Friday, January 14, 2011

It's Getting Old, and It Screws Up My Writing



Rant Alert!

Just as I find the portrayal of earthy elves to be pedantic, I find the portrayal of Christians in fiction a tad cliche.  Christians in the Christian literature I've read are too pure to be believable.  Christians in mainstream fiction tend to be either bigoted bad guys or shallow caricatures of what I feel it means to be Christian.

Please understand that I'm not advocating the censorship of authors who use characters in this fashion.  I also must say that after reading a few works of Christian fiction, I abandoned the genre.  There very well could be works out there of which I am unaware that address my criticisms.

Using these types of Christian characters bothers me for several reasons.  One, it reinforces both positive and negative stereotypes that separate Christians from others.  Two, those characters resemble no one I know, and it makes them unapproachable or unbelievable.  Three, my relationship with God doesn't resemble theirs in any way, shape, or form.

I approach Christianity both from a faith perspective and from a sociological perspective.  I understand that my beliefs are very unorthodox in many respects, but I must stress that I've come to these conclusions after years of study and debate.

  • I think the many denominations exist due to the way in which an individual's personality colors how that individual interprets God's word, and that they are healthy way to provide a home for all who believe.   
  • I think trying to somehow prove things in the Bible is anathema to what comprises real faith.  Faith is a conscious choice to ignore evidence to the contrary and believe anyway.  Trying to find Noah's ark, proving God exists, or finding a geological/meteorological explanation for how Moses crossed the Red Sea smacks of trying to prove it to oneself.  I choose to believe in God and his Son because He said so.  That's it, and Christians who argue that this and that are the real reasons for their belief overcomplicate things.
  • I know that any preacher or church that fills its pulpits by quoting Leviticus and bashing gays or whomever they have decided are beyond God's redemption has conveniently forgotten key verses that are contrary to their own pet beliefs.  ALL Christians have unconscious blinders and cherry-pick verses that validate their beliefs, but those folks take it to a new level.  They forget that Leviticus also says that flawed men can't be priests, women can't enter a house of worship while menstruating, and that Hebrew slaves may only be kept for six years.
  • I believe that God uses pain for many, many good reasons, and that the fact that bad things happen to good people isn't a sign He's abandoned us.  Bad things don't happen to good people.  Bad things make good people.

Please don't think I'm tooting my own horn here.  I'm trying to explain the pickle I'm in with my own characters.  My feelings about the way Christians are portrayed deeply influences how I've written my book, The Rider of Nealra.  One of my favorite authors is Jim Butcher.  Though his protagonist Harry Dresden is not really Christian in any way, his observations about faith and God can be quite profound.  I hope I can accomplish the same thing.

My characters are not pure people locked in a struggle with nefarious bad guys, as I find that a bit melodramatic.  They are flawed people.  Ellie, my female protagonist, has a deep faith but swears like a sailor.  Sinjay is manipulative and massages the truth.  Ehecatl has murdered to climb to the top of a brutal civilization of warriors, and Fritz was a Nazi doctor that worked with Dr. Mengele.  The individual paths of their lives converge for a short time to fight something far darker than themselves.

As such, I'm wondering if I've made the book neither fish nor fowl.  I'm wondering if it's too gritty, possibly even too violent, for the Christian genre, and too Christiany for the mainstream publishers.  I really wonder if I've written myself a manuscript that will never see the light of the publisher's desk lamp.  I don't feel I can write it if it doesn't feel true to me, but will all of this work be worthwhile?  Is it worth finishing?

What do you think?  Both about the portrayal of Christians and whether I should persevere?

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