Today I'm going to share a little bit about my reading and writing journey.
In writing this blog post I know I'm most likely going to disappoint some of the ones reading it. What I'm going to say in this post is not meant to bash anyone. It's my personal opinion on the matter, and contrary to popular belief, just because I disagree with someone or the way they do a particular thing, doesn't mean I hate them.
That being said, let's get to the questions and answers!
I'm a spiritual person--not a religious one, but spiritual, yes.
I believe in Jesus, the Trinity (God the Father, Son & Holy Spirit). We have a relationship, we talk. I believe in God communicating with me through dreams (dude--do I love those), through the Bible and through people. I'm a fairly prophetic person as well. I believe in healing the sick, raising the dead--and yes, casting out demons, as it says in Matthew 10:8.
But anywho, I'll not get into a lengthy theological spiel. That's just some of the stuff I believe.
So that would beg the question--if you write fiction, does that mean you write Christian Fiction?
Answer? No. I don't write Christian Fiction.
Why? Well, I'll give you a bit of a backstory.
I grew up reading Christian fiction, (I'll refer to it hereafter as CF) simply because I didn't like getting blasted with sex scenes and lots of language and morals that didn't line up with mine.
That being said, I can (and do) enjoy books, films and the like where the morals don't line up with mine 100% (there's a limit to that concept, but we're not talking about that today), but ya know, "birds of a feather flock together"--I just liked reading stuff that more closely resembled my values.
And I truly do appreciate certain aspects of CF, like the aforementioned morals and values being similar to my own. I like how CF can sometimes go deeper than the typical mainstream fiction book. I like that instead of getting totally hung up on just the physical aspects of something and calling that the end-all-be-all, deeper things/aspects are searched out and that's cool.
I respect that you don't get blasted with sex left, right and centre. I love people falling in love in all its glorious aspects, but I don't like getting 99 steps of foreplay and actually getting a front row seat to the act of sex like I'm the one doing it. I don't like that, in books or movies.
I really do appreciate that generally, CF tends towards keeping the graphic sexual stuff off the radar. I'm a grateful reader for these aspects of CF.
What drove me somewhat batty (and still does) about CF is the preaching. Whether that be the salvation message or regarding a character's blossoming--or floundering relationship with God. I'm a Christian and I don't like getting preached at. I love being inspired and uplifted. Preached at? Not so much.
If the salvation message being crammed down my throat is distasteful to me as a believer, I honestly don't know how it is going to be palatable to someone who doesn't know Jesus personally.
I've always felt that faith and sharing the gospel is a very personal thing. I don't think it's a blanket answer thing, or a one-size fits all--and that's primarily why I don't enjoy reading preaching sessions in books, or characters getting their relationships with Jesus back on track in the middle of a gripping story. It just doesn't seem to ring true when I read it. And I really dislike faith and personal relationships with Jesus being treated like a mathematical equation.
I'm not saying there isn't a place for the gospel in fiction, but the way I've seen the majority of Christian authors do it just rubs me the wrong way.
I've spent time outside the institutionalized church and have gotten an "outsiders" perspective of the way the church does things, rather opening my eyes to how tacky we can come across to people who don't share our beliefs.
And no, I don't believe in "being so morally and spiritually fluid that we are attractive to ALL PEOPLE" and "everything goes"--cause it doesn't and there are rights and wrongs and boundaries and all that, but I am saying I'm not necessarily in favour of how Christians (and our relationships with God) are being portrayed in this genre of fiction.
I've read hundreds of Christian books, and the number of times I was touched by the spiritual content or a character working out their relationship with God, I can probably count on one hand. One hand. Usually I skim through the spiritual parts because they aggravate me. They seem tacky and trite and don't answer the burning questions I have deep within me--so I'd much rather the author not address a subject they don't have adequate, soul-rending (and mending) answers for. Perhaps they answer some people's questions and mend some hearts, but I've almost never found myself ministered to by the spiritual content in a book. I very often find myself frustrated.
When deciding what camp I was going to find myself in when I released my novel, I asked myself several questions, one of which was...would I rather find myself judged and hated by a non-Christian, or judged and hated by a Christian?
It seems like the answer would be obvious--until you've felt the sting of religious ridicule.
I would, any day, take a furious non-Christian over a furious Christian. Why?
Because non-believers usually [and I say usually because that is (usually) what I've encountered, but that doesn't go for everyone] state the facts, freakout, and if they hate something, they hate it and are usually pretty upfront about it.
But if a Christian hates something, whoa. Look out for bible verses to be used as swords and fire-breathing theology dragons to be fired up-- there's someone who certainly must be boiled alive in a bubbling cauldron of oil for their indiscretions. There's much by the way of philosophy that has been twisted to fit people's immature, warped sense of character that is presented as the religiously correct thing.
Christians can (and do) bully, but they put on their "righteous" robes when they do it and think themselves holy martyrs who are defending the faith.
When non-Christians bully, it's just, quite obviously, bullying. But when a Christian does it, it looks HOLY but smells FISHY.
Which is truly quite sad.
I contemplated not saying this because I didn't want to look like the "Big-Bad-Rebellious Christian" who is dissenting and criticizing the bride of Christ and ruining our unity. That's not my intention. It's just apart of my story and why I don't feel called to write Christian fiction.
I don't have a grudge against my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I love them to bits.
And by the way, the aforementioned bullies are not representing Jesus as they should and as they claim. They are representing their own immaturity, masked in theology that was never meant to be twisted and used in a selfish, warmongering capacity. But, as in any group, there are people who claim to be glorious and for the cause, when they're just trying to elbow everyone out of their way that makes them feel insecure. You'll find those people everywhere (in the church, outside the church--literally everywhere), they can just be quite particularly scary when they start using theology to defend their immaturity, lol.
