1. Lumipon
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    Lumipon Member

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    Is using Christianity (and especially Jesus) as a plot device in bad taste?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Lumipon, Jun 26, 2012.

    IMO it is not, but I am worried about reviewer backlash, so this is probably as good a place as any to ask.

    The short version: Jesus was a reality warper, Christianity was a plot to unite all men and prevent a supernatural force to destroy mankind.

    I can certainly see how this could cause a backlash. I can't accurately predict what kind of an impact there could be in using the most famous religious character as a plot device. I should probably just stress the "WORK OF FICTION" part.
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I personally don't think so. There will be others who disagree. You're always playing with fire when dealing with something related to religion. I say if you want to write it, write it. If other people don't like it, so be it. No matter what you write, someone -- no, lots of people, aren't going to like it. If it touches on religion, there will be a bunch of people who don't like it who have never read it and know nothing about it. If that bothers you, then don't do it. If you can live with that, then do it.

    There are many books that use Jesus as a plot device. The DaVinci Code is one. Lamb is another.
     
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  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I just got through reading Anthony Burgess' The Kingdom of the Wicked. It deals with the early days of the Christian church, and Jesus is a character in the first chapter. The Apostles are characters for the rest of the book, among many, many others. It certainly didn't seem to be in bad taste to me, at least from a religious perspective. It was realistic, raw, and powerful. It was originally published back in the mid-1980s, and I don't remember a backlash against it.

    I'd say write your story. I don't think you'll have a problem.
     
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  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you worry about people not liking what you write, you'll never write.
     
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  5. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    if you write it someone will be offended.
    But I think that is true of anything if it gets popular.
    Remember how people where so against the harry potter books?
    Or stuff by Dan Brown. Controversy also sells.
    i say go for it
     
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  6. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're willing to accept writing something that will limit your potential audience, then go ahead. The movie, The Man From Earth, already used Jesus as a plot device. It's been done. Never seen one time I found to be clever, but it is your story and I doubt there's any plot device around that has no audience.
     
  7. lallylello
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    lallylello Member

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    Would it work if you didn't call him Jesus and didn't call the religion Christianity? If not, maybe you're just being controversial for the sake of it. If it would, why not change the names and let people draw their own conclusions about what you're trying to say. You would, of course, have to work harder if you took this path, but it could be more powerful.
    Risky business playing with God. Not wrong, IMO, but definitely risky.
    :)
     
  8. CrimsonReaper
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    CrimsonReaper Active Member

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    Well he made blind people see, could walk on water when it wasn't frozen, and rose from the dead. Kind of making reality his bitch if you ask me.


    Christianity IS a plot to unite all men via the love of god, thus protecting them from the dark impulses in their own souls. Hell is distance from God. Then there is that Satan guy, but if you read the Bible you will actually see he was just doing his job. Literally. Satan's job was to tempt people. Untested faith isn't really faith at all. Or are we talking about Cthulthu and his Star-spawn instead? If the supernatural force inspired the legend of Satan/Lucifer, then what's the difference?

    Some more specifics would help here. Are you going to write that Jesus was just a mortal man with mutant powers or some king of wizard, not the DIVINE incarnation (already entering into a religious debate on this part) of God? Well if that is the case then his opinion is no more valid than any other wouldbe prophet, and there is no shortage of those in any age. Does this blasphemy actually help the story? What is the theme you are going for? What over-sensitive people think of your plotline DOES NOT MATTER. They are free to read something else. Decide if you need to risk the story getting bogged down in this controversial notion, or move on.
     
  9. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Keep in mind the whole genre of Religious fiction. There will be people who don't like it. There will even be those who judge it before reading it. Having Jesus appear in your book is nothing more than religous fiction. I read a book wherein that was exactly the case :p and it was an interesting interpretation. As long as its acknowledges as religous fiction, it all really depends on the story you create and how well you tell it. Just start writing and see what happens. if nothing else write a story you'd enjoy reading.
     
  10. Rebel Yellow
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    Rebel Yellow Active Member

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    I think it's perfectly fine for a writer to draw inspiration in mythology.
     
  11. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    My worry is that you might end up preaching Christianity rather than offend :), and that will definitely bore me to dead.
     
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  12. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    It can work. Write first, worry about stepping on toes later. I try to keep my inner critic far away from my first draft of anything, really.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Is a novel about children killing other children in bad taste? It depends on the novel - how it's written, how the subject is treated.

