f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: The “Other” in Christian Fiction

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

Monday, June 27, 2005

The “Other” in Christian Fiction

There was a novel I read recently that attempted to vilify a character by insinuating that he was…

We can end that sentence in such a variety of ways. The character could be…

  • gay
  • pro-choice
  • pro-stem cell research
  • a member of the ACLU
  • Al Qaeda
  • new-agey
  • a liberal Episcopalian
  • a Clinton supporter
  • a Rodham-Clinton supporter
  • Michael Moore
  • that pink Teletubby
There’s a boat-load more things we could come up with that would instantly be recognized by the industry as casting instant bad feelings on a character. My point here today certainly isn’t to argue whether these things are actually good or bad. Instead, I want to linger over the wisdom of, as a subculture, whole-cloth acceptance of these generalized definitions of “other-ness.”

Let’s take Al Qaeda as an extreme example. It would be absurd at this point—unless one wanted to get the attention of homeland security—to write a heroic portrait of a member of Al Qaeda. They are evil villains, pure and simple, right? And that’s how we should show them in fiction.

This shouldn’t trouble you then.

Villains exist in books. There’s no getting around that. The trouble is when we begin to conflate the villains in books for villains in real life. Or fail to see any reason other than treating them in that way. "They are and nothing more than ."

If you’re willing and able to make the leap from Democrat to villain…I’m not sure I want to finish that sentence.

This week we’re going to spend some time looking at “others” in relation to Christian fiction. This was fueled a bit by David Dark’s Gospel According to America. He dealt with the issues a lot more eloquently than I will. The line between our writing and real life are going to blur…because they need to. We can’t fill a book with stereotypes and then feign ignorance, hold up our hands, and claim no responsibility for its implicit message. Likewise we can’t only hold up a mirror to our small bit of culture and pretend we’ve captured a vision for the entire world.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the power of trying on another man’s shoes.