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Reader Reactions to “Why Christians Can’t Agree About Christian Fiction”

It’s been a couple weeks since my post Why Christians Can’t Agree About Christian Fiction. The volume of comments—that’s volume as in emotional decibels and quantity—that followed, and the conversations that ensued, has been fascinating. I wanted to take a minute to recap some of those varied reactions, ponder why this subject maintains such interest (or loathing, depending upon where you stand), and what I’m learning along the way.

Let me begin with this email I received from a reader a few days after that post:

Mike,

I think your blog post, the other day, Why Christians Can’t Agree About Fiction, really threw me for a loop. I can’t stop thinking about it — and I think you’re right when you boil it down to the honesty/holiness camps. This differentiation, to me, is prevalent everywhere in our faith. My family and I recently switched churches for this basic idea — the old one wanted my artsy husband and I to conform, the new one just accepts us the way were are.

I think my readers, who are all starting in their writing journeys, need to find some encouragement to be themselves, to be honest in what they write, and more importantly, avoid the shackles of legalism, which often calls itself holiness… Thank you. I believe that Grace always wins, and writers of graceful stories might not be on the cover of the CBD catalog, but I think we have, in the long run, the most power to change the world.

Like this reader, others seemed to draw sufficient inspiration (or ire) from the post to pursue the subject from other angles at their own blogs. Jessica Thomas asked Should Christians Be Concerned About the State of Christian Fiction? While Katherine Coble pondered how Christians are to relate to the world in In, Not Of. Tracy Krauss mused, To CBA Or Not to CBA, That is the Question, and over at Speculative Faith, Fred Warren did a very entertaining parody of our debate in a post entitled Showdown. Thanks Fred for the much-needed levity! Interestingly enough, a forum of Christian filmmakers also ran with the subject so, apparently, the issue is not confined to the CBA.

The post made the Twitter rounds, and another blogger requested an interview from me regarding the topics raised on that post (which I am still working on). And I received notice of several other posts (or stealth rebuttals) that addressed the topic from other angles.

But unlike the emailer above, not everyone was enthused or inspired. For instance, I received this challenge from someone on Twitter in response to a RT of the post:

Nothing like trying to talk theology in 140 character chunks.

In the post comments, someone linked to Kat Heckenbach’s Put Down Your Sword… and Write. Kat said:

There seems to be this war going on between Christian writers. Because there are “preach to the choir” Christian books, and “edgy” Christian books, and books written by Christians that aren’t overt at all and really could be classified as secular. And there are straight-up secular books read by Christians as well.

Everyone has their own idea about what makes a book “Christian”—whether that means squeaky clean, edgy, or horror. And to be honest, I’m tired of people pounding their chests, exclaiming that their kind writing is the best kind of Christian writing. (emphasis in original)

Whether or not Kat had me in my mind when she wrote this, I don’t know. At least, I sure hope I’m not viewed as someone out here pounding my chest :(. Nevertheless, I was directed to the post by others three different times the following week, which I interpreted as a confutation of the opinions I’ve expressed.

Then friend and novelist Becky Miller took dead aim at what she perceived was my inaccurate characterization of “holiness,” specifically linking it with legalism. Her posts Holiness Is Not a Dirty Word spun off into a four-part series on holiness at Becky’s website. Becky’s concerns about my use of the word “holiness” could be probably summarized in this statement found in one of her comments:

To me it really is offensive to take a word God uses about Himself to delineate His moral purity and apply it to people who are perverting the very concept of righteousness.

The comments on Becky’s post are rather interesting. There are references to “sanctification,” Pelagianism, the Keswick Movement, Sabbath laws, even the Greek word hagios, the root word for “saint,” is dusted off.  Now that’s my kind of discussion!

In all honesty, I came away feeling that Becky had misrepresented my point. (Which is one reason I’ve waited two weeks to bring the topic up again.) However, since then, Becky and I have had a face-to-face talk. Our friendship has never been in question. But neither has our differing perspectives on Christian fiction.

Anyway, it’s left me slightly pensive.

On the one hand are people like Marion who commented, “This is a much needed discussion and maybe there is some real growth taking place in Christian Fiction.” And then there are folks like Becky who believe I am hurting the cause of Christian publishing and Kat who is wearied by “this war going on between Christian writers.”

