1. jmsaenz says:

    While I would abstain from stating that their portrayal is mandatory, I would say that portrayal of the consequences of our sinful and fallen nature is beneficial depending on the context of the story.  Childrens’ and adults’ stories should each be discerning in these areas, given the context of the audiences that they are trying to reach.   After all, one only has to look at the Scriptures to see the results of the fallen nature and its effect on believers and unbelievers alike.  A great example is the story of David.  Scripture doesn’t sugar coat anything, and I think that in good fiction, a Christian writer should be free in this area, as long as the reader is allowed to realize that the disgusting legacy of sin is the result of the fall and its effect on everything that we do and are, and that the story has redemptive elements within it.   I think that Christians should be in the world but not of the world, and fiction that portrays realistic sin and redemption will fit into that worldview. 

    • Galadriel says:

      I think you hit the nail on the head. Showing the world through a Christian worldview does involve the fact that sin exists and it has consequences. The extent to which the sin and consequences are shown depends on the audience.

      • Thanks for the comments, Jmsaenz and Galadriel. Your thoughts remind me of something I sort of hinted at but don’t think I really said in the actual post — which is that I think the ultimate purpose behind showing the failures and sins of the characters in Christian fiction should not only lead to the concept of redemption in terms of someone believing in Christ but also in demonstratings ways in which we as Christians deal with both the sins and their consequences… Confessing them as paid for by Christ on the cross, putting them behind us and moving forward in God’s endless mercy and grace. That way a story ultimately becomes more about who He is and what He’s done, than us and our failure. At least, that would be my hope.

  2. Dave says:

    Karen, I’m glad you went this direction with the post. It brings up a lot of great points, and reinforces that we as believers in Christ aren’t instantly perfect (at least, not for the purposes of this side of eternity) once we accept Him as savior. I enjoyed Light of Eidon very much, and a large part of that was the realistic responses of the characters. That was continued throughout the series, which made the series even better.

    Great books, Karen! I can’t wait until your next one is available. 

  3. I totally agree and in fact think there is a responsibility of those who are called to write those events for a couple of reasons.
    First, God did it.  He didn’t hold back in the Bible but mentioned when people did horrible things whether sexual, evil or “dark”.  I have read incidents of murder, rape, incest and much more.  In fact, if the Bible was a book written today it would be in a very adult section.  So if God was not afraid to handle these topics neither should we be.
    Second, what if what God guides you to write happens to be the answer and path that someone dealing with that subject needs to get out.  For example, suppose there is a prostitute who doesn’t know God.  One day, she happens to get a Speculative Fiction book where the main character is a pastor who is called to street ministry.  In this mission he finds a prostitute and God tells him to marry her (just like Gomar) and she comes to Jesus.  Now if this prostitute is reading this she can relate to the character in the book if any only if the subject is handled with accuracy, not being grotesque but being respectful of the truth of the situation.  It causes this prostitute to go to church and see out God and eventually get saved.  All because she related to a character in a book that was not afraid to handle the dark topics.
    Finally, because we have it all around us.  Jesus told us that the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force (Matthew 11:12).  This was not meant to just be violence of praying on the altar at your church once a week.  It is meant that there is a spiritual warfare out there that we are supposed to be actively engaged in.  SO many Christians abdicate their responsibility to join and fight the good fight that we are losing this battle.  In fact, I was recently told by God that the devil is laughing at us and will continue to do so as long as we roll over and play dead and not engage the enemy.  Fictional tales describing how to engage and attack can only service to build up and equip the army of God.
    I am probably in a minority but I think that real life situations should be handled in fiction or else our characters will not be realistic.  We can do it tastefully but I think we need to do it.
    Love in Christ!

  4. Paul Smith says:

    Well said, Karen.  Too many Christian novels have left me unsettled in how vanilla the characters and plot were.  Deep down people identify with characters and situations that feel more like real life.  I long ago stopped thinking my witness as a Christian required me to be perfect – instead my witness is my need for God’s grace.  People can strongly identify with characters on the path to God.  Reading about someone moving toward God can be powerful if portrayed well and there are a lot of spec readers who need to see characters that both reject and receive those actions in fiction.  You are throwing seeds out that you hope are just one piece of a mosaic that God can use to draw people to Him.

    • Thanks, Paul!  You’re so right about our witness not having to be perfect. In fact,  God told Paul (the other Paul!)  that His strength comes out of our weaknesses, not His strengths.  That way everyone can see it’s God whose doing the work, not us.

