Monday, July 16, 2012

Why I Don't Share My Faith Through My Fiction

I’m a Christian author. There, I said it. And I’m not ashamed of it. I know it’s semantics and to some it doesn’t mean much (and to others it means a lot and they’ll vehemently disagree with me) but I’m not an author who is a Christian. For me, the Christian part comes first . . . and should in everything I do. A Christian father; a Christian husband; a Christian therapist. Not that I have to state it in such a way every time I mention one of the roles I play but for clarification it needs to be said once in a while. And I need to be reminded once in a while.

For me, my identity as a Christian, a follower of Christ, comes first. It’s my foundation, my starting point and my ending point. The worldview through which I view and interpret the world around me.

So when I write fiction that worldview, that Christian belief system, finds its way into the story. It has to because it’s who I am as a person, as a writer. If it didn’t I wouldn’t be true to myself and my art.

And as a Christian we are called to share our faith, not to jam it down any listener’s throat, not to burden people with it, not to use it as a battering ram, but simply to share it. So the challenge is before me:

How do I share my faith without being preachy or heavy-handed?

The answer, for me, is simple: I just don’t. That’s right, read it again. I don’t share my faith. I let the characters share their faith. Readers don’t want an author preaching at them, that’s not why they pick up a novel. What they want in fiction is to be entertained, to be moved, to learn something about mankind and maybe themselves, to see the world through different eyes, but not to be heckled with preachiness from the author.

So I share the faith–a faith that carries such hope and love and peace–through the lives and struggles and questions and triumphs of the characters I create. And if I do my job effectively readers will accept that because it’ll be some of the same questions they have, the same struggles and trials and valleys, the same quest for meaning and hope, the same desire for unconditional love and belonging. And it’ll hit home and reach into the readers’ heart and touch that cord that will send a deep, meaningful, lasting thrum through their soul.

And really, for me, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what motivates me to keep pressing on, keep writing, keep creating characters who will share their story, their faith.

Question: At what point does faith in fiction turn you off? How much is too much?


Lena Nelson Dooley said...

I agree with you, Mike. I let my characters share their lack of faith, or their faith, and the way they grow into their faith. It makes the book more powerful.

Bruce Hennigan said...

I totally agree. While my "Jonathan Steel Chronicles" has distinctly Christian characters, I let THEM show the benefits of faith. I am very turned off by sermonizing. If I wanted a sermon, I would go to a worship service. When I read a book I don't WANT a sermon. I WANT a story. I believe if we write from a Christian worldview, as you said with hope and love and a sense of a metanarrative, God's big Story will shine through. When the story serves the message, the story is weakened. When the message serves the story, guess what? The message is there for the reader to see. Thanks for a very insightful post

Martha W. Rogers said...

Missed this last week as I was out of town, but I totally agree with you, Mike. Letting the characters share their faith gives the reader insight to many different situations where faith is so important for the situation being faced by the characters. Simple sharing without preaching from the author lets Jesus be seen as He works. Thanks for the reminder for what we do and who we are.