So which is it? Shut up and write, or keep up the discussion?

Listen, I am not in this to make enemies. I am not in this to start or maintain a war. I have no desire to stifle anyone’s career. My mission is not to change anyone, disparage anyone, get rich, or become famous. I love Jesus and want to serve Him. I love God’s Church, God’s people, and want to see the Gospel furthered. I am a Christian artist. I am not ashamed of saying that, and believe our calling and our heritage is the highest of any! I feel the arts — specifically, the Christian arts — IS a discussion we must continue to have. We owe it to Him! We owe it to ourselves. We must brave the ridicule, the potential hurt feelings, and the career implications. And we must remain humble. I am not above reproof and correction… and don’t mind being told so. My positions are not infallible. And neither are yours.

All that to say, this “conversation” may seem tired, divisive, pointless, and unresolvable. But if the amount of heat it generates is any indication, the topic appears to remain relevant.

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{ 35 comments… add one }
  • E. Stephen Burnett June 9, 2011, 5:50 AM

    tell me- if we aren’t supposed to be separate from the world, why did Jesus tell us to?

    That jumps out to me as fallacious and poorly argued, even over Twitter. (He had 38 more characters to fill out the point.)

    From a recent Tweet of my own:

    For Christians who make “avoid the world” their moral prime directive: what about true public prayers with Jesus’ name?

    I thought about this at my city’s council meeting this week, which opened up with a very honest, very orthodox, public prayer that ended “in Jesus’ name, amen.” The fact is that “the world” still, in places, does reflect God’s truth.

    Yes, Scripture is our prime source of truth, our only sure source, but Scripture itself also never says that “avoid the world” is our moral prime directive. “Repent and believe, then be like Christ,” is a Christian’s mission.

    To the extent that “the world,” that is, the present evil age, opposes this, we avoid “the world.” But if “the world” reflects this truth, then we are free to enjoy that and thank God for His common grace.

    A too-oft-forsaken Christian doctrine, that God is redeeming not only human souls but His physical world, to turn it into the New Heavens and New Earth (Rev. 21), would help fix this problem. Too often honest, well-meaning Christians think that God is only interested in “spiritual” things and “the world” doesn’t count. This is accidental Gnosticism, and it gives the Devil and the flesh too much credit for somehow co-opting creation from the Creator.

    Yes, “the world” can be nasty, and only Christ can remodel it. But this flawed planet also reflects God’s truths in many ways.

    Finally, I note that your Tweet-writer, Mike, used a “worldly” communications medium to make his point. Aside from being poorly thought-out and un-Biblical, an “avoid the world” moral prime directive is never truly practiced consistently!

    • Eric June 9, 2011, 7:13 AM

      My prayer is *not* that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. –Jesus (Jn. 17:15)

      And it’s less than 140 characters!

  • Kat Heckenbach June 9, 2011, 6:37 AM

    Set your mind at ease, Mike. I don’t see you as a ranter, and I haven’t seen you name-call :). Although your post was part of my inspiration for my post. What I saw in your post was a definition of the different “camps” of Christian writers. You presented it in a logical way–as you always do. Even when you “take sides” you do so with logic and reason.

    My post was intended merely to say that, yes, there *are* different camps, and there *ought* to be! Some books preach at the choir. Well–if there’s a choir that wants to be preached at, let ’em preach. Let the separatists be separate. Let the gritty, in the world folks be in the world. We don’t ALL have to share the same space.

    There are Christians who have led sheltered lives and need “sheltered” writing. They simply can’t relate to hard-boiled Christian fiction. Some simply want fluff for escapism/entertainment reasons.

    Some Christians struggle to stay “out” of the world to keep themselves from falling. What comes to my mind are some Christian lady friends who had been caught up new-agey stuff and felt the need to give up yoga because of that–they had to stay away from anything that might make them succumb to old ways. They need overt Christian fiction to help them along their way–but not overt, dark fiction that is a reminder to them.

    Others, like you and me, have a need to dive into that dark, gritty, realistic (or fantastic/speculative/whatever) side.

    My whole point–and I think you agree–is that the presence of dark, realistic Christian fiction doesn’t mean the banishment of what we consider fluff Christian fiction.

