Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Second Opinion & My Faulty Brain

In a recent post, reviewing Stephen King's On Writing, I stated that I considered him an authority, and that he reinforced my belief that dialog should be truthful.  I inserted a link to my post A Christian Writing in a Secular World, where I first debated my dilemma.  

Lo and behold... I received a comment from a higher authority!  My music pastor.  He has a brilliant mind, and has experience as a writer.  (He's currently working on his doctoral thesis.)  But, most of all, he is a man of God.  (Oh, yeah, and he's really cool!)

His words were so revealing to me that I wanted to share them with you.  I could tell you to go back to that post and read the comments, but to save your finger muscles, I'll repost it here...

Personally - and this is Brannon the poet-songwriter-playwright-essayist (etc) talking, not "Pastor Brannon" (as if you can really separate the two - but anyway) - I think when Christians create art (of any kind) that is TRUE, it glorifies the Creator in whose image we are created. Period. Whether or not it deals with Christian themes or is marketed as "Christian."

Make good art. Tell stories that are true. Stir up emotion. Use your words to inspire hope, fear, sadness, joy, love, hatred...the real stuff of life. Use every tool at your disposal. Words have power. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called words "living Things." I suspect there is a time and a place for ALL of them.

The problem with a lot of the art that is marketed as "Christian" (and exclusively to Christians), whether fiction or music or the tepid watercolors found adorning the hallways of many churches, is that it just doesn't tell the truth. It doesn't get at the real stuff of life. It's all (in the apt phrase of a former musical collaborator of mine) "Jesus-and-flowers." But that's simply not authentic, and it makes it something other than good art. In fact, it's not just "bad art" - it's propaganda, art designed to manipulate false emotion.

I'm not saying there's no place for "Christian art" (or music or whatever) or that none of it is good - much of it is exceptional! Some of the most amazing melodies and paintings and poetry ever crafted have been written explicitly to the glory of God and for the edification of the Church (Bach, George Herbert, Michelangelo). But I firmly believe that not every Christian is called to produce "Christian art." (And last time I checked, God isn't interested in marketing strategies or target audiences - His target audience is EVERYBODY.)

So for what it's worth, I hope you will experience "release" from any obstacle to your writing. Whatever story you have to tell, it is something God has gifted you for and placed within you. Don't allow the conventions and sensitivities of the "Christian sub-culture" to abort what He wants to bring it to birth in you. 

Even though I reposted it, I've decided to go ahead and ask you all to go back and read all the comments.  I am blessed to have such caring and knowledgeable people commenting on my blog.  I enjoy hearing from each and every one of you.  I believe we can all be fortified by feedback.

Speaking of feedback...  I'm interested in your comments on what he wrote to me.

Pastor Brannon also commented on my King post, sharing the titles of three books he recommends to writers:
  1. The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield
  2. Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle
  3. The Echo Within by Robert Benson (all his books are spectacular, and in one way or another are about writing and spirituality)
    I've seen many lists of recommendations, and typically, the same titles appear again and again.  These three are new to me, and I look forward to reading them... if I ever finished my Christmas books!  Have any of you read these books?  Of course, I'll certainly post a review of them here to let you know what I think.  I know you care.

    A quick mention...  just in case you're wondering.  I do know the difference between there, their and they're.  Or at least I did.  That part of my brain seems to have broken.  I've caught myself, quite often in fact, replacing their with there in my e-mails and posts.  Is this a sign of early dementia?  If so, I'd better get busy on that book!


    Susan R. Mills said...

    What great thoughts from your music Pastor. I have to say that I completely agree with him.

    Shelley Sly said...

    Amazing, amazing contribution from your Pastor. That is exactly what I needed to hear.

    Marla said...

    I so agree with his comment. This is exactly why I am doing The List. I woke up one day and discovered I had gone back into my Christian cocoon where I thought it was safe. All it was though was dead. I want real. I need real. Thank you for sharing this real comment.

    Amy Holder said...

    Wow - what wonderful insight from an authentically wise man! Thanks for sharing this with us!

    SquirrelQueen said...

    He is a very wise man.

    Sandi K said...

    What a great post! We discussed this in a Sunday morning bible study a few months back, and your pastor said basically what ours did. Without faith, works are nothing. So imagine what the art and writing of a believer can be? With God, great things are possible.

    zz said...

    Hey Lily, I think u're very lucky to have such an authentic and clever pastor in ur world :) His comment was very refreshing! I particularly liked he's encouragement to tell stories that are true. Fake and contrived stories are boring and uncomfortable to read, who would want to produce that??

    Roland D. Yeomans said...

    Lily, you are very lucky to have a spiritual mentor like that. He is right -- many of the "Christian" books out there do not tackle the harsh pain, inner and outer.

    I found myself living for a time on the streets of New Orleans after the devastation of Katrina. When the light of civilization go out, the true nature of those around you are revealed.

    I used that learning experience to write my urban fantasy, FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE, where an agnostic and a priest tackle the doubts they both feel, while struggling against the harsh outer realities.

    Come by my blog {WRITING IN THE CROSSHAIRS,} if you're of a mind, pull up a cyber-chair, and chat. For a courtesty only, here is the link :

    May The Father become more real with each step you take with Him on life's sometimes challenging path, Roland