Lauren Winner on alcohol in Christian books:
I love the way Lauren says this, distilling the distinction (so to speak). "Depicting rather than sanitizing." If art reflects life, isn’t including real depictions of ordinary American life in Christian books a worthwhile goal? Can Christian books honestly portray the tension we all feel living, working, and writing in the real world? What is the difference between depicting evil and glorifying it–and is there a right answer for everyone or is it up to the individual?
A famous former Pharisee once said all things are lawful for those covered by grace. All things. Does that give us a license to kill? Of course not. But for those who know grace, the law is no longer our measuring stick. We now consider which things are beneficial, which things build up, which things educate, enlighten, and bring deeper appreciation of God and his work.
There can be no right or wrong about truthful depictions of ordinary American life. The law does not apply. The question every grace-covered reader must ask is, does this truthful depiction benefit me and my view of the world and God? (And if it isn’t a truthful depiction, should I be reading it?) It’s no good to blame the creator for his accurate depiction of life. If we fail to grasp Paul’s distinction here, we pay artists a huge disservice.
No Christian book should portray the decision to drink as anything other than a personal value judgment. But in accurately depicting American life, non-drinkers must accept that alcohol exists in the world and is therefore within the purview of all our lives, whether we like it or not. We can’t hide from it; it will influence us anyway. And what good would hiding from alcohol do for those locked in its grip? I would argue that many of the books Winner refers to here would do little to change the law-based restrictions placed on Christian books if they didn’t depict the consequences of a predisposition to alcoholism. Casual drinking by responsible adults doesn’t accurately reflect the damage alcohol has caused to countless lives–and again, the truth is, we’re all affected. I greatly appreciated Lisa Samson’s novel, Straight Up for this reason (among others). Books like hers do a lot to educate readers while entertaining.
The familiar complaints about slipping standards in Christian publishing will continue to come in. But I’m trying to welcome them and agree with Lauren: there is hope on the horizon. We may well continue to see the standard in Christian publishing shifting from "clean" to "true."