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Controversial Topics

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  • #59559
    Michelle
    @mlbolangerauthor

    I am curious what the SE forum crew think about handling controversial subjects. The recent blog series did an excellent job of providing a frame work for how and when to (or not to) use CONTENT like violence, swearing, and sex. I gained a lot and found I completely agreed with the authors of the articles.

    Abuse, alcohol, pre- and extra- marital sex, lies, theft, and such are frequently handled in Christian fiction and literature.

    But what about the more difficult themes? Topics like any or all of LGBTQA. Human rights. Human trafficking. Race relations. Other religions (Muslim, Hindu, etc).

    It is rare to find these themes addressed in Christian literature outside the occasional blog post, and very nearly never in fiction except to contrast the evilness of a character’s lifestyle in one of those categories against the hero of the story.

    I would sincerely love to hear thoughts on this. (And maybe spawn another blog series? =))

    I would tag people, but I’m too new to know where to start. =)

    Clumsy but cute. Apologizes a lot. Doesn't shed. Much.

    #59561
    I, David
    @i-david

    I mean, personally, I think a lot of those issues would be better to not be in fiction and to be addressed outside of it.

    Four
    INFP
    songwriter

    #59568
    Michelle
    @mlbolangerauthor

    @i-david

    Why not in fiction?

    Clumsy but cute. Apologizes a lot. Doesn't shed. Much.

    #59645
    K.M. Small
    @morreafirebird

    I haven’t thought a lot about these topics myself, but I’ll tag some people who might be able to help. 🙂


    @josiah
    @daeus-lamb @hope-ann @karthmin @kate

    ~ Khylie
    "Beauty will save the world." - Dostoevsky

    #59664
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @mlbolangerauthor Personally, I would love to see these topics addressed more in fiction. I think what may be keeping many Christians back is that they aren’t involved in these areas. For instance, I’ve never been involved in any ministry to people who have gone through human trafficking. None of my friends are LBGTQ. It would just require a tremendous amount of research for me to write in these areas.

    Now, that being said, I do have tentative plans to write a novel with a theme of world religions even though my interaction with people of other religions isn’t very extensive. I’m planning that for nine-ish years down the road though, so I’m giving myself time to get ready.

    Another sensitive topic I’ve always wanted to see novels about is prison life.

    😀
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    #59668
    Sarah Inkdragon
    @sarah-inkdragon

    I’d personally have to agree with Daeus on this one. I’d love to see more books that handle issues like this, but then again some people can write things like this and some people can’t. It depends on a person’s God-given gifts and convictions. Also, as Daeus said, Christians don’t usually get involved with any of these subjects, and therefore know little about them or simply don’t want to know anything about them because they are hard topics to understand and think about from a Christian perspective. We try to shut out anything that does not agree with our worldview because it’s hard to deal with, and we don’t have the time or the money or the patience or the strength to take on such a topic in our eyes.

    I for one have a couple friends that consider themselves LGTBQA, and while our worldviews certainly don’t agree, I can say that they are not bad people. Let me correct that–what they’re doing is evil, yes, and they and their sin nature are evil, yes, but I don’t believe you can pin the “bad guy” sticker on someone just like that. Yes, they’re living in sin. But that doesn’t mean we should avoid them like the plague and never give them a chance to see what they’re doing is wrong because we don’t know how to handle it. Yes, different people have different convictions and different gifts for dealing with different things. But if we can get a second chance, so should they. And no one has ever been saved by us ignoring them or hating them.

    As for human trafficking and human rights–human trafficking, in all ways, is wrong, no matter how one tries to justify it. It’s a topic that in the slavery sense is being covered a little more nowadays in fiction–while again, we tend to just ignore sex trafficking and such because we don’t know how to deal with it or don’t want to. And while I am 100% against any sexually graphic writing, I can say that I am not against putting things like human trafficking in writing because again, nothing ever change by doing nothing. (Take a lesson from The Lorax, people.) As Christians, we are the only ones who can display evil and dark topics like this in the correct light. That doesn’t mean we have immerse our story in darkness, but we should show it.

