Monday, September 17, 2007

Wanted, a little unreality...part 2. Or, Are You a Minister?

At the risk of irritating and/or offending several people who read this blog, I have a point I need to make. My writing is not a ministry. Repeat. Not. A. Ministry. My writing is a business, and a craft, and primarily, a gift and a talent, and I'm grateful for it. But a ministry? Nope. Sorry, Charlie. Not this girl. I've encountered more than one aspiring writer of faith who, when they hear other people bubbling about God “calling” them to do this, or that, or the other kind of writing, actually get a little panicky. Or even a lot panicky. Why? Because they didn't hear any calling. Because their writing isn’t “anointed.” It’s a profession, a craft, a talent, a gift…but it’s not a “ministry.” Which somehow, in a sense, makes it seem to be…not so good. Gertie Goodscribe takes up writing because it’s something she’s always loved to do, she’s good at it, and she wants to keep at it. She’s willing to work hard for the dream of seeing her own books on the shelves of the local bookstore. She’s getting closer to that reality by the day. Then she joins a group of Christian writers, and all of a sudden, the rules change. There, enjoying the writing, even being good at it, even being gifted enough to sell it, isn't what it’s all about. In fact, when the group finds out Gertie’s writing something she’s enjoying immensely, they very tenderly tell her that it’d be a good idea to look that stuff over closer, even with a jaundiced eye if need be, “just in case.” Just in case what? Apparently, to ensure she's not having fun instead of serving God. (The fact that these two things somehow don't seem to go together is, clearly, another story for another day But, I digress.) To Gertie’s dismay, she soon learns within this group that it doesn't seem to be quite Godly to just write what she loves, without thinking about all the readers who may be “looking for salvation” in her stuff. It’s not even quite okay to dream about publishing and selling…because that’s not what’s important. (Never mind that professional acknowledgment is what separates the women from the girls, so to speak; to this group, that doesn’t seem to be the case.) On the contrary: if she’s a real Christian, by golly, she will shun goals of earthly success. What matters is spreading the Gospel, which of course is why God gave her that writing skill to begin with. So her writing had, first of all, better let the world know she’s a Christian. It had better be edifying to somebody, and offending to nobody. And if it happens to sell, she’d better not make too big a deal out of it, because that might also be a worldly desire she will need to confess and surrender… Hearing all these strings attached to both her salvation and her gift, Gertie finds herself tearing up. Which is a not a good thing. Things like this are happening all around us. Things that discourage our sister writers. Things that make them feel “less” when they should be feeling blessed. Which is why my writing is not a “ministry.” And why I truly believe that calling fiction writing a “ministry,” no matter how well-intentioned, is a minefield-strewn trap that can backfire in ways that not only don’t make gains for the Kingdom…but can lose us ground. I’m anointed to tell stories. Many of us are. And there’s nothing wrong with that.Whether or not a clear Gospel message comes out of them will end up being between us, our readers, and the Holy Spirit. Which is, I believe, where it should lie. No, my writing’s not a “ministry.” And, in the context of “ministry” as I’ve seen it presented too often, I hope it never becomes one. Thoughts? Janny


Deb said...

Lady, well said. Am I Gertie? Sometimes. I remember in the RWA my stuff was too Christian. Now in the other group, my stuff sometimes isn't Christian enough. If I'm not a follower of Jesus Christ, what on earth am I?

And I don't believe it when someone says, "God gave me all the words for this story--I only had to type it." No. God gave you your imagination, and you used it, and you wrote a book. To attribute your book directly to God is to elevate it with false pride above everyone else's. Also sounds a little blasphemous to me. There is only one set of directly God-breathed books, and that is Holy Writ.

I've ranted too much about how we "can't" show Christian characters (or non-Christians, for that matter) doing things the more easily horrified believer might not like. We can, of course, write books that deal with horror, murder...just don't show them sipping a glass of Chardonnay while they're plotting to off the victim.


Donna Alice said...

Can't believe I didn't reply to this post because I've been spreading the word about it all over! I totally agree. I think too many people feel guilty about writing unless they can convince themselves that it's a "ministry" and it's "worth while."

What's wrong with telling a good story and giving someone a few hours of joy? Do we always have to be "evangilizing" with everything or can't we just ever take to heart these words, "He has given us ALL things richly to enjoy."