    I did not–intentionally did not–get into the idea of poor craft. Christian fiction often gets torn up for poor craft, and that is a different topic altogether. The writers are writing that way because it’s what their audience demands. (I mean, yes, *I* consider it poor craft–please don’t misquote me there! But there’s an audience that wants that stuff, and I don’t see it as our job to force them into a different mindset. I hate Twilight because of the unrealistic characters, the fluff, the bad craft. Steph Meyers, however, is a billionaire and I am not. I can rage against the machine all I want and it won’t change what readers buy. There are gobs of incredible restaurants out there, and people still flock to McDonalds.)

    So, ultimately, what I’m saying is that all this raging just makes some of us sound bitter. There are small presses that are opening doors for writers who don’t want to be part of the CBA standard. Let’s focus on building up our camp and stop griping and groaning that the other camp won’t let us in. Contrary to popular belief on this side, not everyone over there is pointing fingers at us. I’m in several Christian writers groups filled with older ladies who love the sweet inspirational stuff that makes us roll our eyes and groan–and you know what? They know what I write and they are SUPPORTIVE of me.

    • Mike Duran June 11, 2011, 4:32 PM

      I appreciate your tone in all of this, Kat. Truly. I think the fact that “gritty” writers need to seek publication outside the establishment is the problem I’m having. Sure, both can coexist. They just must do it in separate rooms. But as long as Christian art is primarily defined in terms of the conservative (Holiness) wing, separate rooms will be essential. Thanks, Kat!

      • Kat Heckenbach June 11, 2011, 5:00 PM

        Thanks, Mike. I am glad to hear that :).

        And I understand the frustration. I really do. I wish there could be a gradient. That fiction was fiction and you could have holiness camp Christian at one end and purely secular at the other end, and all shades of gray in between. But the publishing world has divided itself–and I think that division started with the holiness camp, and I don’t think it is going to just disappear. Maybe, though, eventually, all those “separate rooms” will at least give the appearance of a gradient.

  • Ame June 9, 2011, 6:55 AM

    i wonder how much our perception is based on our life experiences and how those experiences have affected our faith and our relationship/understanding/knowledge of God. i know that my views on a lot of ‘christian’ things, and all things, have greatly changed after living through an unfaithful husband, a marriage destroyed, single parenting, my parents getting a divorce, working through all the child abuse from my childhood, etc. in many ways there’s a ‘before’ and ‘after’ me. i think the ‘after’ me is much more real and grounded …. honest, though still wounded. and the ‘before’ me was much more ‘holiness’ is everything, and perception of holiness essential.

  • Diane M Graham June 9, 2011, 6:56 AM

    KAT- Well said, Chicky. And I agree. If everyone would stop stumbling to cram everyone else in a box, I believe God could use them better.

  • Ame June 9, 2011, 6:57 AM

    also … the ‘honesty’ camp challenges my faith much more than the ‘holiness’ camp. the ‘holiness’ camp is nice, but it’s not my reality.

  • Tim George June 9, 2011, 7:01 AM

    You have made me think deeply about these issues and that is a good thing. It even led me to an in-depth conversation with a rapper I disciple about the whole idea of speaking the world’s language while maintaining our unique identity. The Beat of our Story

    What concerns me most is that none of us mistake heat for light. The line between the two is so thin and stepping from light to heat so subtle I must always guard my words and actions. I think KAT just reminded us to not become so intent on shining our spotlights on each other we don’t catch the whole place on fire.

  • Jessica Thomas June 9, 2011, 7:11 AM

    I just finished Mike Dellosso’s Darkness follows. Wow. It was definitely the darkest novel I’ve read that has the Christian stamp on it. About a quarter of the way through, I asked myself, “Can I finish this?” It served as a reminder to me that there’s definitely a place for lighter fiction too…a place for me even. The lighter fiction is a valid and needed counterpoint.

    To Kat, and just in general, I think we need to be careful when we call the lighter stuff “fluff”. That has a negative connotation that might not be deserved. I think “fluff” has more to do with bad craft. Whether one writes light fiction, or dark, or any variation in between (my interpretation of “honest” versus “holy” as Mike defined it), it can be either well-crafted or poorly crafted. If we are writing poorly crafted novels when we know (and God knows) we can do better, then that’s an issue. I think we are called to do our best work, it honors God. Laziness doesn’t honor God.

