Saturday, October 17, 2015

long is the way and hard, that out of hell leads up to light

-John Milton; Paradise Lost

So some time ago I read this post...more recently I read this one. They both talk about something I've discussed numerous times with other writer friends.  From people saying things like, "I do not believe that Christians should be reading or writing such content" (about what I'd consider somewhat minor violence) to articles like Why Christians Should Read Harry Potter (which I view as a rather click-bait-y title), this is a subject people have very strong feelings aboutI've heard multiple takes on the issue, and I'm somewhat curious where you guys fall. 

To frame my own perspective, I admit to getting a little spooked whenever I hear 
the words "All people should" or "All people shouldn't" unless there's a chapter and verse beneath it, and even then I squint my eyes to make sure there's no mis-interpreting of Scripture occurring. There are very few things that all people should do. {Beyond some very clear commands in the Bible that a lot of people seem to conveniently ignore...} When it comes to fiction, I tend to think some people should and some people shouldn't and trying to convince people to go against their conscience is horrendously wrong - but so is forbidding other people to read/watch anything you personally dislike. 

Will the book make you sin? Then don't read it. {Or write it, for that matter.} 

For some people, reading Christian Romance novels tempts them to dwell on particular aspects of romance that they should not be dwelling on in that way or in that time in their life. {For myself, reading Christian Romance novels mostly tempts me to grand annoyance at Christian authors, so I don't read them. *cough* XD} 

Some people find that reading books with swearing in them makes them want to swear. {Considering the amount of swearing I hear in a day-to-day life of working with people, I find it tiresome to then read a book filled with it during my off-time too. I'd rather expand my vocabulary, not read more of what I hear. And I enjoy seeing people creatively work around swearing without giving up realism.} 

As for violence...this is even more variable. Yes, desensitization is a dangerous thing, and no, children should not be exposed to it while they are growing up. But I {and many people involved in similar and dissimilar lines of work} actually need to be desensitized. Gagging/collapsing/freaking out because a patient smells bad or they have maggots in a wound or they are bleeding everywhere or bones are sticking out just isn't a good thing. And my own writing reflects the fact that I spent a lot of time dissecting a dead body, and far more time learning about the horrendous things people do to themselves and to others, so that I can know how to fix them. To hear people say no Christian should read or write such things makes me wonder what world they are living in. It is through reading and writing fiction that I work through the things that come up in real life every day, and if I am not allowed to use that outlet, what exactly am I and everyone else who faces these things supposed to do? Pretend our lives don't actually approach the darkness? Yes, Philippians 4:8 is important. So important - we desperately need those things! But does that mean that we should ignore child abuse, because it is the antithesis of Philippians 4:8? Jesus talked an awful lot about wailing and gnashing of teeth for that to be the meaning of that verse...

What I'm trying to get at is that these things are different person to person. Some things can cause one person to sin and not another. Of course there are other things...for example, I haven't watched Game of Thrones - but I've heard it described as porn, and um...yes. That would probably come under the clear commands of Scripture, despite the numerous Christian defenses I've heard of the show. {Whether or not you can watch it without lusting after someone has nothing to do with the fact that people onscreen are committing sin for money.} But for so much else...have you read the BIBLE lately? It is a book filled with romance and violence and quite a few words I don't use unless I'm quoting. 

And this is what struck me last time I thought through why I write books with darkness in them, and how I sort through how much is too much:

and they shall look unto the earth: and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish: and they shall be driven to darkness

The horror of that…but Oh, how I adore what comes next…

the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined

Interesting how we always seem to start with the second verse…but doesn’t the first make the second all that more amazing? There is so much incredible awesome power behind all this…and so many Christians writers just brush over the Epic beneath…Sometimes it’s frightening, going into that darkness with a story - it’s not safe. It’s scary.

I see authors like Regina Doman wrestling with darker books for decades before publishing them, because they know it’s not safe…and yet oh, the gloriousness of that light when it overcomes the darkness! The horror of the trouble and anguish, the loss in that driving into darkness…evil is terrifying. But then the light shines.

for every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire

The blood and the burning and the chaos of war…

for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…The Prince of Peace

Both those verses start with the same word…and oh, you lose so much when you skip that first For! How much more powerful is that Child’s Name as Prince of Peace, when you look up from the battle, worn and weary and bleeding and sick to death of the torment you endure, and there He is, glory and beauty and Peace at a price too great too imagine! Your salvation is at hand. And how much more does that mean when you know your desperate need for it?

