When writing Christian fiction, the temptation is always there to soften the Gospel message. Years ago, during a period when I was getting rejection slip after rejection slip for my first book, one agent told me she thought she could sell it if I took all the religious stuff out of it. I have to admit, I thought about it for a second. But then I said, “Get thee behind me, Satan” and continued the search for an agent.
Heaven knows it would be easier to write secular fiction. Christian readers wouldn’t complain the books weren’t Christian enough. One reviewer griped that I used the word ‘sexy’ in Time and Again (while saying nothing at all about the strong message of abstinence and other Christian principals in the story.) Another person dismissed the whole series as “occult” because of the time travel, even though the main point of it is to remind readers of God’s omnipotence, sovereignty, and love. And if I left the Christianity out of my fiction I also wouldn’t get those complaints from the secular community, who say things like, “great story but too much God talk.”
At one point when writing Once Again, the first book in the Rewinding Time Series that follows my original trilogy, I decided I would tone down the Christian themes. I wasn’t caving to pressure, I told myself. I just wanted to make the books more accessible to the secular reader. After all, what’s the point of writing a Gospel-themed book if the intended readers won’t read it?
I guess he forgot what Matthew five says about turning the other cheek,” Brett said dryly. “Although I’m not sure I’d be able to forgive them if they scalped my brother. If I had one.”
“You know the Bible?”
“If you’re surprised by that, then I must be doing something wrong,” Brett said, frowning.
And I had no idea Brett even was going to be a Christian. My character’s words actually made me rethink what I was doing. He inspired me to completely reverse my position, and I decided I should “go big or go home.” And that’s why the Rewinding Time Series has a stronger, not weaker, Gospel message than the original trilogy.
In Only One Way Home, Matthias Frailey tells White Dove in no uncertain terms that Jesus is the only way to Heaven.
With his tattoos and Harley motorcycle, Trevor Dalton in How Sweet the Sound is not like the Christians who go to my church, and yet he, too, has a powerful witness, only his is more by his loving actions than the words he says. Here he explains to Merrideth:
“CMA [Christian Motorcyclists Association] sets up other stations around town, including one right inside the Hellhounds’ campground. I’m scheduled to relieve one of the guys at two o’clock.”
“I’m betting that gig’s not for the faint of heart. What’s it like in there?”
“Complete depravity, so don’t go near them.”
“No danger of that.”
“Good. Drugs are everywhere and booze. Nudity. People going at it with strangers in plain view. Last year a guy died of a heroin overdose, and no one noticed for over eight hours. They were busy punishing some guy who had hacked them off. Everyone went completely feral and destroyed his Grand Am. Total lawlessness. The cops don’t even go in there. Well, except when someone finally got around to reporting the dead guy.”
“So, why do you go in there?”
“Someone’s got to bring them the Gospel,” he said simply and took another bite of salad.
How Sweet the Sound just came out so it’s too early to tell what readers think. But I can imagine the complaints it will get. Some Christians will grouse: “I can’t believe you talk about drugs, alcohol, and sex in your Christian book.” Or “How can you condone tattoos? Don’t you know the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?”
And from some secular readers I may hear something like: “It’s an interesting story, and I really got into to it, but then you had to go and ruin it with all the Bible stuff.” And “I can’t believe you actually believe God would send people to Hell.”
Sorry, I won’t apologize for what my characters say and do. (Was that a contradiction?) But, hey, at least they don’t speak in Christianese or gush Bible verses to a degree that no actual person does ever. My characters are a lot like me, actually. They face temptation and problems, they don’t always think to pray first, and they struggle to understand God’s will. But in the end, they do the right thing. They inspire me and I hope they will you, too.
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