A Way to Share His Story

In yesterday's blog, Adam used the example of Jotham as a storyteller. Historically, storytellers can be found in every culture. Aboriginal cultures rely on oral teachings. When I visited New Mexico, I bought a little storyteller trinket depicting children climbing and clinging to the storyteller.

Why do we have storytellers? Because we are created in God's image. The Bible is His Story and the most important of any story. The content of God's story encompasses all truth. He used individual writers and their personalities to collect His Story for believers.

Today God's Word is complete. We add nothing to it. Those storytellers who live for Christ, reflect threads of His Story in their written and oral tales. God's plot began in Genesis and His Story continues to this day. We are part of His Story. He works in and through us as writers.

God continues to use the individual personalities of those who know Him as storytellers. Many cultures do the same, but not every individual's stories reflect the truth of His Story because not every writer or storyteller knows the truth. Christian speculative fiction offers one more viable vehicle to tell a story threaded with truths from His Story. We are reminded in 1 Timothy 6:17-29

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

As storytellers who enjoy fantasy, Science Fiction and speculative fiction, Christian authors who write in these genres use their talent to share His Story. It's not only a means of expression, but also a good work. A way to share the importance of taking hold of that which is life indeed.


Christian Carnival Up

Christian Carnival 161 is up and includes a link to the Lost Genre Guild.


The First Fantasy of the Bible

I want to return to the Bible for a moment, because from the Word of God all wisdom and truth truly flows. Many in discussing fiction and fantasy have alluded to the parables of Jesus.

Yet, the first story ever told in the Bible, the first parable comes from a figure whom we never hear from again, Jotham the son of Gideon. After Gideon died, Gideon’s illegitimate son, Abimelech came to power by killing all of his brothers, except for Jotham. In his grief and righteous anger, He spoke to the men of Shechem in a parable from top of Mount Gerazim:

The trees went forth once to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, `Reign thou over us.' But the olive tree said unto them, `Should I leave my fatness, withwhich by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?'

And the trees said to the fig tree, `Come thou, and reign over us.' But the fig tree said unto them, `Should I forsake my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?'

Then said the trees unto the vine, `Come thou, and reign over us.' And the vine said unto them, `Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?'

Then said all the trees unto the bramble, `Come thou, and reign over us.' And the bramble said unto the trees, `If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow; and if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.' Judges 9:8-15

After telling this story, Jotham turned it on the men of Shechem and said if they had done right by the house of his Father in killing the House of Gideon and making Abimelech King, then they should rejoice, but, if not, “let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem and the house of Bethmillo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem and from the house of Bethmillo, and devour Abimelech." (Judges 6:20)

This is a powerful story. It speaks to the danger of politics and to the universal truth that many people who end up seeking power and position often do so because people of true greatness have better things to do and that a poor leader can often consume his own people.

There are two questions out of this page. The first is, “Why did Jotham tell the story?” The second is, “Why did people remember it?”

First, human beings communicate through stories, both true and fictitious. President Abraham Lincoln said that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” started the Civil War. He was right, the book galvanized the country. It wasn’t the writings of William Lloyd Garrison, the preaching of Dwight Weld, or the simple eloquence of John Quincy Adams that brought the issue of slavery to a forefront, it was the story told of Harriet Beecher Stowe. She didn’t just tell us, “There are slaves and they should be free.” She said, “Here they are and here are there opens, their dreams, and their faith.”

So Jotham stood up to speak in the most powerful language of humanity, but there was another reason he used a story. He wanted people to listen. He could have stood on the hill and simply shouted down at the Men of Shechem, “You murderers killed my brothers.” But, they wouldn’t listen to that and if someone wasn’t there and asked what happened, all they’d be told is, “Jotham shouted that God would get back at us.”

