Let’s face it: the ability to describe a book or movie as “clean” and/or “decent” is becoming rarer and rarer. In an age where those two words are almost said with distaste or as though they are synonymous with “boring” or “corny,” a writer who desires to enchant her audience without sex, cuss words, or excessive violence must work two to three times harder than the competition, especially if they want to venture into the world of fantasy. However, as evidenced by such writers as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and more currently Stephen R. Lawhead and even Terry Brooks have proven that it can be done. Perhaps this post will be seen as “unfair” or “narrow-minded” on my part, but I have always thought that authors who resort to using expletives and sex in their works are falling into laziness in their writing. Sure, you’ll get a reaction from people, sure, you’ll get some shock value, but after that wears off, you have left your reader dissatisfied because your story was not good enough to carry itself without such tactics.
On the flip side of this arguments is the fact that there is an appalling amount of “bad” writing in the Christian fiction section of the book-store. When a friend of mine was asked why I do not write “Christian fiction” or have an overwhelming desire to go with a “Christian Publisher” my friend told me she was tempted to respond by saying, “Because Jenelle is a good writer.” While at the time, this made me laugh, thinking back on it makes me sad. It should not be thus. Shouldn’t Christian authors be held to a higher standard than the rest of the world? I admit, just because something is “clean” doesn’t necessarily mean that it is well-written. I do not believe that Christians should write just for other Christians (and here is the heart of why I will not necessarily go with a Christian publisher), because your sphere of influence is very limited and while it may be “kingdom focused” it is not “kingdom expanding.” If you limit your target audience to 14-18 year old Christians, that is the audience you will get. Your books will be sanctioned by Christian parents and their children will read them because you are a Christian author, and they may love them, but their non-Christian friends may never give you, as an author, a chance. I do not think this is the answer any more than resorting to writing “edgy” fiction.
Colossians 3:17, 23 – And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.
Mark 16:15 – He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
2Corinthians 6:3, 4a, 5b – We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance…in hard work… in purity…”
As a Christian, I am more moved when I see/read/hear God’s truth coming from an unexpected source. When I hear a country song on a secular radio station that talks about Jesus, when I read a fantasy fiction book (that I picked up somewhere other than Lifeway) that is well-written and portrays some aspect of the Good News (whether on purpose or accidentally), and when I watch a movie that inadvertently points to Christ, I always come away feeling amazed at how God works through the most unlikely of sources to point to Himself and Truth. I always think, “Wow. Think of how many unsaved people are probably listening to, reading, or watching this! And they are hearing God’s Truth.” I’m not saying that Christian radio stations, movies made by churches, or Christian authors going through Christian publishers are bad things. I think they’re great! I just have to wonder sometimes, if that’s really “Going into all the world…” or if it’s merely “settling.” Settling for a smaller audience, a friendly audience, a receptive audience, an audience who will more often than not overlook poor quality if your book/CD/movie mentions Jesus in any way on the back cover.
So, what do I think is the answer? I think we need to throw out both approaches. I think Christian artists should be held to a higher standard, not a lower one. I think Christians should LEAD the way when it comes to well-written books, quality music, and blockbuster movies. I have always had a problem with Christian artists following the trend. I once went to a … I’m not sure what it was, actually, we walked into the auditorium and discovered that some kind of, apparently free, event was being held there… but there was a huge audience and the whole point of the presentation seemed to be playing clips of Christian music that were “alternatives” to whatever was “hip” at the moment. I walked away from that with a really bad taste in my mouth. If the music out there isn’t worth listening to, then why should Christians be trying to make “clean” or “alternative” versions of it?
As a Christian and a lover of the fantasy genre, I am committed to writing stories that are both filled with adventure and excitement without also being filled with worldly “smut,” for lack of a better term. I want to write books that inspire, that excite, that send the imagination soaring. I also want to write fantasy that parents can approve of for their teens to read, and fantasy that the parents may want to read as well! I hope that my readers will hold me not just to the standard of Christian-principles, but also to the standard of excellent writing.