  5. “A single moment under fleshly influence can turn a good man into a murderer, and a good woman into an adulteress.  I can’t imagine why we should not write of such things, if only to warn others of how easily we all can be pulled down.”
    This really resonated with me. I’ve seen this happen first-hand (both examples) and it is ridiculous for Christians to act like it doesn’t. If our stories are simply childish fantasies of how we wish reality would be, how does that help strengthen us in the midst of real trials? Real downfalls? Real tragedies?
    I am so thankful to have found this (and other) groups of Christian authors who see the disconnect and are walking a different path. It’s an amazing encouragement to realize I’m not alone!

  6. J Wilson says:

    I think the one thing we need to consider in this, lest we topple over in the other direction, is how much — how deep — do we go into the moment of temptation? I’ve revisited this question as I’ve read many blog posts about the 50 Shades books, and the following comments.

    I think the Bible offers an excellent model to follow, actually. Sex and violence are handled very differently in there. The Bible is often graphic in the display of violence — Jael’s tent peg, Samuel’s beheading and subsequent chopping up of the king of Amelek. It doesn’t seem to pull many punches in that area.

    On the other hand, we can take for example the rape of Absolam’s sister. What the Bible does show is, first, that it happened, and second the situation up until the point when he grabs her, and she begs him not to do it. Then we skip down to where he sends her away, and she leaves weeping.

    But the act is only mentioned in basic, bland words. I think this is because, as the Grey books have brought to the forefront, to go deeper can arouse the reader, which then can damage hearts. Paul warns that sexual immorality is the only sin that is internally damaging, and it’s something we must not only resist, but flee.

    God made sex a great gift — so good, that when twisted by sin, it can destroy us. So we must be very careful when handling this subject — for the sake of our readers and our own hearts.

    As the Bible shows, the consequences can be just as profound without the details — take David and Bathsheba for example. We aren’t told what happens beyond when he summons her — but we are told of the years of pain.

    A historical fiction series (The Lymond Chronicles) by an excellent, secular author, Dorothy Dunnett, I feel walks the line well between allowing her characters to fail in every way possible, and experience every subsequent consequence, but keeping a chaste distance from those moments. (The only author I know who is as harder on her characters than Karen Hancock.)

    On the other hand, my dad recently read a series about the pre and post Noah’s flood times by a pastor (Lost Worlds series.) In the middle book, my dad had to put the book down a few times because he felt that some scenes between Ham and his wife were were taking his mind in the wrong direction. It would not have hurt the story line, and frankly, made the book more interesting, if he’d found other, more subtle ways, to draw Ham into sin, than the repeated bedroom scenes.

    Anyway…. those are my thoughts on the matter.

    Thank you Karen for starting this discussion, and not being afraid to make your characters real. I love your LOTGK books, and frankly, wish there were more …. hint, hint 😉

    • Thanks, Joanna. Glad you enjoyed the books!
      You’re right about the Bible being downright gory when it comes to violence, yet not really going into detail about the sexual sins. Although at times the original languages are a bit more evocative than the English translations, still, it’s little more than “seized” rather than “took” and “raped” rather than “lay with.”
      As I consider off the top of my head, it seems to me we get few details in the Bible in part because it’s never the sexual sin/act that’s the problem so much as the other sins that prompt it or come out of it.
      In the case of David and Bathsheba, for example, the overall story had little to do with the relationship between the participants and was instead about the steps a mature believer — the man who faced down Goliath because of his faith in God — can take when he turns his back on God.
      First is the fact that David was not supposed to even be there lazing around the palace sleeping through the day, but out on the battlefield leading his army as 2 Sa 11:1 implies, and Uriah reinforces in his protest in vs 11. If David had been where he was supposed to have been none of this would have happened — in itself an important message for us.
      Second, he apparently didn’t recognize Bathsheba since he had to “inquire about” her, so he must not have known her. This wasn’t about a relationship, but an exercise of lust and an abuse of power, and came out of the sin that God called him on through Nathan in 2 Sa 12:7-10: ingratitude. Here God’s provided everything for him and he was still disatisfied, and as a result had to go out and murder one of his loyal men and take his wife, because the seven wives he already had weren’t enough. Gross. And breaking civil law as well.
      The specifics of the adultery/rape incident would have little real bearing on the story God is relating to us, so no need to put them in. 
      Which I guess supports the point I made in my original post that such specifics only go in if they serve the story — or perhaps in this case, the point of the story. 

      As to the topic of how far we as authors ought to go with the specifics of sexual encounters when the story really is about the relationship… well, I think I probably have enough to say about that to make an entire blog post. In other words, it’s complicated.  🙂
      Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your insights and the thoughts they have stimulated.

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