As most of you that read me are aware, I am a believer in Jesus (Yeshua in the English spelling of the original Hebrew pronunciation) as my Saviour. As such, I do have a leaning toward supporting any good material out there that demonstrates a proclivity toward supporting the Faith and our values.
The problem though that I have with most Christian fiction, and have to watch in my own writing too, is that as talented as some of these writers are they tend to show non-believers as if they are completely evil with no good whatsoever and even if the “good guy” or “good gal” believer messes up that it’s all right because they’re “good”; they’re going to Heaven so it makes it all right somehow.
One way this occurs is when a culture or group of people are shown very accurately as far as facts – and possibly flavor – goes, but ultimately since they don’t believe in Jesus as the Christ they have to be labeled as “evil” so that the “good” of Christianity can prevail. And if someone is “saved” that’s from that culture, they suddenly – automatically even – have the Christian American viewpoint on Jesus and life and the world as if that’s the only viewpoint that’s valid. This causes poor writing to be sold well in the Christian market and then people think they are doing well buying and reading these books, and “hoping” that some unbelievers out there are getting “witnessed” to by picking them up, when in actuality, if an unbeliever has read it they either put it down in frustration over the overt Christianity in the story, or start laughing and treat it as a humor book. One look at the one and two star reviews of Christian novels on Amazon proves this to be true.
One of the things I want to mention here is that I’m in full agreement with a sticker/t-shirt I saw in the past from Jay Bakker’s Revolution ministry which said something like “Jesus saves, not Christianity.”
We tend to forget that the Bible says, “There’s none good, no not one” yet constantly portray the Christian (or potential Christian) characters as good while everyone else is evil. What would it take to get an author that’s a Believer which can portray a person just as a person without a salvation agenda or a good versus evil agenda, or an “us vs. them” agenda? It’s not that I don’t want to see Christian values portrayed, and it’s not that I don’t want to see a good story that shows a main character overcoming the odds. And certainly, a well written salvation story is few and far between and when I read one I love it – Frank Peretti had some better ones as I recall. I just want to see a story that’s believable without expecting everyone reading it to automatically understand where the author is coming from concerning his or her world view.
People that criticize Christian fiction say that we’re too simple with how we portray things. I tend to agree. What I’ve seen is that Believers writing fiction try to treat the world in black and white terms when really, things are never that way in life. The young fellow with the chains on his neck and hat turned sideways with pants around his knees might be a growing Believer and not the hoodlum you think he is – even if that’s his roots. Meantime, the guy who dresses in a suit and tie and goes to church services and gives generously to the Dottie Loon fund and represents his company well and in general leads a great moral life might not even trust Jesus for salvation and goes to church as a part of the package he was raised to think he needed in life and works toward. One is going to Heaven, while the other is going to Hell. You put them side by side on the street and hear the occasional curse word out of the young man and you just might make the wrong decision about who’s going where. Especially since the man in the suit has a fish symbol swallowing a Darwin fish with feet symbol on the back of his car above the “Keep the Ten Commandments” bumper sticker. All a part of the package.
Christianity is something that has become its own worst enemy by letting rules and traditions govern it instead of the Spirit of God. Jesus is the only guide we have. He is The Word. We have the Written Word, and He is the Living Word. He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. He is The Truth. We are to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. That means we are to worship God all out in Spirit, but also by reading the Written Word of God and letting the Living Word of God tell us what that means.
If it ain’t found in the Word, it’s no good. Period.
Doesn’t matter how “good” it sounds. Doesn’t matter if it’s been around for years, decades, centuries, or even a millennium or two. If it’s not found in the Word, it doesn’t count. At all.
And one of the things I find in the Word is that the heart of man is wicked and deceitful above all things. It also makes it real clear that even when we are “saved” we have to struggle with sin. I think making every person that is a believer in a novel out to be the “good guy” and every non-believer out to be the “bad guy” or just inconsequential is just bad story telling.
Here’s a suggestion, and I don’t mind saying it where someone can take it and run with it, because five different authors could come up with five totally different ways of doing this and they all become bestsellers:
Why not have a novel where the reader is sure that someone is “saved” and the “good guy”, but in the end everything they’ve been doing really turns them out to be the “bad guy” and another character that the reader doesn’t really notice or maybe even thought was the “bad guy” turns out to be the “good guy” and the one who is “saved”.
Or even this: Why not have a novel where a “saved” person goes through the novel doing things that are clearly wrong, yet he’s still “saved”? I can’t help but think of the Crusades and how horrible they were when men and women of God got it in their heads that the only way to convert was to threaten to kill the non-believer and then follow through with it if they didn’t convert. Very likely a lot of those conversions weren’t for real, and also quite possibly there were a lot of killers on “The Lord’s side” that weren’t really “saved” and just joined because they wanted to take part in the killings.
Pretty much, I’m just tired of the status quo when it comes to the fiction I read from Christian writers and publishers. As much as the envelope gets pushed, it never seems to be pushed enough or at the right time. I’m seeing some novels coming out now that would have been great to have seen five to ten years ago and would have been phenomenal at that time. Nowadays, they’re still great reads and are finally cutting a trend in “Christian Fiction”, but they’re just a little bit behind the times.
It’s time for publishers in the Christian market to realize that when a writer submits something to you that stretches the boundaries that there are people out here that want to read that and will pay for it. Also, writers, don’t be afraid to put something down when you are writing. Get in your zone and just put everything down that comes to you. Don’t worry then about the “right thing” or the “wrong thing”. Get your story out. All of it. Later you can edit out all the bad junk and tighten things up and change words or whatever. You might surprise yourself and decide that certain things should stay the same that you would have never written if you hadn’t freed yourself.
I’m glad for publishers such as Marcher Lord Press coming on the scene and making a stand for Christian publishing and pushing the envelope. But that shouldn’t be the only publisher out there willing to make the stand. I know there are a couple more that have come along since then, but really, we need to be willing to write whatever story we need to write if we are both serious about being writers and serious about being writers that are writing for the King and His Kingdom.
Write a story for the sake of writing a story, and have some fun with it. If you’re a believer, the right themes of our Faith will be there for you to pluck out and sharpen during your editing. God gave us the gift of writing, and so many times we are so concerned about what not to put down that we don’t put anything down and what should have been a first draft in a month turns into a first draft in two to five years. We need to break free and shrug off the shackles of the spirit of religion that has held us bound and shine with the Spirit of Christ that frees us to use our gift and not hold back in any regard.
The Bible is full of murder, incest, rape, adultery, fornication, lying, stealing, war and a gob of other atrocities. That’s God’s Written Word. If we can’t write about the same sins found in the Word of God, are we truly free from them in our own lives?
Not really sure how to end this. Indeed, I wrote half of this a couple of weeks ago and when I came back to it tonight I found my last sentence was a fragment, so I had to try to remember where I was going with that sentence. May or may not have continued this the way I was first thinking. So I’m just not sure how to end this, except that I’m pretty sure I’m at the end of this particular entry even if the subject matter comes up again sometime later on in another blog post of mine, but the bottom line is that there are those of us out there that are wanting edgier fiction, are willing to buy and read it, and are also willing to write it, so why not have more of this published too?
Does that not make some sense to the rest of you?