What? Me Christian?: The Christian as Author Part II
Posted by Brian
Last week, I began a series dealing with what I believe is a false semantical dilemma for believers in our modern age: the idea that as writers we must either be “Christian” authors in the stereotypical Christian-bookstore-Thomas-Kincade sense of the term or separate our faith from our fiction to become authors who also just happen to be Christians. I rather snarkily commented upon the former extreme. This week I will try to tackle the latter. In my next post, I hope to offer an approach that represents a better, older understanding of how we should approach our craft.
(Incidentally, if I can snark on one side, I should probably snark on the other in order to be fair. 😉 I also want to point out that this is not “in response” to anyone. Rather, it is the cumulative result of a number of conversations/encounters with multiple people over the course of years.)
There are number of very sincere, intelligent believers who look at what the genre of “Christian” fiction has become and they are righteously disgusted by it. They recognize that those books aren’t being read, not because they’re Christian books, but often because they’re simply slop. Reacting against it, they distance themselves from it by billing themselves as “an author who also just happens to be a Christian.” They try to focus on writing good fiction, and in the process they purposely avoid the themes and ideas they see in “Christian” works for fear that they might be associated with them. The people I’ve talked to who come from this perspective, just like the ones on the “Christian” fiction side, have the best, most noble of intentions, just a different audience: ”Christian” fiction aims at believers, while fiction that happens to be written by a Christian is aimed at non-believers.
While this approach seems like wisdom to many people, I find that it fails on multiple levels, and is therefore not tenable as a consistent position. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Here are my issues:
- It fails on an emotional level (for me): From my experience, this position tends to be held by people who want to have their cake and eat it too–or perhaps I should say their faith and not be persecuted for it. Too often, this leads to a sort of whipped puppy approach where the individual slinks along behind their secular colleagues, constantly begging for approval. While I react just as viscerally to arrogant Christians who see themselves as innately superior to everyone else, I cannot fully respect a position that claims a form of godliness behind closed doors only to essentially deny it in public because they want to be liked. The resulting books often fall between the cracks, being neither good “Christian” nor good secular fiction.
- It allows the “Christian” fiction people to control the debate: This position isn’t a thing in and of itself. It is really just a reaction to the other extreme I discussed last week. Therefore, it has no consistent life of its own, and is in fact controlled and defined by the very position it despises–whatever x does, y chooses the opposite. Very few positions, thus arrived at, can stand for long, nor are they due much philosophical attention.
- It fails on a philosophical level (in general): If you truly are a Christian, then that is foundational to your larger life. Everything you do is influenced by it, even if the way in which it is affected may not be obvious. If you truly have compartmentalized your faith completely away from your writing, you need to have an honest talk with yourself about what your Christianity actually means to you. If your writing is indeed influenced by your faith, then you are more than just an “author who happens to be a Christian,” even if you don’t fit the stereotype of “Christian” author. More on that next week. It also leads into my next point.
- It is nearly always ethically dishonest to someone: If you are influenced by your faith, then implying otherwise to your non-Christian readers is frankly hypocritical, and I wouldn’t blame them if they reacted angrily when they found out. If you have compartmentalized your writing to the point that your faith truly has no effect on it, then you are being dishonest with yourself, at the very least, not to mention the people around you, and, perhaps, God Himself.
And therefore, I reject both of the stereotypical views of how a Christian should write fiction. Neither holds enough water to fill a tea cup, let alone the ocean of creative imagination that we hope to unleash onto an unsuspecting world when we sit down to write. I also reject the idea that we must simply react to what the rest of the world thinks. I propose that we do something proactive about it. That involves returning to an understanding of Christian literature that was well known to men like C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.
Next Week: A different approach…
About BrianI am a history professor and author living with my family in the Virginia Mountains. It's hard to improve on a life like this!
Posted on August 4, 2011, in Authors, Brian Melton, C. S. Lewis, Christianity, Inspiration, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Words, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged authors, C. S. Lewis, Christian authors, Christian fiction, Christianity, faith, J. R. R. Tolkien, philosophy, The Christian as Author, writing. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.