    God cares about craft. He’s a master craftsman. Look at the world he created. When we write, no matter what we write, we should have craft in mind. It’s important. However, I think it’s fair to say, Christian artists have been lazy in that area in the past…creating lots of “fluff”…or as I like to call it “cheese”.

    • Kat Heckenbach June 9, 2011, 10:01 AM

      Jessica, you are right. I use “fluff” with quotes around it, because it’s the word I’ve heard used to describe much of mainstream fiction. And my whole point is that some writing is being called “fluff” unjustly. Yes, there is a difference between light writing and true fluff writing. There is writing that is well-written, but just not deep and heady. It’s fun, pure entertainment. And some is “cheese” but well-loved by a huge audience.

      What bothers me is when the mainstream/lighter-side writers say darker writing doesn’t glorify God. And then the darker/grittier writers throw back that light righting just isn’t “real” and the writers and readers of such need to “wake up.” Why? Why can’t there be both? Tell me WHY.

      • Tony June 9, 2011, 12:33 PM

        It puts me in quite an odd position as a person who reads/enjoys both kinds of writing. I can handle gritty, and I can enjoy “safe.” And so I’m still confused about the whole point of the argument.

        I do want to point out that safe fiction isn’t only for sheltered people. I’m not so sure it should be. Sheltered people are sheep for the slaughter in my experience. I’ve had my share of heartbreak with sheltered Christians. I think it may be just the opposite. It is for me, at least.

        1. I have very few Christian friends — although I hang out with them any chance I get.

        2. I work Sunday mornings AND nights, which leaves little time to enjoy church. . .I go, but it’s difficult to stay awake when you’re running on empty.

        3. Nearly all of my Christian friends from High School are now Agnostic or Atheist or “Non-Practicing.”

        4. The few people I’ve managed to help bring to Christ have all turned their backs on Him. (imagine how that feels?)

        I’m a bitter guy. But you know what helps ease the sting? “Safe” Christian fiction.

        It ain’t that I’m sheltered, believe me, it’s just the opposite.

      • Jessica Thomas June 9, 2011, 4:59 PM

        Good points, Kat. I agree, there’s room for both. I like to read (and write) along the entire spectrum.

      • Matt Schuster June 10, 2011, 6:53 AM

        Hi Kat,
        The conversation is going a great direction, and you are helping it a great deal.
        More real questions are being asked, that means deeper considerations are making their inroads. I can see how all this leads to an ownership of terms being defined and understanding turning into wisdom. Yes, laziness does not get that done.

        The Book is being written freely and is not finished either, is it? I remember a young woman who answered to an add, a car we had for sale. She never bought the car, but accepted Christ as a consequence of the friendship that ensued.

        I remember her being totally displeased when one day we looked at some very late Revelation passages. There, in all its glory Jerusalem was sitting, with its doors wide open, and outside the city? NO! There were all the evil dudes!? “What the hec?” She rightly exclaimed. She was disappointed because she thought that they had been taken care of in the lake of fire. Lol.

        The darkness will forever glorify God, gnashing of teeth at that. Oh my God, who is writing the Story?

        Best…
        P.S. I love you all defining your terms, it is so helpful to me.

  • Tony June 9, 2011, 12:41 PM

    Here is what gets me. Some in the Honesty Camp say that the Holiness Camp is bad because they’re not honest (i.e. because they don’t see life the way those in the Honest Camp see life). Then they accuse the Holiness Camp of being overly exclusive. As far as I can tell, the people arguing for one or the other — be it in writing or in church — tend to be the people who have, in fact, become overly exclusive. And then there are those like myself, who are pretty exclusive when it comes to some matters. . .but I’m not afraid to admit it. 😉

    But the whole exclusive honesty camper thing is what I get from that first post you placed up there, and the exclusive holiness camper from the Twitter post. Both posts express a similar prejudice in my opinion. Which leads me to this point:

    If I was offended by your posts, Mike, I wouldn’t keep visiting the blog. I don’t think YOU are the problem. But I think some of your well-meaning fans who “agree” with you, are misrepresenting what you’re getting at.

