Back in the day, Mike Riddell was a regular speaker at Greenbelt. The behatted Mike, a one-time Baptist pastor, worked the crowds in 1994, 1997, 2000 and 2003. His book Godzone was something of a cult favourite in edgy circles. He was the back cover writer for Third Way magazine, and a regular visitor to the UK on speaking tours.
So whatever happened to him? Where is he now? While some might suspect he washed up on a park bench clutching a bottle of sherry and muttering about God, Mike reports that’s only partly true. The truth is much worse. He’s become a Catholic, and got mixed up in making films.
Those with tendencies to schadenfreude can see the depravity to which he’s sunk by attending the Greenbelt 2011 screening of feature film The Insatiable Moon. Mike wrote and helped to produce the adaptation of his novel that began his journey down the slippery slope of moral destitution.
“It all began with a silly idea,” says Mike, “I knew a Maori guy with mental health issues who claimed to be the second son of God. A few years after he died, I thought it could be good to explore the notion that he was actually telling the truth.”
The result was the novel, published by HarperCollins The Insatiable Moon. It gained notoriety in certain arenas for the presence of degenerate angels and a sex scene that lasted for the best part of a chapter. The publication in 1997 also precipitated the demise of his career as a lecturer at the NZ Baptist Theological College.
“I kind of hoped it might have been because of the dodgy theology,” ponders Mike. “But, typically, it was all about the sex. While Baptists have been known to engage in it, evidently they shouldn’t talk about it.” A keen Evangelical reader referred the book to the Censor’s Office as potentially obscene, which was a source of bemusement to them.
When Mike spoke at Greenbelt in the year of publication, Cole Moreton spiced up a seminar on pornography by inviting Riddell to participate. The irascible Moreton planned to read titillating sections of Chapter Six, affectionately known as Chapter Sex, but fortunately ran out of time.
Rejected by the Baptists, Mike found a home in what he describes as the last refuge of scoundrels, the Catholic Church. When asked by a priest why he wanted to join, he elaborated: “If I was going to be associated with institutional scandal, I thought I might as well come to the mother of them all.” Fortunately the priest had a sense of humour.
Read the rest of this article on the Greenbelt Blog.