Thursday, November 16, 2006

AH: What Is Christian Fiction, part II

Continued from yesterday--Angela Hunt's presentation at the Dover Book Festival:

My friend Karen Kingsbury once told me a story about her children, Kelsey and Tyler. One Sunday their family was on their way home from church, where they’d just heard a rip-snorting sermon on heaven and hell. “Where do you want to go?” Six-year-old Kelsey badgered three-year-old Tyler. “You have to make up your mind, Tyler. Heaven or hell, where do you want to go?”

Tyler pulled out his pacifier, blinked at his sister, and said: “Disneyland.”

As you might expect, some Christian fiction deals with issues of eternal destiny. Other novels are more concerned with entertainment. But all of them contain a spiritual thread that runs throughout the book and assures the reader that he and his decisions matter to God. We are created beings and our lives have purpose. We who are lost can be found; we who are defeated can claim Christ’s victory.

Perhaps the most unique thing about inspirational fiction is its authors’ motivation. I have been privileged to count many Christian novelists among my best friends, and though many of us consider writing our full-time work, we’re striving for more than a royalty check or a place on the best seller list. We’re not trying to save the world, preach a sermon, or browbeat anyone into submission. We are working to be great story tellers so the light in our stories can shine into the hearts, minds, and souls of readers.

Scripture is filled with stories that changed men’s hearts. Nathan told David a story about a man and his pet lamb . . . and the Spirit of God brought David’s hidden acts of murder and adultery into the open. Jesus told stories about a prodigal son . . . and a wayward sheep that sent a shepherd into the night on a desperate search.

As I considered what I might say today, for about five seconds I thought about reading from one of my books—isn’t that what authors are supposed to do?--but rather than attempt to impress you with my prose, I’d like to demonstrate the power of Christian fiction by letting you peek at some comments from my online guestbook.

From Joel: Although my wife has read several of your books, I must admit until yesterday, your name was one I knew as just another Christian author. Then I picked up Magdalene from the sofa where Vickie had left it and started reading. I finished it tonight and it so moved me that I felt I had to respond. Although I have been a Christian for over fifty years, I, as Mary M., have held onto things that should have long ago been released. It is reassuring to know that someone who had a direct relationship with our savior and LORD might still have had things to work out. Thank you.
From Nicole: Uncharted was indeed unexpected. Usually upon completing one of your books, I get warm and fuzzies, am entertained for a few hours and am encouraged in the moral lessons you write about. This time however, I was challenged deeply. I don't usually allow myself to read anything, Christian or not, that details any crimes involving murder, but I was so invested in the others' lives. I didn't figure out the end until you revealed it but it really hit me as tragic. . . . I was disturbed and revolted by Mark's secret life, but the other characters' lives didn't disturb me. But I was judging through my worldly views. Through your book, God spoke to me . . . . My thought life is just as evil as Mark's sin. . . . Thanks for being brave enough to tell the truth.

From Trish: I recently read The Novelist and it has drastically changed mine and my family's lives. All through the book I was surprised at how similar my husband and I were to the novelist and her husband. Their thoughts, feelings, and prayers were at times verbatim to ours. When I reached the end of the book I was dumbfounded, their son was not on drugs, but bipolar. I sat and stared at the pages for a long time and then started to cry. I then went to a website for bipolar kids and there were my two children. We had been searching for an answer to their erratic behaviors for three years. I am so grateful you allowed God to use you to write a story that literally changed our lives. Our two children have been officially diagnosed and are on meds. Our lives have finally become somewhat peaceful for the first time since we adopted them. With tears in my eyes, I pray you know the depths of gratitude we feel.

And that, friends, is what Christian novels do. These replicas may be made of paper and glue instead of bronze and marble, but the light they reflect can shine into the dark places of men’s souls, bringing hope and comfort while they change lives.

Angela Hunt is hard at work on two projects this month, one novel and one nonfiction book. Look for The Nativity Story in your bookstore and in your movie theater!


At 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, to have that affect on someone ... thanks, Angela, for sharing your blessings.

At 8:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. Yes. Yes!

At 11:52 AM, Blogger ~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Angie, babe, this was a wonderful speech. I'm so glad you put it on Charis. You go, girl!

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Deborah Raney said...

I only wish I could have heard you deliver this speech in person. Wonderful words. You represented us well. Thanks, Angie...

At 1:39 PM, Blogger Ann Tatlock said...

Angie, the letters you included here, though addressed to you, can be an encouragement to all of us. So often we come up against those people who question the value of Christian fiction, but when readers respond by saying, "Your book changed my life"--well, end of argument, as far as I'm concerned.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Marcia Lee Laycock said...

Yes! That is really what it's all about - doing what God tells us to do by writing so that His Spirit can reach into people's lives through those words. I've seen Him do it many times through my two devotional books, which I self published, thinking they would be very local efforts. God has taken them around the world and the responses tell me He is doing amazing things with them. I'm looking forward to what he's going to do with my first novel, coming out next year. All to His Glory and Praise!
Thanks Angela!


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