I gave my life to Jesus Christ in 1997. At that time, I was writing my first novel, a supernatural thriller. When I cam back from the Promise Keepers event where I surrendered my life in the end zone of the Pontiac Silverdome (the Lions weren’t using it anyway), I knew that everything about me had changed. For those who don’t believe, let me assure you it is a very real experience. No lightning. No voices from a above. But it’s as if someone had pulled me out of my skin and replaced it with a new Ron. Ron 2.0 for you geeky types.
Now, God doesn’t create robots. We still maintain the passions and desires that are fitting to His will. Writing was one of them. So within a few days after my salvation experience, I came down enough from my high to dive back into my writing. That first novel went through quite a change.
From Writer to Christian Writer
Shortly thereafter I found the American Christian Fiction Writers and a new group of friends who shared my passion as well as my newfound faith. Since that time, I’ve continued to ask the question–what is a Christian writer?
After all, I’m a Christian engineer during my day job. Yet I work with non-Christian engineers toward the same goals. Christians exist in every walk of life. So why does Christianity become its own genre in the arts?
As I see it, the Christian writer has to make a choice somewhere along the line: am I a Christian Writer or a writing Christian?
The difference is not so subtle. The Christian writer writes for a Christian audience. She writes for her fellow believers who want to escape into a world where her faith is honored and the followers of Christ always win in the end, bringing along new believers into the fold.
Writing for Christians or…
The writing Christian seeks a wider audience. Somehow, we are challenged with writing a realistic work of fiction without compromising our values. I think it’s up to the individual author to seek God’s wisdom when attempting to write to a secular audience. It’s not a simple matter of avoiding foul language and steamy sex scenes. If I’m a writing a tense scene taking place on a U.S. Navy ship, I’ll find it challenging to leave out the F-bombs. I’d have to cut the vocabulary of the average sailor in half. If my non-believing characters are romantically involved, I’m sorry to say that keeping them out of the bedroom is almost a fantasy in our fallen world.
So what is the writing Christian to do?
You can choose to write for a Christian audience, where escaping the sinful reality of our world is acceptable and expected. Or you can attempt to reach out to a non-believing world, in which case you’ll never sell a book if your characters are reminiscent of The Andy Griffith Show.
If you choose to write to a secular audience, if I am hearing The Lord correctly on this, then you must be considerate of your own weaknesses. For example, I’m not prone to lash out with a string of four-letter words and never have been (not even while in the Navy). So if I drop the minimum requirements of profanity into my police precinct setting, I won’t lose credibility among my secular audience and I won’t be tempting to play out the role of my characters.
Don’t Write yourself into Temptation
However, if I attempted to write a novel involving promiscuous housewives, I’d be tapping into some male fantasies that would stick around and make themselves at home. No 50 Shades of Manger Hay is in my future.
Every Christian, writer or not, knows his or her weakness, what we jokingly call our “Favorite Sin.” If my novel gets me deep into my favorite sin, then I shouldn’t be writing it. No more so than a recovering alcoholic who takes up a bar tending job.
Now I’ll insert my not-so-humble opinion on Christian writers. We are still held to the Great Commission. If God has given us a talent, the we are to use that talent to fulfill His will. Even if my police procedural is laced with four-letter words, somewhere in that manuscript I need to shine the light of Christ to the reader. It doesn’t have to be an obvious intrusion into the story. In fact, that book will never make it past the editor. But if my realistic Christian cop shows his faith by his actions, then a reader or two might take notice.
Remember what Paul taught us–each of us either plants the seeds or harvests. I suspect there are very few who can accomplish both. A writer has a wonderful opportunity to be a seed planter. Novels impact lives for good or bad. Think about a novel that had a profound impact on you. Did the author spell it out for you? Or did the characters lead you on that journey?
So what are you–a Christian Writer or a Writing Christian? What areas do you need to avoid less you find yourself tempted?