Sunday, May 13, 2007

How Explicit is Your World View?



I've been disturbed by something lately, and it's almost ironic that I, an avowed teller of parables, would be disturbed by this. But I am, nonetheless.

Lately--for the last several years, in fact--I've become aware of a growing movement in Christian writers' circles to push something called "Christian worldview fiction." The gist is that a book doesn't have to have Christian content to be considered a Christian book--it's enough if the writer is a Christian with a Christian worldview.

I'm sorry, but I don't buy that. John Grisham is a Christian, and THE TESTAMENT and THE CHAMBER have Christian content. But THE FIRM doesn't, so I don't think Mr. Grisham's worldview qualifies that latter book as "Christian fiction." I don't think he'd make that case, either.

I keep saying--if you're going to make a banana pie, there has to be something of the banana about it. Either chunks of banana, or at least banana flavoring. Just because the pie isn't cherry doesn't make the pie banana. Just because a banana made the pie (I know, the analogy's stretching thin), doesn't mean it's a banana pie. If a banana could cook, don't you think he could choose to make something other than banana pies? Of course he could.

I remember experiencing an epiphany one day when I realized that I could write erotica. Not that I wanted to or planned to, but that I was technically capable. (I was so used to Christian fiction being so soundly bashed--mostly by Christian people who claim they don't read it--that I had begun to think of myself as incapable of competing in the open market.)

But then I realized that, hey, I can write anything. My intellectual world view doesn't constrain me one bit. What constrains me is my devotion to and love for Jesus. I love him, I want to obey him, and writing erotica would not bring glory to his name.

There are lots of things I can't write for the same reason. On my forty-fifth birthday, I realized that I was half-way to ninety. (You can imagine how I'll feel when I hit fifty next year.) Suddenly my lifespan had a cap on the other end. And even though I had written over 100 books, I realized I'd be hard-pressed to write another 100. (I'm getting slower and more thoughtful as I age.)

I only have a finite number of days in which to write. Maybe less than another fifty years. Wow. :-)

Therefore . . . how can I--a woman who has been called by God to love and obey him first and foremost--how can I write anything less than a story that illustrates his love for mankind? Or that illustrates the reality of what happens to a life that rejects him?

I do write parables that may not be overtly spiritual on the surface, but because I care for my readers, I always include discussion questions or something to urge the reader to think deeper. This isn't "dumbing down" the material at all, it's helping readers to think beyond the story and explore the depths of meaning. I know that fiction can and should stand on its own, that's why I don't include explanations in the story. But I would be remiss if I wrote a story that led the reader to search for God . . . and he went to Buddha or some other false teacher.

And if a story only illustrates a Christian quality like love or mercy or truth . . . well, those are lovely, godly virtues, but the world's prevailing humanism says that those things originate in man, not in God. So unless I'm pointing out the true source of those things, am I not misleading the reader? Am I not simply joining the ranks of those who perpetrate the FOG BOM philosophy? (Fatherhood of God, brotherhood of man). How is my story distinctively Christian if there's no Christ in it?

As a Christian, I can find godly virtues and values in almost any story--that's why I began a neighborhood book club that reads secular books. God's common grace abounds to all, and we all enjoy it even though many people don't recognize its source.

I fear that too many Christians don't want to be thought of as unhip, anti-intellectual, or, heaven forbid, firmly set upon ANY standard. So we create wishy-washy creations/programs/platforms that will be applauded by worldly people because they're inoffensive, artsy, and/or creative. (This movement has also popped up in churches, BTW. It's everywhere.)

Jesus told stories. He told parables that were overtly non-religious, but they had deep, often divisive meanings. When people didn't "get it," he told them the meaning behind his stories, and he didn't pull any punches.

My book with Mandisa is rolling out right now. She took a firm stand for Christ and said that while she loves everybody, she wouldn't feel comfortable performing at an event sponsored by homosexuals. Has she taken flack? You bet. But she took a STAND.

Time is short, life is brief, and our duty is clear. If I'm not pointing people to Jesus--if my characters aren't illustrating spiritual truths or reaching out to God (depending on the type of story I'm writing), then why am I calling it "Christian fiction?"

This, of course, is my conviction, my two cents. I know other writers have opinions about this, but as readers, what do you think?

~~Angie

P.S. Happy anniversary to my hubby of 27 years today! (Sunday).

21 comments:

Kay said...

I love a blatently Christian tale. I don't care for the ones that tip-toe around Christ.

I also love a "non-Christian" book that has a wonderful spiritual messgage. It just thrills me when I find an ABA book that points to Jesus!

Susanne said...

I tend to agree with you. To be considered Christian fiction it has to contain Christian content. I love your analogy.

Nicole said...

I couldn't agree more strongly. I've blogged about this probably too many times from various approaches. I guess because it baffles me.
I spent too many years in the world without Jesus. Why would I be even remotely interested in soft-pedaling His saving grace? Or continuing to read about people, places, and things which make no reference to Him or His character? Or write about characters who are searching for something they have no knowledge of and offer them no REAL solution?
I'm on the high side of 50, and mortality is ever pesent to me. Time is short, Jesus is the Savior. What could me more important?

