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).

Friday, July 22, 2005

A CBA Author's Rant

Peace! Posted by Picasa

A Life in Pages: Sometimes I get irked . . .:
"Good grief, if there's one place where we ought to be forebearing and gentle with each other, it's in the area of the arts! Taste is so subjective, and what may thrill me may leave you lukewarm."
"I'm not irked--I'm hurt--when I read reviews or comments by other believers criticizing the work of other believers. Our mothers were right--if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. Or if you must say something, let's try spurring each other to excellence, let's teach each other; let's keep lifting the bar and encouraging each other to offer nothing less than excellence to our Lord. Whether you write for the Christian market or the world at large, if you are a believer, then you should be offering the work of your hands and heart as a worthy sacrifice."
Angela Hunt has her say over on her blog, A Life in Pages. Let me make two comments right away: (1) She's entitled to her opinion and I support her right to air it 100%; (2) I've had so much trouble believing she said what she said it's taken me a few days to recover.

Okay, I lied. Three things: (3) I've read hundreds of CBA novels including some recent ones. Let's face it, when Ms. Hunt talks about "Christian books," she probably talking about CBA books. Why? Because people don't generally make comments about the literary value of Marilynne Roinson's Gilead, or the commercial value of Susan Howatch's Glittering Images, which are Christian fiction books. No, when people criticize the works of other believers, they are most likely talking about someone in the CBA, which is where Ms. Hunt is published. And this, she says, we ought to abstain from doing. Because we're believers. And believers in Christ ought to be nice to one another, shouldn't argue, should just do as their mother told them to do. Be nice.

Well, I'm all for nice. Don't get me wrong. There isn't anything more counter-productive than one person screaming at another. It just doesn't get anything solved. So, I agree with her that far. But as for critiquing one another? Well, I have to say I'm astounded. How does she expect CBA fiction (or any body of work) to grow if no one says anything about the quality currently being produced? In an even tempered way. How does she expect our craft to improve unless we challenge one another? And that we'd only do it privately, behind closed doors? Why? If we're working to change what is already a fine produce, why would we be ashamed to deal with it in an open and forthright manner? NOT a nasty one.

People in the arts, be they Christians or not, discuss their art and that of others. Sometimes they agree, sometimes they don't. But the free exchange of ideas seems to me to be a necessary component in the ongoing vitality of any artistic community. Yes, you could do it one-on-one, in private, but why is that necessary in any place other than, say, China? As long as we're civil, I don't see the problem. I realize that scripture tells us to be unified, but I don't think that means we're to keep our mouths tightly shut and never venture an opinion.

Are we not called to excellence in the gifts we've been given? And if so, how in heaven's name are we to achieve that if we can't talk openly among ourselves?