Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Christian Writers: Limits

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?


Anonymous said...

I have to say that though I'm a Christian (I believe in Jesus and God, which makes me Christian), I'm not very religious. Still, I like that question: "If Jesus showed up at your door and asked to read your story, what would you say?" It's a good one to think about. :)

Yorrick said...

Taylor: Not very religious? It's not about that--Joseph wouldn't have had much opportunity for our definition of religion while enslaved in Pharaonic Egypt, yet, despite it all, God was with him. Relationship is what persists--what makes or breaks a Christian.

Similarly, I find truthful relationships to be the most important facet of Christian writing. If I wish to portray a Godly character, I do not do it by religious signs--to me, that is too superficial. By deeds, by decision, by passion, by *relationships* with the other characters shall my Godly characters be recognized.

And if Jesus asked for my story? It's His, already! But I'd doubtless ask for some expert writing tips. ;)

Godsgirl said...

I think we are pretty much on the same page, Nai. Thank you so much for taking a stand and spelling these things out. And that question at the end is awesome. (might I possibly quote it on my about me on the forum?) God bless you!

Nairam said...

@Taylor: I'm about on the same page as Yorrick on this. I think organized "religion" has, at many times, crushed true Christianity. It's more about the relationship with God and living life as a "little Christ"--which is what the word "Christian" means.

@Yorrick: Yes, SHOWING Godly characteristics is always more important. People don't like to be told the right way to live...they like to see people living that way. I think that's sort of what you're saying, anyway.

And I like your last statement. Same here!

@Godsgirl: Sure, you can quote it. :)


Anonymous said...

@Yorrick and Nairam: That relationship part is true. And I believe I "know" God, you could say. I just think that my definition of God is probably different than most people's...

Yorrick said...

@Taylor: Definitions? Like I've heard so many times: God can't be put in a box. That is to say, He cannot be totally defined--certainly not by humans. If your "definition" of God fits in with how He reveals Himself in the Bible, then you should be fine.


Anonymous said...

@Yorrick: You've actually come upon the reason that I think my "definition" of God differs from most - because it isn't like the God portrayed in the Bible. My "definition" is different in many ways. I still believe in God and Jesus, and I believe that I'm "fine", as you say. I just don't adhere to the Bible's way of seeing things.

Nairam said...

The Bible is in many ways God describing himself. How do you attempt to define Him outside of His book? What source do you have for definition if you don't believe what the Bible says about Him?

Anonymous said...

@Nairam: Well, I think if I went into that it'd be a whole blog post of detail. ;) Speaking of which, maybe I'll have to write a blog post to clear it up... hm, that might be a good idea. I'll let you know if I do! :)

Anonymous said...

Oops, sorry, meant to do this sooner... here's the link to the spirituality post I did. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

@Taylor Lyyn

Although I've never commented on this blog before, I felt I had to after I read your post, Talor Lynn. 'Believing in Jesus and God' is not what makes you 'a Christian'. Satan and his underlings believe in a Jesus and a God.
And true Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship with the Creator.

Sorry for being so blunt.

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