1. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Christian genre: why is it so bad and how to write it well?

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Mckk, Oct 11, 2014.

    So, disclaimer - I'm a Christian, go to church every Sunday, and I recently volunteered to take part in this Christmas musical they're setting up. I got the script, looked at my part, the songs etc. And MY WORD it's cringe-worthily badly written! I mean, yes, I believe Jesus is Lord etc, and yes, I like the message, but my goodness when I read the play, it's like watching someone whack people over the head with a club screaming: "Get it? GET IT NOW? Jesus is Lord! Do you GET IT yet!?"

    Ugh...

    My theory on why it's so bad is threefold:

    I don't believe for a second Christian writers are just universally bad and simply don't realise it's bad writing. I'm sure they know. So why do they keep producing such... well... I don't wanna insult my own church's play (they didn't write it but found it somewhere). What's worse is, try telling anyone at church it's a badly written play. They'll look at you like you just blasphemed because it's like you're saying the message is bad. Or they'll look at you like, "Yeah but that's not the point."

    I'm even considering dropping out of the play because I can't stand the bad writing. There's a part in the play where I have to say to a homeless man, no less, "Cheer up, dude! Here, take my sandwich!" (and the rest of the scene involves clueless people who've suddenly had a complete change of heart after listening to the monologue of the nativity scene suddenly giving the homeless guy a job and inviting him to stay at their house for Christmas. It reads like a spoof - like it's mocking the homeless instead. And it's not. It's genuine as all heck. I wanna weep...) I feel bad even thinking and writing this because I feel like I'm mocking the idea of telling people that Jesus is Lord. I'm not. It's just sooooo badly written...

    Okay, now, rant over - I have 2 questions:

    1. Why do you think it's so consistently bad? I know Christian genres have been stigmatised in the publishing industry too - 9 out of 10 agents specifically say they're not interested in inspirational/religious fiction.

    2. How do we improve it? How do you write an allegorical story well?
     
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  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Question 1

    I would hazard that at least part of the issue is that the nature of the material attracts an abundance of people who aren't really writers at all. Are there real writers in there somewhere? Sure. But I think the drive to evangelize is swinging in people who would otherwise not take pen to paper and diluting the genre with well-meant, but poor writing. You danced around the idea yourself in the OP, and I think you're on to something there.

    Question 2

    You put on your thickest armor and ready yourself for the brickbats because they're comin'. About a year ago we had a new member join here who posted a perfectly innocent thread looking for help in writing a Christian inspired fantasy story. I thought it was intriguing and participated in the thread. Another member (who is no longer with us) barged into the thread and digitally shoved the rest of us out of the conversation, as though only he were allowed to talk to this member, only he was allowed to give ideas on this most delicate of topics, only his pious input would leave the new member unsullied. Our advice from the normal world of writing was deemed somehow impure to him and he made short work of demonizing everything and anything that anyone else added to the conversation, no matter how innocuous and innocent.

    I'm not saying this former member represents that community in any way, but the drive behind him does represent a large part of the community and I can understand why. The themes and stories in religious texts (any religious texts, not just Cristian) might be treated as simple fodder for writing by people who don't put much stock into religion, but those who do probably see matters very differently, as this member did. They're called sacred texts for a reason. You may find yourself at odds with your fellow writers and with the audience if you take too much artistic liberty or license or focus less on the proselytizing and more on a well written story. If you're willing and ready to own that for the sake of the integrity of your work, I applaud you. The ire of the zealot is not something I would prefer to deal with.

    Also, in the particular situation in which you find yourself, in this stage production, you have another factor in play that would not be there in the paradigm of a novel. You have immediate peer pressure in all directions from all directions. The script is in hand and the people are right there, so the scrutiny and social pressure are going to be high to conform to a particular ideology. Good writing is naturally going to take a back seat to what the writer and those sponsoring this production feel is the purpose of the production.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It doesn't really strike me as a genre in itself. Why not just write a good story? Your Christian values will come through, and you can even incorporate Christian characters and Christian dilemmas.

