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Grace Bridges on Story Evangelism

Grace Bridges: “I have come to believe that ‘Christian fiction’ is not a thing that should exist.”
| Oct 13, 2015 | 7 comments |

Should Christian stories evangelize?

I have been chewing over how to answer this question.

It is hard for me because I have come to believe that “Christian fiction” is not a thing that should exist. Just like Christian music, Christian movies … they are industries that provide a sanitised version of entertainment to people who have been told it’s somehow better for them to be segregated from society as a whole (with the possible exception of actual worship that is directed at God, not at people, though the line is kind of wibbly-wobbly).

In that sense it’s nearly impossible for it to evangelise anyway, since it preaches to the choir, and any audience it finds outside of the church is going to be pretty minimal.

A tale should have a soul and its nature will shine through every word. If a message is forced into it, the accidental unbelieving reader is likely to feel patronised and that is not a positive experience for anyone.

Tell a good story. Let plot and character and poetry of language demonstrate goodness and hope and above all else, beauty — for everything truly beautiful is a reflection of the face of the divine.

#StoryEvangelismShould Christian stories evangelize?

This is a crucial issue for anyone who loves stories but loves Jesus more, and wants to glorify Jesus through our enjoyment of stories or our making of stories.

During October our new SpecFaith series explores this issue.

On Thursdays, reviewer Austin Gunderson and writer E. Stephen Burnett host the conversation with interactive articles. On Fridays and Tuesdays, guest writers such as novelists and publishers offer their responses to the question.

We invite you to give your own answers to the #StoryEvangelism conversation.

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Carole McDonnell
Member

Perfectly said, Grace! Very succinct. Especially what you said about beauty. And I like that you said “truly beautiful.” Mere beauty isn’t enough because beauty is not always truth. (Sorry, Keats) The religious book of a particular religion is very beautiful and I challenge anyone to read its version/rendition of the Joseph/Potiphar story to not see the beauty. But it is not truth. It’s sentimental and nostalgic and rooted in a kind of romanticized poetic love story but it is not truly beautiful.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

If it doesn’t exist, fiction with Christian ideas won’t be made at all. It’s not like there’s a surplus of it in the secular market, or for any real reason for them to choose a Christian themed book over a general market one. If you don’t mind having a token C.S. Lewis or Marilyn Robinson every few years, its fine I guess.

Parker J. Cole
Member

Great response, short and succinct. I think you made a few good points and appreciate your candor.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Christians go wrong when we can’t break out of our subcultures.

Yet Christians, because we are called to behave in some sense as a distinct people as part of local church organizations, will inevitably have subcultures.

In fact, we should have these. But not along with the ills Grace mentioned.

Some critics will suggest that Christians should not have our own movies anyway. They may say, “We should not even have a ‘Christian culture’ or a thing called ‘Christian movies.’ Instead we must be in the world being Christians while we help make culture and movies.”

But doesn’t this skip a step—living our roles in local churches, which are part of Christ’s ambassador-Bride? Doesn’t this sentimentalize reality—a reality in which any individual has his/her own “culture” and any group of people will have a shared culture of cultures? And doesn’t this enact an impossible double standard in which Trekkies, Twihards, anime fans, and comic book readers can have their own subcultures, but Christians are not “allowed”?

— from Seven More Challenges for Christian Movie Critics and Fans

The solution starts with seeing these subcultures in perspective. They are not super-spiritual, un-critique-able subcultures, but environments we enjoy (wince-inducing flaws and all) in order to engage in bigger cultures.

I favor the “home” analogy. Our individual homes are “subcultures.” But if we stay indoors and never venture outside, we’ll become “crazy cat” people. Our homes will begin to stink of seclusion and stagnation and we will very quickly begin to lose even everything that we enjoyed about the subculture.

Paul Lee
Member

They are not super-spiritual, un-critique-able subcultures, but environments we enjoy (wince-inducing flaws and all) in order to engage in bigger cultures.

How does enjoying the subculture lead to engaging the the bigger culture?

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

The same way it has done for fans of the comic-book superhero subculture.

Mind you, that took a good long while, and I expect this may take even longer!

Julie D
Guest

Subculture is like a Russian doll. For example, Doctor Who was a subculture for fifteen plus years while off-air, and now it’s quite definitely ‘culture,’ even in the US.  On the other hand, there are ‘subcultures’ within it that are still fairly esoteric–the Big Finish audio dramas, for example.  So there’s the basic ‘madman in a box’ engagement with culture, but people can be drawn deeper if they are intrigued.