What kinds of stories should the Christian writer write? I’ve met Christians who believe that Christian writers can write about pretty much anything and everything. And then I’ve met Christians who think that the Christian writer shouldn’t even write sci-fi or fantasy. Where is the balance? Is there a balance?
I don’t like thinking in terms of what is permissible and what is not, nor where the lines should be drawn. To me, this seems to be a very negative approach to writing and life; I like to focus on the positive. I’d rather focus on the power and potential every writer-for-the-kingdom has to impact the world for the better, and I believe we do this by writing truth: all truth comes from God.
However, it seems that in the attempt to depict truth, we can fall into the trap of dwelling on the darkness of the world more than is necessary. One writer said to me:
“I’m pretty good at saying a lot of rough stuff in a mild and round about way…I think it’s important for young kids to get a taste of the world and what going out and reaching out to people in the world is really like. So long as it’s done artfully and in a way that won’t ruin any innocence or anything. I mean…if they are raised without knowing anything outside of their home…it’ll be pretty harsh and hard and could stifle and scare them and they won’t end up being the lights for Christ they should.”
I’m not sure I know anyone who is raised without knowing anything outside of their own home, but even so, I think it’s dangerous for us to take on the role of trying to expose young kids to the “rough stuff” (a.k.a. sin) of the world. And yet, I know some Christian writers who will go into great detail depicting the terrible sin of the world. They justify their writing by saying that they are depicting truth. I disagree. They are depicting the lies of Satan.
Yes, there is terrible sin in the world—that is true—but that’s not the whole truth. These dark writers are missing the full picture by dwelling on the darkness. The full truth—the “deeper magic” from before the dawn of time, as Aslan would say—is that the light is greater than the darkness (John 1:4-5).
These writers of darkness will say that they are trying to draw attention to the darkness to spark a change, or that we cannot turn a blind eye to the evil going on around us. These dark writers will often vehemtly criticize the Christian books which are nothing but “fluff,” and explain how we need to be a light in the darkness.
I agree with them. We should not write fluff, we need to be a light in the darkness and write stories with meaning, but I think the execution of these dark writers is very flawed, and even works against their intentions.
How are we helping others by going into such explicit detail and description of darkness and sin? What good can come from putting such images of evil and sin before the minds of our readers, and before our own minds? Is this really being a light in the darkness? Or does it perpetuate the darkness?
I know another writer who intentionally makes characters as innocent as possible (to the point of being unbelievable), and then causes despicable, perverse, and evil things to happen to them. Their story ends without hope. Why? The writer would say this is to expose others to fact that such evil happens in the world. This writer is using good to highlight evil. This is completely backwards.
Rather than focusing on the darkness, I’d rather we focus on the light. Of course, in order to depict good winning out over evil—we must have evil. We should have evil in our stories, just as the Bible has examples of evil. But we should not become obsessed with the darkness, or dwell too deeply on the twisted, perverse, and vile. The Bible never goes into detailed description of evil and sin so as not to put such darkness before our minds.
Instead of writing about the truth of darkness, why don’t we write about the truth of something much more real? The truth of light.
We need stories about Perseverance: continuing in pursuit of a goal, despite adversity or success.
In order to show real perseverance, we must first have conflict–something getting in the way of reaching our goal. We need darkness to display the light, but the focus is the light, not the darkness.
We need stories about Humility: an attitude that acknowledges the importance of others in opposition to self-promotion.
For us to write great stories displaying remarkable humility, we need to show characters with the incredible desire to help others, despite the fact that it may harm themselves. There has to be danger, there has to be something to lose. Conflict. Harm. Darkness. But focus on the light. The bad should only serve to highlight the good, not the other way around.
We need stories about Faith: The assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen.
Remarkable faith is seen when the darkness is the greatest. It’s easy to have faith in God when all is well, but what about when things go wrong? As Satan said of Job, “Does Job fear God for nothing?…But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will curse you to Your face.” (Job 1:9,11) And what happened next? Job lost all his possessions and his children. That’s pretty dark. But the point of the story wasn’t to tell us how dark the world is. I think we already know that. Job never cursed God, even when his own wife told him to! (Job 2:9). He instead had faith, even in the face of overwhelming despair and hardship.
We need stories about Joy: a pervasive sense of overall and ultimate well-being.
Joy does not mean being happy all the time, but it means knowing that everything is going to be okay—even when the world is falling to pieces. Why? Because God is still in control. Nothing can happen without Him allowing it or causing it. But how can we have stories depicting the power of ever-present joy when the sun is always shining and all the butterflies think your skin makes an excellent landing pad?
In our world today, it is darkness and sorrow that so many find to be at the deepest center of life, while joy is seen as being superficial. This is a lie. Reality is actually the opposite. Joy lies at the heart of the universe.
As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labor by which all things live.” (159)
We need stories about Hope: The anticipation of good not yet here, or as yet unseen.
How can we have stories about the incredible power of hope when the arrival of good seems inevitable? Hope finds its power when all hope seems lost. Few stories do this better than the Lord Of The Rings. The power and strength of Mordor seemed unfathomable and overwhelming, and yet the characters fighting for good held on to hope, and hope carried them to victory. Those that lost hope (Saruman and Denethor) met horrible ends. The might of hope shown through. The Lord Of The Rings is a story about hope, not darkness and despair.
We need stories about Love: The decision to will the good of another.
As Jesus says perfectly in Matthew 5:46, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” How will your readers see the power of love if you have not enemies in your story in need of love? Don’t add evil people into your story to show how evil the world is. Put in the darkness to make the light appear all the brighter. For once, I’d like to see a “love” side-plot that is really about love, and not about the selfish romantic desires of the male and female leads. How more powerful would the strength of love show through if these characters were to actually act in opposition to their romantic desires, and instead, do what is really best for the other person? That is love!
We need stories about Courage: The quality of mind and spirit that enables you to act rightly in the face of uncertainty, difficulty, danger, pain, or fear.
Courage is not the absence of uncertainly, difficulty, danger, pain, or fear…it’s doing good despite such terrors. The greater the danger, the greater the pain, the greater the fear, the greater the darkness…the greater the potential of courage! How incredible is that? Yet courage is the emphasis, not the danger, not the pain, not the fear.
Most incredible of all, is that all of these virtues are choices and actions that we are all capable of—capable because of Christ. Show this truth through your characters and your story. Be a writer of light. That’s how you write for the kingdom of God. Don’t write stories about the “rough stuff” of life, write about the whole truth—the greater truth that good will win in the end. Write stories about the light and the power of God—you may not even have to use His name.