I first began to write this post back in October of 2017. It has been sitting in my draft queue for that long. It’s not that I’ve been avoiding the subject but more so that other things get in the way and press on my mind with a little more urgency. But it has come to a point to where I felt the need to write this because it has become front and center. In other words, it has now become urgent enough for me to write.
I’ve had some offline discussions with both Christians and non-Christians on this topic. Now that I am writing and releasing my fiction, answering this question is primarily for Christians. I’m also answering this for myself because it needs to be defined for a couple of different reasons. In order to do this in a way that will leave no question of doubt, this one will be a little long in the tooth.
From the outset, let me explain why I’m not a “Christian writer”. When I say that, I mean that in the sense that I’m not that kind of writer in the way that the phrase is defined in the publishing industry. I also must point out that I’m speaking as a novelist so this is purely from a fiction point of view.
Let me give me my four top reasons why I avoid the term.
Excuse me while I grab my soapbox and pontificate with passion.
True Christians Glorify Christ In Everything
Christians have the number one responsibility to glorify God in everything that they do. That should be the ultimate goal of everything that a Christian does and the reason for this is because as Christians, we adhere to the Holy Bible as the standard of truth and life here on earth. That being the case, it is there that we take our cues in terms of how we live. And in the passage of 1 Corinthians, it tells us plainly that:
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
The problem with many Christians is that they want to compartmentalize their lives as if God is only a part of it on Sundays in that two-hour timeframe where they gather with a church and be as religious as they can possibly be before going off and doing what they really want to do. That goes against everything being a Christian is about. There is no part of a Christian’s existence that is not wrapped up in the glorification of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, there is no such thing as separating different areas of our lives from the purpose of glorifying God. The Christian that lives like that doesn’t know how to live like a Christian and they don’t have a proper mindset of true Christianity. This is by and large the idea in the minds of people who gather with churches all over the world today. If something as simple as eating and drinking should go to the reality of glorifying God then there is nothing that is outside the purview of giving honor to Christ.
Francis Schaeffer in his book A Christian Manifesto rightly posits:
True spirituality covers all of reality. There are things the Bible tells us as absolutes which are sinful — which do not conform to the character of God. But aside from these, the Lordship of Christ covers all of life and all of life equally. It is not only that true spirituality covers all of life, but it covers all parts of the spectrum of life equally. In this sense, there is nothing concerning reality that is not spiritual (emphasis mine).
This dynamic is important to understand because I see this compartmentalization of writing being separated from Christ by many people who proclaim they are Christians.
For example, I’m a part of a writers forum made up of Christians. And one of them had an experience which is indicative of what I’m talking about. One of the members had an experience on another website of writing:
However, on the website Writing.com, I received one review which stated:
“So, this was great and all. I myself am a Catholic, and understand the need to evangelize, but I also feel like this is not the place to do it. If you like to write, great! Keep writing! If you are here to spread the Good News, then please do it somewhere else. Great grammar, and good passages, just not the place to put it.”
As a Christian, that is all kinds of disturbing. Even without knowing the specifics of the content of what was written, for someone who wants to bring up their denomination as some kind of qualifier that they believe the same thing (presumption at work) and then tell someone who they suppose to be of the same faith not to do what Jesus Christ said to do is, in a word and from a biblical standpoint, satanic. Either they are ignorant, disobedient, or not a Christian. No matter which way you slice it, it’s one of those three. That may seem harsh but it is what it is. That brings me to my second point.
The Christian’s Mindset Should Be Missional
Notice how I didn’t say that a Christian writer’s mindset should be missional. I said a Christian’s mindset should be missional. For a Christian who writes novels, what does that mean? Does that mean that every piece of writing that we do should have the evangelical focus about it? Well, of course, it does. But how that is presented in a novel is varied, myriad, and diverse.