(hopeofglory.typepad.com/into_the_fire)

BJ said...

Thank you, Angie, for taking a much-needed but seldom-observed stand.

Standing with you ...

BJ

Suzanne said...

I am 100% in agreement with you on this one too! I recently read a Christian fiction book that was touted as an amazing read and wither I didn't get it or the review was wrong. This particular books didn't get "Christian" until the very end, almost as a, "we better throw some God stuff in there." Annoying.

Accidental Poet said...

Yes, I'm with you. One of the reasons I'm inventing a religion as well as creating a world in the fantasy novel I'm currently working on. (and yes, I am indeed working on it)

Julie said...

"Time is short, life is brief, and our duty is clear." Very well said, Angela. I couldn't agree more!

BTW ~ I'm reading one of your books for the first time. ("Uncharted") It's incredible.

Blessings!

Nicole said...

Oh, so sorry. Meant to add, "Congratulations. Love and marriage. Celebration. Commitment. Awesome!"

Aunt Rene said...

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY---ANGIE AND GARY.
I wish you many, many more happy years together.

jan said...

amen! i totally agree with your views on this subject!
and...I hope that you and your husband have a very happy anniversary!

pengie said...

Christian Fiction by the very title has to reflect Christ in it. Even Jesus used Christian Fiction in His ministry--called Parables. I tend to like light-hearted fiction, one of my friends says I like "happy" stories and it's true. When I read fiction, most of the time it is for the fluff factor because most of what I read is for personal study. These are all personal preferences. I have read a couple of your books and enjoyed them. In fact I brought one home from work the other day for when I get the time to read for fun. =)

Nat said...

Well said Angie. Keep up the good work. There is no point in calling something Christian if it is not.

Brittanie said...

Angie I agree completely. I agree with Nat too it is def. well said. Thank you for putting it in words. :)Brittanie

Ruth said...

Well said, Angie. Thanks for this. :)

Richard Mabry said...

Angie,
Thanks for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post...something that needed saying but is seldom said.

lisa s. said...

I thought I'd weigh in. While I think writing novels with Christ layered in thematically can lead people to God (who's to say what the Holy Spirit can and cannot use) and certainly if that's what God's calling a writer to, we can't say they would be better serving the kingdom with something more overt (Narnia anyone?), Christian fiction, on its face, is a category of literature. We can't judge it by the outcome or intent, but by the content, which is an overt portrayal of Christians and Christianity. It is what it is. Imagine calling a book a romance in which the romance is really a theme and not outwardly dealt with? Romance readers would have a great laugh at that one.

Literature written with a Christian Worldview (and holy mackerel is that ever a subjective term!) can encompass both Christian fiction and fiction with subtle Christian themes. But Christian Fiction is more overt.

I thoroughly believe both can be used of God, but I think we should be clear in the definition.

Angela said...

That's absolutely my point, Lis. Christian fiction has to have Christ in it--at least as banana flavoring. :-) But God can and will use anything He chooses to use (Balaam's jackass ring a bell?)

My conviction to write what I write is my conviction--arrived at after years of walking with the Lord and writing in the industry. Not everyone will have the same conviction, and that's okay--I wouldn't expect a Christian dentist to only work on believers' teeth.

But let's not call a book with no clear Christian elements "Christian fiction." Lemon meringue is not banana just because it's yellow . . .

(I have this sudden craving for pie . . .)

Angie

Anonymous said...

Hi Angie - excellent post! What I love most about your conviction to following our Saviour, well conveyed in your books, is how I can take the message and apply it to my own life. A major case in point is the importance of our thoughts as delineated in "Uncharted". That one hit me like a ton of bricks! Happy Anniversary a day late! Clyde

Cindy said...

Angie, I couldn't agree with you more! I truly thank God for writers like you, who are willing to write excellent, highly-readable, thought-provoking books with an unmistakable Christian message.

You just affirmed to me just one of the reasons why you are one of my favorite writers of any genre.

Barbara H. said...

I came here from a link at Susanne's, and I agree with you 100%. I have read a few of those "Christian" novels with nothing Christian in them, and they left me cold and disappointed.

Deena said...

It's either Christian fiction or fiction written by a Christian...and there is a difference.

I love that the acronymn for the fuzzy thinking in today's world and even in some churches is FOG BOM...that is exactly what it is.

We are being bombarded with messages telling us to be inoffensive and more accessible, when God's Word tells us that our message is supposed to offend, provoke, and create a dialog that points people to Jesus...

Imagine if Paul had merely said, "Hey, you've got some nice statues around here! Why don't you tell me about yours, and then I'll tell you a bit about mine...Maybe we can collaberate on a project..."

Sorry for my spelling...I'm typing in a hurry...but I applaud your post...and love your writing!!

Happy Anniversary!!