Rachel Starr Thompson posted a few questions in response:
I think as Christians we come to "Christian fantasy" with a lot of unfair expectations. Interestingly, Jeff himself has been saying (in interviews and FB updates and such like places) ever since Auralia's Colors that this isn't an allegory, and that anyone who tries to pigeonhole the Keeper and Auralia as allegories for God the Father and Jesus is going to get a surprise. So yup -- we did!So let's see here. Do I expect every Christian fantasy to have allegory? No. Not at all. As a matter of fact, if all Christian fantasies were an x=y type of allegory, I'd probably grow sick and tired of the genre really quickly.
As for "what makes these books Christian" -- I've been asking myself similar questions for a while, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'm coming to believe that we do art a disservice when we expect everything "Christian" to do the same job (give the gospel). Can a book not be "Christian" just because it discusses lies and religion and beauty from a Christian perspective? Did every story Jesus ever told cover the whole gospel, or is it all right to tackle parts of the truth, taking time to go into them deeply? I wonder. Any thoughts on this?
And I also appreciate Rachel's point about how every book doesn't need to present the Gospel. I wholeheartedly agree with this. As a matter of fact, I actually think this is a weakness of Christian fiction in general. Authors seem to forget who their primary audience is, namely, Christians. Not pre-Christians or seekers or whatever the current "in" term is for those outside the faith but those who are already in. I think a lot of Christian authors do a disservice to their readers when they insist on the bread-and-butter "here's how you get saved" message being a part of every book. Does it have its place? Sure. But I've come to discover that I actually appreciate the books that go beyond the "pure spiritual milk" of the Gospel and into the "solid food" of Christian living. There's a reason why the author of Hebrews goes after his readers in Hebrews 5:11-14 and I think we often forget that. That's part of the reason why I've appreciated the work of such authors as Sharon Hinck, Karen Hancock, and yes, even Jeffrey Overstreet; they do go beyond the simple Gospel and challenge the way we look at things. And it's great to delve into these topics from a Christian worldview.
So if Overstreet is trying to challenge us with Auralia, all well and good. Like I said yesterday, I really appreciated Krawg's story of the tricksters. I think his stinging critique of the Bel Amicans and their selfish attitude, fostered by moon spirits, is great and necessary, especially for American Christians who tend to drift in that direction.
At the same time, though, I have . . . well, not "worries" or "concerns." Those words are too strong. Perhaps the better way to put it is that I'm flummoxed by the Keeper and Auralia for this reason: they bear just enough allegorical marks to confuse the situation. Like I said in Tuesday's post, we see Cal Raven and Rescue praying to the Keeper; that's the only way to describe it. And the Auralia cult seemed to resonate strongly with Cal Raven because, I suspect, he harbored such Messianic feelings about her too.
I haven't seen the interviews with Overstreet to know what he says about such allegorical identifications; I've only heard them second hand. My flummox-ation comes from the fact that on the one hand, he insists that Auralia is not a Christ-figure and that the Keeper doesn't stand in for God. And then, in every book, he certainly seems to be dressing them up as such, only to turn around and loudly insist that he's not.
Ultimately I suspect that the problem is with me, not him. I'm perhaps missing some piece to the puzzle that will make this a bit more clear. I just wish I wasn't so flummoxed, that's all.