Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Christian Writing in a Secular World

WWJD?  I've been wrestling with this one.  My WIP is not Christian fiction.  There is no story line about how the protagonist got saved and it turned her world around.  As a matter of fact, it doesn't even mention God, church, Jesus...  At one point, the antagonist screams out hatefulness.  It was a hard dialog for me to write.  I still haven't decided on one sentence in particular.  He says a bad word.  Yep.  My mom would have washed our mouths out with soap!

OK, it's not the @ word, but it's still a curse word.  A Christian friend of mine, when told of my dilemma, suggested I use @#%*#!  Not that the thought hadn't crossed my mind; but dialog is words, not symbols.  The character spewing the word is far from reflecting Jesus.  He is evil, cruel, abusive... just plain mean.  He doesn't say things like, "Darn it, you mean girl!"  I left the word in there. 

I consider writing a form of art.  I am an artist.  I use words to paint.  You cannot paint a sunny day without the color blue.  You cannot paint a sunset using only yellow.  My WIP is already written in my head.  My story has a beginning and an end.  The characters are strong.  I cannot weaken them... it would do a disservice to my work.

I have a notebook on my laptop with oodles of ideas for other books.  Most of them have a dark character.  They're not childrens' books.  Don't get me wrong... I would let my teenage granddaughter read my book.  It's about real life, and sometimes real life is ugly.  I would not be ashamed for my Christian friends to see what I've written.  I really don't care what they think, anyway.  I do care what God thinks.

Sometimes I wonder if God would want me to only write Christian fiction.  I credit Him for this talent that I think I have.  (Although, being a writer, I will face another judgment day!)  Does God want us to use the talents He blessed us with for His glory alone.  If my writing does not bring people into His Kingdom or glorify Him in some way, am I not using my gift as He would have me use it?

I just finished reading that last book of a three-part series that is a prelude to the Left Behind series.  This paragraph, in The Rapture by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, really hit home...

"Another honoree was a prodigious pianist who had taken the gift God had given him and devoted himself to ministry rather than exalt himself by pursuing what was guaranteed to be a lucrative career in the great concert halls.  He taught piano in remote arenas of the world and used his giftedness to spread the Word of God, eschewing personal glory and wealth."

So am I exalting myself for my own glory if I write something other than Christian fiction?  Even though I still pray on this question, I think God says no.  After all, if I were a great classical pianist no one would expect me to play only hymns, would they?

I might someday try to write a Christian fiction novel, but I truly don't think I have talent in that area.  If it is God's will, I'm quite sure He'll let me know...

I have many Christian writers that follow my blog.  I also know a lot of you are Christians without writing Christian stories.  What do you think about this issue?  Does God want us to use our gifts solely for His purpose?


Anonymous said...

I think that you can still touch people with the Grace of God without writing Christian fiction. You can still make them stop and think about their choices in life without even mentioning the words Jesus or God or anything in your books. But that's just me. Personally I find Christian fiction too preachy. Like I'm a fairly new Child of God, so I'm not that well versed in what God would want you do to with your talents or not, but I can offer my opinion, right?

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

This is a very thought provoking post and I have wrestled with this very thing. Originally, I started my WIP as a non-Christian work. It's a romance and PG-PG13, but it wasn't going to have a spiritual thread in it. My faith, however, kept sticking its head in and it has some faith elements.

I don't think it is necessary to write Christian fiction for it to bring God glory. We can bring him glory by spinning a tale that is entertaining. Making people laugh, making people think...that can all bring joy and/or understanding to others. We give to others the gift that God has given us.

That is just my two cents!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I've heard many agonize over these questions, Lily. We don't own the abilities God puts within us. We're stewards of them. The gifts are for those our lives touch.

This is a matter for serious prayer and studying the Word of God. If we find our convictions in conflict with what we're doing, it's time to step back and re-evaluate.

Scripture tells us to let the peace of God rule our hearts.


Lesley said...

This is a difficult question! I think God wants us to use our gifts joyfully and fully. I have worked at a church and done "Godly" work with a selfish, prideful attitude - and I have done secular work with humility and joy. I think God prefers the latter.

Lorenza said...

Hi Lily I personally think that God wants us to express our deep and wise creativity; I honestly don't think that you should only write Christian fiction. Don't think, don't ask yourself question, just listen to your soul.

Unknown said...

So what is Christian literature? Anything preachy or that tries to proselytise is really not literature. Good fiction needs to deal with universal themes and make people think. It suffices that the author is a believer and is true to himself or herself when writing to make the book Christian. These are the priniciples that guided me when I wrote Angela 1: Starting Over, newly released. To learn more, just click on my name and follow the link to my website. I also invite you to read my blog at Thanks!

Terri Tiffany said...

The book I recently submitted isn't Christian but good fiction. I struggle with this topic everyday. I've written for the secular market and Chistian and always make sure I'm proud of what I write.

Afternoon Tea Break said...

Hi Lily, I actually stopped by to wish you a Happy New Year but you got me thinking with your latest blog post! I'm afraid I don't really know the answer to the dilemma you posed but I think the posters above have expressed my thoughts on the matter far better than I could.

Hope you have a fantastic 2010 in which your novel gets completed and published.

Lille Diane said...

I believe God can and does use everything to help reach people whether or not it was written as a Christian book. I am not sugar coating my non fiction book, Lily. Will Spring Arbor pick it up? No, but I am not marketing just to Christians. I'd like to think of myself doing more of a WWJD thing. He would meet people where they are, and not where Christians often decide people "need" to be. God uses a variety of people and stories to help those who are hurting, or who need answers and direction.

Write from your heart, Lily. God knows you love Him and why you're writing your book. In fact He's the one who's planted the idea in your heart anyway... Remember most of the authors of the Bible caught flack for following their hearts (for God) rather than writing what "man deemed worthy" for print.

Sometimes it is well meaning people (sometimes disguised as judgmental Christians) who create walls for others to climb over to find God. God builds a gate in all walls for people to find Him (by using people like you writing truth) and man keeps pounding nails in the gates by being self righteous about what and who God is, and likes or doesn't like. Half the Christians who sit in church with you probably still yelp out some colorful words when they stub their toes... I don't think they're going to burn in hell for that.

Jean Fischer said...

As a freelance writer, I write for both the Christian and the secular markets. I always begin my writing day with a prayer asking God to guide my words. If I sense that what I'm writing conflicts with His will, I rewrite until I'm satisfied that what I've written serves a purpose worthy to the Lord.

We don't know how God will use what we write, but we do know that He will.

Gossip Cowgirl said...

I'm having similar struggles, so I appreciate the honesty (and getting to read the comments that have been posted here).

My take on it is this:

Christian fiction has an audience. Of Christians. People whose worldview is reinforced by what they read. And there's nothing wrong with that.

I'm not sure I want to be the kind of writer who only reinforces people's world view. I want people who aren't Christians to be able to pick up my work and read it, but I also want Christians to be able to read it and be edified by it. It's a struggle, for sure. And I'm not sure I'm a "Christian" writer yet. I joined the Christian Authors association for a year to see if God pushes me in one direction or another. For now, I'm still struggling.

And now I'm going to blog about this, too. So thanks for getting my gears in gear again.

Great post.

Brannon Hancock said...

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, Michaelangelo). 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.