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Christian Writers and Clean Content in Books

In today's culture, there isn't a lot of space for clean content. There isn't a lot of space for Christian content and there isn't a lot of space for good, well done PG art that people can enjoy and love and rave over.

Last year, one of the biggest movies to release (that wasn't a Marvel movie) was The Greatest Showman. Do you know what it was rated? PG. It was child friendly and I really appreciate that because I can watch it with my little brothers without having to worry about skipping certain scenes! That movie was good, wholesome entertainment. Beautifully done with a sweet theme of acceptance and creativity and following your dreams. Another movie that came out that is so underrated it hurts, is The Man Who Invented Christmas. Again. PG. Again, it was wholesome, good entertainment. Maybe a little too mature for children with a few scary scenes for more sensitive children, but really, there was nothing bad in it. No violence, no gore, no swearing. It was just a good movie! Good entertainment! I know there are a few Christian creatives out there who may disagree with me, but I think there should be a space for good Christian art. No, I'm not talking about movies like I Can Only Imagine or Soul Surfer. I'm talking about books and movies that aren't explicitly Christian, but that Christians can enjoy nonetheless without being dragged down by the sinful culture we live in. For me, this topic of what it is it to be a Christian writer has been a big issue for me. A big thing I've been thinking about for a long time. What is too much when it comes to the content of my books as a Christian writer? Should I put swearing in my book, even if it is an appropriate circumstance (I don't think there is ever really an appropriate circumstance to swear. I'm one of those people who still flinch whenever I hear a swear word)? How far is too far when it comes to gore in fantasy and sci-fi books that I write? How far is too far when it comes to romance in my books?

I think those are questions that every Christian writer can only answer for themselves. There are lines some of us will cross that others of us won't. If they've had that talk with God and have settled what they feel alright with putting in their books in their heart, then they can do what they like. Just like I've had to think a lot about what is too much for me, what lines I won't cross when it comes to my writing. I want rules and restrictions for myself, especially since I want my belief and convictions as a Christian, as a follower of Jesus to shine through in my books. My gift isn't to write wonderful Christian books that uplift Christians and can be found in the Christian bookstores. I admire those who are gifted that way, that have the passion for that genre, but that isn't my genre. My genre is fantasy and science fiction. Fantasy and scifi is where my passion as a writer lies and those two genres can be grittier and darker than the stereotypical Christian genre. And no, my books aren't all sunshine and rainbows. Bad stuff happens to my characters. They go into dark places and often there is fighting and blood and death, but I try not to go too overboard with the goriness. Characters die and things are destroyed and sometimes my characters are beaten down. That's a part of life. But then, they get back up and they fight and the story ends with a victory. I want my stories to let people know that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Which leads me to what I've been thinking about for a long time. A big thing I've thought about and prayed about for a long time is figuring out what God's purpose for me is. I want to use the natural gifts He gave me for His glory and to further His kingdom. I thought for a long time that because I can't write in the Christian genre that I can't use my gift to spread His message. But I was wrong. In today's culture it is easier than ever to stand out in the entertainment industry, especially in the book industry. So many authors bog down their books with the sinful culture of this world. There hasn't been one YA book I haven't read this year that hasn't had a sprinkle of swear words, including the F word, which I think is just absolutely unnecessary in any situation in any book, or gone too far with two characters making out or had at least one LGBTQ character. Or they have some political theme (usually a political theme that sways toward the left) whether it be front and center or an undertone. To anyone else, they would think those books have a little bit of everything. That they're culturally up to date, staying with the times. I don't want my books to with the times. I want my books to be different. To be "behind the times" to some people and I won't apologize for that. Maybe that's why I've enjoyed more of the middle grade books I've read this year than any of the YA books. Because their clean and wholesome and sweet. They're a breath of fresh air, a little bit of light in a darkening world.

