Mixed Content part II: Cloistered or Realism?
Someone asked recently why I couldn’t write “nice Christian stories”. Answer: because I can’t.
There’s a tendency of modern western evangelicals to cloister, or enclave. Christians only associate with other Christians, go the Christian Schools (or home school) work for Christian companies, live in Christian communities, shop at Christian stores, read Christian books, listen to Christian radio, watch Christian TV… It’s safe, it’s predictable, controllable to some extent, and it’s a fantasy. The salt stays in the saltshaker and the light is safe under its bushel basket.
Life isn’t Disneyland. For most of the world, life isn’t even America, and for much of America, life isn’t suburbia. This is my Father’s world but it is not Christian. The real world is a messy, dangerous, beautiful place. Now I believe God has a passionate concern for His creation and the Gospel is the mind-blowing news that He offers genuine forgiveness to real people who have committed real sins in our real world. The struggle is to accept that with all it’s brutal ugliness and awesome wonder, and effectively pass it on.
“Running Black” is fiction, but I made an effort to include Christian characters in an organic way in realistic settings. I wanted to avoid creating a “scary but safe” adventure, as if it were some sort of theme-park ride where you’re titillated but not touched as you wind towards the happy ending. I wanted more “gritty realism” than goose bumps. I included a bit, a tiny bit, of abrasion and discomfort; not gratuitously, but because I felt (believe it or not) a conviction to do so. This conviction of realism factored in everything from my decision to avoid light sabers, aliens, FTL space-travel, to name real cities and companies, as well as to let my non-Christian characters say and do non-Christian things. Explicitly. But I wanted the Christianity to be just as explicit.
Did I execute that conviction in my first novel perfectly? No. But my inability to do it perfect wasn’t an excuse to leave the task undone. I’ve got more stories inside and I pray to get better as I continue.