Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CSFF Blog Tour: "Venom and Song" Day Two

Yesterday I spoke a little about how tasty crow can be. I certainly had my fair share to eat, I think, after reading Venom and Song by Christopher Hopper and Wayne Thomas Batson. Many of my complaints from the first book had been answered and I found myself enjoying the story a lot more.

That's especially true of one of the questions I wound up asking myself after reading the first book: were these books Christian? When I read the first book, I was worried because, while the elves made reference to a being named "Ellos," I wondered if this God-analogue was more of a Christian MacGuffin and it left me a bit unsatisfied.

Not so anymore, for two reasons. On the one hand, it felt as if Hopper and Batson increased the Christian connection a bit more. Perhaps I was looking a bit more carefully for it, but it certainly felt that way to me.

But the other reason why emerged while I was at the recent ACFW National Conference. The keynote speaker was the very funny Tim Downs and in one of his speeches, he raised an interesting point, one that kind of shook me up. He asked the question, "Must all Christian fiction serve the same purpose?" He said that a lot of people seem to think that Christian fiction must always present the Gospel in a clear and unadulterated way, almost like there has to be a checklist for each story. Does it contain the following factors, information, or details? If not, then it's not Christian. Downs wondered how many of those checks a story had to have to truly qualify as Christian.

Building from the parable of the sower and the seeds, Downs suggested that perhaps different stories can serve different functions within Christianity. Personally, I would have gone with a slightly different Scriptural foundation, namely 1 Corinthians 3:6, but the point would remain the same: some stories plant the seeds, some water a seed already planted. Some help bring in the harvest. But they all serve the purpose of spreading the Word. And some stories, perhaps, till the soil, preparing it for the planting. These stories, while not explicit with the Word or "Christian content," still serve a purpose by arising from a Christian worldview and bringing the reader into it.

The more I've been thinking about what Downs had to say, the more I've realized what a weird, somewhat hypocritical attitude I've had in the past few years. I've been dinging books for not being "Christian" enough, while the whole time I've been loudly proclaiming that we don't need a full Gospel presentation. That attitude reared its ugly head a year ago when I read Batson and Hopper's first book in this series. I should have recognized it for what it was: a tiller book, one founded in a Christian worldview.

We need that kind of variety in Christian fiction. Some can till, some can plant, some can water, some can assist with the harvest. And all of it can fall under the broad category of "Christian fiction."

See what else the other tourists have to say:

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Donita K. Paul
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
James Somers
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson


WayneThomasBatson said...

Hi, John! I appreciate you for your humility. You make some excellent points here about differing purposes for Christian writing. Would CH and I like for every single person who reads our books to immediately convert to Christianity? Sure. But we also realize that many readers aren't yet ready for the "finishing move." And, some fiction can be used to simply encourage readers who have already crossed the line into faith.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Great points, John. Thanks for personalizing the message Tim delivered at the conference. I agree with you completely that not every book needs a particular set of bullet points that we tick off before seeing the work as Christian.