|Imagine: Boundless potential|
Over the past two decades there seems to have been a shift in the landscape of Christian fiction, a broadening of what’s ‘Christian’ enough for the inspirational industry. Yet, feathers still ruffle over the occasional publication that is seen to contain inappropriate content (not enough or too much of certain elements), or attempts to present more ‘liberalised’ content in a way that really misses the mark.
As writers we have the capacity to invent stories that push all bounds. I suppose as the apostle Paul said (I Cor 10:23), all things are permissible, but not everything is constructive or beneficial. He follows that up by advising us not to seek our own good, but that of others. In relation to our writing, how do we determine what is constructive and beneficial to the good of others (whatsoever things are ...), while still remaining true to a plot and relevant to readers?
In recent months I’ve read a range of best-selling YA novels. Most include the usual modern ‘teen themes’, and overall they’ve been enjoyable reading. But some experiences depicted in a few of those novels would have been very foreign to my teenage self. Not that I always responded wisely as a young adult, but I had a sound personal conviction of actions, choices and consequences. On one hand, I’m extremely grateful for that awareness, yet what niggled in the back of my mind was this isn’t always the case and some of those topics would not be broached in many ‘Christian’ novels, at least, not in a way that enabled a reader to unpack and gain greater insight into those challenges.
In response to why a Christian should write books on particularly gritty topics (specifically rape, abortion and violence, but this could also include intimacy, sexuality, substance abuse, origins etc), author Stephanie P McKean recently tweeted, ‘Then who will?’ And she makes a good point. Like it or not, young people today are being confronted by issues many Christian novelists are reluctant to touch. It’s occurred to me that if young readers aren’t offered a safe, reasonable, honest and respectful alternative, these confusing concepts will take root from whatever angle they're presented and develop unchallenged into their adulthood, potentially forming unhealthy behaviours, thinking and relationships, which can become a life-default.
The fact is, bad things–and I mean really bad things happen to really great people, which can shake what a person ‘knows’ and values. Sometimes even internal forces, like a series of poor choices, can over time cause a life-destroying fallout that impacts generations. I’ve watched it happen to people dear to me, but I’ve not written many comparable situations in a novel. For one, some wouldn’t be viewed very favourably in the current climate of political correctness. Further, I feel one would have to pen such stories in a very sensitive, positive and purposeful way. And maybe that’s a key.
Perhaps the soul of our stories, the unique voice each author brings to their work, should be found in our ashes of brokenness, that wrestling with life’s real nightmares and prevailing in spite of our wounds. Being intimately acquainted with suffering brings an honest vulnerability, but it takes bravery to write truth in its gritty, confusing, imperfect reality. Perhaps what is ‘constructive’ and ‘beneficial’, is the willingness to take what was intended for harm and use it for good, writing stories that shed the light of truth on the grey corners of our world, with the knowing of a soul that has walked a healing journey with the One.
I know some of you are already brave. I’ll try to be braver, too.
Adele Jones lives in Queensland, Australia. She writes young adult and historical fiction, poetry and short inspirational works. Her first YA novel Integrate was released in September 2014. Her writing is inspired by a passion for family, faith, friends, music and science – and her broad ranging imagination. To find out more visit www.adelejonesauthor.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org