Saturday, May 19, 2012

Secular Stories and the Need for Christian Fiction

"I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller." —G. K. Chesterton

Have you ever finished a movie and felt completely frustrated with it? It's the kind of movie that makes you think, "I can't believe I just wasted two hours of my life on this."

I've done it far too many times. In fact, it's safe to say that very few movies affect me in a positive way.

What about a book? Have you ever put a book down in disgust and think that it wasn't worth the paper on which it was made?

You can check that one off your list, too.

Truth is, sometimes stories satisfy, and sometimes they don't. But what makes it so?

You may be able to guess by the title of this blog post, but I believe that the cause is rooted in Christian morality, or the lack thereof. There are some stories that make me feel dirty by the end, covered in the meaninglessness of the plot and exhausted in the immorality. And there are some books that make me feel clean and ready to embark on a new adventure: books that inspire me.

Here's the deal: the less morality you have in a story, the less the story satisfies. A story is not simply a mode of entertainment: it's a mode of refreshment, and a way of teaching things that could not otherwise have been taught. Stories have a way of slipping around the mental barriers of a person's mind and affecting them in ways a conversation could not. As one person put it, stories are the lies through which we tell truth.

I myself have been reading almost purely Christian fiction for several years. I haven't picked up a secular book since I last re-read Redwall a few months ago. Why? Because there's no point in reading a book that's meaningless.

God is the essence of every bit of morality. God is love. God is truth. God is life itself.

And so, in the secular world's failure to include God in story, morality is slowly being leeched out until nothing is left but fluff prose and special effects.

Because what happens when you take out morality? The hero isn't heroic. The story is dark and depressing. Depravity is everywhere.

And when you finish it, how does it affect you?

There is no middle ground. If a story does not have morality, it has immorality. And what happens when a culture feeds itself on story in book and movie form where morality is forsaken?

Take a look around. You can see it in today's culture. Divorce. Promiscuity. Violence. The popular movies and books reflect this.

Words have power. I've said it before, I know. But it's true. Words affect us. Harriet Beecher Stowe helped start the Civil War. John Locke, through his writing, molded America when it had just broken free of Britain. Darwin the silver-tongued wordsmith single-handedly took over the entire scientific world with his Origin of Species, convincing everyone that the theory of evolution was true.

See that power? That power, in one way or another, helped create today's society.

But what happens when morality meets story?

You have Tolkien, who practically started the fantasy genre of fiction with his epic The Lord of the Rings. Millions have read his tale and loved it. Tolkien himself spearheaded the cause of morality in fiction: fiction that cleansed, as he called it.

C. S. Lewis likewise touched people, but not adults: the next generation, the children, grew up with the Chronicles of Narnia.

You have Bryan Davis, who stepped out in faith to become a full-time writer—and has shown thousands the story he has to tell.

I mentioned Harriet Beecher Stowe earlier: because of her need to tell of the injustice of slavery, she wrote her book and shook the entire nation.

And so, Christian writer, you have a job. Yes, you. And me too. Our job is to be Christ in a world where immorality reigns. Darkness covers the world, so what do we do? We meet darkness with light.

Don't write meaningless fluff. Write something that builds the reader up. That shows them right and wrong and shows them the driving love of a Creator who died, and rose again.

Because what will happen when truly moral and God-fearing stories are read?

Things will change. One reader at a time.

The world NEEDS stories that will change them. The greatest story in the world—that of God, told in the Bible—has changed hundreds of millions of lives. Can we not, on a smaller scale, do the same?

There is a need in this secular world for Christian fiction, in whatever form it may take: with a theme, or a message, or a faith.

So stand up, writer. Don't be afraid. If God is for us, who can stand against?

Take up your pen. Write. Because the world needs your story.


Elizabeth L.W. said...

Awesome post! I totally agree!

Kismint said...

You hit the nail.

Brian McBride said...

This is an excellent post and it completely portrays how I feel in my writing.

Writer4Christ said...

I wish I could click the button "Terrific", next to "Writerish" but there isn't one!

h said...

Wow, Jake! This is just what I needed! Rereading Narnia for what seems like the millionth time, I was wondering how Lewis did it so well.....

Anyway, incredible post. I agree with Writer4Christ...there should be a "Terrific" button.

Hannah Joy said...

Arg. That comment above was from me. It just made my name "h" for some reason...

Brianna da Silva said...

I don't know what to say, because I feel you've said it all. Amen, brother! :-) I'm with you all the way.

Silverlake said...

I couldn't agree more, Jake. Great post!!

Miss Jack Lewis Baillot said...

I've often gone through this, mostly when I first started writing. I decided I would never write anything that didn't glorify God. Short stories, poems, even the smallest thing. God gave me an ability, and I plan to use it for Him.

I walk through book stores, looking at the books out for young adults and cannot help but stare in shock. It is so rare to find a story that doesn't have, all kinds of vile things in it. I want to write things that will go against this. Books that will build up.

Erica said...

Thanks Jake this enlightening post. I am the Norfolk Christian Fiction Examiner and my goal is to help believers and nonbelievers connect to books with a message.

As a fiction writer, I find I lean most to theme. Meaning the message is not overt but hidden in the actions and loyalties of the characters like in the Book of Esther where God is not mentioned but implied strongly.


Christian Fiction said...

I totally agree with your post. We become like those we associate with, the books we read, the movies we see and the music we listen to. The things that we choose to expose our minds to are the things our minds will inevitably gravitate toward.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or
praiseworthy — think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)