Why Christian spec fic writers shouldn’t include Jesus

CONTROVERSIAL POST AHEAD.

I have so many things bouncing around in my head tonight. Life and all its little stresses.

One thing I’ve been pondering on is this argument that goes on in Christian fiction writers circles: the question of How Much of the Gospel Do We Include?

Some people take Jesus’s command to spread the gospel to its extreme, and say that every story has to have Jesus in it, or a Jesus figure who is a redeemer.

Other people go to the other extreme and recommend no religion at all, unless the story absolutely has to have it.

Seeing as this argument goes on between writers of fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal etc., it does raise interesting questions of how you have Jesus when you’re writing about elves fighting aliens on another world. I’ve toyed with writing Christianity in fanfiction for years. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. (The only time it seems to work is when it’s laid in with a feather touch. Anything heavier and it just goes into a sermon, or worse, Bible verses with the nouns changed to something more ‘fantasy’ sounding.)

I’ve been reading from the Amplified Bible every night. I’m enjoying it hugely. Anyway, I came across Luke 12:8:

And I tell you, Whoever declares openly [speaking out freely] and confesses that he is My worshiper and acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man also will declare and confess and acknowledge him before the angels of God.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say “whoever declares me in all of his stories, or at least has an Aslan.” He says “Whoever declares openly … that he is My worshiper”. Like, in person. To real people. Face to face.

Think about the life of an author for a minute. Once they write books and people start reading them, they start getting fanmail. People want to meet the person who delighted them with a good story. That’s the place for the author to make a statement of faith. I know that I’m always appreciative when a person of a different faith says so on their website, but keeps it out of their book. I feel like that writer respects me as a reader.

So why do Christians think we can save people by sneaking “Jesus saves!” into our books? We can’t save anybody. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. But we can tell darn good stories. We don’t even have to have Jesus (or any religion at all) in them. I think it’s more respectful for the author to drop the “get people saved” agenda and just tell the darn story.

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12 thoughts on “Why Christian spec fic writers shouldn’t include Jesus

  1. I enjoyed this tremendously, and I AGREE. I read this while I listening to some truly dramatic music from a Christian band who has a similar “shut up and listen” attitude.

    Christians shouldn’t have to resort to underhanded literary tricks to get people saved. Secular society is jaded to that kind of manipulation, especially since it has the bad habit of squelching anything that seems Christian.
    I remember hearing that when Alec Guinness (who played Obi-Wan) was asked if he believed in the Force, he said, “I don’t know anything about that, but I can tell you all about Jesus.” He wasn’t a Christian who attracted people to him because of his amazing Christianity; he was an actor who attracted people to him because he was INTERESTING, and was able to witness to them after the fact.

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  2. I both agree and disagree with this post. There is nothing more annoying than reading a sermon when you should be reading a story. It’s more important to me to read (and write) a story that engages rather than tells what to think.

    But I also think that stories that ignore the spiritual can be shallow. It takes a deft hand and sometimes (perhaps, many times) it’s over done. It takes skill to make a story that addresses the spiritual without going into a sermon, but I don’t think the answer is to leave it out all the time.

    I think authors should let the spiritual flow if it wants to flow, but if the story doesn’t want a spiritual aspect, don’t force it. It also depends on the audience you’re trying to reach.

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    1. Touching on the spiritual is one thing. Putting Jesus Himself in as an excuse to preach directly to the reader is a completely different story. C.S. Lewis didn’t set out to write a Jesus analogue. He just started writing Narnia “and then Aslan came bounding in.”

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  3. This is a very insightful post. I especially like that you’ve pointed out that our books CAN be witnesses – when we meet a fan in person. It doesn’t have to be in the book to reach people. =)

    I’ll admit, I do have some religion in my book (You may remember Lance mentioning “Draso” to Reil – Draso is essentially God and the Zyearth story of Draso is pretty much the biblical story God and Jesus) but it plays a very minor part in the stories. He’s rarely even mentioned, and the story of Draso is never discussed in the book. It’s important that I know how Draso and his stories work, but it never needs to play any “bible-thumping” part in the stories. This way it addresses the spiritual without shoving the ideas down anyone’s throat. And if anyone asks me about Draso’s story, then I can relate it to Jesus’ story. There’s no reason to do it differently than that in my book. =)

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  4. I really appreciate this post. Quite a bit. Mainly, as it confirms that I’m not the only one that feels this way. I’ve posted some on the revived Netraptor forum, but it’s this type of discussion I’d love to get into, as it deals with an incredibly deep foundation I hold to in my writing.

