The Greatest of These

Heart CollageI spent last weekend at the annual Realm Makers conference, the writers’ conference dedicated to people of faith who write speculative fiction.

Realm Makers was developed in many ways because us lovers of science fiction and fantasy felt as if we had no place in the Christian marketplace. We were in sort of a no-man’s-land between Christian fiction and secular fiction, where we wanted to glorify God with our writing, but what we wrote did not fit in with what Christian booksellers were selling. And so, a ragtag group of authors banded together to fill a hole in the industry.

And that vision grew. The first conference boasted about sixty attendees. The fourth and most recent, nearly two hundred. The community has grown not only because the appreciation for the genre has grown, but because of the overwhelming love and camaraderie that exists within this community.

At Realm Makers, nerds of all shapes and sizes have found those who share their interests and fandoms, their struggles and frustrations, their questions and beliefs.

After attending Realm Makers for the first time, many attendees say “I’ve found my tribe!” and “These are my people!” For the first time, perhaps, they have found a group that truly understands them, with all of their passion for geekery and oddball idiosyncrasies, and they are embraced.

One pastor who was in attendance this year commented, “This is what the church should be like!”

And yet, even amidst all this beauty and shared experience and welcome and affinity and fellowship, I heard of snarky comments and judgments. Things like, “I can’t believe that was said at a Christian conference!” and “I would never do that, because I love Jesus.”

One of the greatest things about a community like Realm Makers, is that there is a unique opportunity to have our beliefs challenged and to engage in discussion about difficult topics. Questions like, “How far is too far when it comes to sex in your books?” and “Where is the line when it comes to writing fiction about Biblical fiction?” and “Should Christians write horror?” are openly discussed, with people sharing both opinions and scripture to make their point.

And, of course, opinions vary widely. Everyone has certain things they feel very strongly about, and reasons for their beliefs. What you write may fall into the category of heresy in someone else’s mind, while what they write may push the boundaries of lust in yours.

And this is where things get tricky. As Christians, if we see a brother or sister who is in sin, we are instructed to go to them and tell them of their sin, in love, with the ultimate goal of repentance and restored relationship. So, if another writer writes something or says something that you genuinely believe is sinful, then you should by all means talk to them about it. Explain your stance, and, if they don’t listen, bring someone else in on the discussion. This does not mean finding someone who shares your opinion to bully them in a two-against-one fashion, it means finding someone objective who will be a mediator and help further the discussion.

Especially as the Realm Makers community continues to grow, we will see more and more diversity, and there will be more opportunities for friction among us. There will be people on all sides of every issue. There will be people who passionately cling to something you just as passionately oppose. There may be people who are genuinely wrong about an issue.

But if you’re going to confront someone on what you believe is sin, be prepared to be wrong. Especially in the area of speculative fiction, there are many topics that fall into a gray area. I myself have written on several of these, from the inclusion of bad language to the use of magic systems to the struggles that our characters face. One of the beautiful things about speculative fiction is that you get to explore the idea of “what if.” Sometimes that’s a process by which an individual works out their own thoughts on an issue. Sometimes it’s an allegory. Sometimes it’s a method of showing the truth by exploring what the world would be like without it. And sometimes it’s an imagination running wild and having fun.

You may differ with someone’s theology. You may be uncomfortable with their boundaries. You may disagree with their methods. That doesn’t mean they’re in sin. As I struggled through my own journey, I wrote a post on legalism and fences to flesh out my own feelings on where I stand.

You may disagree with me. And that’s okay. The most important thing is that if you confront me on an issue, do so in love. We are called to love one another. We are called to speak the truth in love. The Bible says three things last forever: Faith, Hope, and Love. Our writing is an expression of our faith, and within it we have a unique opportunity to share our hope. But the greatest of these is love. No matter what wondrous things I accomplish, if I don’t have love, I am nothing.

So, especially in an arena like Realm Makers, which blossomed out of a sense of exclusion, we have a chance to be truly inclusive, truly loving, truly welcoming. We have a chance to embrace one another in all our various affinities, and to openly and honestly discuss the issues on our hearts. Especially when we disagree. This is the one place where everyone should feel free to express their individuality and share their struggles and be themselves without judgment and without fear of shunning.

We’re going to disagree sometimes, and that’s okay. The most important thing is that we love God and love each other.


About Avily Jerome

Avily Jerome is a writer and the editor of Havok Magazine. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, both print and digital. She has judged several writing contests and is a writing conference teacher and presenter. She writes speculative fiction, her ideas ranging from almost-real-world action/adventures to epic fantasies to supernatural thrillers.

10 comments on “The Greatest of These

  1. And I love you.

  2. A fantastic and timely article about the nature of a boatload of Christians all coming together in the messy, squishy, wonderful genre of speculative fiction. Thank you for opening this topic and for the balanced presentation. Hopefully in the future disagreements continue to be seen as opportunities for honest, loving communication, understanding, and growth, rather than lines of division.

  3. Looking forward to Reno next year. I’m grateful Realm Makers gives us a safe, creative space to develop speculative Christian fiction. Your post reminds me that creative tension also lives within our genre and His Love must reign within us. Thanks!

  4. […] Avily Jerome, New Authors Fellowship, The Greatest of These (You can check out more of the latest posts from NAF as there are other authors who wrote about Realm Makers.) […]

  5. Excellent article, Avily. So glad you spoke out about this. One of the headlines I chose for this week’s edition of The Christian #SpecFic Reader!

  6. […] we can’t call one another out if we believe the other is in sin. (I talk more about that in this post, that I wrote about a similar […]

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