    And some people will find it offensive no matter what you do.

    Nevertheless, The Hunger Games is a very popular series.

    So your question really has no meaningful general answer.
     
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  14. Lumipon
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    Lumipon Member

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    Thank you very much for your opinions and advice. All have been noted :3



    Then a specific answer:

    I thought about this myself, actually. The thing is, I like religion in fiction. Especially those involving Greek pantheon and mythology. I like that I can apply my knowledge of the mythology and symbolism on the book. Like knowing what implications a place called "Tartarus" might have etc. But the thing is: Orphism is not a common religion, so using the mythology is not guaranteed to cause ire in the readers.

    Also there is the context. The ability to create a more powerful connection between the fiction and the reader. Since mythology is something very deeply rooted into every culture, using it in fiction is one of the most powerful tools to bring context and symbolism.
     
  15. Shane Grayson
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    Shane Grayson Member

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    If someone doesn't like your work because it does not stroke their ego of their religious views, then I would not take the person's advice with seriousness. If what you write feels right, then it most like is right.
     
  16. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    To tell you the truth, I encourage it. My brother likes to say, sometimes writing should offend. We are not here to please the masses, we are here to entertain. How many times have you see a movie that had something in it distasteful?

    To cite a similar example, I am writing a novel where my characters can travel to past and future lives of theirs. My maincharacter is exploring the ages, and he finds himself watching Jesus turning water to wine, where he screams from the middle of the crowd, "Heretic!"

    The scene happened because I saw an opportunity to add my sense of humor, and personality, without hindering the flow of story. It also adds to my characters state of mind, and his own: a twenty-three year old slacker, who is probably a genius, and most things just don't impress him. Hell, Jesus turning water into wine didn't even cause him to flinch.

    In short, write what you want. I think your concept is awesome. If you take away all outside influence, Jesus, influenced a lot of people. Did he warp them? Maybe, depending on whether or not you know his true intentions, which almost all of us may never know. Could you compare him to a passive Manson? Sure, because he stood in front of weak-minded people, and showed them the thoughts of a strong-minded man. Would I read your story? Probably, because it reflects my own logic. Even, if you took a shot at my own spiritual beliefs, which are eastern in nature, I'd still read your story. But that's my personality. I'm open minded, and willing to hear all sides, before concluding my own.
     
  17. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I don't think we should set out to offend GoldenGhost, so much as not being quick to let the possibility of offending stop us.

    But I agree, I see no problem with using Christianity, just as I see no problem with using any religion.
     
  18. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    I don't think it's in bad taste at all and I don't think it's a question that should have to be asked (though I understand the context in which you're doing so.)

    I hate the idea that people wouldn't write something because they don't want to offend. You're going to offend someone, somewhere, at some point in time. Taste is subjective and can't be discussed well when everyone has their own views.

    Write it, write it well and don't worry.
     
  19. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    Well, that is why I said sometimes. But, I do arouse the question, shouldn't writing reflect our beliefs and opinions? I mean, if it doesn't how else can we pour our heart and soul into something? Won't our opinions and beliefs clash with our readers, inevitably? somewhere along the way? Am I supposed to stifle my viewpoints, and prevent my characters from having a piece of me 100% of the time? If you look at the greats, even they had something to say, within their lines, that reflected who they are. Shakespear took shots at everyone, Vonnegut was a cynic, Hemingway a pessimist, Poe a dreamer.. All of them had a perception of life they shared with their readers, regardless of how their readers felt. I don't believe for one moment, they cared whether or not they offended anyone.

    Now, nothing I have said, in my two posts, states that you should intentionally go out and offend people. I'm just saying the fact that it will happen, is as real as the World spinning. Don't shy away from something because you think it will offend. If anything, dive into it. We're here to entertain, and things that potentially offend, jolt our readers and their experience. In my opinion, thats a point for us.
     
  20. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    Why would this make it controversial for the sake of being controversial. Christianity is at the root of many modern day societies. It got it's start somewhere, and any work of fiction or otherwise dealing with those cultures would be negligent to ignore that history. It would be unrealistic, unless it is a completely fantasy setting on another world or in a country that has not been exposed to the religion yet. Basing a story around this history only makes sense, and controversy or not, it is silly to invent a religion just for the sake of not offending a person.
     
