f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: A Veritable Triad of Stuff Left Over to Discuss

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

Thursday, January 15, 2004

A Veritable Triad of Stuff Left Over to Discuss

So What Kind of Novels Do I Want You to Write?
Extrapolating what has been discussed over the past few days, the definition of emergent fiction is this: Realistic, urban, apolitical, fiction featuring flawed Christians who are deeply engaged in their faith written by a person of non-specific age who deeply believes in their art and craft.

Actually, that’s not a bloody bad definition. If I had to add or subtract anything I’d say that the story certainly doesn’t need to be take place in an urban setting and that it needs to be really well written. Truly, that’s all I’m looking for. Help a brother out.

Community and the Enormous Task of Living With One Another
The one enormous aspect of the emergent church movement that didn’t come up in my vision for a new Christian fiction is the focus on community. Since I was speaking of the fiction itself, community becomes mostly non-applicable. However, I am interested in community in the context of writers, readers, editors, and (maybe) agents. The literary community pretty much exists already and there is certainly an active CBA writing community.

I’ve become part of the discussion on emergent fiction or postmodern Christian fiction and, by doing so, have found a small but growing community of people interested in this topic. I know through the universities and things like Festival of Faith and Writing that Christian literature and poetry gets its groove on. So be it. I think there needs to be a bit of bridge-building between these separate communities. We need to tear the walls down, people! Share the love. I’ve enjoyed corresponding with all those who’ve written to me through this little venture—even the anonymous fellow who simply called me, “blazingly wrong headed.” We all have our opinions, I suppose.

Anyway, I just wanted to acknowledge the almost first-order importance of community in the emergent church movement and cast my lot in saying it could work for us, too.

Post-Modern Christian Fiction—Possible? Or an Oxymoron on the Scale of Compassionate Conserv—Ummm, Never Mind
I’ve yet to fully understand the notion of a postmodern Christian. Postmodernism, pretty much by definition,(I thought) is embedded in the notion that there are no external absolutes and that personal experience is the reliable only “truth.” Christianity on the other hand has that whole omniscient, never-changing Holy God-thing going on. It seems that once someone makes the leap to Christianity, they pretty much become post-postmodern. If someone wants to write in with an explanation, that’d be groovy.

On the other side of the fence is postmodern fiction, for which I’ve yet to see a useful definition, grouping, or attractive reason for reading any of it. The English department of the University of Western Cape (in South Africa, of all places) says this:

Postmodernism does not believe language can reveal truths about the world, but rather holds the opposite view as everything is seen in linguistic terms: all explanatory systems like history, religion, etc. can be reduced to linguistic formulas: they have persuasive powers rather than truth. This leads inter alia to postmodern trends such as reduction, randomness, multiplicity, self-conscious reflexivity, intertextuality and absence of depth.
They then make their students read, wait for it, Don DeLillo, the chap accused of pretension and uselessness by B. R. Myers last week.

I think I want to spend a little time with the notion of the postmodern Christian novel—particularly, inter alia (my new favorite Latin phrase, thank you University of West Cape), the need for a little more self-conscious reflexivity—so we’ll leave it for today and pick it up as a fine end to the week. What says Friday more than academic jargon, books about children who whisper advertising slogans in their sleep, and me trying to remember back to my undergrad days at Penn State when I wrote papers for a class called “Noise” in which I linked Paul Auster’s writings, A Tribe Called Quest’s lyrics, and DSM-IV definitions of major psychological disorders all in the name of postmodern literature.