In my last post, I discussed how Christian writers need to tell the truth--to acknowledge that darkness exists and then show the Light.
Putting it like this can be seen both as a crippling limitation (do I have to yell “Jesus is Lord” in every single one of my books?) and as a freedom (so I can write any darkness I want as long as I stick Jesus’s name in the middle of it?).
To me, the answers are No and No.
As I now stand in my understanding, it is a legitimate calling for someone to write more “ambiguous” Truth. That is, to write something that awakens that hunger FOR Light, that shows some of that Light (coming from a true source--from the things of God) contrasted with the Darkness and makes the reader think: “I wish there was really light like that. I wonder if there is...”
On the other side, some people are called to be blatant, to reach the people that are closer to really wanting the light. I don’t mean preach--too much Christian fiction does that already--but to SHOW even more clearly WHERE Truth, Light, and Fulfillment really stem from: to SHOW unabashedly true Christian living and unabashedly point to the Savior of the world.
It’s up to each writer to figure out where their calling is, or even specifically what their calling for a particular book is. Forest of Lies is blatant; Quintessence is subtler. Both depend on the needs and knowledge of their main characters for their orientation.
Then as to the “freedom” to write “any darkness” you want as long as you mention Jesus. I believe this also calls for careful prayer and thought by each writer, but at the same time, I don’t think the rule for any of us is “anything goes.”
I once debated someone who stuck to the motto that “if it’s needed for the story, I put it in.” As I remember, it didn’t matter to him if the “needed” thing for the story was carefully described torture or sex. Also, any curse words are okay. I asked him how he decided what was “needed.” He never really gave me an answer.
My priorities are more like this: if someone is tortured, show more of the effects than actually engaging in the torture by gruesomely describing it. I have a very visual imagination. If I read something with any kind of gore described in detail, I will have those details bothering me for months afterwards. Is the torture really the “necessity” or is what causes the torture--which I believe should always have to do with conflicting ideals and values--or the after-effects of the torture? (Both mix in Forest of Lies.)
Then, as far as sex and cursing (I mean mainly the ones with truly bad meanings and taking God’s name in vain), I think of the verse about being a “stumbling block” for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ--and again, just getting images and words in other people’s heads that really shouldn’t be there. When I write, I don’t deny the existence of sin, but I don’t spell it out, either; I allude to it. Again, I focus on the effect of sinful action (which is really the point anyway), not the sin itself. If I focus too closely on the sin, it’s almost like engaging in it. Jesus ate with sinners; He didn't commit sin.
As a Christian writer, those are my limits. What are yours? Do you have any?
If Jesus showed up at your door and asked to read your story, what would you say?