    I'm not a Christian myself, although I was raised in Christian surroundings. Yet one of my principal characters is a devout Christian in a society that no longer respects Christians, and he is a good man.

    A story can be told well, or it can be told badly, irrespective of the source material. Focusing too much on the message and not enough on the presentation is about the surest way I know to churn out garbage.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2014
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm with Wreybies.

    I think too often the story serves the message, rather than the message serving the story. So if you're reading for the story, you're going to be disappointed.

    In terms of being heavy-handed - church is a pretty heavy-handed venue, really, isn't it? Not a whole lot of "let's look at things together and each draw our own conclusions," not a lot of "wow, you could really interpret that any way you wanted to." At least in my experience. So it's not too surprising that a piece of writing produced by an amateur to be performed in a church would be similarly heavy-handed.
     
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  5. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Wrey's post is very good.

    Also, is Christian writing bad or are you just reading bad Christian writing? T.S Eliot's later poetry was, when it was not inspired by his Christianity directly, was at least informed by it. Also ... well, I guess just one word can sum up this point better than anything else you can possibly say: Dante.

    Anyone, Christian or otherwise, is urged by me to go out and buy a copy of his Comedy, and take the journey. It is, it is now clear, the still-beating heart of Literature (with a capital L):

    Half way along the journey of life
    I found myself lost in a dark wood -
    I had wandered from the right path.

    Ah, how difficult it is to say what that
    Forest was like: so rough and wild!
    The very thought of it scares me still!
     
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  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think any genre is inherently bad. Some stories just don't appeal to us, just as some genres don't. As to your church's play, well, that's not exactly a credible example of professional writing or the genre, is it? I've seen a lot of plays written by locals that would make Shakespeare weep, and none were "Christian" in nature.
     
  7. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you need to ask yourself why are you participating in your church's play? Is it to spend time with the congregation, or for artistic purposes? It's like a panto or a school play, adults don't think it's great theatre but love it nonetheless. I don't remember who said this, but to paraphrase, if you want to read a good book with Christian themes -write one! Although, I agree with Wrey, prosetylizing might be the very thing audiences look for, and too much religion might reduce your overall audience.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2014
  8. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    There you have it. If people disregard critiques, then their writing will probably be bad.

    Why they disregard it, I have no idea. You know them; you would know better than I do.
     
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  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm a Christian and I haven't read a lot of Christian writing - fiction that is. I've read quite a bit of non-fiction.
    As far as I'm concerned they have to get away from the Sunday school teachings which have actually watered down and clouded the real messages of the bible, and get away from allegory which can be totally telling.

    Spirituality is not an easy thing to contain in words ( not in an action fueled world based on the senses ) so amateur writers are going to have one helluva time doing it justice. They also need to break out of the bubble they've put themselves in ( why write a Christian book that will be put in a Christian store that only Christians will read? ) show the world who they ( we ) are and what they(we ) believe in with joy and no judgement ( to often it can be an us and against them scenario - not good, not even scriptual), show them our struggles and our successes. That's the way everyone communicates. The word preach started from the meaning of - to declare but over the years it's been twisted around and it's pretty close to being interchangable with lecture. We need to get back to it's original meaning and ditch the annoying lectures. Declare who we are, get on with the story and stop lecturing.
     
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  10. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm with @jazzabel on this one; from what you say it sounds like panto. It actually doesn't sound all that Christian, unless there is a lot more to it than you describe. The idea of people who are well off sharing what they have with the poor, sounds more like socialism to me. Where is the sin and redemption through faith in Christ? (If you want to object to the play, you could point this out.)

    I'm not that familiar with Christian fiction (except the Bible) but as to why it's bad, I'd hazard a guess at because everything makes sense and seems right and good until you bring it into the harsh light of day. Then you look at what you have and can't make head nor tail of it. There's a similar problem when people try to make movies of Bible stories, they either end up with something unrealistic or un-biblical.

    To write a Christian story that's based on the central theme of Christianity, you could have a character who has a heavy burden of guilt and then finds relief from this by making a personal commitment to the Christian faith. Personal testimonies are often good stories and always realistic.

