Writing What Is
I often get into some quite animated discussions about the shape that the writing of a Christian should take. There are several schools of thought, which I’ll condense down to two main ones:
1) Christians should write only explicitly Christian stories.
2) Christian should not write explicitly Christian stories, but rather bury hidden meaning that an unknowing secular audience will dig up and point them in the direction of God.
Both points are valid. Many people have come to Christ through Christian films, Christian concerts, and all those explicitly Christian things that get scoffed at. However, the power of the Gospel in them is enough for God to use them for His purposes.
Others point to the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who spread elements of the Gospel through their stories like bread crumbs that guide you home in the midst of a thick forest. I’ve heard several people at least say they came to know Christ through a journey that began with one of these books.
So, who’s right? Neither is. While both heavily religious and more subtle works have been successful in reaching people for Christ and being commercially viable, neither is the be all and end all.
The key is to write what’s in your heart and the stories you have, not to play your stories one way or another. The question shouldn’t be, “What’s the right approach to take to a story?” The question ought to be, “What’s the story I have and what’s the best way to tell it?”
God is always a part of most of my stories, particularly the good ones, but how he appears varies. In both my short stories for the anthology, God is talked about, but never shows up. In my novel, “Two Sides of the Hill,” God is at the center of the entire story, while in “Super Hero,” he’s only discussed every few chapters. I’ve written stories of great miracles and the chronicles of the mundane. Both have a place in my world.
The danger we face when we adopt a rigid view of what our stories will look like is that in that rigidity, we kill imagination. We try and fit our characters, our stories, and even our portrayal of God in a box and we end up unhappy with what we produce and stuck in a rut, because we’ve limited ourselves.
I write what I see in mind’s eye and I make changes to the plot if it makes it better or flows with my vision of the story, not to please a school of thought. The critical thing for Christian writers is to tell the stories we’ve been given, because if God is guiding us, they have an important purpose, no matter what form they might take.