Sunday, March 29, 2009

We--and our books--are the only Jesus some will ever see.

What do we owe the reader, besides an entertaining read? Some laughter and tears and new insights about people and places?

As the Hippocratic Oath allegedly says, but actually doesn't, LOL, but does imply:

"First, do no harm."

Well, obviously, we don't show kids playing with matches and gasoline. At least, not without consequences.

But I also ask myself this:

Do I lead anyone astray with my story? And if my story is the only one a non-Christian ever reads, what impression does she have, now, about the Gospel?

Does it make her want to learn more about Christ and Christians--and how to become one? Or does it turn her off to Christians, pastors, church, and therefore, without knowing what she's missing--the Gospel?

This article brings good non-news: clean stories sell.

The bad news is, as we all know, while Hollywood and publishers still produce the other kind, they also produce stories that make the Gospel look bad. Or make Christians look stupid and/or evil.

Do we? Not on purpose, of course, but--do we?

My main character, Maggie, sees someone die in a plane crash. Angry at God, now, she turns her back on Him and looks for answers in the spirit realm. Obviously, this is not the ideal example to set for a reader. I give the readers credit: Many would know better. But not all. And I don't want to be responsible for anyone going where we're forbidden. So I show Maggie miserable on two fronts. On top of her grief, she is assaulted by fear. Horrible headaches and panic attacks come as a result of her dabbling. Her sunny, funny personality grows dark. And others around her express their misgivings and try to persuade her away from this quest. And she does not find answers there. She finds answers when she turns back to God.

Of course, not everyone feels called to spell out in their stories how to be "saved." Many choose simply to write wholesome stories about people who at least acknowledge God, maybe go to church and pray. How we need those!

But the least we can do is show most Christians as ordinary people with good intentions. They may slip, stumble, sin, but they rise again in God's forgiveness, and go on with their good intentions. And perhaps allude to the power of the Gospel to transform lives and give eternal life.

Because our story may be the only Christian book someone reads.

I think Dan Brown is a genius. But he also takes pleasure in writing stories that make the Catholic church look bad. I'm thinking of _The DaVinci Code_ and _Angels and Demons_. And little "Opie," Ron Howard, takes pleasure in making movies of these unflattering books.
While not a Catholic, I appreciate good Catholics as good people. Moreover, much of the world sees all Christians the same. To the world, all people of the cross believe the same way. Catholics, Evangelicals, Charismatics, Fundamentalists, and everyone in between.

So, what is bad for Catholics is bad for all of us.

It's not PC on television, in books, in movies, in news stories, to disparage any group--except Christians. That would include many people reading here. Us.

Persecution of any group--like us--always begins with disrespecting and disparaging that group.

May our books never, even accidentally, do the same.

A song says, "You're the only Jesus some will ever see." Like it or not, that goes for our books, too. Especially when we are known to be Christian.

I love to write. To get my thoughts down in black and white. I love to have written, too, LOL. To have finished something and maybe had a lot of fun doing it. I've even been paid for some of it, LOL.

In non-fiction, local newspapers, I've interviewed Randy Alcorn, Henry Mancini, Chuck Colson. I even had a walk-on scene with Dennis Quaid in Jaws 3 while covering the filming in Orlando.

In fiction, I'm fleshing out characters with quirks and dreams and problems and ambitions in challenges and funny situations. It's all so much fun. And work.

And some responsibility, too.

May our books never cause anyone to stumble away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If it does turn a reader off, are we guilty of causing a little one to stumble? Because then, Jesus says, we're better off having a millstone tied around the neck and cast into the sea.

And that is not my idea of the fun of writing.

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