(or Why I don’t like Christian Fiction)
We live in a culture where to be unhappy is a thing of treason. After all, the pursuit of happiness is literally on our charter. And after a while that stopped just being a line on some document in a museum, and started to become our lives’ mission. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for happiness. I love to celebrate, and I think the Christian faith should be pioneering the way in showing the world pure joy. But….
I have talked a lot previously about how I tend to not like a lot of things that our Christian sub-culture produces. There are a lot of reasons for this, I think Christian is a good noun and a bad adjective (thank you Rob Bell). I think that creating Christian ghetto’s that avoid rubbing shoulders with the broader culture goes against the grain of the gospel. But my deepest reasoning is probably best summarized by Hank Hill (of King of the Hill).
His son Bobby had just joined a Christian Rock Band, and Hank tried to talk him out of it. This is what he said, “Bobby, can’t you see that you aren’t making Christianity any better? You’re only making Rock n’ Roll worse!”
My deepest reason for not liking most Christian sub-culture stuff is that a lot of the time it isn’t good.
Now, before I get into this, let me say…The other day I was riding with some friends who were playing a Christian radio station, and I was very pleasantly surprised. Several songs came on in a row that were artistically well-done, poetic, and had some good theology mixed in there. So maybe I just am overly-critical of this genre. But here is why I don’t think that’s the case.
A lot of times we pull out the Philippians 4:8 card to talk about how Christians should engage the media and culture. This is the verse where Paul says “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
It’s a great passage about how we should train our habits to gravitate toward the things that are of God while being in the world. But I like how Dick Straub talks about this…
“Some people use this verse to argue against consuming any media item that includes violence, promiscuity…adultery, swearing or other questionable behaviors. However, the Bible itself is packed with descriptions of these very behaviors because they are true aspects of human life.”
Let me pause for a second for a caveat. I’m not saying that you should be concerned about what kind of things you consume. Or that, given your own bent or propensities you shouldn’t avoid entirely certain types of media. I think there is wisdom in being a good steward over what you let yourself be influenced by. But listen to how Dick Straub continues this thought:
“The issue, therefore is more nuanced. Because evil is a part of the human experience, good art will take evil seriously. Rather than eliminating all popular culture that includes evil, culturally savvy Christians will want to discern how a piece of art handles evil. Does it simply depict evil in a way that maintains the integrity and truthfulness of the story? Does it discourage evil, elevating the good by revealing the nature and consequences of evil? Does it endorse evil, portraying it as normative and without consequence?”
Which brings me back to Christian Fiction. I have tried it a few times, I gave it a fair shake. But I don’t like it, or for that matter, overtly Christian movies. Not because I don’t love and cherish the gospel, but because I also love and cherish good art.
When I read a Christian book, I can already tell you how it’s going to end. Almost no one will die (except maybe a bad guy or two and a marginally insignificant character) and the hero is going to ask Jesus into their heart at the end. Now that’s a bit of a caricature, but it’s still true. I don’t like most Christian art because it doesn’t take evil seriously enough.
Because in real life stories don’t always end happily ever after. People die, and not every marriage overcomes that bump in the road. Which, oddly enough is why the Bible is so compelling. The Bible doesn’t mirror our Christian sub-culture, because the Bible is honest that something is deeply wrong. The Bible tells the best story ever told, because the Bible uses the art of Lament.Which is the art of taking the world as it is seriously, even as God draws it back to a better place.
The stories that don’t take evil seriously are so decaffeinated. They tell the truth, but only part of it.
So here is the point of this blog (and the ones I’ll write for the next few weeks).
The world needs artist who are Christians. People who will start with an honest perspective of the world as it is, but refuse to leave the story clinging to the status quo. They need fresh voices who can paint or show or sing about hope in the midst of deep sorrow.
The world needs to see the Art of Lament.