According to a recent New York Times article, “College Classes Use Arts to Brace for Climate Change,” university courses have begun to shape society’s thinking, using the novel, for the exploration of climate change—not its reality because that’s a given, according to this article, but, quoting Professor Stephanie LeMenager, “about adaptations and survival strategies . . . The time isn’t to reflect on the end of the world, but on how to meet it. We want to apply our humanities skills pragmatically to this problem.”
“Apply our humanities skills”—in other words, the arts, including “the mushrooming subgenre of speculative fiction known as climate fiction, or cli-fi, novels like Odds Against Tomorrow, by Nathaniel Rich, and Solar, by Ian McEwan.”
Apparently this new class of fiction is building upon post-apocalyptic and dystopian fantasy, but is also aiming for “political consciousness-raising,” as did the “muckraker” novels of another era—novels like The Jungle by Sinclair Lewis, The Octopus by Frank Norris, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Students and teachers alike, apparently, are embracing “the role that the arts and education can play in galvanizing people around an issue.”
Are Christian writers once again being left behind? (Pun intended). Are we so focused on “the quality of art” or on evangelism that we are missing the very obvious turn story-telling has taken in western society toward “galvanizing people around an issue”?
Where are the novels that show what society embracing homosexual lifestyles will look like? Where are the novels showing what society with no restriction on abortion will become? Where are the novels (here’s a controversial topic) that show how society will change if feminism rules the day?
Are these novels that Christians should be writing? Or should we forgo the galvanizing opportunities that spill into the political realm?
Perhaps we should focus in our novels on galvanizing people to do justice—stop human trafficking, deal with the problem of illegal immigration, confront corruption in government. Or perhaps our galvanizing efforts should focus on loving kindness—protecting orphans and widows, reaching out to the poor, doing good to those who stand against those who love God. Perhaps we should use our novels to galvanize others to walk humbly with our God—to repent of self-righteousness, complacency, greed, and self-interest.
Maybe we’re writing those book and I’m just not aware of it. I admit, I hear much less these days about writing “art for art’s sake.” However, what seems to dominate the thinking of a good number of people in the Christian writing community is “writing a good story.” As if entertainment is the highest value.
We want to avoid propaganda and we don’t want to write tracts.Meanwhile, university professors are teaching students how to “galvanize people around an issue.”
I don’t think we should copy the way the world is working. I really don’t. But I can’t help but think the Bible already gives Christian writers a blueprint for our work. We have lots of issues around which we can galvanize people, if we would choose to use our writing as an extension of our lives.
The commands God gives the believer, then, would be commands writers should write about. The “good story,” then, and “the art” can and should serve as the vehicle, the conduit for galvanizing people to do what God wants us to do, perhaps starting with Micah 6:8:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?