November 20, 2012

Changing the World? Really?

When a person finds out you're a writer, and they feel any interest at all in the fact, generally the first question they ask is, "What do you write?"  It's less frequent that you get asked why you write, although it does happen occasionally.

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...!


  1. Wow. Can't wait to read Part Two! You've intrigued me, Abigail. :)

  2. I found this post quite interesting! I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately, and you spoke the thoughts in my head here on your blog!
    Oh yes . . . I tagged you over at my blog.

  3. Okay ... I'll wait with bated breath for part two .... : D This has been very much on my mind, too.

  4. I'd like to change the world; it's easier than changing me.

    " I'm much too young to have a concrete and immutable philosophy of anything."

    Nonsense! As a teenager is the only time you'll ever know everything.

  5. Thank you! This is inspiring. I have thought bleak thoughts as that too. Can't wait for part two!

  6. I actually like this post, and I think you've got something. But I wont go into my agreeing with you until you post part two. And I wouldn't think anyone would have rotten tomatoes at the ready for such a post as this.
    Blessings ~ Rachel Hope

  7. This was very insightful. Yes, the focus and the pressure should be taken off of self. We are working for Christ, and that is it. :) What He wants us to do. Although, I do believe in having a message in your work. You?


  8. Rachel - Good! ...Now I just have to write Part Two.

    Rebelise - Oh, thank you! I don't know if I will have time to do the questions this month, but they look interesting.

    Kelsey - It will be coming in the not too-distant future, I trust. Hopefully it will appear early next week. Hopefully.

    Chewie - "I'd like to change the world; it's easier than changing me." Ever true. And the reason it's so easy to be hypocritical...

    Writer - I'm glad you think so! It would indeed be a bleak thought if I found my calling was to reform the world. But realizing that my calling is not to reform, but to consistently be salt and light along with the rest of the people of God, makes it much less bleak. Although being salt and light consistently can be a hard enough task in its own right. "If the salt has lost its savor..."

    Rachel Hope - Thank you for the encouragement! I hoped there would not be too many people ready to tar and feather me, but this concept is so deeply engrained in the minds of evangelical Christians that I wasn't too sure!

    Becca - I find that themes and messages come with the story, rather than a message coming with a story attached - if that makes sense. There is always a message to be gleaned, a lesson to be learned; that is how life is. The message is not always correct, of course, but there is always one there. Readers may have to think more about White Sail's to see its driving theme than they had to think about The Soldier's Cross, but there is a message, because every story has one. It is a little difficult to communicate exactly what I mean!

  9. Hey that was pretty smashing awesome if you don't mind me saying it. I don't want to be rude and add "Yet" or "So far" because I'm sure the rest of it will be just as good. But thank you for reminding us that it isn't up just us to change the world ourselves. *brushes the weight world off shoulders*

  10. Often we forget that it is God who does the work. We believe it is all up to us, and that puts so much on us and takes so much from Him. We do what He has called us to, and He saves whom He wills. To go out and think it is up to just us, and then to not bring anyone to Him, is discouraging. But to continually, I will say write since that is something we can understand, and to do this to His glory, that is something He will bless.
    We might never be well known, we might be mocked or ignored, but we are serving Him, that is worth it.


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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