1. Zadocfish

    Zadocfish Member

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    Christian Science Fiction

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Zadocfish, Feb 2, 2017.

    I'm having a habit of a conundrum here, as a Christian trying to get writing. See, I'm only really interested in writing sci-fi/fantasy. But as Christians, we're called to only do things that glorify God, and I don't see how I can do that with the things I write.

    Any other hopeful Christian sci-fi/fantasy writers struggle with this? Not wanting to be secular in your writings, but also not wanting to just tread C S Lewis' path?
     
  2. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Thy rod and thy Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm usually the wrong person to talk to about issues of religion, but I had an old friend who was very Christian and very into science fiction. She was a member of a forum called something like "ChristianSF" or "ChristSF". Did a quick search and found a Christian SF fandom links page here. I have no idea how current or legit it or any of its links are, but there might be something there to help you sort out your issue.
     
  3. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Loved by a Sweet lady. :) Supporter Contributor

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    Why can't you just have a Christian MC?

    Anywho, what is Christian Sci-fi? I thought
    they were all pretty much the same under
    the catch all of Sci-fi.
     
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  4. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Thy rod and thy Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think it depends on how much religion permeates the story. A lot of SF, especially the classic stuff, is quite... areligious? Many of the stories exist outside of a framework where God (or gods) are recognized at all, even as a cultural phenomenon. To write a book with characters who actively believe in deities and are not presented as deluded or antagonistic would go a long way towards making it "Christian" (or Muslim, or Zoroastrian) SF.

    For example, in The Mars Trilogy, there's only, IIRC, one explicitly religious character, Phyllis Boyle, and she's about as close to an all-out villain as the series has. She's described as a (paraphrasing from memory) "prayer and business breakfast Christian" whose real goal is power, and who uses public displays of religion to solidify that power. Frank Chalmers describes her:

    Without taking this thread into the debate room, I think we can probably agree that there are people who publicly identify as Christians who follow the same philosophy, and also that that is not representative of all Christians.

    On the flip side, there's The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. This book, IMHO, does a good job of glorifying God, to use the OP's phrase, or at least presenting those who have devoted their lives to religion in a positive light. The main character is a Jesuit priest, as are a couple of side characters, but there are also atheist (small "a") characters, along with a non-practicing Jew. The book has a very spiritual theme, but makes no claims to the actual existence or non-existence of the divine. Despite that, it's been praised by a Catholic journal for showing the risks that Jesuit priests have historically faced when trying to spread their faith to other cultures (also portrayed in the film "The Mission").

    I haven't had the chance to read any of the OP's workshop threads yet, and the exact details of what does or does not glorify God are a matter of opinion, but IMHO, one needn't beat the Christian drum too loudly (as I'm told the Left Behind series does) to write a book that is both entertaining to the general populace yet still presenting faith, and by implication God, as a positive force in the world.

    I'm getting pulled into this topic.

    Again.

    Hope it helps, anyway.
     
  5. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    If God created you, he also created your imagination, right? What better way to glorify him than to use his creations to their full potential?
     
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  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Christian fiction is a big genre to itself and most of it deals with things that would be generally classed as scifi or fanatsy - angels descended to earth, miracles, stigmata and so forth.

    In essence basing a book on christianity is no different to basing it on any mythology or belief - read the source text, find a story that you like and bring it to life either in historical times or updated to the modern day - e.g Dean Koontz 'The Taking' essentially deals with a noah's flood brought to the modern day (not a litteral flood)

    or you could pick up biblical themes to use in your work - the rejection of temptation, forgiveness, and so forth
     
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  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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  8. Wreybies

    Wreybies Arroz Con Admin Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not a theist in any sort of way, but I think the question you're asking is one that is always fundamental to anyone's writing process.

    What do you want to say with your work?

    And before you say "to glorify God", please read the rest of my thought.

    You mention C.S. Lewis and not wanting to simply tread his trodden territory. Easy enough. He wrote a parable, and it's rather too on-the-nose if you ask me. There's nothing subtle or layered or interpretable about it. It's the story of Christ told in a different world for people different to us, but still clearly meant to be analogues of us. Lewis uses a story lifted directly from the Bible and gives it a costume change and little more. He focuses on repurposing the same basic plot to retell a known message.

