Guest Blogger: Janeen Ippolito
When Christian authors talk about religion in their books, the main topic is often how we’ve incorporated a biblical worldview. I have another question to throw at you: how are you incorporating non-biblical worldviews?
Why bother with focusing on religions that clearly aren’t Christian?
1. Realistic Variety — The world is filled with non-Christians. It might be easier to portray non-Christian characters as evil or inconsequential. However, these individuals are also a part of God’s creation, and it is necessary to reflect them accurately within fiction. Even if they do not believe in Christianity, non-Christians are made in the Image of God, and so have innate value. Non-Christians have their own faith, personal experiences, and intelligent reasons for their beliefs. They can live according to their chosen principles to have a good life and benefits other. If you are looking for ways to reach a wider, non-Christian audience with your writing, don’t worry about downplaying faith. Try instead to include a variety of characters and portray their positions with understanding, even if they disagree with biblical truth.
2. Deeper Characterization — If you want a character go through a conversion experience from one system of morality/faith to a Christian or quasi-Christian religion, then you need to know exactly where they came from to understand the steps they need to make that transition. A humanist is different from a pantheist and a Deist is different from an animist. A character’s individual personality and upbringing, plus their starting morality, will define what principles or obstacles they need to overcome to change. If you don’t show the reader this transition in a reasonable manner that interweaves coherently with the plot, then the conversion comes off as fake.
Note: It goes without saying that showing a conversion for the sake of a conversion should be avoided at all costs. There are plenty of wonderful, real-life testimonies. This is a story. Make sure the conversion fits the plot.
3. Conflict and Contrast — Where there is religion, there are strong beliefs held by powerful people who are willing to defend and die for those beliefs. This is an excellent source of conflict for any story. In addition, if you are trying to highlight a quasi-Christian or actual Christian religion as the only way, truth, and life, then having other religions around could be a way to introduce conversations and show the contrast. Just take care that the interactions come across as natural, and not preachy. If you are having to make major plot changes or slow your pacing just so a Christian can witness to the unsaved, then you might be on the wrong track.
Tackling a non-Christian worldview can be intimidating. It requires a solid sense of your own belief system and theology. It also requires a deep sense of humility to see the world from another’s perspective, and understand the reasons why others believe differently than you. Worried that exploring other religions might shake you in your faith? Dive even more deeply into Scripture and prayer, and thoughtfully consider the deeper purposes of your writing.
If you’re looking for a quick, easy reference to other belief systems and how to use them effectively to build plot and characters, take a look at my eBook, Culture-Building From the Inside Out. It’s available on Amazon Kindle.
Janeen Ippolito is a high school English teacher by day, a sword-fighter by night, and a writer by heart. She has a B.A. in Cross-Cultural Studies, Writing, and ESL and has a passion for using unique cultures in speculative fiction. Outside of writing and teaching, she makes brownie batter (and occasionally brownies), listens to music, reads, and grades papers while watching speculative television shows. She loves connecting with, supporting, and promoting other writers on her blog, so feel free to visit and have a look around! http://janeenippolito.com