Bouncing off Mike Duran again and the apparently Sisyphean debate over sermonizing in Christian fiction, I want to pull a Van Helsing drive a stake in the heart of this.
What would Jesus do?
When Christian writers use Scripture to justify heavy-handed sermonizing in their novels, I can’t help but wonder if we’re reading the same book. Jesus preached with sublime clarity. Take the Sermon on the Mount as your example. Dealing with individuals and their needs, whether demoniac, tax collector, prostitute, or Pharisee, He was direct to the point of discomfort. In telling stories (i.e. parables) however, He took a very different track.
When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,
“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”
Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? – Mark 4: 10-13
A Novel isn’t a Sermon
Freighted with meaning and divine truth, Jesus nonetheless gave room for His stories to be misunderstood or ignored. He knew there would be people who didn’t “get” them, and He didn’t mind. In fact, the tactic was deliberate. I know He explained them afterwards to His Disciples, but there came a point where He expected them to be able to figure them out. He never footnoted the parables or went chasing after critics begging them to reconsider.
Christian fiction writers must get over a bad case of “Medieval Morality Play Syndrome” and while writing prayerfully from their hearts, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, allow their work the possibility of being misinterpreted, mocked, or ignored. Once cured, that will allow both the author and the work to be true to themselves, and ring authentic before God.
“…this is the weakness of most ‘edifying’ or ‘propaganda’ literature. There is no diversity…You cannot, in fact, give God His due without giving the devil his due also. ”
― Dorothy L. Sayers, Mind Of The Maker