Dangerous business, this question of art in Christian books, isn’t it?
I’m a bit random tonight after reading many of these comments, so stick with me here. Sheri’s reading Pat the Bunny to Charlotte while I write this. I’m struck by the obvious value of the book to our 7-month-old. To her, this is a “quality” book. And from her perspective, in this context, I can see that it is–a “children’s classic,” in fact. It’s even stretching her, which makes it easier for me to value personally. She isn’t switching her brain off to engage with it. And although she’d probably think it was even higher quality if it was good to chew, I’m not going to give in and let her.
So what if people want to check out, use drugs, drop out, drink battery acid? Shouldn’t we let them? Should we make up vats of it in our basements and sell it? I mean, it’s obvious that’s what people want.
I’m not implying Left Behind is battery acid. I merely want us to consider this.
How do we define quality? Maybe a better question is, do we define quality? We may judge according to different standards, different ideas of what constitutes a book’s value. But there must be an absolute standard in each of those areas. So what is our standard? Other books? Other markets? Our enjoyment?
This is hard. Art is hard to define.
Does every book have to be art? Probably not. But God does want us performing to the best of our abilities, and for some reason, people really get riled up when I suggest Jerry isn’t, even though he admits it. The problem is, among other things, we have different criteria for evaluating Christian books. I want to look at the “book” part, others look at the “Christian” part. I want the Christian part to be inherent in the book part. Is that being prejudiced? Shouldn’t we all just relax and let people read the books they want to? Why are we being so mean?
I’ve been asked what I have against “dumb” people.
So it hit me today as I drove home, we need to keep on, pushing on with this struggle to make room for the innovative stuff. Yes, high-selling books like Left Behind help to do that. And certainly, books like that have allowed for some great books in CBA to take on the work of real change to the landscape, challenging readers to look at the higher shelves. The Left Behind series isn’t the great evil we might think. In fact, if you tune out your judgment, there’s plenty to enjoy there.
But there’s my challenge. The tuning out part is difficult because I wish we could all be discerning readers. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use books to escape. We all need escape; thank God for the escape of grace. And there’s a correlation to Jerry’s “cookies-on-the-bottom-shelf” ideology and God’s coming down to our level. I do see that. Yet still, grace remains difficult. God made it available; he didn’t make it easy.
I think there’s value in asking these questions. It’s not just to be negative or judge people and their books. It isn’t to be elitist or even suggest there’s a problem of mediocrity in CBA we need to fix. I want all kinds of books for all kinds of people. I just want to give equal time to books that point higher, maybe even books on the bottom shelf that challenge people to look up, reach higher. Left Behind does that for many people, maybe not everyone, but that’s no crime, is it?
Ultimately, it’s the writer who will have to answer for how he uses his talents. That should be something we all agree on.