As part of my ongoing efforts to become a “published”(read: famous) author I have been growing my Twitter audience. Nothing revolutionary about that. Recently, though, I had a person add me to a list on Twitter called “Christian Authors”. And then I was a big old jerk about it and said said the following:
So this led me to this current post. How do I differentiate myself as an author, but not a quote-unquote “Christian Author”.
First, let me say that I have nothing against Christian authors. I would consider a guy like Jared Wilson, who I count as a social media “friend”, a great Christian author. He writes authentically, from his heart and from his faith and where he writes is in primarily Christian non-fiction. I have read much of his work and love it. I consider him a far better writer than, say, Frank Peretti both theologically speaking and just on a qualitative level. But Jared, as much as I even admire him, can be classified as a Christian author. I have written one non-fiction Christian book. It’s a short work. It relies heavily on story. It was almost a fluke of my writing about five years ago.
On the other hand, I have recently completed my seventh non-Christian fictional novel. (And it’s ridiculous sci-fi at that.) Seven. So the vast majority of my work would not be welcome or accepted in Lifeway Christian stores. It just wouldn’t be. But this presents a problem. I’m a pastor. I’m a pretty messed up, horrible Christian but I think that there’s realistically no other kind. I believe Jesus Christ is the only hope for our totally screwed up world. I believe, in fact, that He is the only route to God Himself and was and is fully man and fully God and is one member of the trinity. I believe His sacrifice of Himself gave me right standing before God and leads me farther and farther from sin.
I also write books with the word fuck in them. I write books with fantastical otherworldly elements like magic, zombies, vampires, werewolves, etc. (One even had a were-sheep. I am not sure that’s even a thing.)
So how do I hold these two things in balance? And why am I not a Christian author?
Well, for one, I don’t think they have to be held in perfect balance or in juxtaposition. I am a Christian long before and long after I’m an author. But I also believe I have been given a gift of storytelling. Sometimes my characters are Christians. Sometimes they aren’t. But being true to what I believe God has called me to has been to tell stories that reflect the world as I see it. I could go in and rewrite all my books to use “fudge”, “shoot”, “darn” and “witch” but doing so wouldn’t be true to the stories themselves. It wouldn’t be true or honest and, in many cases, would defeat the story for the purpose of selling it to Christians who don’t read Stephen King or Dean Koontz or Robert Jordan or George R.R. Martin or anything like that. And that would be lying, in a sense.
See, let’s imagine you walked into my offices at my other, other job. You introduced yourself to me as Michael Scott, Regional Manager for Dunder Mifflin Paper. How much of an idiot and jerk would I be to say, “Well are you a Christian Regional Manager?” I can be a jerk, just ask the people I pastor, but I hope I’m not that big of one. But I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked, “Are you a Christian author?” I’m not a Christian author or a Christian IT Manager or a Christian Chef or a Christian husband. I’m a bit of an author, a bit of a chef and a bit of a husband and father. And my faith informs all of those aspects of my life. All of them.
Even when I have a character that is wildly sinful, my view of them is filtered through that faith. But my faith doesn’t determine my vocation, only how faithfully I perform it. I write non-Christian fiction with fantastical elements and adult themes and I do it all to the glory of God.