If you’re a Christian who loves fantastical stories, including by Christians, and want more of them, and take time saying this on the web, chances are you’ve recently felt disillusioned.
This discouragement may be because advocates offer flawed (and even reactionary and sentimental) reasons to support, rather than naturally enjoy, fantastical stories by Christian artists. It may also be because authors and publishers were originally gung-ho about blogs and e-reading and self-publishing, but reality has weakened some of those promises.
But for Christians who believe the Bible and want to show their love for Jesus by obeying and following him, there may be a third crucial, deeper, even hiding-in-plain-sight spiritual reason why the fantastical stories we love are not finding wider audiences.
3. We’ve been focusing too much on individual fans/authors and individual readers.
In all our internet advocacy, blogs, comments, emails, fandom circles, social network pages, and writing groups, do we talk too much about authors and readers as single individuals?
Individuals who merely have a preference for this one thing, rather than individuals who are part of, say, a single entity on earth that Jesus Christ himself founded in order to call people to repent of their sin, receive his salvation and join a Cause to promote his worship?
I could provide examples. But I am not picking on any one person. As Mike Duran suggests:
[L]iterary agent Amanda Luedeke recently said, “I honestly feel we have more people writing Christian spec fic than we have people reading it.”
This is the huge fundamental hurdle Christian spec groups and authors must admit and overcome. If we are going to broaden the reach of Christian spec-fic we simply have to learn how to stop talking to ourselves. Face it, the majority of us have the same circle of friends. We interpret vigorous chatter within our circle as evidence of growth or advance. It’s not. It’s an echo chamber. Not saying that is totally wrong. There’s many great writers and enthusiastic readers in our circles. What I’m saying is that they all exist within a relatively small pool. Until we are willing and able to connect with readers outside our “safe” circles, the number of Christian spec-fic titles will remain paltry.
We emphasize what individuals want, and what “the world” needs (or supposedly needs). But we have left out one excruciatingly crucial step — that is, crucial if you are a biblical Christian who want to love and obey Jesus Christ and share his Gospel in ways he favors:
We cannot take great, God-exalting beauties and truths (including stories) straight from individual Christians to the world by skipping over his organized Church.
I am guilty of this oversight. Even here on SpecFaith I often write of individuals’ worship, individuals’ joys, individuals’ this and that. Yes, in the back of my mind I know the fact that individual Christians are part of the body of Christ, not only the invisible collective global Church but local organized groups of believers. And I have mentioned this on SpecFaith.
But not nearly enough.
I think it’s time to get serious about this. To grow up. To go beyond the blogs. To go beyond even our own individual wants to get more awesome and more fantastical stories out there.
Christian fantastical fans need the Church
It’s time to start asking the capital-C Church of Christ’s people how we can best help them.
This must start by asking, directly, in person, what people in your own lowercase-C local church1 need — that is, what they need from you as a fantastical fan or as an author.
Notice I didn’t say “want.” I said “need.”
Because this will involve efforts that may feel a lot like “pragmatism” or even like “selling out” or even like compromise with those conservatives who don’t Get It. You and your fandom or author friends may love that one fantastically geeky story (by a Christian or otherwise). I definitely join you on that. But what about those “regular people,” the non-geeks and non-fans, at your local church? What do they need for themselves? Their children?
Yes, our local church brothers and sisters need practical stuff that God has commanded, such as training in Gospel-based sin-fighting and biblical-truth-learning so we can start worshiping our Savior forever.2
But they also need great stories, including fantastical stories. They need to understand how God’s people must enjoy yet also discern the world of popular culture in which they can’t help but live. And they need to understand that — for reasons we can discuss or elaborate — God’s people are called to fight sin and fight for joy in Christ alone not only in “family friendly” ways. We’re also called to be church-friendly. And we’re called to be world-friendly, not in the way James 4:4 condemns but in the ways Jesus Christ calls us to shine his light.
Challenges and objections instantly arise, first in my own head as I write, and next in yours. Next week I hope to address some of those, yet return specific challenges to ourselves.
For now, what do you think? Have Christian fantastical fans been ignoring the Church?