I just started reading a book addressed to Christians about our role in the postmodern, post-Christian age. Some believers, according to this writer, respond by becoming entrenched. They dig in, hunker down, and make the best of the little space they’ve carved out for themselves.
That’s my simplistic interpretation of this particular view, but I mention it because I see a lot of similarity with those of us who declare ourselves to be fans of Christian speculative fiction. We have little interest in “evangelizing” other readers now that we’ve found a) some secular authors that feed our need for the speculative and don’t offend our Christian sensibilities (at least not much or not often); or b) a Christian imprint or a Christian author who provides the type of fiction we like best.
Because our reading preferences are met, the thinking goes, why should we care if Christian speculative fiction grows to include more books or bigger publishing houses or greater numbers of readers? I realize, of course, this description does not fit every fan of Christian speculative fiction or every Christian who is a fan of speculative fiction. Nevertheless, I find the attitude to be more prevalent than I’d like. Quite honestly, it troubles me.
I think there might be several possible causes for it. First is the idea that reading is simply for entertainment. Without a doubt, reading fiction is entertaining. But we do not exist in a vacuum. God did not create us as compartmentalized beings–over here we deal with work, over there with entertainment, and on Sunday’s in our churches, our spiritual well-being.
On the contrary, we are thinking, enjoying, relating, spiritual people no matter when and where we are, no matter what we are doing. Chatting with a co-worker, laughing on (or at 😉 ) the job, praying over a sticky issue–do we as Christians not do those things in the work place, along with reasoning and problem-solving?
Why, then, should we expect to leave our brains outside as we open up a novel? Why should we lay aside our core spiritual values, as if they have nothing to do with how we spend our entertainment time?
Another troubling aspect is the me-centric approach. Who cares about anybody else as long as I have what I need? I find this attitude on the rise in our culture, and we Christians seem to be going along for the ride. Of course, such thinking fragments society, but even more important, it violates Christ’s mandate for us to love our neighbor.
What??? I can hear the cries from here. Not telling others about Christian speculative fiction violates God’s command to love our neighbor? Kind of. The me-centric attitude certainly does. Finding a treasure and keeping it all for ourselves certainly violates God’s command to love our neighbor.
But there’s the last issue. Do we as readers value Christian speculative fiction to the point of seeing it as a treasure? What if there were no more Christian speculative fiction tomorrow? No self-published e-books, no more POD Marcher Lord Press paperbacks, not any from Splashdown Books either, and none on the shelves of Christian or general market stores.
Would it matter?
I suspect we would all survive, but I also think we’d lose something powerful–a vehicle that more accurately portrays the world than any other form of story. Speculative fiction paints good and evil in vibrant, living color. We see through story what we know to be true spiritually.
Western culture seems bent on separating Man from what’s most important. We are bombarded from eyes-open to eyes-closed with things to buy and fun to have and jobs to do. Music fills the few blank moments, and TV blares in the background of our conversations. We hardly have a chance to reflect that God matters, that Jesus is our Head, that the Holy Spirit lives within us.
And then we open a Christian speculative novel, and we have the chance to see beyond the bling, beyond business as usual, beyond even the adrenaline rush of entertainment.
So why, when we have Christian speculative fiction, do we keep it to ourselves?