I’ve been back a few days now, but the Festival of Faith and Writing is still fresh in my mind. Calvin College is a magical place—or at least a place that puts out some pretty convincing trickery. And springtime in Grand Rapids is surprisingly alive. So why not get together a wonderful mix of writers for a Christian literary conference? The location, the speakers, the attendees, the gracious organizers, the entire campus of sprouting life…there’s something metaphorical about all of these like-minded wanderers gathered together and soaking in the grand design of God’s effusive beauty—some hyperbole seems necessary, for rarely have I experienced such a soul-saturated event. The idealism I so easily lose control of bounded out in my few days’ furlow. At times I sensed that I wasn’t the only one gorging on the rich mind-desserts and lyrical goodies.
Sure, for all I know this may be what every writers’ conference is like when you aren’t on faculty. The simple luxury of walking around anonymous (except to a few pesky overachievers) was certainly more satisfying than I expected it to be. But just to sit and enjoy the company of my fellow frustrated friends and courageous artists, I felt emboldened to chat with students, professors, and random people on the sidewalks about their perspectives on this writing thing, and what they felt their faith brought to the role, and how incredible it was that the faith part of writing need not be a foregone conclusion. I found myself smiling a lot at nothing in particular.
Luckily, an fellow CBA-editor friend spotted my Howdy Doody grin and pulled a recent issue of CBA Marketplace out of her handbag and whacked me. I started and stared at her. “Thanks,” I said. “I needed that.” I felt my cynical haze descending around me like a comfortable straight-jacket. Close call. Meanwhile, out of the corner of my eye I saw Ted Dekker poking out yet another miscreant’s eyes for threatening the dignity of commercial sell-outs who actually sell.
“Good Lord,” my friend was still gaping at me. “Is that drool?”
I blinked and wiped my chin. “Um, no. I was just wondering if there’s such a thing as Christian writing that isn’t as concerned with how Christian it is as much as it’s concerned with being high-quality art.”
She looked at me dubiously. “What would make it Christian then?”
Was she joking? I couldn’t be sure. “It’s written by a Christian. Isn’t that enough?”
She put her hands on her hips. “You went to a poetry reading, didn’t you?” She leaned toward me and sniffed as though checking for alcohol. “Alright. No more Michael Card for you. I’m cutting you off.”
“Aw, Ma. I was just having a little fun. Is that so wrong?”
“Yes. You’re here to meet authors who might actually sell.”
Funny. I thought this was about personal enrichment. Networking, creating a presence, raising my image.
“So people who sell don’t go to Card’s classes?”
She looked at me like I had just announced I married my cousin for her road-kill stew. “Uh, no.”
Oh. Well. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I think there’s room in CBA for more books that trust God to use them to his glory regardless of the Christian language or concepts used. There’s nothing wrong with having the four spiritual laws in your book; it’s just not necessary in every book, right? Besides, if you want the truth of it, there are better ways to evangelize than by trying to write books. So I’m beating this dead horse a little more tonight because this Festival of Faith and Writing got me revved up all over again. The fact is there ARE many hopeful writers writing for the sake of writing rather than for publishing their spiritual agenda. It’s an inspiring thing to see. And God will use them whether or not CBA buyers ever accept them or not. These people write because that’s what they do. And publishing is the afterthought, as well it should be.
So anyway, despite the detractors, I think maybe this was a nice example of the old outshining the new that I was looking for in my last post. Many of us on this bandwagon about “a new day in CBA” have pointed to the early Christian heritage of literature, hoping the time is coming when we might reclaim a shred of that in our aging, consumer-driven market. Festival at Calvin is one place that old dream is beginning to shine through, like a line of drool on a slack-jawed chin of a hopeful CBA editor.
Come on back next week and see where the old practices will take us next… Until then. Semper Fi, friends. Semper Fi.