    Human rights are a little trickier–in some ways, some things benefit society and people but then hurt someone else. It’s like dumping waste into the ocean–you get it away from the city/land and therefore make the people’s homes better and cleaner and safer, but then you end up killing a major food source for the entire world and enraging all the animal activists. (I have nothing against animal activists–but you have to admit they get riled up pretty easily sometimes.) Things like free will–that’s a paradox right there. We supposedly, with free will and everything else the constitution entails, are given the freedom to do basically whatever is right in the eyes of the government, ourselves, and society. Sure, that’s great. But the problem is is that society and people’s own standards of what is right or “true” are changing all the time because they don’t know what is right and true, because they don’t have God. The latest truth-fad is “be true to yourself”. Which when you first look at it, is great. Don’t let people look down on you for who you are, nice. But look again–what it’s saying is that the inescapable and resolute truth that was set down by God is now able to be defined by us–humans. That we can define our own truth, and therefore can change the laws of what is right, good, acceptable, just, fair, and true on a whim.

    So yes, human rights are touchy subject. XD As are race relations–we the people say we consider all races equal, but like the people and humans we are, we still see ourselves superior to those that have less and therefore in our mind, we cannot see all races as equal unless we are able to put aside our pride and view everyone through the same lens–in which we are all evil, sinful people who’s only hope is the grace of God. This is something that definitely needs to be in writing more.

    As for religions–I personally believe all religions other than the true and faithful belief in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit and what wisdom he has given us in the Bible to be wrong and to put it bluntly, Satanic. Yes, that might sound blunt, especially when you look at all the different “versions” of Christianity(Mormonism, Catholicism, JW, etc…) that hold similar views, but are still not in accordance to the Bible. But it’s the truth. So I believe that anything less than that true and faithful belief in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy spirit to not be right. And in fiction, it should not be portrayed as right. We are Christians–we’re not here to bend to someone’s wants or worldview, we’re here to blow them all away and show people what they are is doing is wrong.

    So yeah. I have a lot of opinions on this, but like I said before, the world was never changed by ignoring it’s problems and living a happy life. So yes, I think all of these things should be in fiction, to a certain degree and only written by people who know they can portray them correctly, accurately, and truthfully as the evil they are.

    There’s my two cents. I hope you enjoyed it. XD

    "A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."

    - C. S. Lewis

    #59672
    R.M. Archer
    @r-m-archer

    @sarah-inkdragon You basically just nailed my thoughts on the subject.

    Fantasy/dystopian/sci-fi author. Mythology nerd. ENFP. Singer.

    #59729
    Hope Ann
    @hope-ann

    I agree with what both @sarah-inkdragon and @daeus-lamb said. Topics like that would be fascinating from a Christian fiction perspective. At the same time, it would require a lot of research. Not that research is a bad thing, and not that it couldn’t be done. But one would have to be very careful, especially in topics of other religions or LGBTQA or race, that they don’t put their own views of what these people think and feel and why they do things into the novel, but that they portray them accurately. After all, no redemption arc or villain is going to be thematically powerful if you’ve merely set up a ‘straw man’ of these things instead of what is really there. Setting up a ‘straw man’ in this case would likely do more harm than good.

    Part of the reason I enjoy writing fantasy though is that one can take things like other religions and race relations and human rights and explore them in a new setting. One can take the emotions of real life, but present it in a way that people involved in such things are more likely to enjoy it instead of rejecting it on sight.

    Victory in the march. Hope in the destination.

    #59751
    Michelle
    @mlbolangerauthor

    @hope-ann – Help me understand what you mean by ‘straw man.’ I have never heard that term before.


    @sarah-inkdragon
     – 

    I’d personally have to agree with Daeus on this one. I’d love to see more books that handle issues like this, but then again some people can write things like this and some people can’t. It depends on a person’s God-given gifts and convictions. Also, as Daeus said, Christians don’t usually get involved with any of these subjects, and therefore know little about them or simply don’t want to know anything about them because they are hard topics to understand and think about from a Christian perspective. We try to shut out anything that does not agree with our worldview because it’s hard to deal with, and we don’t have the time or the money or the patience or the strength to take on such a topic in our eyes. …. There’s my two cents. I hope you enjoyed it. XD

    I think you and @daeus-lamb nailed the reason on the head. In general, Christians as a whole don’t want to or don’t know how to engage with these topics. And those of us who do engage must be careful not to allow the world’s view of these things to influence or negate what the Bible says. It’s easier to throw the topics under the general label of evil and not search out why God calls them such. He always has a reason for WHY He classifies certain things as evil, and I would like to see more authors, fiction writers, address these topics.