    I once offered food to a homeless man. He refused and asked me for money instead.
     
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  11. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Acts 4:34-35
    34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,

    35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
     
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  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that fiction that has a deliberate, conscious message is likely to fail.

    I think that fiction that was written for the purpose of communicating a message is likely to fail.

    (I realize that the above two sound very similar, but to me they're a little different.)

    So that, alone, is a reason why I'm not surprised that a play written for the purpose of communicating a message is lousy. Add that to the reluctance to criticize that you mention, and the odds of failure are very, very high.

    A devout Christian who is a good writer who's writing for the usual reasons to write might produce good Christian writing, because those themes will come out in their writing whether they plan them or not. But that's not what you're talking about here.

    I think that rather than writing a play from scratch for the purpose of conveying a message, you're better off searching for a story that's already good and already conveys the messages that you want, and making a play of it. (Of course, that may run you into copyright issues.)

    Alternatively, you could abandon fiction for nonfiction.A sequence of individuals telling real-world stories, anecdotes, relate-your-favorite-Bible-story-to-real-life, something of that sort, could work much better.
     
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  13. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    CS Lewis wrote some fiction, especially The Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters, that, in my mind, begins with the desire to tell a good story that people enjoy reading, and progresses into the art of developing Christian themes in a way that is interesting to the reader.
     
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  14. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    'From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs', (Karl Marx)

    Some people believe that a society based on Christian values (as you've expressed) would be basically communist in nature, as there is a great deal in common. My point was that a play that deals only with the values that Communism and Christianity have in common, would promote left ling politics as much as it would promote Christianity, and this may not be the intention.
     
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  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds like it WAS the intention, though. Not to be involved in politics at all, but to accurately represent their interpretation of the scriptures in regard to poverty. It would have been pretty dishonest and weird if they'd said, "This is what the Bible says, but we'd better not talk about that part because it may not align with our political goals." Hopefully, at least within the church itself, these people are putting their religious convictions above the simplified talking points of a bunch of politicians.
     
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  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    To get back from the lofty to the mundane ...

    You're right, @Mckk - that dialogue is terrible.

    Maybe you could get this problem worked out by writing a better line (not the whole play- just that line) yourself, and pitching it to the crew.

    Instead of saying "Cheer up, Dude. Here, take my sandwich":eek: maybe the Christian thing to do would be to ask the man if he's hungry, then OFFER him a sandwich if he says yes. And telling a homeless person to 'cheer up?' You could take the tack that the line is disrespectful to the person and their condition, which is probably not their fault? A more Christian response would be to make him feel valued, not made to feel a po-faced nuisance.

    I think if you can come up with a better line and a reason for doing it, you might hear a few pennies dropping. As the person who actually wrote the play isn't present—and presumably it wasn't God, Jesus, a prophet or a disciple who wrote it, so blasphemy isn't an issue— nobody's feelings should get hurt. And maybe some other people will be moved to write THEIR lines using a more respectful tone. You don't have to challenge the purpose of the play. It's just the tone? Actors and directors change lines all the time, by the way.

    Worth a shot?
     
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  17. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've put everything in spoiler quotes because it's a frigging huge wall of text. This way it doesn't occupy miles and miles of space and those not interested can skip stuff :D

    @Wreybies -
    I think sometimes the need to convey the message blinds otherwise good writers to the faults of their story, probably. Because you've conditioned yourself to see things from only one angle, and you have a very set and certain message, which means you eliminate all possibilities of any shades of grey and doubts. I also think that faith is such a personal thing, it's hard to portray it convincingly in fiction. I think part of the problem is this insistence to write "Christian" stories, because what do we even mean when we say something is "Christian"? Les Miserable is arguably a "Christian" story - the whole song with "Do You Hear the People Sing?" is at its heart a cry to march onwards for God and towards heaven, for that new day beyond the barricade. Yet nobody calls it "Christian" - it's just known as an excellent novel and musical. The moment we start writing specifically "Christian" fiction, it seems what we're really saying is, "This book is going to talk about God and faith and how Jesus is the only way." We're saying, actually, THAT's the story.

