Out of nowhere it comes, often randomly, and unrelated to someone’s depression or joy. It’s a creeping suspicion that music artist Nichole Nordeman described like this:
I admit that in my darkest hours I’ve asked: what if?
What if we’ve created some kind of man-made faith like this?
Out of good intention or emotional invention
And after life is through, there will be no You?
— from “Fool for You”
For Christians: How do we deal with such flickers of suspicion? (For non-Christians, I could cite a few verses about how they deal with opposite wonderings about God’s existence and rights to rule!) Or does this always count as suspicious? Maybe our imaginations simply go that direction to do some speculating: Hey, if God didn’t exist, if people had simply made up this thing called the Bible and Christianity, how would that go? Then later we thank God that He grants us the favor of His existence and goodness, and go on.
Still, more-serious questionings exist. How do we address those? For me it’s usually recognition of all God has done, the wonder of the world, the many aspects of life that simply make no sense, and not a few apologetics arguments based on what we observe of design in the universe, morality, and everyone’s contradiction of a Godless world.
Yet there’s another series of rather dark thoughts that occasionally break into my brain, more specifically related to Christian speculative fiction — and why readers enjoy it.
Slippery stone slopes
“Pyramid” describes this unfortunate mindset well. John Otte’s column yesterday included a pyramid reference and even graphic, which reminded me of this long held-over suspicion. However, my emphasis is very different: asking if it’s not only me who may give into, or must fight off, some pyramid-scheme notions.
Maybe some businessperson can describe for us any difference between the pyramid scheme and the multilevel marketing system; they don’t seem much different to me. In the pyramid scheme, the goal is to make “friends” (of a sort) and more importantly gain access to their trust and resources, in order to rise higher up the slope of success. All the while, of course, other people will almost always be above you, because they’ve already ascended further. You look up to them and give them trust and even resources, mainly for the reason that they are projections, avatars, of where you want to be yourself.
Right about now, images of crooked capitalists and fake-cash-turned-real-through-bluffing come to mind. But I contend this happens in other ways, too:
- Teen-sensation concerts. All questions of a performer’s talent aside, I’ve often asked myself: how many of those delighted fans are there because they truly love the performer herself, and how many are there because they see the performer as a projection of their own desires and lusts for money and fame? This seemed especially apparent to me when I saw a partial “Hannah Montana” concert song (remember that?) all about the fact that people were singing and watching the concert song. So the perpetual-motion machine has been invented.
- Athletics. Today’s column is delayed partly because of my work yesterday afternoon to finish a news feature, of a genre I rarely attempt: sports. I am not a sports guy. This is partly because, well, I’m simply not naturally bent that way, and partly because I see some sports fandom — not all — being based upon the avatar wish-fulfillment edifice. Some men enjoy sports not because they see athletes they truly enjoy and appreciate on the field or court, but because they see projections of themselves out there. Often they’ll hearken back to their own school games and slip into that alternate world where they, instead, are the stars.
Christianity. This is closely related to my original point about faith-suspicions. In my darkest hours I’ve asked what if — what if some Christians who are skilled with truth and doctrine-wrangling and such, enjoy these, and teachers skilled with these, mainly because such teachers are projections of where they’d like to be? I’ll make it more personal: do I enjoy the ministries of James White or Kevin DeYoung because they serve as personal wish-fulfillment avatars? Hey, perhaps I could be a big apologetics or theology leader, and have Fans to Learn from Me.
Reading into things
That might have been easier, applying pyramid-scheme possibilities to those issues. Now to consider Christian speculative fiction. My suspicion goes something like this:
1) Do most Christian speculative readers enjoy such stories because of their intrinsic value? …
I like this novel because it’s imaginative and enjoyable. This is an awesome tale; its themes Godly and provocative and its hero, plot, style and story-world very well done. Thank God for His talent in creating this writer, whose talent reflects Him.
2) Or do the majority of Christian speculative readers enjoy such stories mainly because of their own hopes to write stories like that themselves?
I like this novel because it reminds me of my own story, already in progress. In fact, I must admit I secretly hope I can be friends with this novelist or become associated with him/her because he/she might help me attain a similar position. Yes, I did enjoy the story, but this novelist is also my projection, my avatar, reminding me of how I see myself. More than my admiring the artistry and labor of this work’s creator, I’d rather have made it myself.
It’s very difficult for me to describe this. Of course I’m an aspiring novelist myself. Of course I’d like to get published and “network,” all for the goal of sharing my stories with others. This is not sinful. I’d even like to earn a living that way, if possible. But I almost wish I were not like this. Perhaps I could enjoy novels even more, without that stigma.
Consequently, I also wonder: do most Christian-speculative readers think this? And if so, if books have few non-writer readers only, is there any hope for this genre to grow?