  21. Gonissa
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    Gonissa Contributing Member

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    As a Christian, I'm sort of fine with this. Writing is an expression of creativity, and that's cool. What I'm not fine with is:
    1. People totally smearing Christianity just for the heck of it.
    2. People talking about Christianity when it's pretty clear they know basically nothing about it (irony: I once met a "Christian" who did this). Honestly, it's really distracting when I'm reading something and the writer has completely taken the Bible out of context.
    3. Trite stereotypes. Like the one scene from Highlander where a bunch of villagers kick Connor out because they think he's of the devil.

    But all that aside, free speech. I may dislike your story (maybe not, it sounds kinda cool), but if it sells, it sells, and there's nothing I can do about it. All I ask is that you treat Christianity like a country: if you don't know about it, don't write about it.


    However, what really does offend me is Cogito editing your post. Excess detail removed? What does that mean? I hope it means that you asked Cogi to edit the post for you...
     
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  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why does it have to be Jesus? Why can't you create your own character? There must be a very good reason for using Jesus - and the only purpose would be in some way to examine, debate, negate, or promote Him and His position as God and Son of God and all His teachings and being the founder of what has become Christianity, or else to use His life in some way to illustrate some other point of your own.

    All of the above would be reasonable - it would be perfectly logical then to use Jesus.

    But if you're using Jesus just because you can't think of a better person you could use, just for the heck of it, for the controversy, or for the fact that Jesus is famous and thus cuts your work in half about establishing what your character can and can't do and the people's reception to him - then I think it's the wrong move. It's not worth the backlash for such a trivial reason which basically stems from pure laziness.

    However, like I say, if there's actually a good reason for using Jesus as a character - your plot cannot move without the person of Jesus or at least your interpretation of Jesus - then I guess it's all right to an extent.

    But really, is it absolutely necessary? If it is not, why use Jesus at all? It would inevitably become a religious statement - you know it would whether you intended it or not - is that what you want your book to be about, and is that what you want to be remembered for? Is that what you want people to think of you and your work every time your name or your book gets mentioned? The truth is, the religious aspect of it and the presentation of Jesus will certainly overshadow your entire book.

    Btw if you hadn't guessed, I'm a Christian. I agree with Gonaissa - if you don't know anything about it, don't write about it. I cannot stop you from writing this book, but if I saw it on the shelves, I would not read it. I refuse to support anyone or anything that marrs the name of my Lord. However of course, if you're using this to preach Christianity, that's another matter - say for example, The Shack.
     
  23. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    Mckk, I see no where in the OP's plot description an intention of making Jesus look bad. The savior characteristic is still there. It's just evil aliens instead of fallen angels. So, based off of his description you're already writing this book off. Which is fine. There are plenty of other sci-fi lovers that also love Jesus, so there's still a market for this thing.
     
  24. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think it was the phrase "Jesus is a reality warper" that ticked me off as a Christian. Inevitably this makes me think of magic and sorcery - and as the Bible says, sorcery comes from Satan. You see now why I'd steer clear of it?

    I guess who Jesus is in the book pretty much determines whether I read that particular book or not. Either Jesus is not in it, or Jesus must be portrayed as God - and I mean a good God according to the Bible - but that's just me. It's one thing if Jesus is absent, it's another if Jesus is being distorted.

    Basically, if the OP doesn't want this kinda reaction (such as my own) then he/she will have to be quite careful about how the blurb reads, and exactly how Jesus is portrayed. Personally I'd steer clear of writing such things - it gives you more headaches and less freedom, unless you really couldn't care less about controversy and backlash. But for those seeking controversy for the sake of it, I find such people disrespectful.

    The OP can of course write whatever he or she wishes and I'm not attacking the OP for the idea of using Jesus - I'd just be sensitive about how Jesus is portrayed because this is not just some fictional figure - this is the Man whom many people across the globe believes to be their God - so show some respect.
     
  25. amecylia
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    amecylia Member

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    This reminded me of something that I read before. An Austrian was charged with blasphemy in Greece over a book "The Life of Jesus". (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerhard_Haderer).

    Although your idea sounds less offensive than Haderer's book, there are people out there who might be offended if you make references to any of the modern religions. It depends how comfortable you are with potentially causing controversy, and being accused of doing so intentionally.

    Personally, I love stories involving mythology! I think if you have an interesting story to tell (whether it be based on historical fact or fiction), you should tell it. This seems like an interesting take on the adventures of Jesus.
     

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