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FIRST-PERSON: Another book for the gullible

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–“There’s a sucker born every minute,” said P.T. Barnum. With each passing fad, the master pitchman’s words seem to become more prophetic.

Fresh on the heels of “The Da Vinci Code” movie — based on the bestselling book by Dan Brown in which the author claims that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had children — comes a woman claiming that she is a direct descendant of the “sacred bloodline.”

Kathleen McGowan, like Brown, has written a book based on the myth that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were involved intimately.

In McGowan’s “The Expected One,” main character Maureen Paschal begins to have visions of Mary Magdalene. She soon discovers that she is a descendant of Jesus and Mary and begins to search for a gospel written my Mary that is hidden in southwestern France.

While written as a work of fiction, McGowan told “USA Today” that the novel “mirrors her own life.” She added that Maureen’s visions are “verbatim accounts of her own visions of Mary Magdalene.”

It is in the afterward of “The Expected One” that McGowan makes the claim that she is indeed a direct descendant of Jesus and Mary.

Those looking for proof of McGowan’s claim will be disappointed. According to USA Today, the author is “offering only her word” about her linage.

While she originally intended to write “The Expected One” as non-fiction, McGowan said that “she couldn’t make public the sources she developed while researching and writing her book.”

The lack of evidence does not deter belief in McGowan’s claim. Trish Todd, editor in chief of Touchstone — a division of Simon & Schuster, the book’s publisher — told USA Today she has no trouble accepting McGowan’s story “that she descends from a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.”

“Yes, I believe her,” Todd said. “Her passion and mission are so strong, how can she not be?”

Larry Kirshbaum, McGowan’s literary agent, told USA Today, “I believe her absolutely.” He added, “She had total credibility with me from the very beginning.”

Kirshbaum, former CEO of Time Warner Books, recently began his own literary agency. One of his first clients was McGowan. Kirshbaum described McGowan by saying, “I feel she is entirely credible. She spent 20 years of her life researching this subject.” Continuing he said, “You have to give her the benefit of the doubt because she is totally rational.”

Let me see if I understand correctly — according to Todd and Kirshbaum, you can make an outrageous claim, offer absolutely no proof whatsoever that your assertion is even remotely true, but because you have shown interest in the subject for an extended period of time, and you seem passionate, you are deemed credible.

Credible enough that according to USA Today, Kirshbaum was able to broker a seven-figure, three-book deal with Simon & Schuster.

You read right, seven-figures. For the mathematically challenged that is, at the very least, one million dollars.

Simon & Schuster believes “The Expected One” will sell. The publishing giant is investing $275,000 to promote McGowan’s book and has ordered an initial printing of 250,000 copies, according to USA Today.

I do not know if the executives at Simon & Schuster believe McGowan’s story. However, I feel confident that they hold the proclamations of P.T. Barnum in high esteem. They have to, because only a sucker would be drawn to McGowan’s story and plunk down $25.95 in order to read it.
Kelly Boggs, whose column appears each Friday in Baptist Press, is editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

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  • Kelly Boggs