We do everything differently. Our hands-on approach to teaching writing is different from anyone else. Our inclusion of professional development and the business of writing is groundbreaking.
Our highest priority is spiritual development. Establishing a connection with the truth of God’s word and the Holy Spirit is each writer’s foundation.
It’s only because of that rock solid spiritual foundation that we can give our students permission to do something else differently.
They have permission to get dirty.
For decades, the Christian media industry has prioritized one thing above all else: clean content. That gets us Kirk Cameron. Our industry preferences are for poorly done media that doesn’t violate our sense of Christian decorum and polite conversation; this is the “safe” investment.
Amish romance is a top-selling genre among Christians because that’s as close to the real world as our entertainment media is willing to get. In fact, we ought to relabel all Christian fiction as Christian fantasy, because it’s just not set in the real world.
There’s nothing wrong with good, clean entertainment (if you can find it), but 99% of what we see fails our biblical mandate.
In Ephesians, Paul tells us to expose the deeds of darkness. This is part of our job. How are we going to do that if we’re not willing to talk about hard topics or bad things?
I believe that Christian media can accomplish the five-fold ministry of the church. Fiction books can teach, evangelize, prophecy, care for the Church, and birth movements.
The secular media industry believes this is true. We could list a dozen books that led directly to policy and cultural changes in the United States, historic and contemporary. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is a classic example taught in schools, but modern examples abound as well.
A long time ago, Christians believed this was true. Harriet Beecher Stowe changed the world with Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She wrote the book after receiving a vision of a slave dying of thirst while she was taking communion in her brother’s Presbyterian church. Her book bolstered the abolitionist movement and is considered to be a direct contributor to the Civil War and emancipation, at the time of those events and in historical review.
Aren’t you glad that she wasn’t afraid to go there? She could have decided that the subject was too crass, too volatile for polite conversation, with no place in a Christian home. Instead, she exposed something graphic and terrible, and our culture stepped dramatically towards Kingdom values because of it.
Our students are welcome to contribute to the catalog of “clean” Christian literature. We believe many will do so with higher quality than what we’ve become accustomed to seeing.
But our students are also authorized to write about things that really matter, regardless of how unsettling they may be or how unfit for polite conversation. Bad guys and bad situations are allowed to be really bad, as bad as they need to be, in order to expose the deeds of darkness.
Because our students have a rock solid connection to the Holy Spirit and are actively engaged in a discipleship relationship, we can trust them to explore these dark topics with purpose and in good measure.
This one single change, a simple permission, has the potential to rock the industry.
We’re not alone in this. God is inspiring lots of storytellers to go deeper with their work, to stop ignoring reality.
We’ve had the pleasure of partnering with Story Embers to support some of the good work they’re doing. I love the “manifesto” for Christian writers they’ve put together. Check it out here, and I think you’ll find some similar ideas.
It’s so important that Christian writers are anchored to the Holy Spirit with a solid spiritual foundation, and that their life is rooted in healthy Christian community. When those two conditions are true, it’s time to release Christian writers to do the work of the gospel, expose the darkness, and perform the full functions of the church, never shying away from the truth.
It’s time to take the gloves off. It’s time to get dirty.
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