The Turquoise And Orange Mentality

Turquoise and orange. Or green and red. Purple and yellow. Opposites on the color wheel and the perfect metaphor for the way our western culture approaches … just about everything.

For some reason which I haven’t yet figured out, society has fallen into an all-or-nothing way of thinking. It’s all my way—and of course, my way is right—therefore every other way is all wrong. This trend is more surprising in light of the “tolerance movement,” but that’s a subject for another day.

Here I’m concerned with how this “if I like it, it’s good, it’s all good” concept affects Christians reviewing books. Because, sadly, Christians have bought into this mindset as much as or more than the rest of the culture.

After all, we’re engaged in spiritual warfare. Evil is real and opposes God. And there is only One way to salvation; all other roads lead to destruction. On top of which, righteousness matters.

All true. But what I think we Christians lose sight of from time to time is the fact that the world is a mixed bag.

Jesus even said so in the parable of the wheat and weeds. In the story, the landed nobleman ordered his servants to plant grain. They did, but in the night an enemy sneaked into his field and contaminated the crop with weed seed. When the plants grew, the servants realized weeds were intermingled with the good grain. They went to their lord and asked him if he hadn’t planted good seed and what were they to do about these weeds. Leave them, he said, until the harvest. That would be the appropriate time to sort the weeds from the wheat.

Here’s the deal. We’re living in that wheat and weed field. The weeds, by the way, called “tares” in the NASB, were darnel, a rye grass that looks much like wheat. In other words, telling the two apart was not an easy job. It’s not easy for us, either. What looks to us like a tare now, might in fact be a stalk of wheat.

What in the world do wheat and weeds have to do with reviews?

Here’s the point. I find it a little astounding that in a mixed-bag world, we can see anything as all good or all bad. Yet readers rave all the time that such-and-such a novel is the best book ever written. Or that such and such other book is from the pit of hell and will bring destruction upon every person foolish enough to expose their minds to it.

I remember hearing Liz Curtis Higgs speak at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference some years ago, and she was commenting on responses she got to her novel set in Scotland. One reader raved about how this book was as good as those by Sir Walter Scott! The same day she received a letter tearing her and the book apart. Obviously, both positions couldn’t be true. In fact, Higgs said a writer really must believe neither.

But why do readers and reviewers write as if a book they love has no faults or a book they hate has no value? We live in a mixed-bag world, where made-in-God’s-image creatures fell into corruption. Why are we shocked to see God’s image, tarnished as it is, in those very people who rail against Him? And why do we think everything coming from the fingertips of His redeemed children will automatically be without the rust of corruption? I wish the latter were true.

But I’m as much a mixed bag as the world is. Less so every day, as God does His sanctifying work of transforming me into the image of His Son, but even if I lived without sin, I don’t believe that would mean my writing would also be perfect. I could have pure intentions. My motive might be to honor God, but does that mean my writing will automatically be flawless? Not in a mixed-bag world.

And final question. Is God most honored by our closing our eyes to what might be improved or by an honest appraisal that calls writers to reach for better?

This article originally appeared here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction in June 2008.

3 Comments

  1. I’m pleased to read this. The wheat and weeds story is one that is mostly overlooked today. We do seem to live in a world of extremists promoting absolute commitment one way or the other. My country right or wrong applied to all areas of life. It is sobering to realise that Jesus didn’t always see it that way. Attempting perfection usually leads to bad ends.

    Like

  2. Thank you. Polarization is pulling us apart. On the one hand undiscerning hero worship, on the other arrogant condemnation. Them and us. Unfortunately it’s the young wheat that is often damaged in the process. Lord, have mercy.

    Like

  3. Perhaps some reviewers have a different take on things. Certain people, when they are really touched by something, disregard the negatives. The overwhelming positives outweigh the little things. This may bring into question the reviewer but it could also reflect a sort of ‘life is too short’ or ‘this book is too good to focus on the negatives’ mentality. I agree with your take on things, but even reviewing can be a mixed bag.

    Like


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: