Not Ashamed Of The Gospel

Love of Divena coverIt’s getting harder in western society, I think, to say we’re not ashamed of the gospel. Well, we can say we’re not ashamed of the gospel–free speech, and all. But taking a stand because of the gospel, especially on the hot bed issues of our day, is becoming risky. Hence, Christians are re-thinking whether or not they should let their Christianity be known.

For example, I or my beliefs have been belittled or vilified on my own Facebook page by family and friends because of certain positions I’ve taken.

Dovetail this with what some Christian writers have been saying: Christian fiction is poor art in part because it aggressively preaches.

The accusations about Christian fiction are anything but new. Often people have decried the loss of Christian influence in the arts. Once Christians dominated painting and literature. So what happened, they ask.

Well, what did not happen was a switch from not preachy to preachy. Milton, John Donne, George Herbert, John Bunyan, and a great list of other writers led the way in literature by writing about their faith or incorporating it in their works in very clear and obvious ways. They were not ashamed of the gospel.

The real difference between then and now, however, is in execution. Too many writers add on “faith elements” as an after thought or to fulfill a necessity for their publisher. Some, on the other hand, slather in gospel references in the hopes of . . . well, preaching to the lost.

Other writers would just as soon see the divide between secular and sacred erased–but the implication is that a story well told, without any “faith elements” is sacred by virtue of the fact that it is artistic.

I wonder if this isn’t the writer’s way of being ashamed of the gospel. If a story is well told and the gospel is front and center, why does that story automatically get treated as if it is second rate?

Well, some may say, those stories are too unambiguous. They don’t make people think, they give too many answers? Really?

Recently I’ve been discussing salvation in regards to “the unreached peoples” of the world, and those living in India have been mentioned. At once I think of Kay Marshall Strom’s series Blessings in India: The Faith of Ashish, The Hope of Shridula, The Love of Divena.

India 1990. In the final book of the Blessings of India series, Shridula, old and stooped at fifty-nine, makes her painful way to pay homage to the elephant god Ganesh, lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. “Why are we Hindus instead of Christians?” her seventeen-year-old granddaughter Divena asked.

“Because we are Indian,” said Shridula.

So begins a spiritual journey for Divena as she struggles against an entire culture to proclaim a faith close to her heart while rocking the world of two families. (backcover copy quoted from Amazon)

Yes, those are stories about God at work in one of those unreached parts of the world. No easy answers, but no hiding God, either. No shame of the gospel.

Honestly, I don’t know why, in light of the vast number of people who don’t know Jesus Christ as Savior, all Christian writers don’t make it a mission to bring faith to bear in a discernible way in our writing, in our stories.

No, I don’t think every story needs to be a salvation message. Some can show a believer coping with anorexia as Running Lean by Diana Sharple does. Others like Firstborn by Lorie Ann Grover can address gender issues. Or how about the Safe Lands series by Jill Williamson that shows a character’s struggle with lust and addiction?

God can show up in dramatic ways or daily, gradually, through His people. He can show up through types and symbols and allegory, or He can be present, identified from start to finish as the Creator, Sustainer, and Savior of the world. The how isn’t the issue, I don’t think.

But a dying world needs to hear Truth, and I don’t think it’s time for Christian writers to shrink back, ashamed of the gospel.

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5 Comments

  1. To say Christians are re-thinking whether or not to let their Christianity be known is a very broad conclusion that I don’t think is true for the genuine Christian: You, for example. In fact, I would claim that you just described those folks who fell on stony ground and withered away from the scorching of the hot sun. In other words, they aren’t Christians.

    I read you saying Christian (fiction) writers should bring to bear their faith in a discernible way and, on the other hand, read you saying that some “slather in Gospel references.”

    I wonder then what your opinion is concerning correct execution. Maybe you can detail that in an upcoming blog, if you think you know what the most effective execution is.