When I started writing fiction, my goal was never to save souls or preach the gospel.
I know most Christians who write fiction think that it's their spiritual duty to evangelize through their writing. If they truly feel passionate about sharing Jesus with people, I think that's cool. Passion is contagious! I don't know how that will translate into fiction, as I've not really seen it done in a way that felt natural when I read it, but you know, I believe it CAN be done. I haven't necessarily seen it, but I'm open to seeing it done well!
And just because I'm not expressly sharing about Jesus, left right and centre in my books doesn't mean I'm not passionate about Him and sharing my faith with people who are curious about it. Quite the opposite, but like I said, I don't feel called to lay out the gospel in fiction. It would feel unnatural and insincere to me.
Once, several years ago I was writing a scene and the thought popped into my head, "You know, this is usually where they have a preaching moment. I feel like I'd be a bad writer if I didn't do my duty and put it in here, so let me insert XYZ right about...here." After a while, I came back to that scene and couldn't believe how fake and unnatural it felt.
But in the same breath, I felt as though I was doing society a disfavour by not sharing "the message" in my books, but when I really questioned why I felt I had to put "the message" in there, it was because I felt like I'd be a "bad Christian" if I DIDN'T put it in there. Because that was how everyone was just taught to do it. Share even if no one asked. Because if you don't, there are several people who won't get to heaven, cause YOU. DIDN'T. SHARE. THE. MESSAGE.
I discovered that was the religious guilt trip of the year, and I sure as all get-out was NOT going to share something as amazing as Jesus or Heaven or my overall faith, because I felt guilted or duty-bound to do it. YIKES!
Jesus doesn't force Himself on people. And I won't share about Him when I don't feel the Holy Spirit prompting me to do it. And that's why I don't give "the message" in my books. I don't feel the Spirit telling me to.
Jesus taught largely in parables. That ministers to my soul and I'll tell you something--God speaks to me through seemingly non-spiritual content A TON.
In movies, in books, where simple human interaction upon human interactions just smacks me upside the head and God speaks to me at that moment so strongly it makes me weep.
In the media, I find metaphors are more powerful than the total truth of the matter at about 100% throttle. I prefer the truth at about 100% throttle when I'm talking with someone face-to-face about something. In fiction and movies, I am moved deeply by metaphors.
Ray Hughes said, "Metaphors are the crowbars that open the doors to truth. If you kick it down it might overwhelm everyone, but if you pry it open..." bam. That quote resonates deeply within me. And since I am moved by metaphors, and Jesus used metaphors when He taught, I take that as my cue--that's what imma gonna do when I write books. That feels natural to me. I believe in imparting wisdom and truth through riddles, rhymes and parables. The truth is no less true because it is masked in a concept or a figure of speech.
My goal in writing has always been to...
1) Entertain my readers. That's always no. 1
2) Present the grittiness of life in a raw, vulnerable and honest way
3) To instil hope in readers, every time they pick up one of my books
4) To portray a journey of healing that is believable and cathartic to those reading it
5) Instil hope--AGAIN, cause in this world it is an easy thing to lose and life is a sad place without it
6) Teach people how to grieve. This one is (as they all are) obviously quite personal to me. With the things I've experienced, grief has been something I've encountered frequently in my life, and I've found that most people just don't know how to grieve. I want so badly to show readers it is a natural thing, not something to fear and is actually there to help us through seasons in life.
Those six things are engraved deeply upon my soul, and I'll tell you something, they feel very natural to write about. Writing, for me, has always been about healing. It's not an escape, it's an avenue of healing, and yes, entertainment! But always fundamentally coming back to healing and instiling hope. So no, I don't write CF, I write in the mainstream/general market.
I dig deep when I write, sometimes things get more intense than they would in a CF novel, and that's one of the reasons I decided to write mainstream fiction. I wanted to be allowed to go deep and raw, to colour outside the lines that would be permissible within CF.
At times I use strong language in my writing. Not the F-Bomb or taking God's name in vain, but words like "damn, hell, ass, bastard and shit." Those words are harsh and strong. I don't use them lightly when I do. I use them intentionally because using normal language wouldn't fully express the situation or moment like I want it to. I want my writing to be raw and gritty, not polished and perfect and pretty. That sometimes involves using words that will make certain readers uncomfortable.
I've had readers tell me they won't buy or recommend my writing because of the 10 strong words spread throughout a book of mine, while others have said it made the experience far rawer and impacted them on a deeper level because I included them.
Sometimes I include sensual references or innuendo's that wouldn't fly in CF. I don't throw these references blithely into my writing, just as I don't toss language around like a toy. If you're wondering--no--I don't do sex scenes in my writing. I'm not that writer and it's simply not an experience I'll provide my readers with.
Because of my spiritual beliefs, the majority of people I know, assume I write CF.
If you were confused, curious or just wanted to know, now you do. I write in the mainstream/general market because I have a specific goal in mind. I don't want to reach ONLY Christians. I want to reach everyone, regardless of what they believe. I don't want to preach a certain message and get harped on for not doing a good job of it. Though that's not the only reason I decided to write in the general market.
I weave my beliefs and principles into my writing (naturally) with parables instead of hard, cold facts. But if hard, cold facts are a person's style in writing fiction, that's great--I only sincerely hope it comes across to readers as natural--not information shared in an obligatory capacity.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the long-ish answer to the burning question...
"Do I write Christian Fiction?"