There’s something you should know about me before you read further: I’m a Christian. I know that word conjures up a lot of different reactions depending on the person and the context. But I had to put it out there. My faith in Christ has shaped who I am and how I live my life, so it was going to become obvious at some point or another. Might as well get that announcement over with now, at the beginning.
But whether your heart leaps at the word “Christian” or recoils at it, I hope you won’t judge me for what I say next.
You see, there’s something else you should know about me–that despite the fact that I’ve grown up surrounded by a “Christian” culture, I don’t really understand it. I don’t always even really like it. And I definitely don’t really feel like I can identify with it.
Specifically, I’m referring to Christianity in the arts, in literature, music, television, radio, the performing arts, and fine arts. I’m talking about this weird tension that seems to exist between “Christian” songs and “non-Christian” songs, or “Christian” paintings and “non-Christian” paintings, or “Christian” synchronized swimmers and “non-Christian” synchronized swimmers…well, you get the idea. It seems like everyone’s just accepted the fact that art and spirituality are black-and-white. There’s no gray. No in between. And once you “choose” a side–if you get to choose–then you immediately incur the judgment of the other. This is true of both the “Christian” culture and the “non-Christian” culture. I’ve seen it in both.
This really bothers me. It bothers me, for one, because I’m a Christian (see paragraph 1). And it bothers me for another reason–because I’m also an artist. A writer, to be exact. I wrote an as-yet-unpublished young adult fiction novel. And now I’m starting to get questions like, “Is it a Christian novel?” When I hear that, something inside of me cringes. I don’t know how to respond. Because no matter what I say, my response is going to give people the impulse to judge my novel’s merit before they’ve even read it.
Not cool, people. Not cool.
I realize these are honest questions, not meant to offend. And really, I’ve got no right to be offended. I just can’t help but lament the fact that we’ve tricked ourselves into believing that there is such a thing as compartmentalizing art and spirituality. In my opinion, you can’t separate the two, and you can’t untangle them from every other aspect of life either. It’s not like I can pull out a checklist or type in a formula to calculate whether a creative endeavor of mine meets the criteria of being “Christian” or “non-Christian.” Even if there was such a thing, I wouldn’t bother with it. Because art isn’t defined by slapping a label on it. No, it’s value is derived from the exhilarating mess that happens when your soul collides with it. When your breath catches in your throat from the whiplash of creative expression. When your mind ceases to explain what may only be understood at a raw, instinctual level.
When your heart hears the whispers of the eternal and the temporal, inextricably intertwined, and is forever changed.
In my opinion, good art has this effect on the creator as well as the benefactor. It victimizes both injudiciously. It doesn’t believe in a step-by-step process or ascribe to a certain type of happy ending. And it certainly does not delineate itself into any type of category.
So you still want to know whether I wrote a Christian novel or not? Tell you what. I’ll let you read it first. Then you can let me know what you think.