In his first novel, Shane VanMeveren decided to provide an engaging story for all people to consider as the nation considers its past and moves into the future.
Last November, VanMeveren released the Christian fiction novel "The Sacred Path," under the pseudonym Rick Cassian.
VanMeveren's father is from the Tracy area and his mother is from Tyler. VanMeveren was also pastor at the Agape Fellowship Church in Marshall for a couple of years. He is currently a pastor at a church in Freeman, S.D.
The book's protagonist is a married Catholic priest who has the dilemma of caring for his parish or his dying wife.
"He's kind of torn between service to his church and service to his wife," VanMeveren said. "The novel presupposes a future where Christianity is only tolerated under strict government oversight. Moreover, issues that assume a possible outcome regarding the current healthcare crisis are central, and propose numerous questions in the subtext ranging from the ethical to the political, which forces the reader to think deeply on possible reactions by Christians." He said the novel includes such current cultural themes as the health care crisis, priestly marriage and homosexuality.
VanMeveren said that he stayed up a lot of nights doing homework for his doctorate. He was flipping through the channels one night while doing homework when he came across a Catholic channel, EWTN. A priest from Canada was being interviewed on one of the programs.
"It caught my attention because this priest said he couldn't say certain things from his pulpit because it was against the law," VanMeveren said. The priest then commented that the same situation was not that far away in America. "As a pastor I started to think about what would happen if the government regulated what kinds of religions could be practiced. That was the seed of it."
He said another influence was "The DaVinci Code" by Dan Brown. VanMeveren remembered a conversation he had with a stranger about Jesus because of the content of the book and how it was criticized by the Catholic church.
"This relative stranger had no real interest in spiritual matters or the Christian faith in general, yet he was perfectly willing to engage in a conversation 'about Jesus' due to the content put forth in Brown's novel," VanMeveren said.
As VanMeveren thought about that conversation, he said he began to wonder if the same willingness to talk about Jesus could be done with a different kind of novel, one that defended the church and the orthodox position on Jesus, rather than sought to distort it.
"The result was an action-packed novel filled with government conspiracy theories, bullets, car chases and national monuments all centered around real historical artifacts and the Christian faith," VanMeveren said.
He spent two years writing the novel, working on it an hour or two at a time. VanMeveren said it was both "frustrating and rewarding" at the same time.
In writing the novel, VanMeveren's goal was to find a middle point where it would speak to both conservatives and liberals and even those who aren't Christians.
"I created little bridges (in the book) to open the lines of communication," VanMeveren said.