    Do any of you feel like the market (Christian and non-Christian) is looking for stories like these? Are they looking for the kind of stories that try to give a Biblical answer to today’s cultural hot buttons?


    @morreafirebird
     @r-m-archer

    Clumsy but cute. Apologizes a lot. Doesn't shed. Much.

    #59754
    Michelle
    @mlbolangerauthor

    @daeus-lamb

     It would just require a tremendous amount of research for me to write in these areas.

    Now, that being said, I do have tentative plans to write a novel with a theme of world religions even though my interaction with people of other religions isn’t very extensive. I’m planning that for nine-ish years down the road though, so I’m giving myself time to get ready. Another sensitive topic I’ve always wanted to see novels about is prison life.

    It would/does require a lot of research to write about these things. Mostly to avoid perpetuating stereotypes or misinformation. =) Nine years should give you plenty of time. =)

    Clumsy but cute. Apologizes a lot. Doesn't shed. Much.

    #59755
    I, David
    @i-david

    Why not in fiction?

    Hopefully, I’ll be able to adequately answer this soon. Until then, I’ll just keep in touch with what everyone else is saying while trying to legibly order my thoughts.

    Four
    INFP
    songwriter

    #59813
    PursueWisdom
    @pursuewisdom

    @mlbolangerauthor

    Hi Michelle,

    I think these questions you presented here are very important issues for authors to think about. 🙂 So thanks for bringing them up!

    Currently my WIP (just started, btw) focuses on human rights. My premise is basically what makes us human and can clones possess souls and unique personalities. I plan on tackle these controversial issues in my work, and I realize it’s going to be really difficult.  (I also wish to indirectly/subtly mention the rights of the unborn; and I think revealing economic and political effects from such our current abortion and human trafficking and possible future cloning industries would be enlightening…)

    About LGBTQ and religions, I’m going to echo what @daeus-lamb and @sarah-inkdragon and @hope-ann said. More Christians need to deal with these issues, to be sure, in appropriate, accurate, and Christ-like ways through and in our stories. I’m against “feel good”/superficial Christian fiction/films.

    I love SE’s series on tackling hard issues in Christian fiction. 🙂 Perhaps another series on these questions would be well-called for as well.

    "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." ~Th.Jefferson

    #59816
    Sarah Inkdragon
    @sarah-inkdragon

    @r-m-archer *bows* Why thank you, I do try. XD

    As for marketing, Michelle–I’d honestly have to say unless you’re writing for 16+ I don’t think there’s a ton of marketing, so if you’re writing just for YA it’s not gonna cut it. They’re controversial topics that need to be covered with skill and depth, not just dropping into the middle of a 13yro’s book because the author wants it to be more realistic. Yes, they should be covered, but I think that the marketing is definitely going to be at least 16+

    "A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."

    - C. S. Lewis

    #59867
    Michelle
    @mlbolangerauthor

    Thank you, everyone. Your answers are in line with what I’ve gotten in other forums. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I have a slightly different angle on these topics. Not in a way that contradicts what the Bible says, but much differently than most of the Christian church does.

    I appreciate everyone’s input!


    @sarah-inkdragon
     @pursuewisdom @i-david @hope-ann @r-m-archer @daeus-lamb @josiah @daeus-lamb @hope-ann @karthmin @kate

     

    Clumsy but cute. Apologizes a lot. Doesn't shed. Much.

    #59904
    Martin Detwiler
    @karthmin

    @mlbolangerauthor The themes you mentioned definitely fall well within the scope of Christian fiction, and should be addressed more than they are currently.

