(Sidles onto stage.) “How are you? Ahem.
(Waves nervously.) “Hiya, my name is Kathrese McKee, and I’m the newest Scriblerian.”
I was asked to introduce myself, and I came so close to complete writer’s block. Let’s call it stage fright. Should I write the standard Ten-Things-About-Me post? Should I just pick one thing, like Army brat or Texan?
A Message About Timing
Fortunately, I read a Facebook post by C.W. Briar (Chuck) in which he told the story of how he became an author. Specifically, he wrote about his journey to where he is today, “It wasn’t a crisis of faith, but rather a search to find where I belong and how to use my gifts and talents.”
Along the way, with prayer and the Spirit’s help, Chuck decided to take writing seriously and publish by age 33. He set to work, learning and practicing his craft until he finished his book. According to God’s perfect timing, then, he received the first proof copy of his book three hours before he turned 34.
Individualized, personalized timing is normal with God. My story is similar to Chuck’s. My search took longer, but all those years while I was doing other things, God was preparing me to write fiction (and other stuff).
Our Reason Why
In the parts of the world where technology is readily available, we are consumed by a thirst for entertainment. We binge watch programs on Netflix or YouTube or Amazon Prime. We read ebooks all day long; there’s a never-ending supply. We float on a sea of amusing infotainment, and we only return to shore for the kids’ soccer games and work. Even then, it’s hard to put the mobile devices away and just be human for a few hours. Don’t think I’m being self-righteous about this; I include myself in that number.
Based on what we see happening around us in the growth of Christian writing support groups like ACFW and Realm Makers, it seems that God is calling authors out from among believers in increasing numbers to write fiction. I think God is calling us to reach out with His message to our blind and deaf generation, a generation of people who won’t meet Him any other way than through the pages of an entertaining story.
Meeting This Generation on the Page (or the Screen)
In a few weeks, I get to join a group of other authors at the Realm Makers conference. This isn’t your usual writing conference where lots of genres (and belief systems) are represented. This is a meeting of Christian authors who write speculative fiction. How oddly specific!
Here’s my theory: God wants us, the science fiction and fantasy authors He has called out, to meet speculative fiction lovers on the pages (and screens) where they spend their time. If they want entertainment, then our job is to (stay with me here) provide entertainment. To be present where they are. To hold out truth. To entertain—absolutely—and while we have their attention, to prompt them to blink out of their blind trance. To think for a moment. To consider Someone bigger. To know Him better.
I am a speculative fiction author who currently writes for young adults, so my assigned audience is young adults who enjoy epic fantasy adventure. Authors of other genres and sub-categories have different sets of readers to reach. Some audience overlap may occur. Personally, I enjoy reading a well-written Regency romance followed by a political thriller with a space opera for desert.
[Brace yourselves; we are entering personal opinion territory.]
Is there such a thing as Christian fiction?
In my opinion, the answer is no. A Christian is a person who is in Christ, and his or her message is Christ crucified. I know you want to argue for the existence of Christian fiction, but keep reading.
We have turned “Christian” into an adjective for the stuff we create, but the Scriptures only use the term in reference to believers. Go ahead, check out this search for “Christian” on BibleGateway.com . These days, “Christian” has become an imprecise shorthand for “a big ball of wibbly-wobbly . . . timey-wimey . . . stuff.”
My apologies, Dr. Who fans; I couldn’t resist. “Christian”—as a descriptor for stuff we create—is a dumbed-down, wishy-washy, amorphous concept that has little to do with God’s precious gift to mankind. To me, it makes more sense to label so-called “Christian art” as “Christ-inspired art.”
Can art be Christian?
Again, my answer is no. Art can be inspired by Christ. Art can point to Christ and glorify Him. Art can be offered to Christ in love, like the crayon drawings of a three-year-old. Such art, in God’s perfect time, can inspire non-believers to take Christ seriously, but only because God works on its audience through the Spirit by using the artist’s creation as a meeting point.
All art communicates a spiritual message, whether for good or evil. The massive sculptures and friezes created at the direction of the USSR’s government sent a spiritual message. Atheists’ art sends a spiritual message, whether they wish it or not. The art created by Christians, then, is important for the spiritual messages it communicates. That is why it is important for a Christian’s work to agree with God’s Truth.
Okay, I know I’m fighting a losing battle on the whole Christian-as-an-adjective-for-stuff thing. The publishing industry is deeply entrenched with the idea of a secular, “mainstream” market versus a religious market, some of which is “Christian.” The labels Christian music, Christian books, Christian jewelry, and Christian so-forth are here to stay. I just wish that we had settled on the term “Christ-inspired” instead.
[That wasn’t too bad, was it? And now you know how convoluted my thinking gets.]
A Light in a Dark Place
Our stories are one of the mediums through which God acts. The funny part is that our books don’t have to preach about Christ or contain an “altar call.” Christian authors don’t have to write allegories in order to glorify Christ or communicate Truth. The book of Esther contains no mention of God, yet the story is all about God’s power to save His people.