  • Bruce Hennigan June 9, 2011, 3:42 PM

    I suggest we take a moment and reflect on how Jesus communicated the Message. After all, no matter the style of our narratives, we are conveying the Message of Christ in our fiction. But, Jesus didn’t just stick with the safe “sermons”. He used parables, many of which lacked overt religious language. He used what I call “dramatic moments” such as healings, loaves and fishes, calming the water, walking on water. He also used quiet, reflective moments like with the woman at the well. But, he also used what some might call “darker” moments when He drove the money changers from the temple with a whip, by the way, the same kind used later in his flogging. As an apologist as well as a novelist, I have a presentation called “CSI: Golgotha” in which I cover the events leading up to Jesus’ death as if I were a forensic analyst. After studying these moments in detail, I can tell you those final hours were the darkest in human history and we must understand them; we must relive them if we are ever to accept the sacrifice that repays our sins.

    I know this discussion generates much “heat” and maybe not so much “light” but so have the differing denominations over the centuries. I think there is room at the well for all of us to dip our pens into the ink of human experience, or as one definition defines ink as “the dark liquor with which men write”. We need all of these differing genres and differing forms of the Story that God is unfolding around us.

    So, thank you Mike for breaching this issue. Thank you for bringing it out of the closet where we can embrace it and gnaw on it and air our likenesses and our differences. But, at the end of the day, whether it is a dark, dark place we go to with “Darkness Follows” or a sunny place we go to in an Amish romance, it is the destination of Christ’s redemptive love that must shine through. And, it will!

  • Tracy Krauss June 9, 2011, 5:25 PM

    And so the debate continues! I think the whole discussion boils down to one thing: There is room for both.
    In the same way that there are denominations (and nobody but Jesus is going to change that) there is also room for all types of writing under the ‘Christian’ umbrella. (And like most matters of preference, its not about one being better than the other.)

    • Michael Trimmer (@MichaelSTrimmer) June 9, 2011, 10:49 PM

      There may indeed be room for both, but the problem is that the mainstream is dominated by the fluffy, nice Jesus that realistically, I think is one that the world can more readily accept. That’s my problem with it. The genre needs to be more gritty, or else the world’s reaction will be one of two things. Either “Aww isn’t Jesus nice” followed by apathy or “oh…isn’t Jesus dull” followed by apathy.

      • Mike Duran June 11, 2011, 4:58 PM

        Michael, I agree with you. As long as the world interprets Christian art strictly in terms of “fluff” or “light” or “happy” or “hope,” I think we potentially misrepresent the Gospel.

  • Jay June 9, 2011, 5:45 PM

    Going from “separating ourselves from the world” to “you have to evangelize through your novel” is a huge step. I (and I assume other may agree) tend to consider those “be holy” kind of verses as separating our heart (or mind, what have you) from the world, not a corporeal separation, like asceticism. That’s a hard distinction to accept because asceticism is a hard line…there are gray areas with our hearts (minds) and it’s harder for others to to discern whether other are properly “holy” or not. But that doesn’t stop some from discerning (really, wrongly judging) anyways.

  • Jill June 9, 2011, 6:56 PM

    I don’t know why anybody would expect Christians to have a “hive mind”. I’ve been somewhat bothered by the unity movement going on around the internet: the idea that we should bring Christians together for the higher ideal of love in order to better reach the world. This is a washed-out Christianity. Mainstream Christians can’t agree on anything except that salvation only comes through Jesus Christ. When we seek unity, we water down. When we try to please everybody, our art suffers. Or maybe I should say, when we try not to offend anybody, our art suffers.

    No matter how much we argue, most people aren’t artists, anyway. Most writers aren’t that spectacular. Very few have that special whats-it, that special thing-ness, and that includes writers in the secular market as well as in the Christian. Entertainment is what it is. Very little of it will reach lofty heights–and many readers don’t give a damn. And I think I can safely say that all readers don’t want great art all the time. I’m just as likely to read Alexander Pope as the latest issue of Vanidades. Well, the scale is tipped slightly toward Pope, but still . . . !

