What Makes A Story Christian?

By Cana Hunter

What makes a story Christian? I keep getting asked this question, and I decided I want to explore it more in depth today. There are innumerable ways that a story can be a Christian story. For our purposes here at A New Song, I prefer calling it “God-glorifying fiction” rather than “Christian fiction”, because I think of Christian fiction as a very specific genre with either a contemporary or historical setting and fairly conventional plots that normally center around a conversion. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s look outside the box and free up our options.
If you look at the original Christian “fiction” (Jesus’ parables) you will see that it was all allegorical and analogical. So was the first Christian book (aside from the Bible), The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. (According to the AP English exam, “An allegory creates a symbolic relationship between something abstract and something concrete, whereas an analogy creates a relationship between two concrete things that have something in common. An allegory is typically a long, extended metaphor, whereas an analogy is typically a concise simile.”) The setting in Jesus’ parables was contemporary, while the setting in The Pilgrim’s Progress was fantasy. Allegory and analogy lend themselves very well to probably every single genre and setting imaginable.
While it seems rare for a non-allegorical, Christian story to take place in a non-realistic setting such as fantasy or science fiction, there are certainly no rules against it. The setting alone can really twist an otherwise ordinary story into something remarkable.
You can do the opposite by having a contemporary, realistic setting and a more unusual plot. In Christian fiction, I would think of an unusual plot as one that is not a conversion story. There’s nothing wrong with conversion stories, but I would like to see more books with innovative plots (and not just in the Christian fiction world). Converting to Christianity is the death of your old self and the birth of your new self; it is just the beginning of your eternal life with God. There is so much more to life than being born, so much for God to teach us, so many adventures that He has for us, so many turning points in our relationship with Him. Any of this is ripe material for stories–stories that will, Lord-willing, help other people in their own walk with God. Draw on your own life for inspiration in your writing.
I believe the most important factor in what makes a story Christian is that the author has God involved. The Person who created the entire universe (and the concept of story itself) surely can feed your creativity and inspire you better than anything else. What does God want you to write? I had no idea what I was going to blog about until I sat down and asked God what he wanted me to say. Once He helps you think of an idea, keep praying as you put it into writing. Pray for Him to guide your words. Surrender to Him, and His light will inevitably shine from you without your doing anything but obeying Him.
So there you have it: my in-depth definition of God-glorifying fiction, and a journey outside the Christian fiction box. I hope this clears things up for you and spurs you to think more deeply about the subject and how you define it.

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Surrender Your Words

By Cana Hunter

Talking is dangerous. No one can tame the tongue, the Bible says. It also talks about how the tongue is a fire, a world of evil among the other parts of our body. Yikes.

Writing is possibly even more dangerous.

Because when you’re talking, so much of the time you get yourself in trouble simply because you didn’t think before you spoke, or you didn’t put it into the right words, or you didn’t know how to explain it better or put it kinder.

But with writing, most of these problems are either taken away or lessened. You have all the time you need. You can research the subjects you’re a little shaky on. You can look up synonyms in the thesaurus, and write countless drafts until you get it perfect.

So…what’s the problem?

The problem is that it’s still your words. And that’s the real trouble that the Bible is talking about with the tongue. It’s not the little mistakes that make it evil, so much as what you truly mean.

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. James 3:10

We bumble around, contradicting ourselves, breaking promises, making impossible vows, telling loved ones that we hate them, and professing love for inanimate things and other people we haven’t met who don’t even know we exist.

That is what’s evil about our tongues.

It’s our words.

And that doesn’t get erased in writing. No, in fact, it gets worse in writing.

Because when you write, you purposefully sit down with an agenda, with something that you mean to say. Even pantsers do. (I’m a pantser; I should know. This blog post is pantsed, in fact.)

When you write, you spend time carefully constructing your story or argument.

You search the internet and the library and ask questions and take notes until you have all the information you need and are confident that you are right.

You scour the thesaurus until every word is perfect and exactly what you mean.

You write your creation over and over again, or sections of it at least, until you’re satisfied that it says what you want it to say.

And then you finish, and people read it.

Yes, writing is far, far more dangerous than talking, because while it may be much closer to what you mean, and therefore avoid the little misunderstandings and mistakes that conversation is full of, it is exactly what you mean, no doubt about it, considering you spent all that time and put all that work and energy into saying it better than you could have talking.

And so, when someone is hurt by it, you have no excuse.

When it is just plain wrong, you have no excuse.

When it is not glorifying to God, you have no excuse.

Really, what are you going to say?

“I sat down and put a lot of thought, time, and energy into purposefully writing this.”

Yeah, not great.

Writing reflects the truth of you better than talking does.

Scary.

Yet in that is our comfort.

Because if the truth of you is that you’ve surrendered yourself to Jesus, then that’s a good truth. The truth of you should be shared without reason for a just-in-case excuse.

If you surrender your words to Jesus, then He’ll take them and use them to speak–and write–through you.

If you surrender your words to Jesus, it doesn’t mean that you won’t get in trouble anymore for things you say or write. In fact, it’s likely that you’ll get in even more trouble.

But remember:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

You still have no excuse. But you don’t need one.

Writing may be treacherous, but Jesus is faithful. Surrender your words to the Lord and let the truth of you–Him–shine forth, so that you get in trouble with the world, maybe touch a few people along the way, and most importantly, glorify God.