    I say start with the message instead and forget using a known plot or series of events. You know yourself to be a Christian. You're listening in church. You know the gospel. Take a message from the gospel and start there. Create a story that tells that message.

    -----------------------------------------------
    :stop:
    ETA: For anyone wishing to engage the OP's question, you can engage the question itself or you can find another thread to comment in. If you are here to debate religion with the OP, I will delete your posts without notice and with possible repercussion of an infraction to you. Be ye warned.
     
  9. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    1) Christianity

    In my work, I feature many hideous ideals:
    • That innocent people should be kidnapped and tortured to create soldier-slaves
    • That the best way to protect the innocent is to exact bloodthirsty vengeance against the guilty
    • That if evil people are threatening to kill you if you do not commit evil for them, then the best thing to do is go along with it to protect yourself
    • That hurting other people is an acceptable way to work through the pain of how other people have hurt you
    • That group loyalty is more important than human decency
    I go out of my way to show that these ideals are evil and that nobody should allow themselves to be convinced to follow them.

    2) SFF

    You are reading this on a computer, no? A hundred years ago, this computer would've been science fiction ;)

    Fantasy looks trickier at first glance, but if magic that people could control without divine intervention was real, then that would make it a natural phenomenon that follows natural laws. That would make it something that humans could study and learn about. That would make it a branch of science :cool:
     
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  10. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Supporter Contributor

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    I'm a Christian writing a fantasy novel, and yes, I've struggled considerably with this question many times and only recently have I found the answer. I've tried writing Christian books with actual Christians in it, and let me tell you, they really stank. My goal now is to write Christian friendly books, meaning books without the themes I find religiously offensive, but without religions in it. After asking God if this was okay for several years (I'm terrible at hearing Him), I finally feel at peace with it. Like what BayView said, God made our imaginations. I think He's okay with us using them as long as we don't glorify evil in our writing.

    ETA: I also have a friend who wrote an apocalyptic sci-fi screenplay with Christianity in it, and I LOVED it. It had a lot of action in it and it wasn't too preachy. Most of the Christian books I've read are a little too preachy. Most of them have Bible verse after Bible verse and teaching after teaching. If I wanted to read the Bible, I'd read the Bible, and if I wanted to be taught, I'd talk to my pastor or watch a TV pastor. I'm reading the book for entertainment, not to be preached at. If you decide to write an actual Christian book, it can be done well, just remember not to get too preachy with it. ;)

    ETA2: By Christian friendly, I don't mean trying to cater to every Christian in the world. We're all individuals with different religious tolerances and ideals. For example, I am very inspired by dragons; I think they're an awesome invention of our imaginations that are based on our past interactions with dinosaurs (I don't believe in evolution), but some Christians think they're of the devil. Those Christians aren't my target audience, and I'm okay with that. I have a firm belief that God's okay with dragons and I'm going to use as many of them in my books as I want. You need to find what you're comfortable with, and write that.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2017
  11. NoGoodNobu

    NoGoodNobu Contributor Contributor

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    "The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays—not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship."

    A quote often attributed to Luther, but certainly not his.

    In Judeo-Christian scriptures there are myriads of vocations featured. Some are tent builders, some are priests, some are herdsmen, some are servants, some are kings, some are soldiers, some are musicians, et cetera. Regardless of what one is called to, all work is done as if to God and for His glory. A banker and a waitress and a writer are all equally called to dutifully & effectively work to the glory of God.

    I don't think there is anything incompatible with the whole of the arts and literature and Christianity.

    If you're worried about subject matter, Judeo-Christian scriptures have pretty much gone there: rape, incest, murder, massacre, betrayal, treason, mutilation, slavery, revenge, et cetera. It's filled with the despicable and depraved: because hey, it covers humans and humans have done some really sick things. Exploring human nature or simply depicting it with writing isn't at odds with Christianity as far as I'm concerned.

    The Bible I believe is a collection 66 books composed by something like 40+ authors written in three languages over some crazy length of time between the first & last written books. It also is a variety of genres utilizing numerous literary techniques: it's got poetry, proverbs, prophecy, historical narrative, civil laws & codes, and so on.

