Welcome back! If you are reading this and have not read parts 1 and 2, I hope that you will take the time to go back and read them. Today I am broaching a topic that may be difficult for some and typical for others. Regardless, I hope that what I’m about to cover will challenge you in some way to strengthen the work you are already doing or to adjust your perspectives.
Last time I closely examined the work of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, ultimately coming to the conclusion that many Christians are uncomfortable with work that is not allegorical. You see, people have written books about the obvious Christian symbolism in both author’s works, all the while ignoring the parts that they didn’t like. What about the other four books in The Chronicles of Narnia? What about Lewis’s writings of Father Christmas as a real person, the River God at the Fords of Beruna, or Emeth, the Calormene who ends up in Aslan’s Country despite his belief in Tash? What about The Lord of the Rings depicting the Elves as immortal, pure, god-like beings? What about Tom Bombadil? What about its depiction of magic or even Frodo’s decision to leave Middle Earth and go to the Grey Havens?
What is my point? My point is that although we may find grains of truth, of God, in literature, we must not go too far. We have to remember what the authors are claiming. Did Lewis and Tolkien claim their work to be real and true? No. Did they even claim it to be allegorical? No. What they do claim is that they’re telling a story. Fiction. We should not hold pieces of fiction to such high standards. One can scarcely trust the word of even creative nonfiction, which allows the author to take many liberties. The basic story may be true, but can we really expect the author to remember every detail, every line of dialogue? We must remember that stories are just that: stories. Just because a fictional story is written by a Christian does not mean that the author has a religious agenda and is preaching their story like propaganda. The first step in freeing Christians to write about God is to accept that they don’t have to.
Ironic, isn’t it?
The basic fact that we all must come to terms with is that everyone’s a critic. Think about your favorite book or movie. A quick search on Google, or Bing if you’re like me, and you will find someone out there who detests it and lists a dozen and a half reasons why it is terrible. You cannot please everybody. Unfortunately, Christians can be some of the hardest people to please. So here we are, blog three of this series, and I am just now getting to the answer of the title. Why are we afraid of God in science fiction and fantasy? It is not a fear of God. It is a fear of the criticism. It is a fear of doing something wrong or stepping on someone’s toes and getting crucified for it.
Let me tell you that this fear is irrational. Like the fear of getting hurt or of spiders, it is foolish because it is something you will have to face every day. It is inevitable. You will be hurt in life. You will turn the corner and see a spider that you swear is the biggest spider you’ve ever seen since yesterday. You will be criticized. You have to overcome it. How do you do that?
Step one: make your writing between you and God. If you are doing what God wants you to do with your writing, then you’re in the clear. There will still be people out there who are unhappy with you for what you’ve done. There always will be, but you have to decide that it’s okay. Not even Lewis or Tolkien are in the clear when it comes to criticism. And I’m not talking about the “Tolkien is just so wordy!” criticism. I’m talking about the criticism that claims that what they have written goes against God.
Step two: be aware that, as a Christian author, you are held to a higher standard. You will be criticized for things any other author in the world would get away with constantly. Are you sensitive to words like “ass” but are comfortable with “butt”? There are Christians who are offended by that. This means that you must…
Step three: write intentionally. If you have not seen the series on crafting by Tracy Buckler, I highly suggest you read it. You must be aware of your own words, of your own implications. Write with intention and don’t let your words be an accident. You don’t want to be caught off guard by your own writing, do you? If you cannot, in good conscience, let every one of your words stand, there is a problem.
Step four: know what you are up against. We are afraid of the criticism we may receive in including God in our science fiction and fantasy stories because of what people fear from those genres: technology and magic. Do you, without any explanation from me, understand what people are afraid of from those two words? You see, step one and two are up to you. Tracy Buckler has done one heck of a job with step three. Next month, I’m going to take a hard look at step four. I’m going to help you understand the fears that you’re up against.
I feel like this blog has been the part of a roller coaster where you’re climbing up the hill, and I hate to stop before that exciting, stomach flipping drop, but there will be many drops, many twists, and loop-the-loops to come next blog, when I go into great detail of the two ominous, labyrinthine worlds of technology and magic. It’s going to be quite the ride, so buckle up. If you have any questions or anything in particular that you would like me to try to address, post a comment, and I will do my best! This is a beast of a topic, and we’ll tackle it together.
By Rachelle Clifford