    I don't mind it that that's the story. But for example, I wish this year's musical was just an ordinary nativity play, rather than this attempt at humour and modernisation. In your face isn't always a problem. But don't dress it up as something else. Or if the play was shorter - what if it was modernised and I take the premise of the current musical we have, which is in the modern world where people are busy shopping for Christmas presents. I keep all that. I don't do a nativity play. I do dress it up as something else. I'd rather put a homeless man wrapped in a coat on a bench on a snowy night, and people are chattering about Christmas cheer and doing good and the birth of the Saviour Jesus Christ, thanking God, talking about being kind - and then walking by this homeless guy and not even looking twice. Yes I'm sure you know where I'm going with this. Then the homeless man starts to beg, and people run away in disgust. The homeless man stares at a family entering a warm house and the family sees him and shuts the door. Then the homeless man goes away and sees another homeless man, and he gives the stranger his cloak. And that there when he strips is when you see the scars upon his hands, and this homeless man you've seen other "good Christians" neglect is Jesus Himself. The one who does kindness becomes Christ to the person in need, and when we ignore the needy we ignore Christ and miss the heart of the message.

    Sure, it's in your face too. The heart of that story would be to talk about God, and how Christ is significant - not just to our faith but to society. But it doesn't preach at you, it's not hammering the message home with monologues about God, and it's not dressing itself up as something other than a story about Christian faith and God.

    My above idea was actually inspired by this sculpture, which I think is beautiful and thought-provoking:
    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/jesus-homeless-finds-home-article-1.1321038

    The current musical I have includes a long monologue where a little girl tells the entire story of Jesus's birth at Bethlehem, another monologue plus song from another character once more saying how Jesus is God (after hearing the nativity story), and yet another character (my character), saying the lines, "So Christmas is really a story of hope. Now I know Jesus died for me, even for me! This gift of Jesus is for everyone, including me!" (I'm paraphrasing sightly, but seriously, those are my lines). I'm not saying my own idea is much better but it's better than this, right?

    Thanks for the link - turns out I participated in it too and it was interesting to read my own post pointing out all the pitfalls of Christian fiction lol.

    @Cogito -
    Yeah I agree with you - as I said to Wreybies above, I think that's part of the problem. The moment you say you'll make a "Christian" story, what you're really saying is you wanna preach through fiction. There're certain things about your faith you want to portray. It's just preaching - and I'd rather hear a sermon in that case rather than things wrapped up in bad fiction. And when you say something is "Christian" fiction, people expect things to go only one way, and when an author sets out to write a book with characters that can only go one way, that's probably when you start having problems cus everything becomes 2D.

    @BayView -
    I read for both, personally. I love a good story that makes me think - for me, that's when I really fall in love with a book. But I guess that's everyone actually, right? Everyone loves a book that really changes them. The church can be a heavy-handed environment but that's not all churches, and Sunday services isn't the kind of environment to question things and have discussions - that's why people go to Bible studies. Those are places you go to have a discussion and raise questions and talk about personal experiences. However, a Christmas play/musical isn't designed for discussion afterwards - it's simply designed to convey a message. These are usually seen as evangelical opportunities where you invite your unbelieving friends to attend in the hope that they might hear the message and perhaps ask questions, get interested, or better yet, perhaps believe. I think these evangelical attempts are not bad things - the mistake regarding this concerns more the Christians than the unbelievers but that's a whole other topic. There's nothing wrong with the intention of these events or of the people who invite their friends.

    However, the bottom line is very clear - you basically just want to get the message across, but in a fun and more unusual way than just a plain sermon, perhaps also because most of us realise the power of fiction. But Christians' refusal to break from the mould and I dunno, do things a little more artfully means that power of fiction is kinda wasted, in my opinion. Perhaps because Christian writers who value quality and story don't often go down the route of creating Christian fiction? I'm not sure. That's probably too broad a generalisation, actually. Or maybe quality Christian writers do write Christian fiction but the feat of writing good allegorical fiction is too great and they settle for less, because when they write Christian fiction their intent is no longer story, but to convey a message?

