This post is, yes, for writers and for those writers who wrestle with what it means to be a Christian and a writer. How does one faithfully live the writing life while wearing the adjective “Christian?” Allow me a moment to explain the difficulties that accompany the use of adjectives in association with the arts.
No one, not even a Christian, asks for a “Christian” surgeon to help when the heart fails, a good surgeon is all that is desired. When we encounter a beautiful garden, we make no assumptions about the gardener’s religion, we simply acknowledge that he is a master gardener. The same can be said of plumbers, metal fabricators, cobblers, and car designers. Each of these vocations demands a certain amount of creativity, like the artist, but we simply demand that our plumber be honest and good at his job. The same should be asked of writers. A Christian writer, like all writers, should be honest and good at your job.
Many Christian writers are under the false impression that being a Christian changes the fundamental nature of their writing, forgetting that good writing is good writing. The consequence is an inversion of the artist’s process; instead of starting with good artistry, they start with a message. While it is unfair to say that all Christian music, movies, or books are neatly packaged sermons, it is true that any shallow insightfulness into the human heart or insipid understanding of grace and love have rendered many creative efforts by Christians rather colorless.
Certainly, the Christian writer’s work should support all faithful preachers and essayists who fight against the onslaught of chaos and meaninglessness, but never forget that, for a writer, story is king and craftsmanship, queen. Truth surely matters, but the effective Christian writer allows the truth to recline in the mind, easy and light, so that his subconscious–informed by a deep, orthodox Christianity–can speak without being forced. His writing is not first and foremost a message to get people to think or respond according to his agenda or desires.
Art ceases to be art and becomes mere propaganda when it becomes a vehicle for ideology, either overt or covert. It will undoubtedly carry meaning, will always smuggle an idea inside, but the artist must not set out to that end, otherwise he loses the artist in himself and becomes an advertiser. His greatness will not be measured by how well he championed this or that cause, but by how much he deepened our knowledge of man and awakened us to the swirling currents caused by God’s activity colliding with the passions and vices of people. The Christian writer explores the divine within the concrete, an exploration of the world’s wandering from God, and a sounding of the human soul.
This great calling is a worthy one, however difficult, and its weight is great enough to demand patience from those of us who are learning to carry it. Be patient. Keep writing. “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to those who endure” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).
[painting by Albert Anker)