JCF NOTES: This essay came out of an e-mail dialogue I had with a writer who thought he would be better off not writing than jeopardizing his relationship with God. His approach was obviously "If your right eye offends you, pluck it out," (Matthew 9:43 – 48) and his point was valid. We should let nothing come between us and God. However, his retreat struck me as being more in parallel with the parable of the talents (referenced below). It also triggered a famous Faust soapbox reaction, as you will see.
I just recently came upon your web site and was heartened to read about your struggle with writing and being a Christian. In fact you may have answered for me a question I have had for a long time, by stating “how can I be an effective Christian example to the world when I deny that the world is out there”(in your writing).
I’m glad you found the “Being A Christian” page encouraging, but I think you may have misunderstood what I was saying in my essays. It’s not a matter of denying that the world is out there. That would be kind of silly to do. If we deny the world is out there, we might as well become Amish, and if Christians retreat into themselves, they are violating the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19).
It’s more a matter of living in the world while not being a part of the world. Living as a Christian example to others. As you do this, you’re going to find that no matter what you do, there is someone out there who will not take you seriously. It may be an atheist or a pagan who thinks you’re wasting your time as a Christian, or it could be someone who goes to Church with you who doesn’t think you’re living up to their version of Biblical standards. You’re never going to live up to God’s standards — that is why there is grace. But you’re never going to live up to other people’s perceived standards, either, inside or outside of a life with God. Christianity is important because it restores the one-to-one relationship with God that man had in Eden; we deal directly with God-as-Christ, our intercessor. That is why we are to work out our salvation individually while following God’s guidelines (Philippians 2:12). We need to be reading and studying and praying every day anyway. This process makes it easier.
I almost feel like I have to write fiction with no sense of conflict or (anything negative for that matter) without affecting my relationship with God.
I think this is an extreme attitude to take. After all, what is life but conflict? And the Christian life even moreso, because we are trying to live in a world where we don’t belong. There is no way to avoid conflict in the Bible, either… you can’t read three chapters into Genesis without finding some. That’s the whole theme of the book… good versus evil. But if we believe the book, it tells us how things are going to turn out.
True, I decided that I didn’t need to put profanity and strong language into my books. That was me setting myself apart from the world. But the books still have violence. Is that wrong? Characters have sex, although I don’t go into clinical detail. What about that? If I can’t reconcile this, then how do reporters reconcile what they do when reporting about these same things? True, what I’m doing is a product of my imagination, but in a way, it is a form of reporting as well… reporting on the human condition, in the case of my books, humans in a condition without knowing God. And how can one write about the human condition without discussing things like sex and violence? If people didn’t do things like that, there would only be four commandments instead of ten.
The sad fact is one of the greatest gifts God gave me was my imagination, but I don’t feel like doing any creative writing and jeopardize my relationship with God in this life and the afterlife.I am almost at the point I have decided the safe thing is to be content with my daydreams and go to my resting place without producing any stories.
I can’t in any semblance of good conscience recommend that you do this. And is it really a sad fact that God gave you a gift? Look at the parable of the talents, after all (Matt 25:14 – 30). I don’t think it was an accident that the monetary unit translates into English the way that it does. Clearly, the Master has given us all different gifts, and when He returns, it is expected that we will have put what was given to us to good use.
What’s more, did any of the new Christians in the book of Acts give up their day jobs when they gave their lives to Christ? Did the Ethiopian eunuch resign as the queen’s treasurer (Chapter 8)? Cornelius give up soldiering (Chapter 10)? Did Lydia close down her successful business (Chapter 16)? Or did they keep on doing what they were doing, using the talents that made them an earthly success to glorify God?
The world is full of people who have been given enormous talent and see fit to thank nobody else but themselves. Why should Satan get all of the good actors, writers, guitarists, composers, architects, lawyers, politicians, and so on?
To be honest, if I gave up writing I would be absolutely miserable. Just ask my wife what a lousy person I am when I’m not writing. These stories just have to come out of me. God gave me the talent and ability to write, and I’d be the foolish servant who buried the talent if I didn’t use it. Besides, I try to only use my powers for good .
A couple more points to add to this. First, ever hear the line about reaching out and touching the face of God? It’s used to great effect in a poem about aviators. It’s also used in a lot of places to describe people coming close to their creator. My point here is: how close are we getting to our Creator when we create something ourselves? Meager as our efforts may be in comparison, there’s something about the act of creating that should give us just a small twinge of the pride God has in his own creation — whether you’ve written a novel or made a baby. And at times both writers and parents know the feeling of seeing their creation go against their wishes.
Second — and this is one of my soapbox topics — is that there is a Christian ghetto when it comes to the arts. There’s Christian Music, Christian Fiction, Christian TV… and who are these Christians artists reaching? Other Christians, of course. What about the lost of the world who would never think of setting foot in a Christian book or music store… but who would pick up a CD by, say, Sixpence None The Richer because they heard their single on a secular radio station? Christians are up in arms about all the filth out there now, the burgeoning amount of sex on TV, things like that, but they have brought it upon themselves by retreating into this ghetto. Instead of being the agent of change required of them by God (see that Great Commission thing again), they took their ball and went home.
Plus, by separating themselves completely in this way, they have retreated their talent into mediocrity. I could probably count on one hand the number of Christian music acts out there whose work I feel is mainstream caliber. The others all sound like they’re second or third string, or worse… they’re “substitutes” for worldly acts that parents won’t let their kids listen to (e.g., Rebecca St. James = Alanis Morissette). The LEFT BEHIND books aren’t particularly well written, IMO. And the movie of same was criticized sharply for having the look and feel of a made-for-TV movie. Is this right? Let’s not forget that God made the world for us, and now we’re in the position of being happy with the leftovers. It’s also okay for Christians to be successful. Look at how Joseph prospered when he kept God at the forefront of his life while serving… gasp… pagans! (Start at Genesis 39).
Okay, I’ll get off of my soapbox. Hopefully you got the idea, which is to excel in what you do and rightfully give God the credit for the talents he has given you. Don’t compromise yourself into the Christian Culture Ghetto. Dare to use your talent and develop it to the fullest extent. Ultimately, we should rejoice in whatever we get from God. And as discussed earlier, we should use those gifts, whatever they are.
Did you ever see CHARIOTS OF FIRE? It’s one of my favorite films, a true story about men of faith running in the 1924 Olympics. In it, a character who is a missionary is asked how he reconciles his ability to run with his relationship with God. He says something like “God made me fast. And when I run, I can feel his pleasure.”
God made you a writer. Feel His pleasure. Write.
At this writing, my correspondent is still trying to decide what to do with his writing talent.