    As far as being criticized for your faith or stance, you are well aware of all the Scripture verses that tell you of the blessings you will receive because of it. In the end, I see the U.S sliding rapidly into the secular condition of Europe (including England, tag it as you will) and Canada. Perhaps these things are a real indication of the age coming to a soon end. That would be nice; I’m ready and all for it.

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    • Except I know some genuine Christians who have indeed thought this through. In the end, some have taken the stand that they will not hide their faith. Others are less convinced.

      I understand this all too well because I lived as an “undercover Christian” all through junior high and high school. I wouldn’t deny that I was a Christian, but I didn’t take a stand for Christ either, and mostly hoped no one would ask.

      The “slathering in” the gospel line came about because I just read a book that seemed to include mentions about praying at meals and going to church and thinking about God protecting and such, though the theme of the book was not centered on belief in God or trust in Him or sharing Him or forgiveness or any number of things it could have been about. So what were all those gratuitous mentions of religious things? Religious trappings. At least that’s how it seemed to me. They weren’t made to be central to the story or to the character’s choices or decisions.

      I’ve written a lot about theme in stories. In a nutshell, though, the theme should be a thread running through a well-woven story that enhances the whole without calling undue attention to itself. Writers should not deliver the message to readers–that method is rightly referred to as “preaching.” Rather, the character should live out the truth, and probably should not restate it or explain it (“Now I know it’s better to love God more than my job.”) This approach means some readers may miss what the story is about, but it also means others will contemplate it more deeply and own it because they came to it themselves.

      Russ, you might well be right about the signs of the time. God knows. I’m ready too, and happy to know it will be gain for us. I’d still like to see more people brought into the kingdom, though.

      Becky

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    • Russ, here’s one of the more recent articles I’ve written which I think explains what I’m on about regarding the Christianity of a story: “Thinking about ‘Theme.’ “

      Becky

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  2. This is a very good post. Thank you for writing this. It sums up a lot of what I’ve been thinking about lately, esp this: “Other writers would just as soon see the divide between secular and sacred erased–but the implication is that a story well told, without any “faith elements” is sacred by virtue of the fact that it is artistic.”

    And this: “Well, some may say, those stories are too unambiguous. They don’t make people think, they give too many answers? Really?”

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  3. Yes, I suppose the very young Christian can be absolved from taking a firm stance because of peer pressure. I have no idea how God views that. Well, I do, but it would take a novel-length reply to put it down.

    It’s odd that I would run across your blog at this time in my life, because I just finished writing a novel that is in its final editing stages. Perhaps it’s providence. But let me state briefly the “Christian” approach I took and let you and others decide the merit of it.

    I’ll only provide two examples. 1. One of the young, main characters is viewing the beauty of nature, and at the end of his description of it, he implies that God must have something to do with all things, because who else could craft such astonishing beauty. 2. Another one of the main characters has an opportunity to take sexual advantage of a young woman suffering from a recent family tragedy. He has every intention to do just that. But later in the novel – and it is designed to surprise the reader – they find out that he didn’t do it. He causally implies that God wouldn’t have been in favor of it – without ever actually saying that God wouldn’t have been in favor of it.

    This same approach runs throughout the novel. The important question is “why” did I write it this way? I’m glad you asked. Smile. Well, I want the secular reader to read about God in this novel, without preaching to him or her. I want the secular reader, the next time he/she is viewing a spectacular scene of nature, to say, “Yeah, I remember reading in that novel about God being responsible for this.” I want the secular reader to say, the next time he/she stumbles over lust, to say, “Yeah, I remember how the character in that novel wouldn’t do the same.”

    To sum it up: the approach was very subtle and designed to get nonbelievers to start thinking about God – when these things pop up in their lives. Perhaps one day these readers will find themselves wanting to attend church or read the bible. My intention was merely to give them a small nudge in this direction. I’ll water, let someone else reap. Is this a good or bad approach? Neither, in my mind, it’s just an approach, period. I did read the other article and thank you for your comments.

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