“I want to be a Puritan,” my son says.
These are the first words uttered to me when I pick him up from football practice. He’s never been one to ease into a conversation and has a tendency to make extreme, declarative statements as a reaction to something that has upset him or made him uncomfortable. My mind quickly reviews our previous conversations for the week and I remember him suggesting that I not attend his pep rally. “Mom, there is a whole lot of cussing at my school, and I know you don’t want to hear that.” I assured him at the time that none of those kids were going to say anything I haven’t already heard, but him wanting to shield me from it was still admirable.
But back to the Puritan statement.
Me: Why do you want to be a Puritan.
Son: Because they lived good lives. They didn’t cuss or do bad things.
Me: Okay, well you do realize that if you become a Puritan you will have to give up the use of your computer, television viewing, your video games, many of the songs on your iPod as well as many books you may want to read.
Son: I think that’s a small price to pay to live a sinless life.
Me: There’s no such thing as a sinless life. Everyone sins, either through action or thought. Jesus was the only human who lived a sinless life, and He’s God.
Son: Okay, well. Then a life with less sin. I think that would make me happy. Did you know that children who talked back to their parents were subjected to public beatings?
Me: Are you suggesting that I beat you publicly? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to live a life free of sin, as long as you understand that you never really will. Besides, if you go around constantly trying to do right, think right and be right, how do you fit grace into that picture? Grace for yourself as well as grace for others?
He was relatively quiet for the rest of the ride home. I’ve considered sending my kids to private Christian schools in an attempt to shield them from the worldliness of public education, and the transition from elementary to junior high has exposed my son to many things I’d just as soon he not have to deal with. But you can’t live life in a Christian bubble. If you’re going to be salt and light, you have to understand that there is much darkness out there, even at the tender age of 14. I’m praying he makes the right choices because he knows better, but I’m relying on grace and mercy because I understand that knowing better does not always equate to being better. Besides, how can you ever truly understand the gift of grace if you’ve never fallen from it?
Which brings me to Reason 11 why I hate writing…
More specifically, the genre of Christian writing and who defines what that means. For me, any decent work of inspirational fiction will contain at least four key elements: Sacrifice, Trust, Hope and Redemption. But the characters and the narrative have to be real in order to be believable.
There is a large contingent represented in the world of Christian publishing who believe that any book which contains profanity, sexual immorality or perverse behavior of any kind is not worthy of the classification of Christian genre. I refer to them as the Blue Hair Mafia, and I’m not the first one to use this descriptive. They want assurances that anything they read will not offend their delicate Christian sensibilities. They want to live inside their safe, Christian bubble and not have to confront the harsh realities of a fallen world when they open up a book. No, they want to escape to a white-washed fantasy world where people say “shoot” instead of “shit”, where unbelieving husbands become believers because their loving wives prayed them back from the pits of hell, where children are tempted by drugs and alcohol but their faith protects them from ever indulging in such sinful behavior and where Jesus snatches them up before any real damage can be done. Who am I to say whether or not they should read nice, safe, Christian stories if that’s what they want to do?
I only wish they would afford others the luxury of writing books which might actually plant a seed of belief in a person who is either without faith or clinging to their faith by a thread. Someone who, by Blue Hair Mafia standards, is living a life of debauchery, a life so far away from Jesus they feel like He could never take them back. How is a book full of white-washed reality going to relate to them?
I’ll tell you how.
What it will do if they manage to get through the book in the first place is convince them they could never be worthy of grace because they are so much worse than any of the characters in the book. Which is pretty much the opposite of what an author who calls herself a Christian should be writing if she claims she want to draw others to Christ through her writing.
In a now somewhat famous sermon from a few years ago, American Christian preacher Tony Campolo summed up my frustration with the mentality which permeates our churches and all forms of “Christian” entertainment when he addressed a congregation with the following introduction:
“I have three things I’d like to say today.
First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition.
Second, most of you don’t give a shit.
What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”
So what do you think? Am I completely off base with this? Do you think profanity should never be used in Christian books?« « Previous Post: Enriching lives thru the Power of Social Media | Next Post: The Best of Billy Coffey: How to take a punch » »