Deep POV: Confessions of a Christian Writer

The ramblings of an emergent-realistic-edgy-working-for-God-and-the-pay-isn’t-that-great-sometimes-confused-christian-fiction writer (uh, that would be me).

Saturday, September 11, 2004

The Emergent Church

About a year ago, I began a novel targeted for the CBA. I hesitated at first because I knew the CBA was very conservative in what they allowed in their books. I wanted to write a story about a young man and woman living together; he was a Christian, she was not. It would be funny and romantic and nothing--absolutely nothing--would happen between them outside of the same kind of kisses found in Christian romance novels. The book was called Finding Mr. Wrong.

By January, as I approached the end of the story and began to submit it to various contests and critiques, I noticed that I was getting a negative reaction sometimes. "This will never sell," I was told. I made some revisions, worried and prayed over it, but went on writing because by then I loved the characters and the story.

I took a book proposal of that novel to Mount Hermon, the largest Christian writers' conference in the USA where, unfortunately, I was shot down by the powers that be. They liked my writing. They liked my characters. They like the voice, my skill at dialogue, a lot of great things like that. But they could not get around the fact that a man and a woman lived together. That fact alone made it too controversial for the CBA though (as one agent said) it was also too religious for the ABA.

The result of this was that I began to look for alternative ways to write what I wanted to write. I was understandably frustrated because I felt the publishers'/agents' guidelines were too stringent. One of the things I found was the whole concept of an emergent church, a movement of people whose thinking was more post-modern than modern.

I was attracted to the emergent church crowd because they were not as caught up in some of the attitudes/concepts of the American evangelical church. For instance, they had a more relaxed attitude about language use, especially "bad" language. I wasn't interested in returning to my pre-Christian days and the sometimes-ugly language it contained, but I did find it frustrating that I couldn't include some of that language in my novel when necessary. If a character has just learned his wife has been cheating on him with his brother, he is very unlikely to say, "Oh, darn!" although, come to think of it, "darn" is merely a replacement for "damn," and both are not allowed by some CBA publishing houses.

What I am learning, though, is that you can take the woman out of the modern church, but you can't take the modern church out of the woman--at least not easily. I made a comment on the blog of a emergent church pastor that I thought, in all my modern ways, was perfectly in line with the teachings of Christianity, and was shocked by his vehement reaction. In fact, he called me a hypocrite and said my ideas might be similar to that of an Islamic fundamentalist! Boy, were my feelings hurt! I'm still trying to decide how I feel about what he said, but the point is, it's not a simple thing to do. I spent fifteen years as an evangelical Christian and now all of that has been called into question. Not (I don't think!) the fundamentals of the faith, but almost everything else. More hard thinking to do!