f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: <em>God: Stories</eM>--Mary Ward Brown and the Problem of Bad Christians

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Friday, December 26, 2003

God: Stories--Mary Ward Brown and the Problem of Bad Christians

Mary Ward Brown's story in this collection was first published by Atlantic Monthly and thus was one that the editor knew well. She is one of the lesser known authors in the book, but that's not really here nor there in discussing her story.

"A New Life" is essentially the story of a young widow who becomes the focus of a group of Christians hoping to provide the answers to the grief she is, according to those who know her, unable to overcome. The story is set in the Bible belt where people talk about God like they talk about the weather, but even in this context these particular Christians are aggressive.

This, to me, is a fine example of the kind of story writing that can emerge from questions of faith and how we must try to live ours out in the midst of so many other lives. Brown's widow is a tangled mess of frozen grief and she shows just how patronizing, cruel, unmerciful, and aggressive Christians can sound when mouthing off about the will of God to someone who has just suffered loss. Brown isn't ignoring the will of God, but merely commenting on the appropriateness of EVER going down that path to those in grief. The words spoken are so trite and so useless, you just want to slap these people.

We paint the Pharisees very well in CBA Fiction. It's easy to create villains who obviously are using the pulpit as power or have learned to cower behind some ridiculous interpretation of the Bible. What Brown shows is that sometimes the bad guy is the one who, in trying to reveal Christ, simply drives a person further away. And that's not really about being a villain. That's about being a human making bad choices without consideration of God's call to mercy and kindness.

Christians can be the bad guys without being the villains. We can sin even after accepting the cleansing grace of Jesus. That sin, whether intentional or not, can hurt others. We are not perfect and we need to stop pretending so. Mary Ward Brown shows us Christians in black hats...and I don't think it's the end of the world.

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Hope all your Chrismases were well. I have no idea what next week will bring, probably just more stories. I know the first week of January will start with a look at the emergent church movement and the parallels I see with the need to move beyond CBA Fiction.