Friday, 22 November 2013

Why Bother?

By Andrea Grigg

I was going to write something completely different, but after reading Iola’s blogpost on Wednesday, I decided to put in my own two cents worth about Christian fiction.

When I started writing, I was horrified when someone told me that there are Christians who are very much opposed to fiction. Why? Because it isn’t serious enough … we shouldn’t be wasting our time on fluff when we could be out there evangelising the world …

At first I thought they were having me on, but then I read a couple of comments on a post on the internet, voicing that exact opinion, and it saddened me. I’ll explain why.

Iola mentioned Jesus telling stories. Let me quote this passage from Matthew 13—it’s especially good in The Message translation:
The disciples came up and asked, ‘Why do you tell stories?’
He replied, ‘You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight.
The first time I heard that scripture in this context (thank you, Jo-Anne Berthelsen) was at the Word Writers’ Getaway in Brisbane. Boy, did it hit me hard. Not only did it resonate and affirm what I believe God has called me to do—it also gave me a deep sense of responsibility.

The word is a powerful tool—there’s no disputing that. Stories have been used down the ages to remind us of historical events, exploits of heroes and heroines, lessons to be learned and of course, simply for entertainment.

Ooh—entertainment? Isn’t that a bit frivolous?

Not at all. To entertain is simply to provide amusement or enjoyment. Nothing wrong with that. God did create us with the ability to laugh, after all.

I’m an avid reader of fiction. Why? Because I love escaping into someone else’s head, reading about their life journey, their trials and tribulations, their relationships. I learn things too. Reading is a brilliant way to gain general knowledge.

Reading can also inspire. How many times have you read a fiction novel and felt motivated to do better, be more appreciative, have the courage to step out? My personal answer is ‘lots!’
And as a writer of Christian fiction, that is my aim—to inspire and encourage my readers in both their walk with God and each other.

Christian fiction? Love it!

Andrea Grigg lives on the Gold Coast, Queensland, and is a writer of contemporary Christian romance. Her first book, ‘A Simple Mistake’ was published in April 2012. Recently retired from primary school teaching, Andrea is currently writing her second novel, tentatively entitled, ‘Too Pretty’.

Website: www.andreagrigg.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.andreagrigg?ref=hl
Twitter: @andreagrigg https://twitter.com/andreagrigg

40 comments:

  1. I have people make those sorts of comments, the same may read non-fiction but often read nothing. I do have one friend who only reads the bible. Maybe if we are reading and it becomes our life or God it would be an issue but for most reading is an escape to another place for a short time. Reading a Christian fiction title has to be better than watching some of the rubbish on tv.

    You are so right about gaining knowledge, I have learnt so much from reading.

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    1. Nothing like broadening one's horizon is there? Gotta agree about the TV comment. Mind you, sport is the most watched thing in our house. I have my lamp and my book so I don't mind. Thanks, Jenny.

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    2. Oh sport is different as long as its cricket. at the moment reading isn't happening due to the headaches and today is a really bad day.

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    3. The older I get, the more concerned I become even about people who only read the Bible. We don't realise how much our culture we're born into influences the way we understand Scripture and discern truth. However, as we read fiction and identify with the characters in a story, our Christianity can be challenged in the best possible way.

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    4. Must agree Annie - it's important to take into account context and culture with our Bible reading. Now that would make an interesting discussion!

      And yes, I love the way fiction can do exactly that.

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    5. Anne - it is such a relief to hear someone say that. I know people who only read the Bible as well. It feels very insular.

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    6. I agree the ones who say they just read the bible still seem to have knowledge of other books.

      I have found myself books take me places and its books that made me fall in love with Canada and made me want to visit Hawaii. They have been my friend in times of need. Many times a book has spoken to me. When mum passed away one of the books I read soon after used the verse from Deut. which (in mum's words) says. The eternal God is my refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms. That book comforted me as I though of mum reading it. Other books have given me hope and when things have been really bad they have been a release for me.

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    7. Hi Iola
      I think it can be very insular, especially when a person only reads non-fiction with which they agree and doesn't venture outside their own tradition/denomination/preferences. The English language has over four million words, compared to only a few thousand in biblical Hebrew or Greek. In practice, the volatility of English as a language is responsible for the diversity of translations. However those translations also tend to follow well-beaten cultural paths. I'm waiting for the translation that recognises 'armour' is the same word as 'kiss' in Hebrew (and what a paradigm shift it is to realise that the armour of God is the kiss of God).