    Or perhaps it's the publishing industry - from the other thread Wreybies posted, I saw that @EdFromNY wrote a story about a priest dealing with street people, and Christian publishers rejected him due to the language and nature of the street people, and secular publishers rejected him for portraying Christians in a positive light. Meaning, it seems, quality fiction that could be classified as "Christian" simply don't make it through the filter - because the Christian market/audience wants something very specific, and so does the wider market.

    Btw re the communism mention - what I quoted from the play is only one section. There's a whole other monologue detailing the nativity story, numerous songs singing about Jesus is Lord, and my own final line is "Jesus is a gift for everyone, even for me!" *bright eyes* lol. It's definitely about Jesus as Saviour rather than anything political. But I guess whether Christianity supports communism necessarily is yet another topic for another thread.

    @Lemex -
    I like that poem :) I've actually never read TS Eliot's stuff. In general I don't read Christian fiction these days. I've read Narnia, which I enjoyed. I've read a book called "Shock of Your Life" which is about a kid who has a near-death experience where he goes to heaven and God shows him heaven and hell, and he comes back to earth alive and becomes a believer - I read that as a teenager and enjoyed it. Then I read its sequel, "Aftershock" about the same kid trying to evangelise to everyone, and a few of his friends believed and others didn't, then they go on holiday together and get into an accident and everyone dies. They stand at the door of heaven and it was made obvious what was gonna happen to the unbelieving friends, and how now they've run out of time. I don't think I ever formed an opinion about whether I agreed with such a story or not. I do remember feeling rather stunned and not being able to make heads or tails of it. Perhaps that's evidence that it's a good book? Again I read it as a teen and was not half as critical as I am now.

    And then I read something else whose title I forget, also read it as a teen, and I don't remember anything from it. I only remember thinking it was really cliche. Perhaps by this point I was starting to develop an idea of Christian fiction without consciously being aware of it. I didn't read really any Christian fiction after that.

    And then about 1-2 years ago, I borrowed a book from my brother-in-law, a Christian fiction whose title I forget but it has a bolt of purple lightning on its cover. The back sounded cool, though again I forget what it was. (Gosh, these weren't very memorable stories, were they?) Anyway, I opened it up and read perhaps 5 pages before I couldn't stomach the bad writing anymore and stopped. It opened in a club with this tall, muscular guy with tattoos, and people in the group jeering at some drunk girls and then one of the girls fell into the pool or the sea or something and was drowning, and the tall tattoo skinhead dived in and saved her. Maybe it's cus I'm Christian, I knew exactly what it was trying to do. It's the whole, "See! I'm a Christian and I'm really cool! You can be a Christian and still be cool! I even have tattoos! And Christians are nice people! Christians aren't boring! (remember, the tattoos!)"

    Ugh... Haven't tried Christian fiction again till this play. Here, here are my lines from this year's Christmas musical:
    This has been an interesting night, we came into the shop as different people, and left as different people.
    So many changed lives...
    ... now I know that Christmas is a season of hope...
    I think your wife is right, Sir, it is more blessed to give than to receive!
    I came here searching for a gift, but I’ve found out something even better.
    Christmas is for everyone, including me. Jesus is God’s gift, even for me.

    Seriously... ugh... I'm actually doing a different play as part of an ordinary drama club - we're doing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I could read Christian analogies into that play too, even though faith wasn't the theme - but that sense of restoration and sacrifice are both at the heart of the Christian message. And as I mentioned above to Wreybies, Les Miserables is heavily Christian in its theme. The story of the priest giving away his two silver candlesticks is a story even pastors use in church to help in their sermons. Yet nobody calls these stories "Christian". Instead, we get a play like the above... :dry:

