:

"I find it mind boggling that with nearly 70 percent of Americans describing themselves as Christians, and witnessing the success of The Passion of The Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia, that Hollywood still doesn't do the kinds of faith-based and family-value entertainment that people are desperate to see," Mr. Eszterhas said.

He has turned down hefty offers to write scripts for movies with sinister plots and dark themes like the 16 other ones he wrote that made it to the screen- some paying as much as $3 million a script.

Mr. Eszterhas said he spent too much of his life exploring the dark side of humanity and does not want to go there anymore.

It's not just an interesting hook, it's a very interesting story.

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