art, community, Encouragement, writing

Sending Out The Call

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…Or, The Post That May Get Me In A Lot Of Trouble. And yet, I’m fairly sure that won’t stop me from going forward.

Lately, I’ve been coming across some pretty intense (and very important) discussions on “Christian media” and whether it’s actually effective, helpful, or even valuable to its own audience. And these discussions are happening among believers in the Christian doctrine. Since I count myself among that set of spiritual principles, but also as an artist, I’ve encountered several problems with “Christian” entertainment before. And this is something we need to talk about.

A lot of Christian musicians, writers, and other sorts of artists feel extreme pressure to only produce certain content in their art. If they cover a “taboo” topic, or include an image or wording that some in the Church find offensive, they are worried about being branded as a “heretic” or a “blasphemer.” (Now, is it just me, or aren’t we past the time when Catholics and Protestants put each other to death in the city square?)

Apparently, labeling something “Christian” means that it will already cover the issues of Biblical teachings and modern churchgoing lifestyle that most believers should know and/or generally follow. And often it seems to point a finger at those in the denomination or the faith that “aren’t measuring up.” It isn’t affirming of the message that the Messiah came to die for all of us, while we were still sinners. Nor does it present anything appealing or encouraging to non-believers.

Personal note time: I don’t read Christian fiction anymore, because I simply can’t relate to finding a husband being absolutely more important than anything else in life (even more than God, apparently); or to non-believers always being presented as drunks or child abusers or corrupt in business (since plenty of non-Christians are in fact very moral and very nice people); or to believers never getting angry or making a mistake that wasn’t forgiven at the drop of a hat, just because they prayed for God to show the other person they were “being unreasonable” (ahem…).

Not that absolutely all Christian fiction is this bad. But way too much of it is. So I’d rather spend my precious free time reading something that may not point to a spiritual lesson or spell out something of religious importance, but that provides lots of thought in the areas of growth and love.

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As artists, who are supposed to be creating and finding new and innovative ways to share our art (and our passion), we are continually being put in a box. As I attempted to finish the final draft of Volume 1, I explored the possibility of trying to get a Christian publishing agent, and was more than a little horrified by what I found. Too many companies informed prospective clients that “good Christian literature does not include swearing, sexuality, violence, any mention of other religions, the supernatural (even angels and demons), or reference other literature/music/art that is not Christian in origin and nature.”

Excuse me?! Have any of these people actually read the Bible, and discovered just how much violence there is, references to who “lay” with his wife, mentions of about 17,000 other cultures and sets of beliefs, and TONS of angels and demons?! And isn’t one of the major teachings of the New Testament that part of LOVE is respecting people who have a belief system/lifestyle/background you don’t agree with? Didn’t Jesus of Nazareth say that you could go to temple every week, follow all the instructions of the priests, and still be a sinner with a wicked heart if you ignored the beggars and the cripples on the street or didn’t give the repentent prostitutes a second chance?

This type of attitude among a lot of modern churchgoers is why I also don’t write Christian fiction. And believe me, I have worked way too hard on my “baby” to see it shoved into a corner of “not worth reading” by so, so many if it was labeled “Christian fiction.” Especially considering that most of the Christian publishers out there would call it “blasphemy” because it’s in the fantasy genre. (Haven’t they ever heard of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis?!)

Not that my series will be known for loads of profanity or explicit sexual references or graphic violence. But, somebody needs to tell me why, just because I write about faeries and unicorns and dragons — and angels and demons — I can’t call myself a Christian. And they need to have evidence that trumps the Gospels, which proclaim that my Savior came to die for autistic fantasy writers, too.

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Too much of the current Christian entertainment market is full of cheesy, unrealistic, dull, and even offensive portrayals that need to stop. I know for a fact I am not the only one who feels this way. That I am not the only one who feels the world as a whole needs to return to a higher moral standard, and that faith needs to be allowed to play a greater role than just “preaching to the choir.”

I don’t want to drop anybody’s names, in case you aren’t prepared for that; but if this is an issue that you face, as a believer and an artist, please raise your voice. To those of you who already have, thank you. We can band together to develop a place where our art is allowed to exist without discrimination, to reach all sorts of people through love of a shared interest or hobby, without in-fighting or unnecessary restrictions.

So, I am sending out the call. Let’s hear you.

