At the conference last weekend, one aspiring author asked, “What makes my writing ‘Christian’?” It was a sincere question, one that was echoed in various ways throughout the weekend. Frankly, I was encouraged to know other believers wrestle with that issue. The answer, however, is not so easy.
Those answers usually swing between these two extremes:
- Anything a Christian writes could be considered “Christian writing”
- Only what is written specifically for a Christian audience, intended to edify believers, be morally clean, theologically accurate, and embody the Gospel could be considered “Christian writing”
So if you’d permit me a crude illustration, those differing perspectives would exist on a scale and look something like this:
CHRISTIAN WRITING IS
Anything a Christian writes —————————- Only specific things a Christian writes
Either way, I’m mostly of the former camp, believing that anything a Christian writes should be considered “Christian.” After all, Christians are to glorify God in everything we do.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Cor. 10:31).
Which creates a problem for those of the “other camp” — the “Christian writing” is only specific kinds of writing camp. I mean, if you’re supposed to do EVERYTHING to the glory of God, why must you single out your writing? Is your writing more “Christian” than, say, your driving, your shopping habits, your sales presentations, or your night out on the town?
To take it a step further, it is borderline superstitious to believe that specific words, or constructions of specific words, make something “Christian.” As if we can wave a magic wand over a story and suddenly transform its very nature.
It’s been said that “Christian music” is the only musical form defined by its lyrics. There’s nothing specifically “Christian” about a tempo, instrument, or chord. I mean, is there a “Christian” guitar riff or a “Christian” drum beat? So the “Christian” part of Christian music has to be its lyrics. (Of course, don’t tell that to Bach or Beethoven.) But do lyrics really have that much power? Do biblical references or themes inserted into a song suddenly transform it from “secular” to “spiritual”? Can a Scripture quote invest a mediocre melody with newfound potential?
Unlike music, writing is comprised entirely of lyrics, or words. Applying the above reasoning then, writing becomes “Christian” when specific words appear. The “music” of the story becomes rather inconsequential. For instance, stringing together the words “Jesus is Lord” could make a document “Christian.” The words, “You must accept Jesus as Lord” makes it VERY Christian. Conversely, the absence of certain words (insert your favorite expletive here) could do the same. Some would say profanity de-christianizes your writing. So the less cussing in a story, the more “Christian” it is.
However, there are no “secular” molecules in the universe. And I’d like to think the same applies to words.
But if this is true, how could any collection of words be more “secular” or “Christian” than any others? It’s the melody that counts. If you’re not glorifying Him with your whole life now, why should it matter that you stick references to Him in your stories? That’s hypocrisy, isn’t it?
Then again, maybe the “Christian” part of our writing doesn’t have a wit to do with our words. There’s no magic wand I can pass over my story, no words I can add or subtract to make it more or less “Christian.” Maybe what makes a story “Christian” at all is its “tune” rather than its “lyrics.”
What makes your writing “Christian”? Well, let’s start with you being one.