Who’s Leading, Who Following?

One is the idea of Christians leading the way. Should we do that, or try to? Does that indeed put us in our own little corner of society?

One of the things that has become a pet peeve for me is a seeming contentment among the Powers That Be in Christian publishing cirlces as to the fact that Christian publications run about 3 years behind the trends of secular publishers.

The rational is that we need to know there’s a market first before we venture into the waters.

I guess why this bugs me so is that I saw it growing up. It went something like this. Item X became a fad, often with youth. Christians spoke out against it. Item X began to fade in popularity. Christians started sporting Item X. As a result, Christians were inevitable out of style, behind the times, out of date.

With all the talk about Christian fiction wanting to be “cutting edge,” it seems to me Christian fiction will never arrive at “cutting edge” until we stop trying to follow whatever the world wants and start producing what the world needs.

I know, there is a phrase in non-fiction—”felt need.” Writers are supposed to address “felt need,” another way of saying “what they want.” With fiction, though, the “felt need” is entertainment. Readers come to stories because they are enjoyable. So that part’s already taken care of, if we but write a good story.

So what about this idea of “giving them what they need”? I can hear the arguments against “preaching” through fiction being formulated already. To clarify I strongly reject the idea that a story must preach to impart its theme. Just the opposite.

When a theme is flung out in front of a reader, spelled out in transparent 1+1=2 fashion, it is easy to ignore or counter. The themes that have true impact are the ones that cause a person to think, to discover, to arrive at a point of belief … or disbelief.

I liken well-crafted themes most to the Socratic method of teaching, in which the job of instructor is actually to ask questions and let the learner discover the truth.

You know, I think there is one artist—a movie maker, not a writer—who genuinely stepped out to lead. Any guesses who I’m thinking of?

Published in: on February 28, 2007 at 9:59 am  Comments (8)  
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