What We Need: The Challenge of the “Little Books”
Posted by Brian
Get ready! This post has absolutely nothing to do with Valentines Day! And it’s proud of it.
“What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects–with their Christianity latent.”
–C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock
It seems very easy to forget that as Christians we now live in a very different world from the one we have been told by the church to expect. The fact is that we now live in a post-Christian West. As writers and as readers, that changes things; we need to be producing Lewis’s “little books” in the way he suggests.
There was a time when Christianity was so ubiquitous in western culture that it was relatively easy thing to write a “good” “Christian” book. The author’s audience was virtually guaranteed, and there was a strong baseline of understanding to build upon. Most people–even those who were profoundly unChristian–had an idea of what Christianity was and many of them even agreed that it was right (they just chose to live in defiance of it). It has been a very long time since that was the case, though many in the American church have continued on, blissfully unaware of a change that happened in their grandparents’ time.
As authors, engaging the cultural norm from its own perspective is one thing. In fact, it’s the easy thing to do, when everyone already agrees that you’re right and that saying certain things are, by cultural default, “good” and “profound” before they even pick up your book. That is not a luxury Christians have any more as authors in the West. Now, Christianity is just one more product on the philosophical shelf. In fact, it now faces an uphill battle, since increasingly people are being taught early that “faith” in general is optional (or even silly) and Christianity in particular is a waste of time at best. As authors, Christians can’t presume to have any more privileges with a larger audience.
That means many things for our writing, but I’ll mention three points today.
First, our writing must speak naturally of our faith and show that it simply makes sense when applied to life and reality. This is what Lewis meant when he said that the Christianity in the “little books” should be “latent.” That doesn’t mean “hidden”, it simply means that the Christian thought must be inherent to them, not the particular point of them. It’s the difference between reading Peretti (I’m thinking This Present Darkness in particular) and Tolkien. Tolkien’s story is just as inherently Christian as Peretti’s, but it is something that flows through Tolkien’s thought from the ground up. It doesn’t need to be advertised or proven to the reader. As such, people absorb it without even thinking about it, and it changes the way they think about the world around them.
Second, our writing must be uniquely Christian. While we should engage the world and reach out to it, we can’t spend our time following it around like lost puppies, seeking inclusion and approval. It isn’t good enough to take whatever the world did five years ago or that our secular professors taught us in college and put a Christian “spin” on it. What we write must be consistent, powerful, and original creative thought based upon a genuine Biblical worldview. If not, then we’ve accomplished nothing of lasting importance, from a spiritual standpoint.
Finally, it must be good writing. It has been said that, “If it’s Christian, it ought to be better.” It’s all well and good to say it, but we must go beyond slogans and make it a reality. The days are long past where we could just write something that someone labeled “Christian” and expect that the culture will think it automatically profound. That means taking our craft seriously and intentionally studying the masters of it, whoever they are, wherever they are. It means actually holding each other to a higher standard (in love of course), and pushing each other to become better. That must be true of Christians as individuals (what I expect of myself) and as a subculture (what we expect of each other and present to the world as representative of us).
Do you want to make a difference in this world? Then start on your own “little book”–or blog, youtube channel, website, animation, documentary, movie, etc. Whatever form your ideas may take or whatever forum they may flow through, begin it with these three points in mind. You never know what “little book” will touch the world in a big way.
Next Week–Preaching to the Choir…..
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 February 14, 2014, in Brian Melton, J.R.R. Tolkien, Meditations, Philosophy, Speculative Fiction, Writing Hints and Helps and tagged author, authors as Christian, C. S. Lewis, Christian, Christian fiction. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.