The latter question has in fact cropped up a few times in the interviews people have been submitting for this blog party, and it's not an easy one to answer in just a paragraph or two. So to give it the attention it deserves, I'm devoting a two-part series to pulling together an answer and presenting something of my own philosophy of life and writing. Of course it hasn't wholly solidified yet; I'm much too young to have a concrete and immutable philosophy of anything. But for the moment, this is my outlook on what it is that I do and am - as a writer, and as a Christian. (A silly turn of phrase, that "as a whatever," but we'll leave it for Dorothy Sayers to debate.)
In the circles I run in, including those in the blogisphere, there is a great deal of pressure being put on believers in general and young believers, I think, in specific. It doesn't really matter what field or vocation you call your own, because the pressure is the same whether you aspire to be a writer or a musician, a laborer or a manager or a whatever. The pressure is nothing less than to change the world. Sometimes it is couched in different terms; always it entails a kind of militancy, a combating of the world, an aggressive sharing of the Gospel to anyone who crosses our path.
In writing, which is obviously what I'm most familiar with, this most often takes the form of incorporating the Good News into every story we produce. Isn't that we're called to do? Aren't we supposed to go into all the world and make disciples? And even if we can't, we can hope our books will - and we want to be sure that anyone who picks up our works will find the Gospel in them. We want to rest assured that our "Christian fiction" - neatly packaged, all loose ends neatly tied off - stands in contrast and opposition to the mass of worldly stuff hitting the shelves right beside it. We want our writing to change the world, because we think that's our purpose as writing Christians.
But we don't change the world.
Of course there are probably a few works of Christian fiction that have been used by the Holy Spirit to regenerate hearts; I can't imagine there are very many, but God does work in some pretty mysterious ways. However, His common - but not common; His chosen method of saving men and women is through "the foolishness of the Word preached" (I Cor. 1:21). We can't expect that through our novels people will be saved in droves and gaggles. And yet we still have this idea given to us that somehow our writing, almost by the very nature of its being produced by a Christian, will change our society.
That's a pretty tall order, and a great responsibility if it is indeed true. Consider for a moment how vast is the culture we live in. Think of the heaps of books - Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey and all other more or less innocuous works - filling and shaping that culture. And now picture yourself putting in your two cents, your drop into that ocean. What difference does it make? In the scheme of things - and remember here the scheme is that of changing the world - does your contribution matter? Or does the world sit and laugh (if it even notices you) at your attempt to change it?
"Holy cow," you say now, "aren't you bleak today? I think I'll just go read Dostoyevsky now to CHEER MYSELF UP." But my point isn't bleak, once I actually get to it. I'm pretty cheerful when it comes to my writing. Because my philosophy of what it means to be a Christian who writes is not one of world alteration. I don't expect The Soldier's Cross to be out there "winning souls," or even just stemming the tide of bad literature. That's far too much weight placed on one little 92,000-word novel - far too much weight placed on one little just-barely-five-foot girl. I can't change the world, and I don't expect to. I don't think God expects me to. If we could change the world, I expect He would just leave us here until we had finally converted everyone and the world was a happy place.
What it comes down to in my mind, as far as this part of the matter is concerned, is that God has not placed me as a sole individual with the purpose in His thoughts of me accomplishing all these great things. He has brought out for Himself a people. He stuck Israel smack dab in the middle of everything - in the sight of all the nations, in fact. He has stuck His Church smack dab in the middle of everything, too, so that she should be a city set on a hill. It is hard to grasp or even to say because of our mindset, but He has not called out for Himself individual persons; He has bought a people (made up of individuals, yes, but greater than the sum of its parts!) to be a witness, to be salt and light and leaven and a mustard seed that grows to fill the whole earth.
We lose sight of this; I lose sight of this. But I think we must stop thinking about ourselves in such a personal and individualistic manner, stop thinking that we're set out alone with our own candles with the weight of the world - literally - resting on our shoulders. The language of Scripture is that of a nation, a priesthood, a kingdom, a spiritual house. The pressure is not, and should not, be on us as individuals to change the world.
Is the pressure on us, then, to change the world as a whole people? For the Church to rise up and take on the world? For all believing writers to band together so their books are more like a rock in the ocean of literature than like a drop? Well, I'll sum up my answer as "no," but the rest will come in a later post.
There's a comic that features Moses holding the tablets of stone and telling the people of Israel, "Please hold your applause until I've read all ten." Please hold your applause (or rotten tomatoes) until I've finish up the next installment, and then see what you think. And, while you're waiting, don't forget to enter the novel giveaway. Because you've only got ten days left, and Christmas is coming...!