    @jazzabel -
    The average secular audience doesn't want to be converted or preached to, and Christians don't really need this kinda evangelistic attempt. But yes, it's kinda meant for those whom the Lord has already prepared and will therefore touch with this particular musical, or so that's the thinking behind it. But I dunno, those who want to be converted - the seekers, if you will - would surely appreciate a solid sermon instead? You know... If you really wanted to hear the Christian message because you're seeking and maybe even want to be convinced, you'd go for a sermon. You wouldn't need a watered down play like this. So I honestly don't quite see what the musical could achieve other than pure simple good Christmas cheer lol, as well as better unity of the church, both of which are very good things lol :)

    As for why I'm participating - because I want to be more involved in my church. I want to use my skills and abilities to help the church. And this here's a pretty Christian kinda thinking - I want to use my gifts to glorify God. I also feel a need to serve the church as part of the duty of a good Christian. You don't have to serve in every aspect, but it is good for me to serve in aspects where I have been given the talent. While I'm no professional, I'm definitely good at acting and singing and I really do little else in the church. I'm also thinking of leaving Prague soon and moving back to the UK, and my church has been holding Christmas musicals for the past 2 years and I didn't participate in either one. I just wanna be part of one at least once before I leave.

    I guess I should just have fun with it, eh? I'm just not sure I can take it seriously. I'll end up rolling my eyes at the whole thing. We're supposed to practice nearly every Sunday starting very soon. I'm not sure I can stand the bad quality of the play and take it seriously... But I feel like I should stay to serve God with my gifts. There's no pressure from my friends to stay - certainly they want me to be in it, but there won't be any backlash if I back out. Dunno...

    @peachalulu -
    Glad to see another fellow Christian writer with good common sense for quality story-telling :D there's hope yet! I guess the problem is when people specifically wanna write something "Christian", what they really wanna do is preach. Nothing wrong with that but then I just wish they'd just preach instead, you know? I think Christian fiction might be a lot more effective even from an evangelical POV if it'd start critiquing Christians and the church rather than constantly pointing at the unsaved. I guess that's half the problem with writing "Christian" fiction, esp for something like a Christian play - your key purpose isn't even story. Your key purpose is to evangelise... You know there's a Christian drama workshop coming up where I live and I'm kinda interested, but a part of me fears it's gonna be really really bad... lol

    @Aled James Taylor -
    You could be right in a sense. Faith is a very abstract thing and I don't really think conviction is something you could always explain. I'm no longer satisfied with Bible verses people can easily quote to explain about suffering and hell etc, and yet I still believe in a good and merciful God because of what I've experienced myself. It boils down to conviction and some basic assumptions one has in life, and these things often don't change. You know how you sometimes hear something and you've never even thought about it, but it strikes a chord with you and somehow you just know it's true? Even in the face of contradictions, these convictions are hard to shake and there's really no desire to shake them in the first place. Nothing necessarily wrong with this. In any case, while all this is true, it makes for a bad story or a very challenging story to tell. How do you portray all these contradictions and shades of grey and still convey certainty and the One True Way, as you presumably wish to do considering you chose to write specifically "Christian" fiction and not just any fiction? And if you do do that, it becomes too big of a task. And if you don't, then the whole idea of faith becomes contrived. Faith isn't faith if it hasn't been tested. Sometimes I think Christians are afraid of testing for fear of being accused of doubting God or falling for temptation or something on those lines, I'm not sure.

    Maybe the mistake Christian authors make in Christian fiction is they try to convert other characters. But a musical like Les Miserables - faith was a strong element in the whole thing. I can't believe I've forgotten the MC's name, but anyway, the MC lived his life and drove the plot in this way based on a strong conviction of God and his faith in God, and the need to live for God. The entire thing was very heavy on symbolism. Yet perhaps it didn't come across as heavy-handed possibly because the MC didn't try to "convert" anyone, trying to convince or preach. And even Javert as a symbolism wasn't heavy-handed because it wasn't really trying to target the unbeliever (Javert believed in God too, after all) - it's targeting self-righteousness. And Javert's lack of conversion is to the author/play's credit and made a bolder and far more effective statement than his conversion could've ever done.