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8 thoughts on “Sending Out The Call”

  1. When Mahatma Ghandi was asked the question, “What’s the greatest problem facing Christians in India?” He responded with two words, “Other Christians.”

    l believe Ghandi’s response holds true for the current church in today’s America, as you point out in this insightful post. Even now I can remember my mother frowning and fussing about the Baptists. We were Methodist. She’d go on and on about how the Baptists folk thought they were so much better than us Methodists all because they “immersed” with their baptism while we less emotional Methodists “sprinkled.”

    The Us and Them battle is still strong in the Christian community and the fight really gets bitter when it comes to literature. After all, back in the 90s, some Christian groups here in the south built bonfires made of Harry Potter novels. It’s a terrible reality. But you have put out the message, and it’s a good one!

    Also, I’ve just received your novel, MASTERS AND BEGINNERS, and finished Chapter One. I’m absolutely captivated!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I truly hope you enjoy all of it!

      It seems to me that, in spite of the tele-evangelists and big figures from a variety of denominations claiming that we’re “all one” now, the fact stands that there are indeed very strong divisions between the groups. Where I live, the Pentecostals don’t like the Methodists or the Baptists or the Catholics, the Methodists try to get along with everybody, the Baptists won’t, and the Catholics appear to want to stay out of it all. Now, whether that’s true around the whole country or not, and whether it’s likely to change soon, is the crux of the biscuit. I’ve attended services at different types of churches, and met lots of nice people from many different religions (some of them not even Christian), and met some really terrible excuses for Christians. I’ve stuck to my guns about holding up the Bible as the final authority on things like fantasy fiction, regardless of some of the backlash I’ve received. Which, again, just proves my point.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Any mention of angels and demons?! My reaction was pretty much the same as yours!! I don’t get hardliners in general to be honest. I can’t even understand why Christians are afraid of Harry Potter to be honest- it’s not promoting witchcraft, it’s literally the same story as Chronicles of Narnia- which is the same story as the resurrection. I just don’t get it. haha yes, strawmen atheists and non-believers does seem pretty commonplace. But yes, there’s really no reason to avoid using, for want of a better word, the symbolism of angels and demons to put a message across or tell a story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it took me years to convince my husband Harry Potter has nothing to do with the devil. He’s watched a couple of the movies with me and White Fang, and I think we’ve finally swayed him. And when you look at the history of any religion, going back to pre-history (and I have), the mention of angels and demons (in whatever form) is always there, in Judaism, Hinduism, the Vikings, Greco-Roman, the Celts, native Americans, etc. etc. So, to me, it just doesn’t make any sense, to claim to believe in a God that lives somewhere off this Earth, but to insist that you only write about things found on this planet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah it’s quite a pervasive thing- so it doesn’t surprise me. I just think it comes from misinformation. Yes absolutely! I also think that in religious literature/fiction, there has often been an element of fantasy or supernatural symbolism (although there’s often been a backlash anyway)- so I really don’t get the argument against what can effectively be argued as symbolism in literature. Basically, literal or non-literal, the result is the same: there’s *nothing* wrong with it!!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! I am so surprised at your experience with Christian publishers, but now that I think about it, yeah those things are not typically found in Christian fiction. I’m a Christian, but I don’t typically read Christian fiction as it is usually too cheesy. There are some exceptions, notably Francine Rivers (her Mark of the Lion series set in Ancient Rome is one of my favorites) and Frank Peretti (he’s written books about angels and demons and books that I would classify as horror). I haven’t read these authors in awhile though.
    Sadly I try to stay away from much of the “Christian media” as it is way too judgemental, which saddens me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It makes me sad, too, that a group that’s supposed to be united (i.e. Christianity) is so divided (at least in America). I’ve seen Francine Rivers and Frank Peretti get a lot of flack, for their choice of subject matter, when I simply saw it as historically accurate (Rivers), or accurate in terms of human nature (Peretti). I’ve really, really enjoyed some of Ted Dekker’s work, especially “Immanuel’s Veins” (it’s his version of a Gothic horror story, and it is captivating). I know some people give him a lot of crap, too, and his daughter (Rachelle Dekker), who’s now writing in a vein similar to her dad’s. The thing about both Dekkers and authors like Peretti and Rivers, though, is that I’ve heard non-believers or agnostic readers announce they got a lot out of reading these books, as opposed to the very definite Christian romances (like Debbie Macomber or Karen Kingsbury).

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

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