A few months ago, I was driving home from an event in Michigan with Luke, a fellow abolitionist and friend. He made a comment to me that stuck in my brain, a complaint which in part is what compelled me to finally publish my own fiction.
“Why does every single Christian movie have to end in everybody getting saved?” he asked. At first blush, the comment sounded like an odd thing for a Christian to complain about; at the center of our hope and worldview is the idea that humanity will ultimately be split into two groups — those who reject Christ and die in their sin, and those who accept the sacrifice Jesus made and are forgiven. As the conversation progressed however, it became clear that he was complaining about the extremely low view of salvation and the word of God that most evangelicals today seem to hold.
The Doctor: There were days, there were many days, these words could burn stars, and raise up empires, and topple gods.
Amy Pond: What does this say?
The Doctor: “Hello sweetie.”
It is no secret that Christianity today is facing a crisis of relevance. The public school system has thoroughly indoctrinated our children with its belief that that God is irrelevant or unnecessary to subjects such as biology, literature, politics, origins science, physics, history, health, and computer/information science etc. Those “practical” areas of knowledge can be fully plumbed without any sort of reference the mythical being that Christians worship — an alleged person who is so far removed from the present world that he is only concerned with abstract, hypothetical realities like Heaven or Hell, as one of a pantheon of other irrelevant gods.
Today, the movement that once viewed theology as the queen of the sciences — which rose above the Roman empire, and toppled its pantheon of false gods — has reduced itself to an institution that cares only about telling people what they need to know in order to go to Heaven. Because people in the culture don’t often care about Heaven and Hell and what happens when we die, Christianity has therefore reduced itself to irrelevancy in the eyes of the world. Even Jesus, who poured His entire life into the eternal salvation of mankind, was not so obsessed with the future that He refused to focus any time on the short-term healing, feeding, and resurrection of people He cared about.
What kinds of stories did Jesus tell? He did warn about Heaven and Hell as the destiny of those who accept/reject Him (Mar 12:1-12); He also used stories to shape His culture’s understanding of love (Luk 10:25-37), show the effectiveness of prayer (11:1-13), warn against the deceitfulness of riches (12:13-21) and the slothful waste of God’s resources (12:35-48), together with a host of other subjects. Christian authors can walk in fear of criticism that comes from evangelical pastors when their stories work on improving the culture’s perception of morality (e.g. “social justice tales”) without mentioning Jesus’ work to save us from our immorality — but Jesus did the very same thing. Not every story He told directly references the cross, and the personal salvation of those who trust in His sacrifice on it. Rather, He has a much broader view of salvation than the truncated gospel of modern American evangelicalism — and He is willing to speak about any subject in the cosmos that is impacted by His understanding of the good news.
Has anyone ever noticed that most modern Christian fiction follows the same general storyline? The character who is kind of (but not really) on the fence about Christianity. The conflict involves being confused or angry (but not too confused or angry, because that’s blasphemous) with God when bad things happen. If it’s fiction, the conflict is resolved by the MC realizing that God was right all along (surprise!). If it’s fantasy, the conflict is resolved after a long inner-struggle and the killing of a demonic force. — Hannah Heath, Christian Author.
Christian fiction has become formulaic, perhaps because authors fear the opinions of their readers more than the opinion of God. There is such an obsession in American Christianity with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that Christian readers and pastors have turned it into an idol, believing that only one piece of God’s redemptive plan (the centerpiece) is worth writing about. I have no problem with boldly sharing the gospel in my books. I do have a problem with formulaic stories that communicate an irrelevant, truncated gospel to the culture.
Christianity doesn’t need to “become relevant” to the modern culture, because it is intrinsically relevant to every subject under the sun. The Word of God speaks to all matters of life, because Jesus Christ the Word incarnate is the foundation of all truth (Jhn 14:6). The problem is with us — Christian readers, writers, and pastors who have accepted the lie that God only wants us to be concerned with “spiritual” matters, reducing God’s word so that we only talk about those subjects which we think should be communicated.
There is no subject in fiction that cannot be written from a Christian perspective, because we serve the God who created everything. Christian literature should not be a genre of its own, addressing only those areas of thinking that Christians will cheer about, and non-Christians will ignore. Rather, we should be attacking the secular worldview in all of the areas touched by the gospel, as those who ran before us once did.
If the shrewdest abolitionist among us had prepared a drama with a view to make the strongest anti-slavery impression, he could scarcely have done the work better. O’ it was a sight worth seeing those ragged, coatless men and boys in the pit (the very material of which mobs are made) cheering the strongest and sublimest antislavery sentiments!” — Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison on the emotional force of Uncle Tom’s Cabin
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