Monday, January 28, 2008

The Truth about UnChristian Fiction

When The Pawn was first released, a woman emailed to ask me if it was a “Christian novel.” Her question really got me thinking, “What would make a book an unChristian novel?”

Hmm… well, maybe one that has lots of erotic sex, gratuitous violence, idolatry, blasphemy, cannibalism… then I thought, No wait, that’s the Old Testament.

I mentioned this little revelation at a Christian bookseller’s conference and I was relieved to see the attendees smile and nod. Then I added, “If the Old Testament were turned into a novel, I don’t think most Christian bookstores would carry it.” Yikes. At first I thought my audience might want to shoot me, in a Christian way, of course. But they seemed to all agree with me. It was refreshing, encouraging. And surprising.

I think they realized that the Bible is real and raw and earthy, and that it honestly tells us how far people can fall from grace, and how far God will reach to save us. Without seeing evil clearly, we’ll never fully embrace forgiveness.

Madeleine L’Engle observed in her book Walking on the Water that a Christian book is one that tells the truth about life, whoever writes it. And I think I agree with her, (although in reality a book can't be a Christian anymore than it can be a Buddhist or a Muslim or a Humanist, only people can). All too often today it seems that Christian fiction is most known not for its honesty about life, but for it’s avoidance of certain subjects--which is exactly the opposite of what the Bible does.

While I understand that some writing can be offensive, and that writing about some topics might lead people into certain types of sin, and that the goal of writing shouldn’t be to shock people just to shock them, I think fiction--especially so called “Christian fiction”-- should be honest both about evil and about hope, both about how lost we are, and about how far and how fervently God will come looking for us. Does The Pawn do that? Well, in a moment of shameless self-promotion, you'll have to read it and decide that for yourself.

No comments: