The Third Order of St Francis has as its mission statement that it exists to "make Jesus known and loved everywhere".
That is also my purpose - my sole purpose - as a writer. I write to open the Gospel of Jesus for people, to present it in a way that makes it accessible to their imagination, so that they have a chance to understand its teaching better.
Each story I write explores an aspect of Christian faith and experience, with a view to deepening and strengthening the faith of the reader, helping each one's resolve to follow in the Christian way, to "know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly and follow Thee more nearly, day by day".
That's why I write. I'm not bored, I'm not short of things to do, it's not an ego trip, I don't need the money, I am grateful not to be famous and I dislike attracting attention. I write to be part of making Jesus known and loved everywhere, because I am His property, He is my Lord, and He is wonderful.
Therefore my books are unmistakeably intended to edify and to teach. I personally am interested in reading only those books which similarly have something to teach me, can build me up and strengthen my spirit; and I assume there are other readers similarly hungry for such encouragement. I often start reading books that are just a "rattling good yarn," but I rarely finish them.
From time to time I wander along to the ACW (Association of Christian Writers) page on Facebook, to see what UK Christian writers and publishers are thinking and chatting about.
Recently I got involved with a discussion thread there about a new fiction list just starting at a UK Christian publisher.
I think I made myself fairly unpopular with the observations I made about the publishing criteria, so I thought I'd better shut up. But something has been on my conscience.
The writers and publishers chatting on that thread were agreed that fiction with a message is execrable.
Comments went along these lines:
I don't want to read a book where the author is setting out to inform me, unless you mean telling me about facts I don't know. If you are talking worldview, forget it! (a Christian publisher)
Another commenter asked for clarification:
Sorry to be so thick but what does "worldview" mean in this context?
The Christian publisher clarified:
I guess it means your faith, so if you see the world as being created by God, in need of redemption, of people being made in His image, in need of redemption, etc etc.
Commenter (a writer) responded:
Ah, thanks. Yes, I completely agree with you.
Later in the thread the publisher continues:
. . . people who write with any agenda other than telling a good story as well as they possibly can - write badly. They are turning out propaganda.
Another writer seeks clarification as follows:
When you are self-consciously trying to convince your readers of the validity of your world view as opposed to their own, that ventures into more questionable territory. But surely presenting a world view in itself is not wrong?
The key is in the word used above "presenting a worldview" - writing from a worldview is inevitable. But bringing it to the fore is more questionable.
No man can serve two masters and no author can have two overriding aims!
. . . not to hide your worldview but not to make promoting your particular worldview the main raison d'etre of your novel. Because it so often is. And, I repeat, it is propaganda.
Someone wonders aloud:
Patricia St John, most of the time, seemed to get it right, but do you think her stories would have been just as powerful WITHOUT the Christian input? I remember feeling slightly uncomfortable, even as a child, when the Christian bits occurred.
Another writer hastens to reassure:
. . . as for myself I do not ever want to push Christianity/its world view, in people's faces.
These are extracts from a fuller conversation covering topics broader that just the one about "world view"; but what I have quoted here represents faithfully the tenor of the conversation in respect of the presentation in fiction of the Christian faith.
I didn't want to get into an argument or be antagonistic or pick on anyone, and someone had already offered admonishment that our comments and seeking of clarification seemed aggressive. So I didn't say anything further.
But over these last two days the conversation has stayed with me, and I am not at peace with having allowed a situation to develop in which not one writer (or publisher) offered the counterpoint of an opinion that begged to differ.
So I want to say here, publicly, that the purpose of my writing (both fiction and non-fiction) is simply and solely to make Jesus known and loved everywhere, and to expound as best I can His Gospel.
It is my opinion that a personal, direct, living relationship with the risen Jesus is what saves and heals the soul. Knowing that somehow confers a responsibility not to keep it to myself while I watch the world go to hell in a handcart.
I have written this on my blog and not on the ACW page because I don't want to clog that page up with lengthy and unwelcome opinions, but I do want to share a different point of view.