f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Themes: Day 2

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

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Themes: Day 2

Thanks all for chiming in. Keep it up.

Just for the record, lest anyone claim I put myself about this fray, my two books have themes that can easily fit into the “overused” portion of our discussion.

My first book dealt with a new Christian struggling to understand the concept of being a “new creation” when the sins of his past were still out there for the world to see.

The second book, one of those dreaded conversion stories, looked at the question of what we put our faith in and whether that can stand the test of time.

I think there’s some other themes the books address that do break some new ground, but there’s familiar turf being trod as well. Anyway, just want that out there lest I be accused of the whole speck/log thing.

What I’m wondering is whether writing a “Christian” book doesn’t just lead us down these paths. I mean, the great problem of all time is always going to be our reconciliation to a perfect God. If we don’t address that at some level it seems we’re not doing our job as Christian writers. Maybe it’s just all coming out of the reformed, evangelical theology that dominates a lot of CBA fiction. There’s certain tropes that are sounded that are bound to be quite different from orthodox, Catholic, and even some charismatic traditions. Would it be a stretch to say that, within some set parameters, we’re simply not the most diverse group of people in the world so perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that the books come out thematically similar?

Where do we go from here?

I think this is where we need to begin doing some reading outside of fiction. This is where we need to begin reading philosophy and theology, core texts that deal with the “big issues.” And we need to see what resonates with us.

Look at Asher Lev. One part of his apprenticeship as an artist is to read The Art Spirit by Robert Henri. In the newest Image journal (which we’ll talk about later this week), Greg Wolfe talks about the impact Art and Scholasticism by Jacques Maritain had on Dorothy Day, Walker Percy, Thomas Merton, and Flannery O’Connor. What “big ideas” are we challenged by? Are we reading Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard, or Albert Borgmann or even responding to something like Edward Wilson’s Consilience or something like the book I mentioned yesterday, Bowling Alone.

I saw this a lot at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. When I asked writers to boil the take home value of their book down to a sentence (even that notion is up for debate, by the way), nobody had much new to say. That’s not to say those books can’t be written and can’t be impressive, but you’re simply fighting the crowd.