f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Common Ground

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

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Common Ground

In the end, we could spend all day, all year, all our life arguing over the points brought up the last two days. I will not convince you that an Episcopalian priest can be presented as a man of faith and you will not convince me that the presence of a “damn” or “hell” makes a book “unchristian.”

So we have to decide whether the arguments are even worth having anymore. Why are writers of such different persuasions even placing themselves in the context where these things comes up.

And here we come to our shared common ground. These are the things I think all of us, whether we’re writing Steeple Hill romances or trying to win the Paraclete contest, treasure. These are the areas we’re passionate about…and why there’s such a territory battle when others make claim for the same turf. (And, yes, I’m a sentence away from a Bloods/Crips reference.)

1. Jesus – His life, death, and resurrection; His humanity and place among the Godhead; His words and deeds; His meekness and power. Why are we doing this if not for him?

2. Faith – Our bumbling attempts to make sense of life in the shadow of the cross. That thirsty urge to share what little we know of it. Perhaps writers are weaker than others, that we find incomplete satisfaction a with a God who knows us fully, that we need also to be understood by man.

3. Story – Words. And the smell of old books. The conversation of characters inside your head. I don’t think it’s possible to get into this business with a heart dead to all that. There’s just easier—and more reliable—ways to make a buck. Now, once we’re here it can lose the mystique and the pleasure. But I hope some small part of us enjoys the weight of a book in our hand, particularly if it’s one of ours. A new book about to find readers.

That, in language far poofier than I normally use, is the ground we share. I think that’s it. But what I’m hoping that we don’t look at this list and say, “It’s only three things!” Those three things are vast and complex enough to contain Whitmanesque multitudes. Both Anne Lammott and Jerry Jenkins. Me and Flannery O’Connor. You who go to Art and Soul and her that goes to ACFW.

Which brings me to my final place of common ground.

4. The People – I’m not just a disembodied voice orating from the internet. Ask the folks I met down in Houston. I exist. Too often we take advantage of the digital space between us, allowing it to separate us from those with whom we disagree. I’m at fault for this as much as anybody. When that space disappears though and you meet people face-to-face, you realize we’re a lot more alike than different. And that there are tons of great people with whom you vehemently disagree about some issues. That will not change. That has to be okay. It’s not allowing the space, the separation, to matter that’s important. It’s remembering the people on the other end that’s crucial. Because paper burns at 451 degrees and we’re really all that makes a lick of difference in the world.

End of goopy sermon. I’ll try to make a joke or two tomorrow.