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  2. Yes, I remember talking about that quote from Matthew 13, Andrea. I think it was at the Word Writers' Fair in 2011 as part of a panel on Christian Fiction--and, from memory, I got in just before Annie Hamilton was going to quote those same words! It shows you though that this question will probably always be with us, so just keep writing whatever God has called you to write! I know in some circles where I speak at times, I get the distinct feeling that because I now have one published work of non-fiction (and six published novels!), I must be a 'real author'! It's at those venues that having both fiction and non-fiction on my book table serves me well.

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    1. Somehow don't think I'll ever be a 'real author' then, haha. Not to worry. Diversity is something to marveled at, even when it's frustrating. Thanks for stopping by, Jo-Anne.

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    2. I probably did say that, Jo-Anne! Sometimes I feel like a broken record... (btw, what's the 21st century equivalent of a broken record?)

      As it happens, I write both fiction and non-fiction. It's the fiction (in my view) that makes me a 'real author'. I couldn't write non-fiction unless I first gleaned my ideas from my fiction writing.

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  3. Good joyful post, Andrea. I also read a lot of non-fiction but all good non-fiction communicates its message via using stories to illustrate Similarly, most preachers use stories to illustrate.

    Story is all around us because we're all living in a story: God's.

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    1. It's so true about the importance of stories. Humankind have used them forever. When teaching primary kids about myths and legends it became very obvious to me how man has a need to create a story to explain phenomenon they don't understand. Love the fact we're part of God's story as you say. Thanks for the comment, Ian.

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    2. Hi Ian - I like Ephesians 2:10 where it actually says we are "God's poetry" (though it's usually translated 'workmanship' or 'masterpiece').

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    3. Hi Andrea - I was reading a story last night (won't say what it was, because it wasn't Christian... yeah! I even read non-Christian stuff) and it had a perfect description of what I'm currently researching in Scripture: threshold covenants. There are so many aspects of Scripture that work better as stories than as a series of theological dot points. In fact, you won't find threshold covenant mentioned anywhere in Scripture but there are heaps of stories about it in both the new and old Testaments.

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    4. Covenants are fascinating. So many different types. Haven't heard of threshold ones - I'll have to do some research now too :) Thanks Annie

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    5. They are so interesting. I think there are four types myself (Abraham had four different covenants with God and Jesus instituted three at the last Supper and the threshold later that evening) though there are respected scholars who would add another two.

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    6. There's also the Adamic and Mosaic covenants. Geoff attended a 20-week course on them last year and was given lots of notes. I'll have to hunt them out :)

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    7. Hi Andrea
      I was referring more to the generic types of covenants, rather than the specific ones taken out on particular occasions with special people. The four types - in my view - are blood, salt, name and threshold. Some scholars also say marriage (but I view that as a combination) and also sandal. However I think sandal seems more like contract than covenant, but I'm prepared to be persuaded differently.

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  4. Andrea, great post! You've brought up an interesting distinction. There's a difference between people disliking Christian fiction, being disinterested in Christian fiction (or fiction in general) and being opposed to Christian fiction. The question to ponder is why. Do these opinions have a theological foundation? This follows on from Iola's post about respecting and not judging God's calling. You can dislike or not care for Christian fiction but still respect Christian fiction authors and readers. There's lots of food for thought in this discussion.

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    1. There sure is. And to digress a little, add in opinions about music (my second passion) and we could have a great debate on our hands! Yes, respecting one another's views is very important. Agreeing to disagree can be a very good place to draw a line. Thanks, Narelle.

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    2. Hi Narelle,
      Andrew Lansdown makes a very interesting point on this. He points out that many people who dislike fiction fail to distinguish between their own personal opinion and Scriptural injunctions.

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    3. Hi Annie, that is an interesting perspective. I can understand why some people are disinterested in fiction. Books are competing with so many other forms of entertainment and some people just don't like reading for various reasons. It's the motivation behind the dislikers and opposers of Christian fiction (and Christian music, as Andrea has mentioned) that piques my curiosity.

