Tag Archives: Christian

8 Steps to Revive Christian Fiction

Christian fiction has been pronounced dead in some circle, and E. Stephen Burnett is running with that idea. If it really is dead, how can it be reborn? He offers eight steps.

  1. Figure out what fiction is even meant to do, starting with Scripture.
  2. Find fans who have similar biblical conviction and imagination.
  3. Stride forth with winsomeness, a confident voice, and ‘swashbuckling.’
  4. Encourage bravery about certain words and topics.
  5. However, do nothing for outrage’s own sake—that is the dark side.
  6. Budget each month to buy great Christian novels you’ve heard about.
  7. Don’t ‘ban’ any genres: romance, fantasy, mystery, literary, popular.
  8. This is ‘Christian fiction,’ so let’s see more than generic Christianity.

I like this last one. Let’s write stories with true-to-life people in them, people who attend close-to-actual churches with real theological traditions. I’d be willing to believe many novels depict vaguely Christian characters because their authors have vaguely non-denominational beliefs. But I don’t know what a survey of Christian authors would produce. Perhaps their theological depth is no deeper than that of the reading public.

Suicide by Praise Song

Many Khmers resisted, to the degree they were able, by shutting down. Do your job; don’t complain; keep your head down; and most important, trust no one. Over time, people’s souls shriveled. In one sense, even the Khmer Rouge themselves were dying on their feet. They were soldiers of socialism for whom murder was not a crime but the prelude to a new society.

Surrounding Radha as he lay on the termite hill were endless stretches of shallow water broken up by dikes and stands of trees. He saw no way out. Lord, he prayed, I really want my rest. Take me home. He waited, and the rain kept falling. If you aren’t going to take me home, I’m going to help you.

So he began to sing in English. With water dripping off the bushes around him, he lifted up his voice and sang, perhaps not as loudly as he could but quite clearly, about how this world was not his home. “I’m just a-passing through / My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” It’s a bouncy, country gospel tune called “This World Is Not My Home” that he had learned at Maranatha Church in Phnom Penh. He learned it soon after he became a Christian in 1973. He hummed it to himself in the fields while plodding behind the water buffalo, along with “Call for the Reapers” and “Bringing in the Sheaves.” “Power in the Blood” was one of his favorites.

World Magazine shares the opening of the remarkable story of how a Cambodian Christian survived an evil communist regime.

Fine Storytelling in Stoddard’s Evenmere

David Randall gives James Stoddard’s  Evenmere trilogy high praise, saying he ought to be famous for them by now. “Stoddard . . . makes a nifty apologia for the fantasy genre, as a necessary mediation that allows us to perceive the divine story through the protective articulation of another level of story.”

Stoddard’s books are good, simply as well-written fantasy. But their theological dimension lends them real depth. The High House is a representation of the universe, its architecture the Divine Architecture. Some parts of the allegory are straightforward: For example, the long, empty corridors between inhabited parts of Evenmere echo the distances of the stars. More subtle is the way meaning emerges from the fabric of Evenmere, in glimpses of the divine amid the prosaic:

The bare corridor continued only a brief time before ending at the base of a wide stair, which ascended to a gallery leading to the left, its end lost in the darkness. The steps were gray marble, and monks were carved upon the balusters, their mouths wide as if in song, their faces all turned toward the top of the stair. (High House)

Yearning for Wonder, “Something, Anything”

If you’re looking for a good Christian movie that would work well as a discussion starter for a thoughtful group, look up Paul Harill’s Something, Anything (which is available on Netflix streaming).

While the trailer gives you the tone of this film, it doesn’t spell out the story. Peggy, the woman whom you see agreeing to be married, hits a wall when her first child is miscarried. The grief overwhelms her, causing her to question herself and her lifestyle. In the trailer, you see one of her friends asking her what she wants. In the movie, that friend recommends she try to have another child and recognize her role as a wife. Life, she says, is about pleasing a husband, raising children, and supporting them so that they can repeat the cycle of marriage and child-rearing. Peggy used to accept that, but now it all rings hollow, and she doesn’t know what to believe.