    It seems to me that Christianity is perfectly suited to the creative works of literature.

    And there have been myriads of novels contributed by Christian authors over the centuries that have no evangelical message or focus on explicit Christian themes.

    To me, just write what you want to write and write it well.
     
  12. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I'm gonna let Helen Chert, starship commander of my sci-fi and a Christian answer this one:

    Helen Chert: It's my belief that God created the universe and all the inhabitants that live with in. Whenever I gaze at the stars, I'm at a loss for words over His magnificent beauty. While my adventures themselves don't involve religion, I think God has commanded galactic soldiers everywhere to protect His inhabitants, and that's what I do.
     
  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    But does "glorify God" require that everything be specifically about God, and not even a little tiny bit about his creations or his creations' creations?

    If you have kids and they do great things, doesn't that make you proud even if they don't recite, every few minutes, "It's all due to my parents."?
     
  14. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm Christian and I love working in my ideals and beliefs and even challenging them with the use of varied characters. That way I'm not writing my beliefs to pat myself on the back - I'm exploring them, digging deep and examining them. In one of my stories, a fantasy - House of Cadre - I explore a lot of themes, one of them being the body as a container for the soul and where does corruption really start. Sometimes I'm afraid I'm too subtle - but I'm trying to find that balance. As a varied reader I sometimes find myself annoyed that a lot of books I pick up feature characters that immediately diss God & Jesus. Or feature the clichéd religious nutjob. I want to be a counter to that and say hey, not everyone thinks/behaves this way but I also don't want to be kicked off to the Christian shelf where that opinion is safe.
    What's the point of writing to a community that already accepts your opinion?
    Keep your beliefs and boundaries. But don't be afraid to be creative. Ironically it's easier then you'd think. A lot of movies & books already have a very basic set of moral codes the writers just don't always have characters that give credit to his or her faith out of fear that it would alienate readers/viewers.
    Dare to offend.
     
  15. Zadocfish

    Zadocfish Member

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    Wow. All great points, here. Thank you! So apparently it's more about keeping it skilled and focused on positive/faithful ideals rather than being explicit, because that results in more readers and a better impact than trying to preach. About right?
     
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  16. Wreybies

    Wreybies Arroz Con Admin Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think the answer to this is yes. I mean, think about it:

    In the most Fantasy of Fantasy stories - Lord of the Rings - what saves Middle Earth?

    Is it Frodo?

    No, it's not.

    It's the unerring, unshakable love and faith of Samwise Gamgee that saves the day. Through everything that happens, even when Frodo turns against him, Samwise never, ever, ever loses his faith in his friend and in the rightness of the task they bear. I think that's an idea and sentiment that any good Christian can relate to, don't you? :)
     
  17. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, also that: just because you're writing a novel, does it mean you have to be preaching? Is your every conversation in your day-to-day about God or praising God? No, probably not. So why does your writing have to be so? You're writing a story, that's all. Not a sermon. And I think it's ok that not all writers end up writing sermons.

    Obviously, don't write anything blasphemous to your knowledge. If something doesn't sit right with you, then change it - it's your book. Do everything in faith - the one who does not do what he does in faith has already sinned. (I paraphrase - google seems to tell me this is from Romans). Don't feel that glorifying God with your writing necessarily means you must write a novel in the Christian genre for the Christian market and unless by the end of it it concludes that Jesus is Lord, then it can't somehow glorify God. Isn't Lord of the Rings often said to have strong Christian themes? And God isn't mentioned there at all. I think too often Christians are too busy trying to preach - they forget that making someone question is far more effective, and you don't make someone question by preaching usually.

    And what's the purpose of your novel? Is it necessarily to preach? Is preaching the only way to glorify God? Does it have to be about God to glorify God? If you can be an accountant and glorify God simply by doing your job honestly, and not necessarily an accountant for the church, then I think you can just write a good story and glorify God by doing it to the best of your ability.

