Monday, October 10, 2011
Easter Egg or Christmas Gift?
Last year at the ACFW Conference, the keynote speaker, well-respected Tim Downs, author of the Nick Polchak "Bug Man" series published by Thomas Nelson, addressed the writers in a general session in which he likened the gospel and Christianity in Christian fiction to an Easter Egg.
He had my attention. How is the gospel like an egg?
Here's a paraphrase of what he said:
When your child is very young, you lay the brightly colored Easter Egg on the grass and even go over and stand by it, pointing at it to direct the child to the prize.
When your child gets older and more savvy, you find new and clever ways to hide the Easter Egg. You make them look under and inside things, perhaps don't color it as boldly, and the child has to work for the prize.
And finally, when your child is a teen, or even older, it becomes a real challenge to hide the Easter Eggs. A battle of wits and wills. Burying the Easter egg, put it in the most obscure place possible, because the joy is in the discovery, in the hunt.
I've listened to the recordings of this session a couple of times, in addition to being there for the live presentation, and I'm still muddled. Is a novel where the characters are overtly Christian, where the gospel is evident, considered too simplistic? Is it fiction for babies? I don't want to mis-quote or mis-interpret Mr. Downs' words, but what he seemed to be saying is: the way he writes fiction, either not mentioning the gospel or Jesus, or burying the Easter Egg so deeply that the book could be classified general fiction, is a better way to tell a story and convey truth. The reader will enjoy the hunt for the truth in the story, and that joy of discovery will make the truth stay with the reader longer.
A couple of questions arise. By Tim Downs's own admission, he's been known to hide Easter Eggs from his teenage kids so well that months later they find a plastic egg with rock hard M&M's in it. Is it possible to hide the truth of the gospel in the middle of a rollicking good story so deeply that the reader will miss it altogether? Is that somehow better or worse than having a story that is overtly Christian?
In contrast to Tim Downs, last month at the 2011 ACFW, the keynote speaker was Tracie Peterson. And in her Saturday keynote address, she challenged us as Christian writers to be salt and light and to make our stories unashamedly Christian. We were to shine light into dark corners, to season our stories with the Truth of the Gospel and make it evident who we were and Who we belonged to.
I inferred from this that instead of making people hunt for the truth like a well-buried Easter Egg, we should offer it to them like a Christmas gift. Nothing secretive about handing someone a gift and saying "Here you go!" (And it doesn't escape me, the whole gospel is a Christmas gift thing. Jesus = Gift. Got it.)
So which is right? Is there room in Christian Fiction for both the overt and the subtle? I think we'd first have to define Christian fiction to see if both are included. Which is the topic for Wednesday.
But for today, do you write fiction that is overtly Christian? Easter Egg or Christmas Gift, or somewhere in between?