Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Christians in the media

Dan posted about his frustrations about trying to write Christian fiction for a secular audience. One of his respondents, Becky, mentioned a site called Faith In Fiction, and I tripped on over there to see what others are writing about.

First, I can sympathize with Dan on a certain level. I've never tried to market my works of fiction, but I know how hard it is to write something that might reach a larger audience -- not for more money, but to have an impact in the same manner of C.S. Lewis. Not that either Dan or I are capable of matching such a timeless author's ability. More than anything, it makes you appreciate just how brilliant the author was.

The current discussion at Faith In Fiction is over what kind of culture and language to use in a Christian work of fiction. It doesn't surprise me this is an issue, but it's sort of disappointing that we, as Christians, are still thinking at this level. It's the same question I see Christians, writers and non-writers alike, struggling with: How do I engage a culture without embracing things that offend my faith?

I'm a journalist. As such, I've never had a fictional work published. (Let the jokes ensue). But if I ever do publish a fictional work, I will write about real people, real situations, real culture. I'm not going to hold back the language or situations to appease a Christian audience. Christians are fallible, and I want to portray Christians in their fallible state. I'm not going to censor bad language, although I might find unique ways to write around some of the most offensive stuff. I'm not going to alter bad behavior, although I might search for unique ways to describe it.

I don't write this to stumble anyone. However, if I'm going to write about authentic Christian people, I have to include their warts. My warts.

The fears that people will misinterpret bad behavior as Christian living are hollow. If am I writing in proper light, a reader will understand "this is a Christian behaving badly" and "this is a Christian gracefully living in obedience." What's more important is people can relate to these characters, and if anyone can remember how they acted before they became Christian, they should be able to note that non-Christians do a very poor job acting like Christians. They should also be able to note that obedience and maturity did not come overnight. Furthermore, I've never met a Christian who is absolutely good, so to write characters this way is to diminish a reader's ability to sustain their disbelief.

It strikes me that Christians are afraid to be transparent to the world, as if we have to show some kind of "we have it all together" image. What a crock. We would be selling them a false gospel if this is what people believe before coming to know Christ. If anything, my life has been taken apart and put back together one hundred times by God since I became a Christian. I have never known so much turmoil and trouble since I chose the more difficult path of following Christ. I'm not always graceful or humble about it, either. I gripe and complain like the Hebrews did in the desert. I bitch and moan. I threaten to give up and go back to enslavement. I am generally as stiff-necked, and I often have to be dragged into God's direction like a donkey on strike.

Many Christians embrace the culture in ways that they shouldn't. Am I not allowed to write about them? Do we not welcome these people back once they find correction in their hearts and their lives? Is there not room to write characters like this?

If we want to take the Gospel to the world in our fiction, we first need to be honest with ourselves about what we are, not just what we're about. When we start to reflect ourselves in our literature, when we can be transparent -- showing what's best and what's reality -- I think we'll start to see more Christian literature being taken seriously by the secular world.

As Dennis Miller says, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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