There are certainly some interesting reasons we don’t see higher quality writing from Christian writers.
We tend to be fairly separate–exclusive in our lingo, churches, and bookstores. We say we’re meant to be set apart, and that makes us inbred. No wonder so many our of books seem to have snaggle teeth and play the banjo.
We tend to harbor the suspicion that we shouldn’t associate with “outsiders” or be taught by teachers without a Christian worldview, as though excellence were a spiritual virtue, as though truth were relative. We hold prejudices about science and learning in general, and we prefer our disciplines all relate to the spiritual aspect. We have a hard time accepting arts from those who don’t profess our beliefs.
We don’t push toward excellence with the same do-or-die dedication since deep inside we know God accepts us anyway. We are never alone in the universe with only this creation to show we existed, never alone without God to fall back on. We place too high a value on family and others over our “personal” achievements with the talents God’s bestowed and we care too little about the establishment of a great work. We are (rightly) not as irrationally driven to prove our own worth and purpose through our creations. Our higher value is love, not art.
But what are the costs of such a literalist view of this higher value? Does it make us accept less than perfection when it comes to expressing the divine force we represent? Why are Christians not achieving the greatest works of literature today? How many times do we have to hear that we have a direct line to the greatest inspiration available before it actually makes us not only more creative, but more efficient, less literally minded, and more committed to following through on our artistic impulses, in answer to all our high ideals? Isn’t worshiping through art reason enough to deny your self, your duties, your family, and your supposed responsibilities? If it isn’t, maybe you need to reevaluate your commitment.
Maybe it’s because of love that we should give ourselves more fully to the creative impulse. If we, as Christian artists, would simply learn to love through our art, we might realize our greatest task.
Dedication is the key, and yes, this commitment requires sacrifice. We all have to consider whether God would have us take time from our families to dedicate to our art. Should we choose teachers of excellence over Christian teachers of lesser pedigree? Should we pull away from more direct expressions of love like missions and church work to dedicate to more indirect practice that leaves a hole in the church’s outreach team?
These are difficult questions and ones we must answer according to our own consciences. Certainly there is no one right answer for everyone. Yes, some will choose wrong. The only appropriate answer is to prayerfully seek God’s instruction for your life in the people, personality, events, and talents he’s provided. We need diversity in our approaches to showing love. We need a spectrum of believers making different decisions with their lives. What we don’t need is more pat answers and assumptions about what God does and does not expect.
Don’t judge unless you’d like to be judged. Yet furthermore, don’t mislead unless you’d like to be misled. While I no longer say that all lightweight writing is misleading—I’ve seen people find God through it—there are many misleading things being written in CBA. And there’s no measuring how many fat Christian babies fed on this junk food have missed out on the more nutritious and glorious bounty by reading beneath them. Think of the eternal damage you will have wrought as a writer of Christian junk food. Packages of frosted dirt may contain some nutrition (“A fat-free food!”), but it doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
And lest you think I’m only talking about the theology of our books, remember you bear the original creativity of the gift-giver; his glory is now reflected in you. We who are able to invest all our talents and not simply bury them out of convenience, we must choose our more refined tools to encourage others to consider the world they’re inhabiting, and turn their minds toward the inspiration. We as God-worshipers, if we want to have an impact for the truth of the God we claim to serve, we must reveal such beauty through a full Christian vision. We must be willing to see what God wants to show us through the well-told metaphor of a story, or our children may believe it doesn’t matter. Does God care about our depth of insight, our striving toward superior creations? He does. Look around you. How can he not? Is anyone able to create anything that rivals even the smallest production of “mindless nature?”
To this God, a thousand years are like a day, and a day is like a thousand years. Does anything in your experience compare to that? Explore it, get to know that (if you like, I’ll lend you my screaming baby at 3 am), and then share it with us so that we might know him better too. I have to believe that’s worth it. That’s truly greater than anything we might otherwise write.
This isn’t a question of intelligence or preference. This is a question of being awake.
We can change the current realities one reader at a time, but we must do it together, aware of the responsibilities, the painful sacrifices, and the harsh judgment we will face at the hands of our own brothers and sisters. We must not let ourselves fall to the temptation of self-pity or equating our plight with that of Christ’s. We are but representatives, and poor ones, of the beauty we bear witness to.
Call forth the beauty from the void. Make the commitment and don’t look back. Our world can not wait.