    As for the homeless, our church does actually run a homeless ministry. Every Sat a bunch of students cook 40-60 meals depending on the season - more meals for winter - as well as make tea, and they go out and distribute food to the homeless. They put Bible verses in Czech on the boxes and they offer to pray with the homeless if they allow them to. Yes, their purpose is to bring God to the needy and show them God's love, and thus they encourage questions about God etc, but most of all, they listen to the homeless people's stories, and sometimes even meet specific individuals mid-week in order to buy them a train ticket, medication, or even just for a chat. The focus is on relationships rather than food, showing them someone cares rather than necessarily providing materially, because while materials are important, we realise we cannot really solve the problem of their homelessness. We cannot feed the homeless everyday. But it's just doing what we can. I think it's a precious ministry. Many of the homeless are Catholics, actually, and often appreciate prayer and a reminder of God.

    @ChickenFreak -
    I think non-fiction would indeed make things easier, but I always love a good story. Anyway, the problem is my church obviously thinks this play is good, otherwise they wouldn't have chosen it. It's a typical Christian attempt. We're aware our plays needs to be more interesting. We're aware we need a good sense of humour. We're aware it should be different so as to stay fresh. We're aware it should be applicable to real life so as to make it relevant. We're aware we shouldn't be too preachy (well, on this point, at least I'm aware of it lol). And that's why this present musical has been chosen. It's set in the modern day and the play is basically about people who are busy buying presents and they forget what Christmas is all about, and it takes a little child to come and tell them the Christmas story to enlighten them. It includes shopkeepers and tired mothers and a bored teen (that's me lol). You see, it's trying very hard to be more accessible and funny and fresh. What people don't seem to realise is, no matter what you dress it up with, it's not gonna improve anything if they're about as subtle as a sledgehammer when it comes to conveying the message lol.

    Fiction written for the purpose of communicating a message is likely to fail - I'd agree, because you're not really concerned about the story at all. I don't get why people don't just be bold about it and turn it into an essay or a speech.

    Fiction written with a conscious message in mind - I'm not sure I see exactly what the difference is in this from the one above. However, I think when you're writing with a conscious message, your story's been stifled before it ever started. It's like trying to grow a tree in a box. And you don't even know it doesn't work because you're busy trying to fit it into the box and the idea of exploring anything or doing anything differently has never even occurred to you when it otherwise might have, if only you weren't so busy trying to fit it around that box.

    I think here I agree with Stephen King. Better to excavate the fossil (story) and then when you reread it, polish any symbolism or themes you see cropping up and enhance them. Then they will have occurred naturally. I just think non-writers don't realise how complex a story really is, and therefore how complex is it to convey a theme through it effectively is.

    @jannert -
    Lol well my character is a bored teenager. I think it's just an attempt at character realism... yeah... I don't think any harm was intended. It's just a very amateurish attempt. I told one of my church friends about how I feel the play is really badly written, and she was like, "I understand. I feel the same when I see a really bad photo." (she's a hobbyist photographer and makes beautiful photos) And she told me I shouldn't be part of the musical if I'm not completely comfortable with it. Hmmm, I dunno. Or maybe I need to loosen up and just have fun with it lol.

    I'm not sure how I'd begin to rewrite my line... If you look under the spoiler for Lemex, you'll see I've quoted my last lines in the play. I'm not sure it can be rewritten - what I say is pretty much the crux of the message for the entire musical :D I should be honoured to have such an important part to say, to be honest, but I just can't say it without sounding sarcastic. It worries me a little cus it makes me feel guilty, like I'm mocking their faith - like if I'm a true believer then surely I would jump for joy and praise the Lord at such pure, undiluted truth. But I don't, because it's badly written lol. (no one's telling me I should feel guilty - this is just internal pressure, but not sure what I'm to do with this...)

    Phew... finally done with all the replies!
     
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  18. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Oh, now I'm sad.
     
  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well you sure knocked your pan out replying personally to everybody, @Mckk. I hope it all works out for you, and you find a way to participate without wanting to vanish through the floorboards on opening night!
     
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  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why are you sad? From the thread Wreybies linked to, I saw your very old post telling me you skip half my posts hahaha. Totally don't blame you. Seems I have not really improved in that respect... :whistle:
     
  21. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    No, because you didn't even mention me.

