Where Are We Going?

For a long time “edgy” was a buzz word in Christian fiction. I frequently scoffed (or railed or ranted — take your pick 😉 ) at the term because those using it seemed oblivious to what the world considers edgy.

For example, a few months back, in doing some agent research, I ran across an interview with a fantasy writer. Besides comments about her agent, she discussed her latest work. At one point the interviewer asked about one part of the story. The writer admitted she thought she’d get dinged by reviewers because of the edgy content, but surprisingly, no. The scene in question? A human character having sex with his dragon. Her conclusion? With sex, anything goes these days.

I find that content and that conclusion disgusting, but not surprising. This is the “edgy” the world knows — the boundary-pushing against society’s acceptable. Or not. As this author noted, including bestiality in her novel didn’t raise anyone’s ire. Apparently the edge has moved beyond kinky sex. What’s next?

What drives this mad dash to the edge seems to be the pursuit of the new and different. “Fresh” is another term bandied about. Our entertainment-driven (read hedonistic) culture must have the Something that feels like it’s never been done before. We crave that thing that will pique our curiosity, give us a jolt of excitement, cause us to wonder, take us out of our mundane state and transport us Elsewhere. We want to live in a constant state of orgasm.

Once these desires were the signs of mid-life crisis. Now the entire society seems to suffer from perennial adolescent angst, a chasing after Anything, as long as it isn’t boring or ordinary.

In literature we no longer want to be hooked by the end of the first chapter or by the first page, first paragraph, or first line. We must now be hooked by the cover. If it’s not eye-catching, or somehow “sexy,” then it simply is not a good book. Yes, covers are now to be judged because we need to excite buyers before they ever put their hands on the product.

The question is, should we Christians play along? In his most recent blog post “Pushing Your Imagination Envelop” author and friend Mike Duran said

Maybe more than anything else, our culture’s “unacknowledged legislators” [storytellers] are looking for big ideas, new twists, and innovative slants. Yes, it’s evidence that our culture is growing increasingly jaded. But for those of us who traffic in imagination, it’s also evidence that the bar has been raised.

So if you think you’ve nailed your story premise, before you do anything else, find the limits of your credulity, the edges of your imagination envelope and… push it [boldface emphasis added].

I can’t help but wonder if the bar hasn’t been lowered, not raised. Once, writers like George Herbert, John Donne, John Bunyan, Edmund Spencer, and Alexander Pope wrote with “great depth” as a result of their “immersion in Christian and Biblical culture” (see Wikipedia articles on these authors). Now, it seems “great depth” comes from our great imagination.

True, an imaginative work like The Shack by Paul Young caught the fancy of those looking for something startling, even shocking. But depth? There was plenty of imagination, certainly, but little truth. Lots of “edgy” theology slamming against the Bible’s authority.

As I see it, truth puts parameters around our imagination. Our sinful, deluded hearts can conceive of all sorts of evil, and the world seems eager to trundle after the most repugnant fare being offered.

Christians, however, aren’t wandering aimlessly about. We aren’t in search of a quick fix, don’t need to live for the next thrill ride, the next mind-numbing gimmick. We don’t need to medicate our sorrows or drown our pain. Or we ought not.

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:4).

Now there’s an edgy premise.

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