I think it is important for Christians to write fiction if they are moved to do so. Our “job” is to attract an audience and offer our best, most thoughtful, stories written from a Christian perspective.
When we meet our readers and fans in person or on-line, we must wear the name of Christ proudly and without shame. We must not shy away from being His witnesses. We must be Christians and walk the walk that we talk. Christians who write fiction can be a light in a dark place, and God will do the rest.
Our search, to paraphrase Chuck, is to find where we belong and how to use our gifts and talents. Our mission is to work conscientiously at our craft and present our best work to the reading public. We are called to meet non-believers (and believers too) on the page and on the screen through the medium of storytelling.
Chuck wrote this:
“I won’t say this is some God-ordained book. I won’t say this is the greatest thing I will ever accomplish (in fact, I hope to write many books and to improve with each and every one). I don’t know where this writing journey is leading, what stories I will tell, and whose lives I will impact. But I do know this: tonight I received the first copy of a book I wrote, a tangible confirmation of a journey started in earnest 4 years ago.”
My thanks to C.W. Briar for giving me permission to hijack his Facebook post. His first book, Wrath and Ruin, is on schedule to be released by the end of July, 2016. Love the title, by the way.
Do you agree or disagree?
Welcome Kathrese! I wholeheartedly agree with you about Christian fiction and art. I too loved CW Briar’s post. You did great on your debut!
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Thanks so much. The post was difficult to write because it was difficult to put my finger on why the current usage bugs me so much.
Welcome, Kathrese! “Christ-inspired” does seem a better fit. The noun vs. adjective use of the word Christian is one I’d not thought of, but must say, I definitely think you are on to something. Especially with the widely fluctuating and sometimes unfortunate perception/connotation the word has acquired. To be Christ-inspired, that should be our goal!
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Great article. I have often thought about this. Much of art, whether it is written, painted, or sung, is about life. And for sure our worldview colors it. But this also applies across most jobs. My hubby and I have talked a lot about this as I figure out my place in all this. Why does art/artists hold a different standard than a plumber, seamstress, teacher, shoemaker? I think our pastor said one time: A shoemaker makes shoes and glorifies God not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but working to the best of his/her ability, creating something of excellence.
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So true. But we don’t slap the label of Christian plumbing on our pipes. Doing any honorable work as for the Lord should be our goal. In that way, all our work is “Christ-inspired.”
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Enjoyed reading your article. And yes, Christ-inspired is definitely a better wording than a (excuse the term) generic “Christian”. Have to admit to having to back up and repeat the reading of certain sections, but arrived at the same place. With possibly this one caveat – to say “inspired” to the same extent as the Bible, I could not agree. But hold on, you and Mr.Briar have already said this.
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Sorry, I did say my reasoning was convoluted (like my brain). Thanks for reading it so carefully. I would NOT say that “God told me to write this” or make any similar claim. Inspired Scripture is God-breathed. That’s a slightly different meaning from what I was aiming by saying “Christ-inspired.”
I used to work in the medical field as a nurse’s aid and then a phlebotomist. I used to ask myself when giving an enema, “If I’m a Christian, does that make the enema procedure I’m giving a Christian enema?” I’ve followed all the arguments about Christian fiction and the conversations mirror much of the angst and handwringing concerning Contemporary Christian music over the last thirty or forty years. I have decided that yes I’m a Christian and I write whatever I write. One day when I have fans, I’ll let them argue the point. Welcome Kathrese. Can we call you Kat? 🙂
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You may (upon rare occasions) call me Kate, but since we have a regular reader named Kat Vinson, I think we should avoid confusing the situation. (Hey there, Sparks of Ember!) My first name was engineered by my father when my parents reached an impasse between Kathryn and Theresa. He came up with Kathrese; it is pronounced with a “three” in the middle. Obviously, I was born to be an author with a name like that!
Christians should write what they write. I don’t see a problem with that unless their work misleads their readers about Truth. The people who read our writing are the people we were meant to “meet on the page.”
Also, authors who write for the silver crowd at religious book stores have a ministry too, but the question I ask myself is: How can I be salt and light to the world if I confine my writing to the (tiny) “Christian fiction” market?
God gave me the desire to write speculative fiction for young adults. I was meant to be salt and light to young adults who read speculative fiction, particularly epic fantasy adventures. If I happen to touch older readers, then that’s great too. I’m working for Him, but He does the work.
You’re amazing, I really loved this post and I totally agree with you on the “Christ-Inspired” viewpoint. I’m excited at all the Christ-inspired fiction I’ve come across as of recent. One of my first experiences was with “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti on spiritual warfare and prayer.
May God continue to bless you on your own journey x
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Thanks, Christina! Frank Peretti’s books were some of my daughter’s favorites. Blessings! Kathrese