    Ultimately, I would hate to see either camp disappear. And I don’t think they’re exclusive, either. Think about it: writer wants to tell us the truth (honesty camp) about meth culture, gives us the truth in raw details, which comes across as preachy and holier-than-thou because writer has an agenda (holiness camp) and, to make it worse, writer lacks the special thing-ness.

    • Katherine Coble June 9, 2011, 8:34 PM

      While I’m definitely not one for unity-in-spite-of-serious-differences (I dont vote for people my pastor tells me to; in fact I wont go to a church where the pastor tells the congregants whom to vote for), I’m also really against waging our wars in public.

      I think this contretemps Mike has given voice to is both necessary and good for the body. But I dont think having it in the public square is good for the church. I dont think we ARE having it public…unless this all gets reprinted in a general-interest forum. But I am troubled by things like the public battle over Bell’s tiny book of Origen Revisited. So if it seems like Im pro-hivemind I just wanted to clarify.

  • Jill June 9, 2011, 8:59 PM

    No, que no! I didn’t get the hive mind from you. And the rest of what you’ve brought up–that is a necessary discussion. I’m not sure anywhere on the internet could be construed as private. It’s all the public square, as far as I’m concerned, unless the blog author only allows professing Christians to read and comment.

    Plus, I have mixed feelings about private vs public in-fighting. Obviously, the church has a long history of debates, splits, etc. that are anything but private. How Christians behave in these arguments is, perhaps, more important. Sometimes, my own behavior is deplorable, and I need to think about that before I run around arguing w/ everybody and intentionally offending others. Unfortunately, I’m a lot more polite on the internet than I am in person. That’s my shameful confession for the day. 🙁

  • Nathan June 10, 2011, 4:51 AM

    I know that on my end of things personally, now that I am seriously considering trying to break into the mainstream fantasy market, is that many of my story ideas aren’t “obviously” Christian. And I wrestle with where this leaves me in God’s eyes. I used to be of the mind that I needed to write Christian fiction for a Christian publishing house and trust that it would find its way into the hands of nonbelievers and possibly influence them.

    At the same time, I’ve been reading different books on being a creative Christian (such as Michael Card’s “Scribbling in the Sand,” Francis Schaeffer’s “Art and the Bible,” and Madeline L’Engle’s “Walking on Water”) and recently reread Mike’s post on our Mystery threshold. All these are coming together in my head to remind me that, quite frankly, art that is straightforward doesn’t have the safe effect that oblique art has. Straightforward art basically holds up a sign in the audience’s face saying, “Here I am; this is what I mean.” Oblique art presents itself but gives the audience time to reflect and interpret it on their own–possibly causing them to change their views in the process. And as I understand the Scriptures, this would probably be one small facet in God’s overall art of bringing a nonbeliever to redemption in Christ.

    But still, after reading exclusively Christian fiction for some 6+ years of my life and persuading myself over that 6+ years that I would write Christian fantasy . . . I wrestle. It’s a growth process.

  • xdpaul June 10, 2011, 9:36 AM

    Mike,

    Shut up already and tell me what you really think.

    Hope that clears it up for you! 😉

    Some of the tension is good. The fact is our Leader is a bit of a strange One to follow. Which is it, “Be still and know that He is God,” or “Take a sword?”

    Both.

    Hacking through a wilderness means broken branches, scratches, bites, falls and a dull machete, even if you are just the assistant surveyor. That tension you feel is just the branches of the world, pushing back.

    It would be so much easier to see the resistance (and its worth) if our spy glass wasn’t so dark…

  • Patrick Todoroff June 10, 2011, 11:11 AM

    This is a fantastic discussion that brings real issues and motives to light in a challenging way. I’m all for it.

    That said, I think writers need to make sure talking about writing doesn’t take the place of writing, and Christian writers need to write the stories God lays on their hearts in the manner they feel most honest before Him.

    Mike, your novel is in my Amazon Cart and I’m expecting to see more at some point in the near future. So get back to writing, sir.

    I would also note, being solidly in the Honesty Camp, that while I disagree with the product and logic of my Holiness brethren, I’ve never called their salvation or relationship with Jesus into question. However those are exactly the two points that get raised whenever I’m subjected to their scrutiny.

