Christian Symbolism—Good, Bad, or Ugly?


I wasn’t the only blogger to discuss Fantasy and Sci-Fi Lovin’ Blog‘s post about Christ figures. John Brownlee over at SciFi Scanner also commented.

Besides agreeing that certainly there is a significant number of Christ figures in fiction, Brownlee went on to attribute this to Christianity’s influence on the culture. That in itself is an interesting point I’d love to explore.

Several days ago, I took the approach that Christ figures are in fiction because Man longs for a Savior. With just the briefest contemplation, I’d have to say that I believe Man first forms beliefs which become the threads of culture, then culture, in turn, influences individuals. That seems apparent simply because culture is what society—humans coming together—does. In other words, culture does not exist apart from Man, though we often talk about it as if it does.

But I didn’t intend to deviate into that interesting thread today. Instead, I wanted to look at Brownlee’s comment about the stories with Christ figures:

These characters are all united in a positively maudlin over-usage of ham-handed Christian symbolism. Their comings were usually foretold in ponderous, badly written “prophesies.” They all have supernatural powers that allow them to perform miracles. And so on.

In other words, he is saying there is nothing “fresh” about stories containing Christ figures, though he postulates that Christ in outer space fighting against an alien might be interesting.

His comments were particularly intriguing to me for two reasons. First I find it heartening that even stories written for the general market fall under what amounts to an accusation of being derivative. Yet they worked and were well-loved by many. It seems the stench of publishing death is for the aroma of derivation to waft around a novel. And yet, universally professionals will say there are no new stories.

Certainly, I am not interested in a story knock-off. It’s one reason I have no interest in fan-fic—either reading it or writing it. To me part of the fun of a story is a new world and characters I haven’t met before.

Which brings me to the next point Brownlee’s comments raised in my mind—does a story with a Christ figure of necessity have to seem derivative?

If you read J. K. Rowling’s comments about her faith, you’ll find that she purposefully downplayed her Christianity because she thought her worldview would give away the culminating plot points of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and spoil the surprise.

How does a Christian writer avoid “maudlin over-usage of ham-handed Christian symbolism”? (And what IS “ham-handed” symbolism? 😮 )

Your thoughts?

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