A fantasy-style story with Christian themes or world view seems more readily accepted in mainstream circles than Christian-themed stories in other genres. This is one of the main reasons I decided to write fantasy – I wanted to take my books into the public schools, to young people who might never hear the gospel or be exposed to any kind of Christian message.
As most of you know, Narnia and LOTR are standard reading material in public schools all across the United States, probably because the faith themes aren’t overt. I have heard from students who say their teachers had no clue that Aslan is a Christ-type figure, so, even the most obvious parallel in Lewis’s stories escapes the grasp of some in the public square.
In my own writing, I wanted cling to a fantasy premise that might open doors in the schools, while daring to be more overt. I thought a contemporary setting might be more relevant to young people and deliver a more powerful faith message, but this required me to have a real God and a real Christ. The challenge was to push the faith message as far as I could without crossing a line that the public schools had drawn. The problem is that the line is difficult to know and varies from school district to school district, so I just had to guess what would work best.
So far, it seems that there are very few closed doors in the public schools for my series. They were accepted to the national Accelerated Reader list, and I have been welcomed in these schools all across the country. So far for my fall tour, I have scheduled 17 public schools and 12 Christian schools, so there’s a wonderful balance between the two.
Here in Florida, I have yet to be turned down as a visiting author simply because of the faith content of my books. I have been told by more than one teacher that the fantasy premise makes the powers-that-be more comfortable with the Christian elements.
What kind of content would cross that acceptability line in public schools, even in a fantasy story? My guess is that the number one no-no would be an overt come-to-Jesus altar call conversion. Probably frequent Bible quotes would make some administrators sweat. But these are likely issues only in a contemporary setting. Since much fantasy takes place in other worlds, we usually don’t have that problem.
How about some feedback? What else would keep a fantasy story out of public schools, whether contemporary or “other-world”? How concerned should we be about this? Have you heard stories about authors or books not being accepted in a school system because of faith?
This is my last Wednesday entry for a while. I’m going on an insanely busy book tour soon. I would appreciate it if you would consider praying for me.