Friday, January 11, 2008

Fair is Fair...and This Sure Ain't

Okay, maybe I should issue a rant warning up front, so be forewarned. And those of you who get a little squeamish about naming names in critical posts might want to absent yourselves as well. Because I’m going to get specific here—not to be vindictive, but in the hope that maybe if I say something here that someone picks up on as they cruise through the blog galaxy, something will be done about this. It surely isn’t being done by more polite means. I’ve just finished reading Kris Billerbeck’s latest, The Trophy Wives Club. I like Kris’s work. I liked her Ashley Stockingdale stuff. So it’s not like I’m not a fan. But this book very nearly hit the wall at a couple of places, and that’s a fate that normally shouldn’t befall a pretty good story. So why the tantrum? In one particular scene, the heroine is talking about how a pregnancy couldn’t be possible for her—since she is then divorced and not having sex with anyone—“except for a second Immaculate Conception.” You can probably picture what happened next, but if you can’t, let’s just say it involved my letting fly with some very irritated and not very Christian words at that point. For those of you who wonder why this would get me so riled up, pay attention. It’s a pain in the posterior to have to keep repeating this. The Immaculate Conception does not refer to the Virgin Birth of Christ. The Immaculate Conception refers to Catholic doctrine that the Virgin Mary was preserved from Original Sin from the moment of her conception. That’s the Immaculate Conception. Mary’s the one to whom this applies, and not as the mother involved, either. So someone saying that they wouldn’t be likely to get pregnant “except by Immaculate Conception” (with or without the caps) is a) ignorant in the extreme of anything Catholic, and b) compounding that ignorance by being lazy, to boot. I’m being too harsh, you say? I don’t think so. What I am is sick and tired not only of putting up with all the stupid jokes about this doctrine—but of having to put up with this out of people who ought to know better. Especially since these cheap jokes could not be made if people knew what they were talking about in the first place…and had any degree of respect for Catholicism. Which brings up the very real question: if you’re purporting to sell Christian fiction, how can you not know this? Don’t tell me it’s because the writer is a Protestant or a nondenominational Christian, or whatever. That’s completely immaterial, in this age of the Internet. With one click, anyone can find out what the Immaculate Conception is. It doesn’t even take a trip to the library, for pity’s sake. Just a click on the Internet, and you’ll have more information on this than you’ll ever need. So why isn’t an author willing to do this work? Why isn’t a publishing house willing to either employ an editor who will make her do it or editors who will do that work themselves? Especially a Christian publishing house, or the Christian line in a major secular publisher? Are they really arrogant enough to assume they already know everything they need to know about Catholicism, because “everybody” knows these things? Are they so arrogant that they not only think they know everything, but that it’s okay for one part of Christianity to make fun of the beliefs of another? Some people may say, “Hey, it’s only a joke. What’s the harm?” Oh, I dunno. Maybe I shouldn’t be so thin-skinned. After all, it’s only doctrine. Never mind what would happen if I tried making light of some non-doctrinal things within evangelical Protestantism. It’d get red-penned so fast your head would spin. But lest we forget, let's review some of the things I can’t do in Christian fiction. I should be able to get away with writing about people drinking alcohol in Christian fiction…but in many places, I can’t. I should be able to write about divorced people in Christian fiction…but in many places, I can’t. I should be able to have my characters go dancing…or to a movie…or play some cards…but in many places, I can’t. And, no matter how severe the stress, I can’t have a character use cuss words, or even words that a minuscule segment of the population considers euphemisms for cuss words—euphemisms I never connected with cussing until some ridiculously scrupulous people started finding “cuss word connections” for the most innocent phrases imaginable. Why can’t I use all these things? Because a segment of the Christian fiction market is sensitive to drinking, dancing, divorced characters, people going to movies, people playing cards, gambling, and all those danged euphemisms—none of which has anything to do with doctrine—many CBA houses are quick to assert that they don’t want to offend those tender consciences. Yet very few of them seem to shrink from allowing their authors to offend a Catholic conscience by poking fun at a basic doctrine of my Faith. And this is okay…WHY? This tired old “Immaculate Conception” joke would be bad enough if this were the only anti-Catholic slam in this book. It’s not. I won’t go into further examples here; the point is…the “Immaculate Conception” line really has no excuse to be used anymore, anywhere, especially not in (purportedly) Christian fiction, which is (supposedly) aimed at all Christians. Especially when I wrote the original publishers of the first book with this mistake, as well as e-mailing the author, to correct them on this issue…and was met with thunderous indifference. I can only assume it was indifference, since the lack of response was deafening, and the error was repeated by the same author. Clearly, they weren’t paying attention. Clearly, they still aren’t. And I'd just love to hear their reasons why not. Thoughts? Janny


Donna Alice said...

Haven't read this book and probably won't now. This is the kind of stuff that makes me not want to read Christian fiction and I like most of it.

Nope, it's not fair.

Deb said...

I bought Trophy Wives' Club but I haven't read it yet.

And I'm going to stick my neck WAAAAYYY out here, so it'll probably be amputated. Based on how little I've been using my brain lately, it'll be no loss.

Neck stick out begins here. I know you won't and can't agree with me on this one, but it's my take as a devout Protestant and close reader of Scripture, and maybe someone who takes a tad bit less reactionary view on things Catholic: the reason the author used "Immaculate Conception" in the way she did, is that as cited, it doesn't exist. The only authority for Protestants is the Bible, and the sinless conception of Mary is not in there. So the author did't think she was doing anything wrong, because she couldn't have been referring to Mary's doesn't count as immaculate either with or without a capital letter.

Okay, have at me!


Janny said...

While I understand what you're saying...that's not quite correct.

For years and years, people have been using the phrase "immaculate conception" to refer to a woman having a baby without having had sex...which is not, and has never been, its meaning. If Kris is ignorant of that use of the term, she has to have been living in a cave.

Bottom line, it's a tired old joke based on a mistake, and it's just another thing we Catholics are expected to grin and bear. But I just want to know why it's okay to take a phrase that means something sacred to us and turn it into a CHRISTIAN fiction.

"As cited, it may not exist" for Kris. That, my dear T2, is her loss. That's also my point. Ignorance is no excuse. Not nowadays, with the wealth of information available. And not when you've already been informed once.