he was a student at Duke Divinity School, the Rev. James Kemp studied
the great theologians of the Christian faith - the Apostle Paul, St.
Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and John Wesley, founder of the
Methodist Church to which Kemp belongs.
But his favorite theologian was the one he first read at the public library in Lexington, Ky. - Dr. Seuss.
His favorite theological work? Horton Hatches the Egg. "It is the first book I remember reading or having read to me," recalls Kemp in his new book, The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss.
Since its release in February, The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss has already sold more than 14,000 copies, and has headed into a second printing.
got a boost in early March, when Barnes and Noble featured it as part
of a national celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday on March 2.
his 15 years as a United Methodist minister, Kemp often used Dr. Seuss'
stories as illustrations in his sermons. For example, Horton the
elephant, who keeps his promise to sit on a bird's egg till it hatches -
despite ridicule from those around him - is a model of faithfulness of
Christians, Kemp says.
UMNS photo by Lyle Jackson
The Rev. James Kemp often used Dr. Seuss' stories in sermons.
Rev. James Kemp often used Dr. Seuss' stories in sermons during his 15
years as a United Methodist pastor. He turned his illustrations into a
book, The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss, that was released in February. UMNS photo by Lyle Jackson, photo number 04-159, Accompanies UMNS #162, 4/7/04
"In the face of challenges, persecution and ridicule," he writes, "Horton remains faithful 'one hundred percent.'"
Each chapter focuses on a single Dr. Seuss book, and was condensed from Kemp's old sermons. The Cat in the Hat Comes Back becomes a story about the "restoring power of Jesus Christ." Yertle the Turtle a lesson about greed. Green Eggs and Ham a parable about embracing change, and The Sneetches one about overcoming discrimination.
Two chapters focus on The Grinch Who Stole Christmas:
one about materialism and another about loving difficult people. Kemp
sees a parallel between the Grinch and the biblical story of Jesus and
Zacchaeus. Jesus treats Zacchaeus, a despised tax collector, with
respect and completely changes his life, Kemp says.
we are to follow Jesus," he writes, "we too must learn to recognize and
love people, who, like the Grinch, are miserable and difficult because
they are in so much pain."
an e-mail interview from his home in Lexington, Kemp said he likes Dr.
Seuss as theologian "because Jesus told us to come as a child, and Dr.
Seuss makes us look at things through the eyes of a child."
48, suffers from severe multiple sclerosis, a condition that forced him
to retire from the ministry in 1996. The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss
is the third book he's written since then.
The first, Who Says I'm Dead?
deals with his struggles with MS, which has made him a quadriplegic.
The title comes from an incident in 2000, when Kemp's bank accounts were
frozen after the federal government mistakenly decided he had died. A
2002 book focused on ideas for children's sermons.
a time, Kemp wrote using a computer with speech recognition software.
His speech has declined so that the computer can no longer recognize
him, so he dictates his writing to his mother, who acts as his
secretary. His wife Barbara interprets for Kemp during interviews.
says he wrote the book to show that people with great limitations can
still be productive, as long as they have the right support system. He
says he relies on his faith, family and church friends to help him keep
going, despite his circumstances.
UMNS photo by Lyle Jackson
Since its release in February, The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss has sold more than 14,000 copies.
its release in February, The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss by the Rev.
James Kemp has already sold more than 14,000 copies and has headed into a
second printing. UMNS photo by Lyle Jackson, photo number 04-160,
Accompanies UMNS #162, 4/7/04
is another of the themes Kemp finds in Dr. Seuss. One of his favorite
characters is the Cat in the Hat, he says, "because through him we see
that something good can come out of bad circumstances; we are never
hopeless." That's the overall message of the book, he adds.
"There is always hope," Kemp said. "There is always hope in the unlimited richness of God. Most of our problems are trivial."
Since the release of The Gospel According to Peanuts
by Robert L. Short in 1965, there've been a number of similar books
that combine spirituality with pop culture. There have been "Gospels
According to" the Simpsons, Tony Soprano, J.R.R. Tolkien, Harry Potter,
and even "The Gospel Reloaded," tied into the Matrix phenomenon. And
then there's the 2003 spoof, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.
Peavy, associate publisher for Judson Press, Kemp's publisher, says the
book connects with readers because so many grew up reading Dr. Seuss.
She says Kemp's book "is a joy to read."
book will appeal to readers because it is easy and enjoyable to read,"
she says, "but also because it contains insights that will change their
lives for the better. Hopefully, they will see Dr. Seuss's stories in a
whole new light."
says he enjoys the attention the book's success has brought him - "I've
always liked attention," he admits - and that it allows him to continue
his ministry. He's even done a few book signings, with his wife
stamping his signature.
a signing at a Cokesbury bookstore in Lexington, the store sold 75
copies in 15 minutes and had to order 100 additional copies. But the
signings will be limited, Barbara Kemp says. The physical toll is just
too much for Kemp's limited stamina.
he hasn't given up on being a famous author. "One of my lifetime goals
was to be on the best-sellers list," he told the Kansas City Star, "and I
hope I can do that."
story is distributed by UMNS with the permission of Religion News
Service, which has offices in Washington. News media can contact
Tim Tanton at (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.