I want to use my gift as a writer to be a light to others, to point to God through my writing. We've been talking about ministry a lot in my Bible study group and one of the things that I believe and that my church believes about ministry is that it isn't our job to see someone through to the end. It's our job to plant a seed. To share Christ with others. But it's the Holy Spirit's job to grow that seed we plant in others' hearts and to open them up to God. We can lead them to church, give them the message, but we can't change their hearts or minds or souls. Only God can do that. I want my books to plant a seed in others, to share that with them. To plant a seed of hope, of love, of joy and peace in them. But I think the biggest theme I want my books to convey is hope. Hope in a hopeless dark world can be such a powerful thing and I want my books to have that and to share that with others. I want my books to bring a smile to people's faces and for people to know, even if they don't know why, but to have this feeling that my books are different than the others in a good way. That is my hope for what my books can do for others. That is what I hope I can do with my books. Indirectly share my faith and my hope in the Lord with others.

I'm sick of all the swearing and all the overboard romance in YA books. I'm sick of all the darkness and the grit, which is saying something coming from me. I don't mind darker themes. I did read The Cruel Prince and The Hazel Wood after all. I don't want to go too far with what I write or what I read because some things stick with you. I'm very much into the vampire/werewolf genre. In that genre there are usually witches or some form of magic. I watch that stuff, but I don't write about witches or magic that is too much like real witchcraft. If I do write about magic it's usually a light sprinkle of it, or something like what Natalie Lloyd does with her books A Snicker of Magic or The Problim Children. There's a sprinkle of magic or some magical powers or magical objects. Or its the fairytale type magic that has no rules and is just kind of there without a real explanation. There are no spells, no grimoires or dark curses that come from sacrifices and darker places.

Actually, maybe the reason why I lean more toward the science-fiction is because there's less likely of a chance that I would have to write about magic. A few years ago, I started writing about a girl who was cursed or something like that. It feels like forever ago that I wrote this, I don't even really remember what it was about. There was magic. The sort of magic that has sacrifices and stuff. I realized what I was writing was wrong and that it was too dark and corrupting. So I shut down that document, deleted the story and haven't even been tempted to write about that sort of magic again. It's too much of a gateway to darker things and I won't do that to myself. Some Christian writers can write that stuff and feel nothing, not get drawn into it, but with me, its a dangerous territory. Once I start writing about something, I do a lot of research on the topics in the book. If one of those topics is magic, witchcraft, then I would do research on that and that isn't a good thing to research or look up. So I gave up that genre and have moved on. Yeah, I write about vampire hunters and I will one day write a werewolf book. But there will be no witches or magic in them. I can't do that.

Our mission is to stand out from the rest of the world. We don't belong to this world. We belong to God's kingdom and that should show in everything we do. I'm not perfect, I make mistakes in every day life and I may stumble in sharing a hopeful message in my books because the darkness is tempting and sometimes I give into that temptation without even realizing it. But I want to strive to do better. To resist that temptation and ask God to point out those moments when I'm writing and I don't realize I've gone too far. I want Him to pull me back and point out the things I shouldn't put in my books. That's one of my struggles. I do sometimes go too far. I do have a lot for antiheroes and gray areas and villains and I need to learn to appreciate the hero, the good guy and the forces of light in books and in my writing more. I want my mission to be different from the rest of the world in everything I do and especially in my writing.

I hope this post is an encouragement and a help to all you young Christian writers out there who are trying to figure out how to use your writing to further God's kingdom. Writing (and even art like painting) is such an abstract gift. Writers and artists, we have it a little harder. Especially writers who lean more toward epic fantasy and science fiction. If you're struggling with this like I have been and still sometimes do, just take it up with God. Ask Him to show you the best way to use your gift to glorify Him. Search within yourself and have a talk with yourself on what lines you need to make for yourself and what content your comfortable putting in your books. But also be aware that the enemy works in sneaky, clever ways. He can convince you of anything and you need to fight back. You may think your comfortable with writing dark fantasy or Fey or dark magic, but just be aware of yourself and how that makes you feel as you write. If you feel even the slightest bit of doubt or something just doesn't feel right that you can't explain, put the project down and figure out why you feel that way. It could be a plot problem, but more likely, the Holy Spirit is telling you not to write that. That you've gone too far.

So yeah... again, I hope this post has been helpful and an encouragement to you. I'm still figuring stuff out and honestly, writing this post helped me think through some things that I hadn't even thought of before so this is has been really helpful and healthy writing this all out. I hope it's been just as helpful for you reading it as it has me writing it. Have a great Easter this weekend!

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