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    4. Hi Narelle
      I personally think there's a lot of cultural bias in it. See fiction didn't exist until a few centuries ago - before then, the idea that there was 'true' and 'not true' in writing simply didn't exist. In the Middle Ages, all truth was God's truth, even if the story was invented. The culture of differentiating story as 'untrue' and non-fiction as 'true' is relatively recent and indicates a new way of thinking as well as indicating the fragmentation, rather than the integration, of the post-Enlightenment world.

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  5. I've struck that attitude too Andrea and it saddens me, especially when psychologists state those who read fiction relate better to others and have more empathy. Can't remember where I read that but haven't forgotten it. Surely that is also a good reason to read fiction. like you I have often been inspired by a piece of fiction. Yes, God uses the bible to teach but sometimes he uses other things like stories as well.

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    1. In total agreement with you, Dale. Thanks for the comment :)

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    2. Hi Dale
      Apparently it's not only empathy that is increased by fiction reading. The measure of intelligence increases too. There's a great reason for childhood reading!

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    3. I have also heard it helps to hold of things like dementia as it keeps the mind active. While mum didn't have dementia to a big degree she had stopped reading in the 8 - 10 years before her death partly due to her eyes but also other issues. Her world became quite small as she gave up tv mostly besides the news and a little cricket. Before we could discuss the books and it gave us more to talk about.

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    4. Absolutely agree. My mum loves reading. She loves Aussie and Kiwi Christian books but is getting unhappy recently with those that have small fonts and grey printing. She likes those with lots of white space and reasonable font. I may have to buy her a Kindle... though she's still a paper lover.

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    5. for myself at the moment its computer or kindle or nothing. even the kindle is an issue. With the headaches I am having looking down affects me but reading online is ok but in short doses. She may like the kindle as you can change the font and its easy to use.

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    6. I agree Annie, about the childhood reading and see the results of my husband and I reading to our kids. They did well at school and uni etc. Since having their own families they read to their kids since babies and surrounded them with books. The result those in school are doing extremely well. So it all pays off down generations.

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  7. Lovely post! I couldn't agree more. Stories mean that a person's mind is relaxed, more receptive. I find that with a very factual approach, a reader is more likely to analyze, criticize and generally be less receptive. In the context of story, characters are telling their story - and who can argue with that as easily?
    Many Christian writers base the miracles and experiences of their characters on actual events God has shown them, or they have experienced. Modern fiction can be a powerful vehicle for kingdom purposes. Thanks Andrea! (P.S just loaned your book to my friend - she loved it!)

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    1. Great observations, Catherine. Jesus knew what he was talking about in that scripture, didn't he? ... to nudge the people toward receptive insight ...

      Glad your friend enjoyed my book - encourages me no end to hear it :)

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    2. Hi Catherine -
      Apparently it's not just about relaxation. It's about survival. We're wired for story.
      http://seekerville.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/story-your-brain-on-drugs.html

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  8. All the novelists I interview are asked the question: "What do you think is significant about Christian fiction?" This week I am privileged to host Christy award-winning author James L. Rubart, who replied to the question with this: "It is one of the greatest tools available to change lives, to set people free, to draw them deeper to God. It cracks me up when I hear pastors and others say Christian fiction is trivial or a waste of time. The reality is, stories stick with us to a far greater degree than straight teaching. Try to remember your three favorite sermons from the past ten years. Almost impossible. But if I ask you to recall three of your favorite novels, you’d be able to come up with them in seconds. Not to mention the greatest teacher of all time used stories as his method to reach inside and open up the heart of his listeners. In fact the Word says at one point, Jesus taught only in parables. (Matthew 13:34 New Living Translation: “Jesus always used illustrations and stories like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables.”)"

    You can read the full interview here: http://www.christianfictionsite.com/1/post/2013/11/featured-author-interview-james-l-rubart.html

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    1. Thanks for posting Ellie. Great interview :)

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  9. I agree with everything you said. I love Christian fiction. It not only entertains, but is uplifting and encouraging. It can also be an outreach tool. Some people who would never go to church might pick up a Christian fiction book and read it. Keep on writing. We will keep on reading.

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    1. Thanks Susan - what an encouraging comment!

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