Instead, he told a story because he couldn’t just take the issue straight on with no introduction. In my writing, I often choose futuristic or fantastic settings to lay down great truths because they will not be readily received in the present day. Yet, you may garner a kernel of truth from Speculative Fiction and real life may remind you of the situation you read about in the book and may change the way you respond to life in the real world.

The final question about Jotham’s story is, “Why was it remembered?” Other than the influence of the Holy Ghost, I think it was not only an imaginative fable, but struck a nerve of truth. If it didn’t cause Abimelech’s men to desert, it at the very least caused them to doubt. “Is Abimelech but a bramble? Will we be consumed with him?”

More than 3000 years later, this simple story lives on. Although it was fantasy, it was so full of truth it stuck with those who heard it. It had to be recorded and passed down from generation to generation.

Our challenge today is no different than Jotham’s: to help people see the truth of God through the lens of fiction. Let us commit ourselves to the task and the results to God.

Inbreaking Fiction

In the comments, Steve Rice noted that even Christian spec-fic presents human solutions to problems. Indeed, most authors are afraid to let God move in our stories. Editors and publishers typically demand human solutions from us. If we let God solve something, we get screamed at and scorned. Even other Christians turn their noses up at us and say, "A deus ex machina! How tripe!"

I concede the point in terms of classic deus ex machinas, such as the space invaders all dying of influenza, but as a writer, God has laid a couple things on my heart. To write for Him, as an Audience of One, and about Him.

In any work with my name on it, He is the true star. As in real life, you may never actually "see" Him, but He is a real presence and He does sometimes intervene in human events. That's the way it should be. If He is the answer in life, why should we, as an industry, be so afraid to portray Him in all His wonder-working glory?

Some like to write about biblical days, and that’s fine for those called to it, but I’ve always been fascinated by the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God into the real world. That takes different shapes and forms. Sometimes, it’s as simple as God laying a hand on the shoulder of a protestant African American woman and telling her to carry a White baby to term for his Catholic grandmother, as in my story, “Frozen Generation,” currently being considered for publication in the anthology, Light at the Edge of Darkness.

Still, the bible promises us the Lord of Hosts is capable of breaking into our ordinary world in more spectacular ways. In the Heaven’s Mark Trilogy, which I coauthored with my husband Adam, at times the Lord moves in ways reminiscent of miracles performed in both the old and new testaments. He blinds the eyes of His enemies, and even believers for His purposes, He pours out His Spirit and makes his sons and daughters to prophesy, dream dreams, and see visions. He walks in the fire with His people and delivers His own from the Evil one so His work can be completed. He opens blinded eyes, heals the sick, opens the barren womb, and even raises the dead.

If you have a problem with that, forgive me for questioning how seriously you take the Bible and our Faith, as He has done all those things in the past. He said in His word, “I the Lord change not.” The God of the bible is the God of today. He hasn’t changed, it’s our faith that’s changed, that leaves Him as weak as when He returned home to Nazareth and could do few miracles because they lacked faith to believe the local carpenter could.

That’s what I write about, the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. In the interim, though, and that’s almost always the bulk of the story, you have ordinary believers struggling with ordinary problems, in often-futuristic worlds frighteningly reminiscent of our own.


Failed Utopia

Many people will ask why is Christian speculative fiction necessary. I have been told by many Christian friends (and one secular college professor) that aliens and faith do not mix. It takes people away from reality, i.e. the Gospel. I believe that this can be a valid argument against Christians writing science fiction and fantasy, but if we look at the broken promises of secular science fiction over the last hundred years, we will find that this genre needs the Gospel message more than ever.

Most science fiction from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries promised that science and the human spirit would free itself from the bonds of "religious superstition" and reach upward to a better world. Much of the nineteenth century writers were promising that humanity was destined for a great utopia in the twentieth century. And again, this would all happen thanks to science and human endeavor.

