I thought that by living with integrity and love among my coworkers, they wouldn’t be surprised. I mean, I’m a homeschooled, choir-singing, Sunday School teaching Christian nice girl! But I’m also a writer, with an overactive, macabre imagination, and I talk like it. He’d heard me talking about blood and guts, and just assumed…
So let’s get it in the open. I am, foremost, a follower of Jesus Christ, and this informs my what I write, and what I do. Now that I’ve said that, let’s talk about why I don’t write ‘Christian’ books.
Tim Downs said:
“In the last forty years both the quantity and quality of conservative Christian scholarship have exploded. Evangelicals today are able to marshal more impressive, scholarly information on behalf of our position than ever before. We now have, by anyone’s standards, world-class philosophers, theologians, and scientists on our side. It’s no exaggeration to say that evangelical Christians have experienced a literal renaissance in our science.
Unfortunately, there has been no corresponding renaissance in our art. We have more to say to our culture than ever before, and less ability to say it in a persuasive and compelling way. We are enamoured with our content and cannot understand why the world isn’t fascinated with our latest proofs and evidences.”
When reading Christian books, I’d always skip the preachy sections, searching for the part where the romance and adventure began again. I’d sigh heavily when the beleaguered protagonist fell to his knees to pray. I’d the one who rant on demand about how I couldn’t stand ‘Christian movies’ like God’s Not Dead. But why? I’ve often felt guilty for not relating to these parts.
Meanwhile, I’d write stories with curses, clones, clandestine romance, gladiator-like fighters and zombies. I’d toy with profanity, and dance in the grey areas between darkness and light. Eventually I realized that there isn’t something wrong with me. I was just called to something different. I am convinced that each artist must fulfill the role that only they can fill–be it in the genre of Christian fiction, or in the mainstream genres. And mainstream is where I belong.
The Box Opened and I Jumped Out
I expect that Christian fiction, as an industry, was developed to provide a clean alternative to mainstream book genres. This is certainly needed, because what passes as a ‘romance’ novel these days is more like soft-core pornography in written form. Even genres that are not pegged as romantic contain a lot of this material. Furthermore, the cynicism and nihilism present there might be useful to provoke thought, but as a regular diet it is not beneficial. Essentially, the mainstream lacks truth.
However, in our efforts to provide an acceptable alternative, I feel the Christian publishing industry has created a sanitary little ghetto that it dares not poke it’s head out of. Just keep to the basic basic plot of mission, failure, wise sermon, repentance, miraculous victory and positive resolution. Recoil at the mention of sex, wash the blood out of our violence, and skirt wide around vulgar language.
That’s not wrong, but I don’t like it.
In the genre of speculative fiction, writing becomes even more tricky for a Christian. Draw in clones, immortal characters, or magic, and theology is no longer straightforward. Christian authors begin day-long debates over if clones can have souls, if magic can be attributed to the Holy Spirit, or if granting characters immortality is unbiblical.
“But immortal people don’t even exist!” I say, “Suspend the theology for a second.”
So I guess you could say I left the genre to get out of the box. I want to honour my God, make no mistake, but I need the artistic freedom to tell a story without having to check off the boxes or screen it through a certain size of filter. Censorship should come from wisdom and conviction–not out of fear of what people will say. To tell a story I have to go places that are uncomfortable. I make no apologies for that. I fight to not be gratuitous in my treatment of violence or sexuality, but sometimes one must look past the surface actions and words, and look at the ideas and feelings being imparted, and the questions that may be raised.
The shelves are full of books that glorify violence, sex, self-indulgence and manipulation. I want to provide an alternative. I want to talk about purpose, integrity in adversity, hope, and sacrificial love.
My mission is to provide entertaining, well crafted stories, that bring light into a dark world. My hope is to provoke thought and ask deep questions.