Story And Culture

Jon_Provost_Lassie_1962I found a new TV channel–well, new to me–Cozi TV. As in, the opposite of gritty and real. Actually, it shows oldies. There have been a couple stations here in the LA area that launched using this same strategy. Cozi shows include The Bionic Woman and Magnum PI. And their late night fare? Lassie and The Lone Ranger and Hop-Along-Cassidy.

I fell asleep during that last one, but I had a chance to watch adorable little Timmy learn the don’t-cry-wolf lesson and the heroic masked man save another helpless victim from unscrupulous villains.

It was a little shocking, actually, to see moral good trotted right out on the screen, front and center, with no apology. Especially after I had recently read a New York Times article By Paul Elie entitled “Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?”

What has happened to Western culture, I ask, when 50s TV paraded morality in its stories but in the aughts of the new century, fiction has lost its faith?

This, in short, is how Christian belief figures into literary fiction in our place and time: as something between a dead language and a hangover. Forgive me if I exaggerate. But if any patch of our culture can be said to be post-Christian, it is literature. (from “Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?”)

Granted, there’s a good deal of difference between moral fiction and that showing Christian belief. And maybe the fact that the 50s pushed morality rather than the Person and reason behind moral standards in part explains what happened to Western culture.

Elie asks an intriguing question for one such as I, a Christian who aspires to publish Christian fantasy:

Where has the novel of belief gone?

The obvious answer is that it has gone where belief itself has gone. In America today Christianity is highly visible in public life but marginal or of no consequence in a great many individual lives.

There’s a great divide, according to Elie, between what we say we believe and how we actually live our lives. And I wouldn’t argue.

So is that it? Do we pack up our computers and retire from the stage, tiptoeing past the next equivalent of 50 Shades of Grey? Our society has moved past Christian and is on to something else more adaptable to its post-modern thought.

But wait a minute. What about the Left Behind books that garnered blockbuster sales numbers, or as bad as its theology, The Shack and its rise from the ranks of the self-published to best-seller status? Are these books of no consequence because they didn’t qualify by someone’s standard as literary or timeless?

Or are they, in fact, indicators that pop culture is touching a nerve that the literary world is missing?

In naming a smattering of stories that fit his standard, Elie says

These stories are not “about” belief. But they suggest the ways that instances of belief can seize individual lives.

A worthwhile point, especially in light of a second article, this in today’s Atlanta Daily World. “Why Being Christian is Hot…Again” enumerates various singers, actors, and public figures who have made some kind of profession of faith recently.

Despite all the pastoral turmoil, this year has been a proactive and reputable year for faith. Recently, a lot of heavy hitters have openly come out.

According to Jet Magazine, Bishop T.D. Jakes rise “from the pulpit to pop-culture” is what works. Recently Actress Meagan Good opened up to several Media outlets professing her faith, and controversial rapper Nicki Minaj expressed to “Nightline” that God was her hero.

Even Mega-church Pastor Jamal Bryant jokingly proclaimed Tim Tebow the thirteenth disciple, as the Pro football player stunned the world with statistical signs and wonders.

There was also surprisingly, much ado when Billionaire Media mogul Oprah Winfrey confessed Christ during one of her ‘Lifeclass’ tours in NYC. And after news of Rihanna “living her life for God” the string of events only further proclaim: It’s OK to “come out”. (from “Why Being Christian is Hot…Again” by April Byrd)

Is this the type of cultural influence a Christian novelists wants to have–that which has famous people jumping on a God-bandwagon? Or ought we to write about people whose lives have been seized, not by faith but by Jesus Christ?

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Published in: on January 17, 2013 at 6:58 pm  Comments (1)  
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