Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Christian Writing for Christian Outsiders

by Linda Hall

If you haven't seen the “Which Downton Abbey Character Are You?” quiz, you soon will. It’s all over Facebook. Being a devotee of the series, I took it for fun. According to this most scientific analysis, I’m Lady Sybil. I smiled a little at this. I guess I’ve always been a bit of a counterculture puppy. Yes, I would have been right back there with m’lady at that suffrage rally.

In my growing up years in the church this counterculture streak of mine didn't serve me particularly well. After my serious God questions were met with – “you just need more faith,” I learned that questions were not what the church encouraged. Yet I couldn't ignore the Hard Things that were all around me - abuse, alienation, doubt, unanswered prayer, disease, differentness, loneliness.

There are Christians whose emotional or physical pain has gone on too deeply and for too long. They would argue that despite the oft-quoted verse, God sometimes does give you more than you can bear. They will tell you with shaking heads that they are proof of that.

What do these people read when the next website over from theirs is filled with stories of healings and miracles and God bestowing great good fortune? Sometimes they turn away from God in confusion and disgust. Their stories need to be told. Instead of the miracle stories, we would do well to write about the non-miracles. We would do well to write about people. 

What about Christians who find themselves chaffing at the the very structure of church life so much so that they feel they must leave to preserve their souls? Is there a place for them in our writing, or does everything in our fictional worlds have to center around the importance of church attendance and tithing and membership? Who listens to their stories? Who writes for them? 

How about gay Christians? How do they feel when over and over we sing-song, "love the sinner hate the sin?" (A statement, by the way, that I absolutely hate. Jesus never said this.) This little snippet tells them that who they are is inherently sinful, and not loved by God. Can we sit with a gay friend and really listen to her? Can we write her story without imposing our own ‘truth’ (or what we believe is truth) in the last paragraph in order for it to pass muster by a mainstream Christian magazine? 

Did you know that there are several websites devoted to ex-pastors and their particular problems? Can we tell their stories with honesty and understanding?

There are many more groups of Christian outsiders that I could include here, but for space, I won't. 

If we portray in our writing that we have all the answers, or even that that answers exist if we are smart enough to look for them, we have missed the boat. Perhaps you would put yourself into this category. people need to hear from you. If God has called you to the Hard Things, be thankful. 

And me and my many questions? Here’s just about the only thing I do know - the older I get, the less I know about God and the fewer answers I have for the hard questions. But the older I grow, the more he means to me. Does  that seem like a paradox? Perhaps it is. And perhaps that's the way it's supposed to be. God is a mystery after all.

Some links for further reading: 

For those who have left organized Christianity - 

For Christians who are gay or transgendered - 

For former pastors - 


barb phinney said...

What a wonderful commentary. I don't think you're really any different than the rest of us. You are honest with your feelings about God. I know several 'lapsed' Christians. I wax and wane with my external, outward faith. We should question God, though. David did, and it's nothing God can't handle. He sees us from an eternity perspective.
And like you say, we should respect and love people. That's what we're called to do. Sit with them with ashes on our heads and share in their sufferings.
Thank you, Linda. It's a good post.

Doris-Lee said...

This is a great post Linda. The answer is different for many people. I have to say, that I believe in God with my heart and soul. He has showed me the way from many bad roads, I choose to travel. Each time I called on God to help me, He came. My life sure hasn't been easy But God has taught me many lessons, which I'm truthfully thankful for.
I have gay friends and they are so loving and caring people who also have had hardship. I believe it doesn't matter who we are But what we are and the love and kindness we do for the world. Thank you for sharing,

Linda Hall said...

Thanks Barbara - I think waxing and waning is the norm. I guess what bothers me is 'Christians' who come on with 'all the answers.' I just don't think it's that simple.

Linda Hall said...

Wonderful Doris - I know you've been through a lot - and yet God has sustained you through it all. Thank you for your honest answer,

Norah Wilson said...

Very well said, Linda! Excellent post.

Glynis said...

Well that has given me plenty of food for thought, Linda. And timely for me, too! I have just been dealt a blow by someone (Christian) shouting from the rooftops about how the Olympics are Idol worship and how we should go on the warpath about people in (and out) of the church who are gay because God doesn't tolerate homosexuality and if we tolerate it by being kind to 'such sinners' we are sinning, too. It gives me a sick feeling whenever I see/hear such. . .

Linda Hall said...

Thanks Norah! And Glynis, this has happened to me once too often - hence this blog post! i think God has a way wider view of things than we do.

Deb Elkink said...

Linda, thanks for your thought-stimulating (as usual) post. As a fiction writer, I struggle to express my take on the human dilemma as I, too, am often disappointed with the pat responses of organized religion. I don't know if God has "called" me to the "Hard Things" exactly, but I know He's called me to study His Word--which I find a wonderful jumping-off point as I explore the realities facing my fictional characters (e.g., my current novel includes sexual and racial issues). After all, the mysterious God has spoken to us about "the mystery now revealed" that makes even angels passionately curious: Christ in us, the hope of glory. What a fantastic subject to plumb as I consider my own frailties and those of the church!

Peter Black said...

Thanks Linda.
Candour opens many a conversation. More than that, the conversation can lead to opened minds, and better still, opened hearts. Honest, true hearts. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." :) ~~+~~

Linda Hall said...

Deb, Well said, as usual! I think God's calling is simply who we are. We write from the fountain of who we are and that is authentic writing.

Linda Hall said...

Peter, Thanks. I guess I am tired of Christians looking at people as 'us' and 'them' - or looking at people as groups or stereotypes. My wish is to see people as people.

Lisa Hall-Wilson said...

I can totally relate to this, Linda. I've never fit in at church, and have learned (for my own sanity) to stop trying. Life on the outside has its perks too.
With my black nail polish, black hair, black clothes, and love of classic gothic literature and monsters my fiction often doesn't 'fit in' either.
I think God needs (and uses) eople on the fringes, outsiders if you will, just as much as those who fit inside the box, who conform, who find security in the rules and tradition.

Linda Hall said...

Would love to meet you Lisa! Sounds like we have a lot in common!

Carolyn R. Wilker said...

This is a good discussion to have because it shows how many questions we have and that we're still asking them. When we're in a hard place, all the more.

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