    I see a whole lot of mediocrity in Christian media, and it really upsets me that that is considered quality. Characters are only fit into cliques to better broaden the message’s reach, and the plot is often not so much a plot, as a personal journey for the characters to an end message. This isn’t to say a story dealing with direct, Christian themes is instantly badly written, but it _must_ be done with creativity and care.

    Now, I don’t think removing any message is the answer, simply because you can’t. Every story has a message, whether it tries to or not. If it’s got any sort of conflict or plot, it’s got a message. Some make their message more blatant, while others underline their story with it.

    You’re absolutely right that if you can get someone to truly enjoy and respect your work, they’re going to care about what you think. Whether that means a later novel in a series deals with a more obvious, Christian message(if and only if it works inside the story), or if they simply care about the author’s opinion outside of the novels.

    I want my novels to do that, and I want to reflect Christ in my novels _and_ my life. It’s my hope to produce novels of excellence that’ll really connect with the audience, and just be a fun story to read.

    Great post, Netraptor.

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  5. Cyphir: I’m with you on the message idea. I always think of it as the “moral”. The characters have to grow over the course of the story and learn SOMEthing, otherwise, what’s the point?

    But the message doesn’t always have to be “Jesus saves!” Christian writers seem to think that’s the only acceptable message. I’ve noticed that it seems to give people license to write about the most disgusting things under the guise of “well, Jesus can forgive even this nasty character, because Jesus luuuuvs j000!”

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  6. Right. A lot of time, Christian novelists view “Jesus Saves” as the only message of ‘heavenly value.’ I think that mindset is mainly from the ‘wood, hay, stubble’ verse in Corinthians. Now, it’s not about championing a moralist view and abandoning the foundation on which morals do rest, but rather reflecting the image of God through both the story’s underlying message(morals point to a moral lawgiver, among other things), and the quality of the story itself.

    Another thing I think a lot of people just don’t see is that the public does not have the same mindset as they once did. This is an age of skepticism, and Christian novels nowadays only affect those who already want to hear its message. Preaching to the choir and all. “Jesus saves and fixes everything!” doesn’t fly now, but what skeptics don’t get is that Christ is so much deeper than that. If I can reflect that through just quality fiction that garners the respect of a reader(and their attention), then that’s my opening to speak to them on a personal level.

    Agreed on that last part. I could go into a whole conversation about where I draw the line on gritty details, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

    Speaking of writer’s influencing people: I hate to shift topic, but have you had the chance to view my introduction thread over at the Netraptor Forums? I ask, because – in short – your novels really influenced _me_ as a writer. Hearing your thoughts on this made me smile quite largely, as there are so few who seem to hold to this.

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    1. Hey, I didn’t know you’d been posting over there. I haven’t been there in a few weeks, but I’ll swing by. 🙂

      You’re right about this being an age of skepticism. I’ve been studying the gospels lately (just finished Mark). Jesus talked to the crowds in parables, and only explained things to the disciples. I think the same idea applies: speak to the multitudes in good stories, and offer them the truth if they ask. The only people Jesus beat over the head were the religious people. I don’t think he ever once told off a nonbeliever. Of course, Jesus had the advantage of being able to read minds. 🙂

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  7. *wanders in*

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… Art reflects the artist. Writing reflects the writer. Therefore it’s not just the characters who need to learn and grow during the story. It’s the writer, a little, too. And the danger of this is… If we hold up the mirror… We might not always like what we see reflected. And if we hold the mirror too tightly… we may crack it.

    I do not consider myself religious. Nor am I a fan of religious writing. I think that if a story is basically reduced to either a sermon or a parable then – with very few exceptions – it’s going to really limit the development of the plot and the depth of the characters. With this kind of subject matter, you’re as likely to alienate your own characters as you are entire audiences.

    However… If people need to write really bad fiction in order to explore their faith, find other people who can relate to their struggles with their beliefs and so forth… Well then that’s kinda sad because perhaps it indicates that they can’t find the courage – or the support – to have these discussions with real live people. Still, it IS kinda important for them to have the outlet and be able to ask these questions… And even badly written stories can still manage to contain basically good ideas, provoking others to have a wider range of discussions.

    So while I agree with you that perhaps not all of this writing should be published… If the actual process helps people to grow, let it be.

    And hey… The bible is supposed to be one of the best selling books ever, right? Forget who told me that but given it’s age and all the many different versions and how many times it’s been published… Suppose that it’s only natural that people would want to try and borrow from that success.

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    1. Someday, just for kicks, see if you can pick up a free Christian fiction ebook on Amazon. You’ll see what I’m constantly grousing about–it’s all badly-written thinly-veiled altar calls. You know how preachy some of my fanfics were. Christian fiction is WORSE.

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