Not everyone can read darkness. Just as not everyone can continue in particular lines of work. {The burn-out time for health care workers in hospice care is five years. People can only handle so much grief.} But I get the sense that so many Christians want to jump straight to the second portion of both those verses above. {How many times have you heard for every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood read aloud at Christmas?} But Paradise was lost, and the way before us is long and hard until we return. Some of us must confront that darkness, must know how to wrestle with it, how to fight it, how to bring the light to it. 

I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light. ~John Keith Falconer

The darkness is here. To read/write it or not does not change that fact. We each have one candle, and some are to burn theirs to ensure that a land stays flooded with light, while others are to enter the darkness and bring whatever light they can to it.


Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness. Anne Frank 

It requires carefulness and prayer, and if you do read or write darkness, I hope it is to define and to defy it with light. To lead up to light in whatever you do. To point to the Prince of Peace, the true Light, that all men might believe.

5 thoughts shared:

Christine Smith said...

THANK YOU for this post! I can't give a big enough YES to the whole thing. I actually wrote a similar post a few months ago, because I really think it's an important issue.

It really makes me sad when Christians think we should only ever read and write very light, fluffy fiction. Stories impact lives, and when I read a fluffy book it doesn't do anything for me. It's when I read about the hard things that my perspective changes, makes me more equipped to face the hardships of life, gives me a better understanding. As writers, especially Christian ones, I think we absolutely should tackle the dark issues.

But, as you said, it all depends on the person. Some people can't handle dark fiction very well, and that's okay. We need all kinds of stories. I don't think there's just one type of story we all have to write. But yeah, there's certainly some we SHOULDN'T. Such as Game of Thrones. But tackling darker subjects with Biblical principles, that's a GOOD thing.

Anyway! Your points are exactly why I think darker subjects can be a good thing. What powerful versus you brought out! As Mirri said, you can appreciate the stars so much better in the night. And your beautiful words: "We each have one candle, and some are to burn theirs to ensure that a land stays flooded with light, while others are to enter the darkness and bring whatever light they can to it." YES. Just yes.

There is darkness, and we can't ignore it. But we CAN show God's light in the midst of it. After all, that's why we're here.

And if you can't tell by my monstrous comment, I'm very passionate about this subject. You put it all so well, so thank you again for writing this! <3

Rachel Rossano said...

Yes! Thank you for putting into words what so many of us want to say. :)

Katherine Sophia said...

I was actually going to link to your post too, but I couldn't find it right off! But it's super encouraging to see other writers coming at this with thoughtful, careful purpose. And thank you! :) I appreciate your comment so much!

deryn joy said...

I agree with you, and totally appreciate this post.

not to argue, just further the discussion by offering a different angle: 'able to calmly focus on fixing the problem under yucky pressure,' as you have to do, is different from being upset for a friend who broke his arm. the desensitization that I am bothered by is the resulting lack of empathy -- it's not so much the "AAAAAAH BLOOD" that I want, it's the ability to see other people's pain and identify with them. {your desensitization is totally different from that and totally right :)}

to me, violence in entertainment becomes a problem when its point IS the entertainment, desensitization or not. I don't mean no one should never encounter violence in fiction, and I think it's even possible to appreciate its representation in entertainment forms; 'fallen angels' and 'all quiet on the western front' are two of my all-time favorite books. the key things here: *they* don't dwell on the violence for the heck of violence (yay, blood and pain are thrilling to read about), and *I'm* not reading them because I love to read about people dying in gory ways.

there are so many long, drawn-out qualifying statements I could continue making, so I'll just stop. I suppose that this issue is just another left up to the sanctified conscience to interpret in liberty :)

Katherine Sophia said...

Thank you! There /are/ many qualifiers, and you pointed out a good one. No matter how desensitized I become in order to deal with problems without breaking down, I hope I never lose the ability to identify with and comfort people at appropriate times.
And the /why/ of darkness is so important. Something I found fascinating when I first started watching Korean dramas was how /awful/ death came across in those first dramas. People died in awful, bloody ways, but it wasn't senseless violence. Death, even of the enemy, broke your heart, and it was truly treated with the gravity and horror it needed. The darkness was there, but it was treated as darkness, and the light that countered it was made that much more gorgeous.

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