    Whatever you do, don't go the allegorical route unless you have talent in that direction. It's damn hard to write... I once decided that by glorifying God I must therefore write a Christian novel. My ex called my draft "stealth evangelism" because I kept sneaking in Bible verses thinking how clever I was. There's really no need for that. And yes mine was heavily allegorical and a complete disaster. Allegory is very hard to write lol. Incidentally it was a fantasy story :bigwink:

    What's always bothered me is how we're supposed to use our gifts for God and I've prayed for years that God would allow me to use my writing somehow - and there's never a need for writing, I've noticed. And I'm not educated or spiritual enough to write a non-fiction Christian book either. It was only recently I came to this thought, and that is:

    What if God wants me to pray? Prayer uses words, and as writers we know, words have power. What if having the right words, knowing the right words, somehow mattered when you prayed? Of course the Spirit gives us the words to say and I'm in no way saying God ain't gonna answer your prayer or answer it right if you use simple words versus wonderfully nuanced words. But what if having these words, being able to craft a prayer that emotionally resounds with those who pray with you had greater effect than simply sounding a little poetic? Is it with these words that we encourage one another? Isn't encouragement one of the gifts of the Spirit?

    So there are other ways one could use words to glorify God. Doesn't the Bible tell us to control our tongue? As a writer, someone who knows the impact of words, maybe I have greater responsibility in how I use them.

    What kinda story you write doesn't matter nearly as much as how you talk to people around you on a daily basis, or how you might pray and love with your words. And the truth is, if your heart is turned towards God, I'm guessing your stories would be inspired by Him whether you're aware of it or not. One of my themes in my novel is redemption - the idea of a second chance. Getting a second chance doesn't sound so Christian until you realise as paupers made children of God, we've all been given a second chance by God's grace. It's a theme that is important to me. Haven't worked out how on earth I'm gonna write that theme still though lol but that's a different matter.

    Make your story fun, refreshing, inspiring, perhaps thought-provoking, if you have the skill. Do it to the best of your ability and do it for God. I think that's probably enough. It doesn't have to also be a sermon or somehow "Christian". Like what another poster above said, I also avoid religions in my works - I'm not comfortable writing about other "gods". Whatever you do, do it in faith and do it so it causes no one any harm. Trust that God will lead you, that when he said that he will be the quiet voice that says, "This is the way, walk in it," he will indeed do so.
     
  18. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Supporter Contributor

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    Don't worry about getting more readers; worry about writing what you want to write and keeping to the morals you feel God's told you to keep. Writing a book that's preachy will only appeal to Christians, and chances are we already know whatever the book's being preachy about. That's why I don't like preachy books--I don't need to be told what I already know. If someone wants to learn how to find Christ, it's easy enough to do so, y'know? That said, there ARE people who like preachy books. There's a reader for nearly every kind of book.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2017
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  19. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Another point is that we are saying 'christian' likes its one big happy family - what you can/feel comfortable writing will vary a lot depending on what flavor of christian you are/ your audience are... ie what might sit fine with a catholic could be blasphemous to a baptist (and vice versa)

    It also depends on whether you want to appeal only to the 'christian lit' audience or whether you are looking for wider appeal (the Taking for example had a popular appeal as a straight up action story and did well in the mainstream market , however some christians felt it was too violent )

    I'd also suggest that you don't have to write christian lit at all , you may conclude you can bring glory to god purely through the artistry of your wordsmithing, ie that creating 'beauty' in art is itself an act of worship. But only you can decide if this is valid for your beliefs, or you might decide to write about the natural world as a celebration of gods creation, there are lots of options.

    ( Disclaimer I was raised CofE but lost my faith after a year of tragedies in my early 20s - I don't wish to go into detail, nor would it be appropriate to do so here. I no longer believe in any god, but I have tried to be respectful of the beliefs of others throughout this thread, and to focus only on the writing aspects )
     
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  20. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Senior Member

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    I think there are two reasons why Christian sci-fi is pretty uncommon in the mainstream.
    The first is that anything which is perceived as a 'Religious' piece will be marketed as such. Unfortunately, this is part of a double standard in media - Depending on the studies I've found, between 70-83% of Americans identify as Christian, so that should still be a huge market, even if the remaining quarter or so refuse to read anything specifically religious.
    However, 'Christian Media' usually doesn't actually get marketed or sold as such. Instead, it gets sold to a very specific market, the far-right conservative hyper-Christian market. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with appealing to that market, but it is a very small market by comparison, and the works that end up doing well in this market tend to be very specific and, if we're being frank, not very good because of how much they try and pander to a specific goal. (Effectively working backwards from an end point, even if that means sacrificing plot coherency and logic to get the rest of the story to function.) Things like "God's Not Dead" and "Miracles from Heaven".