The twentieth century indeed opened up to a new world--one of more death and destruction than all of recorded history. Science gave us poison gas in the First World War, and long range aerial bombardment and atomic weapons in the Second. Most of the major powers in the world have the capability to wipe out all life on the planet in the same amount of time that it takes to get a pizza delivered to your home. Human endeavor became highly efficient in exterminating six million people in death camps.

The promised utopia never materialized because many secular writers ignored that we humans are deceitfully wicked creatures at heart. It was only the staying hand of Christ that has kept us from destroying ourselves in the last century.

In this new century of pessimism and cynicism, Christians need to show that while human nature-and Satan-have not changed, God has not changed either. He is the same loving and merciful God that He has always been (Hebrews 13:8).

I do not know if we will ever venture out to the stars and colonize alien worlds before Jesus comes back, but I do know that it is the mission of the Christian SF writer to show humanity that God will be there to lead us to the true utopia (Revelation 22).

Christian Fantasty Fiction? The same old argument...

When I was a little girl, my mother indulged my love of fantasy fiction. She knew that it provided a necessary escape from the daily inner city drama for her only child. By the age of nine, I had devoured The Chronicles of Narnia, losing myself in the beautifully constructed fantasy. The Lord of the Rings was next, admittedly taking more time and numerous reads before fully comprehending it.

When my son turned nine, I dutifully purchased the first novel in the Harry Potter series. To my disappointment, he was completely uninterested, having never developed the patience for believing in a different reality. But I was sucked in. It was as though I had entered a time warp, and was once again a nine-year-old reading under the covers with a night light.

When my aunt came to visit, she found a copy of The Goblet of Fire lying on my bed. Horrified, she confronted me with this "witchcraft" I had allowed in my home, devastated that her accomplished niece would expose her household to demonic elements. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what she was talking about. I did not know that a Christian backlash to the popular series had developed, that the fantasy world Rowlings created of witches and warlocks was troubling.

What is difference between the magical elements of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings? Isn't Tolkien's Gandalf the equivalent of Rowling's Dumbledore? (The storylines are even similar with Dumbledore "dying" in the latest novel.) For that matter, isn't Harry's similarity to the halfling Frodo uncanny? The Chronicles of Narnia, recently widely accepted as Christian fiction (at least for marketing purposes), also invokes magic and witches throughout the series.

How do we write fantasy fiction without reliance, on some level, on a "magical realm"? In my opinion, Harry Potter relies on basic principles of truth and justice, right and wrong, good and evil, friendship and loyalty and the need for love. That it is set in a subworld of witch and warlocks serves to enliven the setting, add spark to the story. But the principles remain the same and function as the undercurrent to all classic fantasy fiction.

Wouldn't it be hypocritical to pen fantasy fiction and avoid inexplicable occurrences and supernatural happenings for the sake of appropriate Christianity? If the underlying basis for Christianity is unquestioning belief and faith in the supernatural, then don't we have a duty to express that in fantasy fiction?

In my attempts to pen a decent Christian fantasy fiction novel, I have often encountered this dilemma. My main character, Ella, receives her supernatural powers and gifts from the Holy Spirit. But she encounters the enemy, demonic forces, that oppose her. Is this any less magical than any other series? In fact, couldn't it be more troubling for a child to read about demons and fallen angels, rather than the timehonored good versus bad wizard?

One fairly new series that I enjoy is Donita K. Paul's DragonQuest. With vague similarites to The Lord of the Rings, the characters have magical gifts and supernatural talents and embark on a quest to save the land. Ms. Paul attempts to explain wizardry (magic) as a heightened understanding of the basic elements of the world and how Wulder (God) intends for them to intertwine. In other words, a wizard is more like an advanced chemist. I thought it clever.

As I navigate the murky waters of Christian fantasy fiction, I have found no answers and very few logical explanations. At the end of the day, I know that my heart is focused and centered on God, who channels my gift. While he allows the gift to flow, it will bear positive, enlightened fruit in line with His principles and purposes, therein creating the ever illusive Christian fantasy fiction.