The world's view - finding a purpose...

By Daniel I. Weaver

I subscribe to every good CSFF team blog I come across and participate in a dozen or so writer's groups. Across the board, one topic has been reappearing with tenacious redundancy, yet every time I see a new post, I read and end up considering the opinion and arguments. CBA, ABA...does it matter?

Ninety percent of said discussions revolve around Tolkien and Lewis as the archetypes for Christian SFF and the allegory their now-immortal tales contained. Perhaps Lewis was too obvious, Tolkien not enough, or neither blatant, etc. etc. etc. As the guild grows, we've become privy to a vast range of experience and opinion. We have many more published authors in our ranks, and a slew of unpubs thirsting to learn from them. Across that gamut, we have folks published in both the CBA and ABA, and plenty of defenses for doing so.

I would pose the question, more so for discussion than anything else, where do you stand and do you see any real relevance in who publishes your work? Here are a few points to consider:

--The potential for making money "seems" to be greater in the CBA (I offer this loosely because statistics are so hard to track down...)

--What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? (Just ask Adam Graham what can happen, or read his tale in LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF DARKNESS). Sure, the ultimate ministry goal is to be blessed enough to do it full time and be in a position to dedicate 100% of your "work" time to writing. I mean, who says, boy I'd like to write on the side? But do you write solely to make money, or do you write for a higher purpose?

--Overtly Christian themes are viewed as "preachy." But who is more critical of the overt themes? The CBA or ABA?

-- How far do you go to avoid "Christian" themes? Sure, a great story is a great story. Theme's and "messages" shouldn't be an add-on. If they're integral to the story, they exist naturally. But does the pressure to avoid "preachiness" drive you to CUT Christian elements?

--If a CBA publisher publishes your work, would there be ANY indication that you're a Christian author? Would you care if the answer is no?

--If a CBA publisher publishes your work and no one "gains" anything from reading your story (as in, deepening a spiritual walk, learning a moral lesson, sharing some spiritual truth, etc), are you satisfied to simply tell a good tale? Is there anything truly "Christian" about doing this? Do you care?

We haven't had a good discussion going for a while, so I'm just curious to hear what you have to say. Please remember that everyone is entitled to an opinion regardless of whether or not you agree with it. Please, share yours.


Chad Lavender said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chad Lavender said...

Some good points here, Dan. In my opinion, there should be some meaning behind your writing. If there was enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian would you be considered guilty? Writing shouldn't be much different than our daily lives. Just as a person should be able to tell you're a Christian by the life you live, they should be able to tell by the way you write.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Daniel. I see so many "Christian" writers, especially children's, that aren't writing anything different than what the world is writing. That doesn't interest me. I don't want to get a book published just to get a book published.

Unknown said...

It seems to me that our goal is to tell excellent stories. We can't worry about what people will "gain" in reading what we write, because that's not up to us--that's up to the Holy Spirit. Jesus told stories to thousands of people, and some people didn’t gain anything from them. Others had their hearts quickened by the Spirit and came to follow Him. Our stories have the same potential since the same Spirit at work in Christ’s ministry is at work in us. The difference is, unlike Christ, we don’t know the hearts of every man. We don’t know who will accept our words with joy and who will ridicule them. And the beauty is that we don’t have to know. Our job is to be faithful, telling the stories the Spirit stirs within us and telling them to the best of our God-given ability.

Andrea Graham said...

I agree that it can't be forced. But if you're in right relationship with God . . . well, out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks, and that goes for the spiritual content (or lack thereof) in the words we write as well. If you've got Jesus in you, He's going to tend to shine in your work whether you're intending Him to or not. But you can only put in what you've got inside of you.

As Christians, we're called to serve God in whatever field we labor in. Whether you're a writer or a plumber--when you're "on the job" so to speak, can your "clients" and "colleagues" see Jesus in you? Could they tell Whom you serve by your conduct even if you never 'talk religion'?

Anonymous said...

Being a Christian is not (for the purposes of this topic) something that we "do," it is something that is given.

Jesus, through no effort on our own, transforms us by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are a new creation. Our worldview/message/raison d'etre is dependent on him.

Any adherence, on our part, to the old ways, the dead ways, the sin ways, is a form of spiritual necrophilia, but is, therefore not essential (or elemental) to who we are in Christ.

I guess what I'm saying is that Christians take a multitude of approaches in their work: some overt, some intrinsic (or organic), and some in a very abstract way. Paul calls us to, in one sense, be all things to all men.

We can do this in a variety of ways. For example, the "overt" bib-spec author with clear analogous symbols to the Christian message, with a "Christian, non-spec market friendly" approach is aiming to reach and edify a large number of casual readers who are Christians.

This is good.

An author who is a Christian who writes for a wider market, however, will trade more subtlety of theme in exchange for an audience who might not engage in the Gospel message if presented overtly.

This, too, is good.

A Christian mystic caught up in the Holy Spirit who experiences, say, both the second and third heaven and translates that in a Godly way to fiction (perhaps his only outlet if he is not also a called prophet) may write something very strange and alien that appeals to an small and unusual crowd, but may nonetheless draw them into closer communion with the Body at large.

This is also good!

One other thing: I am a believer that a story well-told is a "Good" beyond the element of entertainment. I believe that all true stories (including fiction) are a reflection (not a substitute!) of the Word, who is Christ. Of course, some of the worst stories become so twisted by our sin that there is little or no good left in them. But, in general, the storyteller, by his nature, is, if he is true to the story, and the story is true to creation, provides an echo of our risen Lord, the Lamb, the Word of God. Even when the Storyteller is unaware of the source of his true tale. I'm thinking of the worship of the "unknown god" referred to by Paul. One cannot have a story that is anything but derivative of the Only Story (that is, the everlasting, all encompassing Word). Even bad, false stories are a corruption of the good - a ghastly derivative: they are not original or new creations.

Any listener/reader who follows that echo back to its source will find the embrace of a just and loving God.

This is not to prop storytelling arts as an idol, but to recognize them as a far more powerful tool than what we often describe as "entertainment."


Karen said...

In the end, only God can judge.