    This is a problem that Darren Aranofsky's "Noah" ended up facing, the people doing the advertising and marketing couldn't decide if it should be marketed as a Lord of the Rings style monster action movie, or if they should re-edit the movie to tone down on that aspect and try and pitch it more as a biblical story for the *Christian crowd. (Again, the far-right conservative Christians that only account for a small percent of the full number of Christians.)

    There's only one recent movie that I can think of that did well critically, commercially, AND was made in such a way that it appealed to the *Christian market - The Passion of the Christ.


    The second problem is that many concepts in Sci-fi end up undermining a lot of religious tenets, be they specific ones that are inherent to the religion, or more generally accepted things that could potentially fit but raise lots of questions. To use the easiest one, rectifying the existence of aliens when you believe in the creation story found in Genesis can take a lot of time, and if your story features both heavy Christian themes AND involves aliens, then that is either going to be a massive plot hole or take up a lot of time in the story.
    (This is also raised with such things as Time Travel, dimensional travel, robots that have consciousness, etc - In the case of that last one, in fact, it usually makes the Christians look like jerks, because anything that acts like a person is going to get the audience's sympathy, but if the Bible is taken into account then a robot wouldn't be a person or an entity at all. So while most movies about robots gaining sentience come down on the side of 'Robots should be treated like humans', the religious philosophy would almost certainly have to be different.)



    It's been done before, of course. A Wrinkle in Time is a book that I really don't like at all, (For reasons that I won't get into hear because this post is already pretty long,) but is a pretty popular work nonetheless and tackles a couple of these issues. I think that, if done well, it could be a really effective way of telling a character-centric story, but it will probably feel out of place in a more action/plot oriented piece.
     
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  21. psychotick

    psychotick Contributor Contributor

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    Hi,

    Can I suggest another Christian author's works - Angel Fire and The Final Planet, both by Andrew M Greeley. I liked The Sparrow and Children of God by Russell - they are very much books that make you think about life issues. And I love CS Lewis, who can be read both as a children's / YA author and also as someone pushing a sermon. But Greeley, a Jesuit priest, does that rare thing that few others succeed at - making a religious theme'd story just an enjoyable romp. So much so that even with Christian themes and dogma running heavily through both books, you simply don't notice it.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  22. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

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    You cold play the 'what if' game. You mentioned 'only do things that glorify God'. You could have a story set in the future, where pretty much everyone in a country follows this principle. What if the principle were embodied into law? What if the Bible were officially taken as a blueprint for how society is structured? What would happen? I can't imagine this working out in anything other than a dystopian way but perhaps you can. Such a novel would give Christians a vision of what they're trying to achieve in society and what they're aiming for in personal life.
     
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  23. terobi

    terobi Senior Member

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    If you are a Christian, and you're writing SFF, then undoubtedly what you've got is a work of Christian SFF.

    This is regardless of whether or not you have any explicit references to Christianity or religion of any kind.

    The themes you work in, the messages that you transmit, the concept of good and evil that comes across in your work will all be informed by a Christian mindset, and a Christian code of ethics. You don't have to try to put them in, but you'd have to try particularly hard not to.

    Concentrate on telling a good story. The rest of it will come across in your writing regardless.

    If you try putting religion front and centre, you usually end up with an appallingly bad novel. G. P. Taylor's Shadowmancer was equal parts unreadable, nonsensical and dissatisfying for this reason.
     
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  24. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    You could make stories about speculative but realistic future exploration of the universe. With no aliens or magic.
     
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  25. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I actually try to write about how Christianity does not depend on the totalitarian fundamentalist theocracy that a lot of people (both non-Christians and Christians :( ) seem to think it does.

    Though in counterpoint I've written a SciFi story about aliens and am halfway into a fantasy about magic. Haven't run into trouble yet.
     
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