    Gonna go slit my wrists now.
     
  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Jack Asher
     
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  23. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Thank you. :) That's the first two stanzas, of the first canto of Inferno. I've based it on the Mark Musa translation which I consider the best, but with some of my own modifications. The original Italian is:

    Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
    mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
    ché la diritta via era smarrita.

    Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
    esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
    che nel pensier rinova la paura!

    Do! I recommend him - especially his Four Quatrains if you are interested in poems with a Christian core. Also his earlier poems were based in a kind of soul-searching. He went through a Buddhist phase and all sorts, and his Prufrock and Wasteland are masterworks.

    Mind, I'll warn you now, he's extremely difficult as poets go.

    That sounds like the kind of story that hasn't invited me to the party. I do think certain kinds of art are just not accessible to everyone, and from what you have described, that is an example of it. I don't think I'd, from that description, be able to get anything from it. Does this mean that literature that is not universal is bad? I actually don't think so. I am not going to like everything, in the same way I am not going to understand everything.

    Experiences like this can be very formative.

    Yes, that does sound like the sort of thing someone would write to be recognized as part of a set of people with a shared ideology. It is a shame that there are writers who feel they need to do it, I find it more interesting when there is something like Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe who has his faith tested by an event, rather than let events be dictated by their faith.

    I quite agree.

    Perhaps the differences is as I said above. Some writing does have a justifiable Christian interpretation with Christian characters, and even a Christian setting, but the Christianity is just one layer to the work, like Les Mis or Crusoe. Where as 'Christian Novels' like 'Christian Rock' is all about hammering the one message home with no attempt at subtlety, or sophistication at all.

    It can get a little sickening when something is clearly just bad propaganda, but trust me on this, that's true of any bad propaganda, regardless of the message. Maybe the problem is the genre is just so overloaded with artless dreck because it's in a way designed specifically to be artless dreck, while other works with a more serious Christian message are out there in plentiful numbers and are more worth your time.
     
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  24. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I wonder if people who write 'Christian dreck'—as opposed to thoughtful pieces that affirm Christianity at the core, like Les Miserables, Robinson Crusoe—are simply afraid to make people actually think about their faith ...in case people think their way out of it instead, and decide it's not for them.

    Maybe these 'dreck' writers are people who have been taught not to question anything, but just repeat phrases from the Bible in their heads all the time, because they are 'true.' Their role in life is not to convert unbelievers, but to keep believers on track, and regather backsliders. All a backslider really needs to become a believer again is to be 'reminded' of Truth (especially at Christmas?) Everyone's core conviction seems taken for granted.

    I'm not a Christian myself, and never have been, although I was raised within a Christian culture and a nominally "Christian" family, although we didn't attend any church. I don't actually fight against it. I just don't believe in it, never did, and have always gone my own way. I respect religious people if they behave in a socially responsible way—and most of them do, and are strengthened by their faith. However, I am usually honest, when asked. I remember many occasions when I was confronted on the doorstep by evangelicals of many different stripes, and I said (very pleasantly) 'Sorry. I'm actually not a Christian at all.' Inevitably they just backed away and left without argument.

    However, on one or two occasions I acted as if I was playing along—and then I couldn't get them to shut up. Same thing happened with my husband, who, unlike me, did believe in Christianity for many years and knows the lingo. He would start to discuss with them, and as long as they were convinced he was just a backslider they were happy to have a go. Conversion never seemed to be the purpose of their visit.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2014
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  25. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's interesting the mention of Les Miserbles and Robinson Crusoe. Both were my favourite stories growing up (abridged for Les Mis) and I wasn't a Christian or religious at all. In fact, some of the core lessons in Christianity, like attitude to poverty and money, were almost the same in socialism, so that's how I interpreted those messages, in terms of my inner ethics and morals, and it worked beautifully. I don't feel that being a Christian would have offer me any more insight into those stories than I already had. I wonder if that's the true test. Will a non-Christian find the same meaning in the work as a Christian? If yes, then the story is well-written.
     

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