My friend, Mirriam, over at "Thoughts of a Shieldmaiden", just recently published a post about what she believes is the problem with Christian Fiction these days. Before you read this post, I highly suggest that you skip on over to her blog and read what she has to say on the matter. It's quite blood-rousing.
My post is an add-on to hers... some thoughts I had on why Christian Fiction is often less "fun" to read than secular fiction is. For one thing, I've noticed that good stories are sacrificed for the sake of a sermon-on-a-soapbox. I can’t stand reading that kind of stuff myself, and I pray to God that my writing doesn’t turn out like that either.
But I think that a lot of the reason Christian Fiction turns out this way is because of what I like to call "The Limited Christian Outlook".
Now, I'm 100% a born again christian and believe whole heartedly that the only way to God is through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross to cleanse a forsaken and fallen world from their sin. But the truth of the matter is that Christians are very good at putting things into mental boxes. We try it with God all the time, and COME ON!!! We should seriously know by now that God CANNOT be put into a box!
That never stops us from trying, though. It never has, and it probably never will.
What does this have to do with Christian Fiction writing? The answer is quite simple... at least in my mind. Christians are some of the best sort of people for ignoring things that they don't like in the real world. For instance, has anyone ever noticed how so many Christian fiction books have only one religious belief system? How about how so many of them have only two sides to choose from, the side that is supposedly "right" and the side that is supposedly "wrong"? Some people might say that this has a lot to do with the allegorical nature that most Christian Fiction books should take after, but quite honestly, I don't believe this outlook is helping our books in the slightest.
Why don't I believe this?
Because the world is not made up of people who all believe the same as everybody else. Sure, almost everybody believes in right and wrong, but we all have different points of views as to what those rights and wrongs are. The Muslims believe that Mohamed is the ultimate prophet of God, and that Christianity is an abomination. The Mormons believe that the Bible isn't the only holy text and follow both the Bible and the Book of Mormon; they share some Christian beliefs, but also believe in plural marriage and other things that most modern Christians don't agree with. The Scientologists believe that the world was actually populated by aliens millions and millions of years ago; the Darwinists believe that Humans were first derived from fish who apparently came onto land and become monkeys, who eventually evolved into the human race (or some other such nonsense); and the Atheists believe that there is no God or "Greater Power" at all, and never was.
And then there are the Christians.
You see the problem here, right? In a world where so many people believe in so many different versions of their own personal "right" and "wrong -- where all of these different people try to make everyone else see their version of "right" as the ultimate right, and their version of "wrong" as the ultimate wrong -- HOW can Christian Writers create truly believable story worlds by only using one version of right and wrong? The "Christian Version" that is?
Quite honestly, friends, I don't think it can be done. Humanity is too colorful for that. As much as Christians wish they could only see in black and white, the world has proven that there is simply too much grey, and to not at least show this grey in some shape or form in our books is to push aside the element of believability.
Now, some of you are probably looking at me cross-eyed right now. And you are probably thinking, "How on earth can that girl think she is Christian and yet speak so liberally about such matters as these?"
Well let me tell you, I make no exceptions for my belief system. I believe in the One True God, and in the Holy Trinity. I believe 100% that Christ is my savior, my Wonderful Lord, the ultimate Lover of my Soul.
But I can also see that most of the world doesn't believe like this. In fact, in THIS world... in THIS reality... Black and White is only visible to the person who sees it that way, how they perceive those colors to be. One person might see White, while another person sees that White as Black and vise-versa. It is the simple truth of Human Nature... a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless.
Now, one thing I've noticed about a lot of secular fiction - especially fantasy - is the presence of multiple cultures with multiple beliefs. This, I believe, is part of what makes those books so fun and interesting to read.
It is the principal of culture. The real world is NOT made up of multiple cultures that all believe in the truths of Christianity, or the falsities of what's left. Rather, the real world is made up of multiple cultures and histories that have developed their own belief systems, their own versions of right and wrong. In fact, that's why so many cultures have myths and legends, and why so many of them have fallen away, disintegrating into history. Take the Greek mythologies, for instance; I need hardly say more.
It is my belief that a believable story world should be based on the truths perceived in this world, since this word's history is supposedly known as a reality. So many successful writers deal out the advice, "Write what you know" - the problem with this advice comes with how it is perceived; how are you supposed to write about what you know when you are writing fantasy fiction? However, what a person knows can depend on the context. Even a school-kid can research the cultural follies of history and myth. That doesn't necessarily show that history or mythology is truth, but everything in human nature is based on some truth... Zeus, for instance, was a false god of the Greeks, BUT he was the High god over all of the others in Greek Mythology. We, as Christians, can trace the truth of a One High God, back to the God of creation, Jehova, in the Bible.
In a lot of secular fiction books, there are multiple cultures with multiple beliefs and religions, and that, in my personal opinion, helps to make the story world itself believable - after all, that's how this world is. Our world is one multifaceted gem reflecting the One Truth in a pattern of contorted images and belief systems based off of the One Truth, but ultimately contorting it to fit into the box of our choice.
To apply what I'm speaking of to the subject of writing Christian Fiction, please someone explain WHY Christians believe that their books can only have one outlook on right and wrong? I'm not by any means saying that Christians should experiment with what they KNOW through God's word to be right and wrong, but I AM saying that I'm tired of Fantasy worlds where there are multiple cultures and races, but only one true belief system; all the characters believe in One God, and in one evil entity, and all the good characters are trying to work together to overcome the bad ones. There may even be some neutral characters, who don't really take a side, but they still know that the sides are there to take.
Our world is full of multiple belief systems. Our world, as the reality that it is, is obviously a believable one. Therefore, I would think that a truly believable fiction world would be based off of a believable reality.
I have read many, many secular books that follow this line of thought, but I have read very few Christian books that even acknowledge this outlook. My question then, to Christian Speculative Writers, is why not show some aspects of truly different cultures and belief systems in your writing? Your main character can have (or perhaps will eventually gain) a "Christian Perspective", but part of the wonder of True Salvation is the fact that there are so many other belief systems in the world a person could pursue, and yet it is the Truth behind Christianity that draws people in to seek God's face and find True Love and Salvation in Him.
And in considering that, maybe we've been looking at the genre of the Allegory all wrong; perahps the truth to be found in Allegory is not so much the retelling of a tale in a different way, but the retelling of a truth in a way that reflects the truth for what it truly is.
Think about it.