    One reason they are not addressed very frequently, is because the majority of Christian fiction is marketed as “clean”, like Josiah DeGraaf mentioned in his first blog post in the series mentioned. This has to do, fundamentally, with content, like you said, rather than theme, but I think there is an unspoken expectation that Christian fiction should be suitable for a child to pick up and read without being negatively effected.

    I think that’s one of the problems in the world of Christian publishing today. There is an unspoken expectation of suitability for all ages. This has had two effects, in my opinion:

    1. It has shunted popular Christian fiction towards the direction of children’s literature, and

    2. It has stunted popular adult Christian fiction towards the barest and most banal of ‘deep’ themes. It is quite telling that “Amish novels” are one of the biggest selling niches within Christian fiction even today.

    Because of this, Christian literature has taken on an association that we are seeking to up-end, in some ways, by tackling all the issues pertinent to life as humans. Some of the deepest and most powerful of those issues are the ones you mentioned (if nothing else, they are clearly very pertinent for our times). A few myths need to be dispelled:

    1. Christian literature does not mean family-friendly. Just because it is Christian fiction, does not mean that anyone and everyone can read it and be edified. There are stories that I wish to tell, stories that deserve to be told powerfully and unabashedly, which would be frankly unhelpful to someone at a young age, who is unsuited to handle the themes, and fully comprehend the message and its implications. Most Christian fiction will be family-friendly. But just because it isn’t, does not mean that it has lost any of it’s salt or light. Perhaps, it has gained more by refusing to dampen it’s themes or content.

    2. Christian literature is not a genre. That is to say, Christian fiction should be just as varied and far-reaching in scope as non-Christian fiction, and it should be perceived in that way. Granted, this makes it far harder to market (from the publisher’s perspective), but there is no long-lasting benefit to anyone by artificially defining Christian fiction as it’s own “genre”. It can be fantasy, romance, sci-fi, dystopian, children’s, high-school drama, or whatever. There are few genres that Christian writers cannot legitimately tackle and be considered a full-ranking member of.

    But the label “Christian” seems to put us in a box with children’s stories and Amish novels.

    This is why I do not intend to be marketed as a Christian author, when I pursue publication (if I can help it). I want to be an author of fiction whose works have been published by a house based on their own merit, not because I worked in “Christian” themes so well that it simply must become the next best Christian bestseller.

    Brandon Sanderson is an excellent author, but you don’t find his books under the “Mormon Fiction” section in the bookstore. Because there isn’t one.

    It’s a high goal, but if I’m going to be found in bookstores at any point in my life, I don’t want to be found in the “Christian Fiction” section. Don’t get me wrong, my stories will always be unabashedly and thoroughly Christian in approach, perspective, and message. But if they can’t stand on their own two feet as legitimate works of literature, then they don’t deserve to be in the bookstore in the first place. Not that everything the Christian Fiction section isn’t worth reading. Again, don’t get me wrong on that, either.

    But I don’t want to be marketed in that way, because that’s not the audience I want to impact primarily.

    +++

    Okay, so somewhere along the line, I got away from tackling difficult themes and started talking about publishing and marketing and bookstores. *clears throat* Excuse me.

    So, when it comes to the difficult topics that you mentioned, there are two ways to tackle them:

    One the one hand, you can trace the root of the problems back to their source, and address that source problem in the themes of your stories. For example: if I were to tackle an LGBTQetc issue, I would trace the ultimate theme in play back to the question of identity. What does it mean to be me? Human? Broken? Who am I? Who am I when I am different from everyone else? Who am I when I am trying to ignore or suppress a part of me that is real, and yet broken? So. My basic theme changes from a specifically LGBTQetc issue to one that is universally applicable to all humans everywhere. Granted, if I am intending to address that audience in particular, I will craft my story in such a way that gets at the root of their particular struggles more specifically; but still, the underlying theme is a more universal one that each person can benefit from. This seems to be a far more common way to address these kinds of topics in Christian fiction.

    Second, you can make your character a POV character who embodies these difficult issues and tackle them head-on. This is by far more difficult, easier to muff, and yet perhaps more beautiful and impactful when done well.

    I really don’t know which is better, to be honest.

    myths don't die

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