There are a plethora of good Christian authors in the world today, even a few good Christian fiction writers. There are even more wonderful secular authors, especially when it comes to the domain of fictional content.
The world of fiction writing is one of the few places that is truly equal-opportunity and nearly free of the constraints our world has placed on writers. That being said, we writers are not completely beyond the chains of all those constraints, especially not those of us without an established name. It would be difficult for a new author to make a name for his- or herself by writing a book that does not follow the guidelines of the massive “PC” (political correctness) movement, or one that outright condemns any particular group. It’s sad that the world of writing has been tempered in this way, but there is still room to reveal a genuine message through fiction, even one that many readers would balk at. The argument “if it offends you, you don’t have to read it” comes to mind, though that argument doesn’t hold the weight it once did. Instead, we temper our works with long arguments in the forward or after, explaining to our readers that what they are about to read (or have just read) is a work of fiction, born from the writer’s mind, based on nothing more than the writer’s experience and perception of reality.
With all that being said, there is room for a fiction writer to reveal truth in the work he or she creates. There’s even room to reveal the Truth. The thing we need to keep in mind is that not everyone will accept, or even acknowledge, any truth that we reveal. Which brings me to the main point of this post. It’s three-parts: one for those readers who do not hold to Christian beliefs, one for those readers who do, and one for Christian writers. Read what you wish, disregard the rest…
For Non-Christian Readers
My first bit of advice to you is this: don’t be deterred if an author or a book is labelled “Christian.” Some really great stories are written by Christian authors (if you doubt me, keep in mind that C. S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia series, also wrote some of the best Christian theological works of his day). Even if you don’t believe in the message of the Bible, you have to admit that it has some of the greatest stories ever within its pages…
All I’m saying is this: don’t judge a book by its cover (or its author bio). You’ll be in for some real treats, and perhaps you’ll even learn something about yourself, the world, or the universe along the way.
For Christian Readers
Just as I asked Non-Christian readers to not shy away from Christian authors and books, I now urge you to not refrain from reading books just because the author is not a Christian or the subject matter is of a secular nature. You’ll miss out on some amazing adventures, some classic characters, and the opportunity to learn more about the world in which God has placed you. How will you ever be able to speak to someone, let alone evangelize, if you do not have an understanding of the world in which they live?
Don’t be too quick to judge, and don’t get stuck inside your comfort zone. Branch out, read something dangerous, something different. I’m not saying abandon all reason and support drivel like “romance” novels or Fifty Shades of Grey. There are places where we Christians do need to draw a line. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a Stephen King novel or a piece of classic literature just because it wasn’t written by a devout Christian.
For Christian Writers
This is something that I was hung up on for the longest time, but through prayer and thought I’ve finally come to an answer, and on the off-chance that you’re struggling with the same thing I figured I would share my enlightenment:
Being a Christian writer does not mean you can only write Christian works.
I know it sounds simple, but this idea held me back from writing for weeks. You don’t need to load your latest fictional work with tons of gospel messages or a full exploration of the Truth of God’s word. You don’t even strictly need to mention it. Just write what comes to you, write what you love. That’s not to say never include a good moral example or a message of hope, but don’t be bogged down by it.
Again I’ll point to C. S. Lewis, just because he is a wonderful example of what I’m saying: The Chronicles of Narnia has some obvious references to the story of Jesus, but at no point does C. S. Lewis force the reader to accept that view or that information. Instead he wrote a fantastic series of fictional novels that will live on for years to come, always bearing that subtle arrow that points towards Truth.
The worst thing that we can do as Christians is tie our own views to the gospel. A person does not need to accept my views of the world or my interpretation of the Bible in order to receive salvation, and thank God for that! The only message we need to spread is one of love and forgiveness, not condemnation and hate. So write your story, whatever it is, and do whatever you can to gain a following and publish it. If you ever get the chance to speak bluntly with your readers, ask them if they know Christ. Writing fiction can be a great way to open up your own mission field that spans the globe.
If you only read a single section here, that’s fine. If you read them all, great! If you have any questions about any of these points, or just feel like discussing then, feel free to email me or post in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
A quick note: While I will never be ashamed to bring up my faith in this blog, I do want to assure you that not every post will be as theological as this one. This blog is primarily about writing, and I plan to keep the focus there. This post kind of exploded into my mind and demanded to be shared, and when a writer begins to deny his muse he’s asking for trouble…