Every writer is not the same but every writer who is a Christian should have the same mindset: we should want to affect people’s lives for the glory of Christ. That’s it. So that could mean that we want to write a story that gives a true picture of what pure and undefiled romance is. It could be presenting the battle and the struggle of drug addiction. It could be using symbolism in how we are to combat the world, the flesh, and the devil. It could be extolling the virtues of justice and mercy or presenting the consequences of greed and impatience. The list goes on, and on, and on. Our mission should always be to uplift and glorify the virtues outlined in the word of God which magnifies Christ in the process. That can be done, by the way, without mentioning Christ specifically (that is another subject for another post).
Because of this missional mindset, I don’t want to be seen as writing exclusively for Christians. The phrase “Christian writer” intimates that and excludes non-Christians by implication if not inference. My missional mindset refuses to apply a label that would limit my reach to all those who may benefit from my vocational worship which puts the goodness of God on display.
“Christian” Is a Noun, Not an Adjective
The two terms “Christian” and “writer” are mutually exclusive. They are two separate things. In language, they are both nouns, not adjectives. This is very important because it brings about a certain mindset and a certain outlook when using the terms.
I’m a Christian. I’m a writer. If one is going to influence the other, by default it would be the first. I am not a writer all of the time. It is not the thing that drives my life. It is not what defines me as an individual. It is a gift that I have. It is something that I do. In only a very tenuous connection does it define who I am. On a more specific and much deeper level, being a Christian affects everything in my life which really goes back to the first reason.
Using the term Christian as an adjective automatically lessens its importance. By relegating it to a merely descriptive term for something else, it lessens the impact of the foundation of who I am. In other words, this really goes to speaking to my identity in existence. Some people may think that that is going just a little bit too deep but that is exactly how deep a Christian needs to be thinking. If I may be so bold: it is shallow, superficial, irreligious reasoning that makes us lessen the reality of the term.
Christian is a noun. It is the subject. It is the main thing. It is not just a term to describe the main thing. The problem is that there is a whole industry which has given in to that kind of outlook and it has done more harm than good because…
It Gives the Appearance of Pretentiousness
If someone were to ask me what I do in my vocation, the easy answer is that I’m a writer. But I wouldn’t say that I am a Christian writer because there is a small appearance of ostentation. Of elitism or again, exclusivity. Plus, it doesn’t really answer the question.
I know this is not meant but it can appear that way because there are no other writers who tend to identify themselves by what they believe. You don’t find a section in the bookstore in the fiction area that lists agnostic fiction, atheistic fiction, and Buddhist fiction. It is simply by genre. Their books may identify that belief by its content. That is what we should let speak for us and not feel that we have to announce what kind of writer we are. It smacks of overcompensation or trying to convince ourselves of the reality. If the writing doesn’t clearly reflect that, maybe we’re not the kind of writer we think we are.
The furthest I will go in describing the kind of writer I am is by identifying the genre in which I write. That’s normal and should be expected. Being self-published, I don’t have to be concerned about whether or not a publisher will accept my material. I just find my genre, list it, and let it do what it does.
The Need for Christian Fiction
After saying all of that, you’d think I’d be completely against the whole “Christian fiction” category hands down. However, I’m not. I understand the reason why we need it, especially in the world in which we live. Books are the final holdout of not having a rating system. Because of that, we have to wade through material cautiously to find literature that is not rife with profanity, graphic sex, senseless violence, and promoting a worldview that is simply evil. For fiction, we should generally be looking for material that lines up Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
It is easier to identify fiction that doesn’t go there by calling it Christian. I get that and even appreciate that.
That being said, there is a lot of work that needs to be done in that department because there are multiple drawbacks as well (another subject for another time. Those are cropping up all over this post).
I expect that much of what I’m saying may be lost on some of my readers — Christian and non-Christian. It all goes back to the first reason — everything I do I approach through the lens of Scripture so that to the best of my understanding and ability, it glorifies Christ. That’s normal Christianity and it’s how I approach my writing.
So…am I a Christian writer or not?