So we watch a normal, East Tennessee woman leave one life for another, exchanging a self-centered materialistic life for one that may have moments of wonder, like synchronous fireflies in the Smoky Mountains.

One wordless scene appears to capture the entire story of “Something, Anything.” Peggy and her husband, Mark, are preparing to move, and he finds the journal she has been pouring her heart into throughout her spiritual journey. Mark picked it up and began to read a page, when Peggy saw what he was doing. She stands in the doorway, silently open to talking to him about what he read, but he just puts it down and walks out. The two of them were living in completely different worlds at that point, and Mark wasn’t curious enough to ask her about hers. He wanted a comfortable, worldly life; she wanted eternity.

I liked this slow, quiet film, and it will provoke discussion in an attentive group with its references to worldly comforts, Thomas Merton, monastic life, and the Sermon on the Mount.

Selling You On Marketing, Calling It Faith

Alissa Wilkinson has good words criticizing Christian movies, like the one that came out last weekend.

God’s Not Dead encourages its audience to participate in the film’s “challenge,” an equivalent to those chain letters that claimed if you didn’t forward the email to 10 people something terrible would happen to you. Many complied. “Are YOU up for the challenge?” asks the Facebook page. “Text ‘God’s Not Dead’ to 10 friends RIGHT NOW! Then leave a comment below!” The image that accompanies the challenge includes this quotation from the movie’s cheeriest Christian character, Pastor Dave: “So your acceptance of this challenge, if you decide the [sic] accept it, may be the only meaningful exposure to God & Jesus they’ll ever have.” . . .

Ultimately, what the increasingly profitable “faith film” industry machine wants to do is sell me an idea of what “taking a stand” for Jesus looks like. That involves buying a ticket, sharing a Facebook meme, going to a concert, and texting a bastardization of a late 19th-century philosophical proclamation about the bleak condition into which we humans have painted ourselves to 10 people RIGHT NOW.

Can the Gospel Be Trojan-Horsed?

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Many Christian artists want to tell the Gospel in a compelling story in order to win readers or viewers to Christ, but can the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation, be Trojan-horsed into a new audience? Is there a delivery mechanism that can slip the gospel through cultural barriers and catch those who are tired of their church experience or unfamiliar with Christianity entirely?

Watch this video from a Christian filmmaker. He urges us to believe the moment is right for exploiting technology for the sake of the gospel. We must not be a divided house, he says. We must not hold ourselves to low standards. We must rally around a good, moral film and make it an international blockbuster.

George Whitefield recently tweeted from beyond the Pearly Gates, “Self-indulgence lulls the soul into a spiritual slumber.” I think that may apply here. What do you think? (via Jeffrey Overstreet)

N.D. Wilson on Adapting ‘The Hound of Heaven’ for Film

Author N.D. Wilson has directed a short film of the Francis Thompson poem, “The Hound of Heaven.” Shadowlocked.com has part of an interview with Wilson on how everything came together.

So what’s it like adapting somebody else’s work as opposed to your own?

Well, honestly I’m far more comfortable adapting other people’s stuff than my own. And actually, in some ways, because I can be a stickler. I can be a stickler to try to stay true as I possibly can to their vision, when I’m adapting their stuff. But when I’m adapting my stuff, I don’t feel any loyalty at all to it. I feel complete and total authority to change whatever I want, whenever I want.

And so when I’m adapting C.S. Lewis or even trying to serve Francis Thompson, I felt like I could write an intro, like I could write an opening monologue for Propaganda, but I couldn’t bring myself to edit the poem. No matter how many people told me, “Well, surely you’re not going to do the whole poem”, it was like, “No, I’m gonna do the whole poem. I’m doing all of it.” Because I really wanted it to come through.

If I’m doing my own things, like I’m doing 100 Cupboards, I’m thinking, like, “Oh, wow, I can throw this part away, and do this other thing that I was going to have in the novel, and I needed to cut it for space, but now I can put it in. I can take things that ended up on the cutting room floor of my novel, and put them into the film.” And I feel completely at liberty to do that. And that’s dangerous.

Read more about the movie here.

“I fled him . . . in the mist of tears . . .

‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’”