    And that kinda pisses me off sometimes.

    • Katherine Coble June 10, 2011, 12:32 PM

      What he said, in the penultimate paragraph and final sentence.

  • Steve Rzasa June 11, 2011, 3:17 PM

    So Mike, does your writing contain swearing/profanity/whatever you want to call it?

    • Mike Duran June 11, 2011, 4:23 PM

      Some. Nothing major. I scrubbed what I had for The Resurrection because it didn’t really affect the story.

  • Steve Rzasa June 11, 2011, 4:30 PM

    And obviously the publisher wasn’t fazed. Are we talking “Heck” and “Darn” or “Hell” and “Damn”? Sorry to sound like I’m nitpicking, but I’m really more curious to see what different publishers consider OK.

    • Mike Duran June 11, 2011, 4:40 PM

      No. I find these guidelines fascinating, and it really is one of the reasons I struggle with this issue. For the record, Charisma House has been great for me. Really. I was more concerned that they let me tell my story, than that they make me remove the cursing. I am indebted to them.

      In one scene, I have my protag pastor say to a ghost / demon, “Go to hell.” I thought it was appropriate. The editors requested the word’s removal. It was the one scene I fought over. I asked her to speak to someone “higher up” and explained why I felt the word was necessary. She returned saying it was “policy” to remove the phrase “go to hell.” So I changed it.

      All that to say, I’m talking about hell, damn, and, occasionally, shit. No f-bombs.

      • Katherine Coble June 11, 2011, 8:22 PM

        Okay. Now, that’s a little bit of a weird choice on the pubhouse’s part. Because, clearly, going to hell is what Demons are supposed to do.

        I mean, I get having a “policy” but certainly allowances could be made for things that are contextually relevent and spiritual in nature.

        Of course I could argue that humans aren’t to interact with demons and Satan and should allow the Holy Spirit to bind those entities for them. But that’s more of a sticky wicket and a topic for another time and not really germaine necessarily to a work of fiction.

        So I’m back to thinking that it is just really…odd…that words such as “hell” can’t even be used in their literal, spiritually sound context. I would personally consider that a bit legalistic. But that’s just me.

  • Guy Stewart June 11, 2011, 11:10 PM
  • Dave Withe June 23, 2011, 7:21 AM

    Maybe I’m a coward, but these kind of issues are precisely why I decided to try to write for the secular marketplace with Christian themed Sf. Even when I was pastoring I was out of the “pale” in the view of many gatekeepers in the church and the inspiration the Holy Spirit has been giving me for my writing is way beyond what the classic ABA will touch. However, I settled it early on to follow God’s truth and The Spirit wherever they led me (what a long strange trip it’s been).

    My conviction is that Christian Speculative Fiction is first and foremost a form of missionary outreach to parts of the population that aren’t likely to be exposed to anything but the anti-Christian propaganda that passes for religious discourse in the larger society. This puts our work (divine calling) beyond the “pale of ‘Churchy’ orthodoxy” from the git-go. (Without the law, but not without the law (of love) to Christ) We have to go tussle in the marketplace for shelf space with the big boys. That means that our works must shine on storytelling and style against the standards of the secular publishers. Too many ABA authors I’ve read recently are stylistically horrible and amateurish in their story-spinning; though theologically correct.

    A recent discussion over on Jeff Gerke’s Anomaly forum raised a new thought in my thinking; ‘can we as Christian authors help to reach the church going pagans (usually raised in the church) in our midst?’ Using the ABA formulas, I think not so much. If the traditional formulas worked for them the power of conviction through preaching and the other church outreach would ‘git ‘er done’. I hardly think that another “Left behind series” clone will do much. We are after all called to “go forth to Him, outside the gate (into the city garbage dump), bearing His reproach” (Heb 13) if we are to reach the lost ones both outside of and within the church. IMHO, as authors we are especially called to cross the man made boundaries to find the ones who will be saved. Artists of all stripes are an edgy crowd after all, as Christian artists we are called to walk that fine line.

    Write on siblings. This is a discussion that deserves attention, but not too much. We have a very limited time to rebuild the foundations of our generation before we vanish off the scene. Let us write the truths that will bring light were darkness now reigns.

    SGD
    dave

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