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A Christian...But not preachy story?:

Element of love

Please no religion debate

Hey fellow tropers.

It's not a secret I am a christian. I want to make an original story. Christ is of course is my main inspiration and the center of the morals and pretty much everything.

The problem is that I don't want the story to be aimed at Christians but a story that can be enjoyed by everyone.However some of my fellow but famous christian authors have fallen to be very preachy and even alienate non Christians Left Behind and the atrocious(horrible) ChickTracks

Obviously I am going to avoid typical christian cliches/fails like Main character resurrects/is Jesus! or Repent sinner or you are going to hell!!(yeah I know ...). I am sure avoiding being anvilicious will be a must.

What would you adivce me to being accesible/ what makes you feel a story is too preachy or religious.?. For instance would a christian protagonist bother you?

edited 18th Dec '11 9:54:48 PM by FallenLegend

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. C. S. Lewis
oh no the snack table
Make a story about someone who is Christian but is about something other than being a Christian and let it flow organically from there, if that's your goal. Or make a story about whatever you want and let people who have a problem with it deal with it because, honestly, they don't have to read it if they don't want to.

People get touchy about religion, but it's a powerful, rich, and deep well of artistic inspiration. You should not cut yourself off from that.
It's beautiful and so full of deep imagery that it doesn't surprise me to find that it has gone WAY over your head
For instance would a christian protagonist bother you?
No.

Chronicles of Narnia is a Christian story that's pretty accessible to most people, if you want an example. Personally I thought it did get a little bit heavy-handed near the end of it, but apparently most people don't feel the same way.

I would say to focus on the parts of Christianity that you find most positive/inspirational and don't try to proselytize.

edited 18th Dec '11 9:55:52 PM by melloncollie

Easily entertained
Speaking as a deist, I'd say that C. S. Lewis is, in general, an agreeable and reasonable individual you might want to look to for inspiration. There's a reason he's still got a spot in my sig as of this post, after all. Naturally, there are a few cases where I simply cannot agree with him — I'll spare you the details — but I'd still recommend taking notes on what he does. In particular, you may wish to expand upon the positive themes of Christianity which transcend that religion: off the top of my head, the importance of forgiveness, charity, humility, and self-sacrifice come to mind.
 5 burnpsy, Sun, 18th Dec '11 10:24:28 PM from Ontario, Canada Relationship Status: Abstaining
The Eternal Fool
You see, what you have to do to avoid making something too "preachy" depends entirely on the subject matter of the story in question.

I myself am a Christian, but the plot of what I'm writing doesn't involve anything that would make that at all clear. I simply wrote a story and didn't even think about religious stuff at all while doing it.

But, if Christianity is relevant to the story you're writing, then all I have to say is to not emphasize it, and just let it be a trait any given character, not the only trait. Unless the character talking is a priest, of course.
Read some Stephen King, particularly The Stand. You might be surprised at how traditionally Chrsitian he is in a lot of ways, and how a lot of his books reflect that in a rather non-preachy way.
 
Rabid Fujoshi
I think working with very Christian themes and symbolism without having to directly involve religion is a good way, like C. S. Lewis did. I think Trigun is also a good work that has Christian themes but doesn't feel like it's trying to sell you religion, it feels universally applicable. (The creator of Trigun is a former Buddhist who converted to Christianity and it shows in a good way.)

edited 18th Dec '11 10:26:09 PM by NoirGrimoir

SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)
 8 feotakahari, Sun, 18th Dec '11 10:46:03 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
Christian protagonists work fine, so long as they're not portrayed as morally superior to everyone else. With that said, I'd recommend against having a conversion unless you intend to make that the premise (showing how a spur-of-the-moment choice becomes a genuine commitment), and it's somewhat tetchy to have Christianity be clearly correct within the context of the story.

Actually, I'd like to add a further caution: religion or lack of same shouldn't define a character. There's not much you can argue from Christianity that you can't argue from at least one other religion or philosophy—I think personality is the deciding factor in how people behave.
That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
oh no the snack table
You might be surprised at how traditionally Chrsitian he is in a lot of ways, and how a lot of his books reflect that in a rather non-preachy way.

Respectfully, I not use the Stand as an example of how to write non-preachy fiction.
It's beautiful and so full of deep imagery that it doesn't surprise me to find that it has gone WAY over your head
Ecce Homo Superior
I wouldn't be bothered by a Christian protagonist.

I appreciate the difficulties of what you're trying to do (I've seen quite a few Christian writers talk about how they want to put their beliefs in a story without turning it into narrowly defined "Christian literature"). I don't have any really good advice, but I'm sure it can be done.

Adding to the list of works you might want to emulate: have you read The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe? The author is Catholic and the plot is a Messianic story (with some hints that the Conciliator is Christ), but the religious element isn't in the least preachy or intrusive.
(it's David Bowie)
 11 USAF713, Mon, 19th Dec '11 3:29:32 AM from the United States
I changed accounts.
I think Trigun is also a good work that has Christian themes but doesn't feel like it's trying to sell you religion, it feels universally applicable. (The creator of Trigun is a former Buddhist who converted to Christianity and it shows in a good way.)

...

o_o

Wow. I missed that one entirely. I feel dumb now. :/
I am now known as Flyboy.
oh no the snack table
[up] Not to rub it in, but Wolfwood is carrying a literal cross.
It's beautiful and so full of deep imagery that it doesn't surprise me to find that it has gone WAY over your head
 13 Noir Grimoir, Mon, 19th Dec '11 3:39:37 AM from San Diego, CA
Rabid Fujoshi
And Vash is Plant Jesus.

edited 19th Dec '11 3:40:41 AM by NoirGrimoir

SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)
 14 USAF713, Mon, 19th Dec '11 3:40:27 AM from the United States
I changed accounts.
Well, yeah, but it's also a big old gun/gun holder thing.

I figured that it was just him being priest-y. In retrospect, that was a poor mistake.
I am now known as Flyboy.
 15 Noir Grimoir, Mon, 19th Dec '11 3:41:43 AM from San Diego, CA
Rabid Fujoshi
Like I said, it doesn't necessarily feel too Christian to people who aren't looking for it but it's like a nice bonus for people in-the-know.

edited 19th Dec '11 3:41:49 AM by NoirGrimoir

SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)
 16 USAF713, Mon, 19th Dec '11 3:43:55 AM from the United States
I changed accounts.
Well, the pacifist thing and "LOVE AND PEACE!" make so much more sense, in terms of "why would you write this...?" when put in that context.

...

I should revert to my Vash avatar, but, meh...
I am now known as Flyboy.
 17 Noir Grimoir, Mon, 19th Dec '11 3:52:08 AM from San Diego, CA
Rabid Fujoshi
Pacifism, redemption of sins, good versus evil, Chaste Hero, The Messiah, priests, the plants look like angels...

And this line from Wolfwood: "We're nothing like God. Not only do we have limited powers, but sometimes we're driven to become the devil himself."

Trigun is awesome. Okay, done gushing.
SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)
 18 USAF713, Mon, 19th Dec '11 4:14:03 AM from the United States
I changed accounts.
Very true.

Anyhow, to the topic at hand... well... if those are your themes, you're probably going to end up preaching (to the choir) at some point...
I am now known as Flyboy.
 19 Noir Grimoir, Mon, 19th Dec '11 4:23:34 AM from San Diego, CA
Rabid Fujoshi
Well, I don't know, I mean in Trigun, for instance, I think we would all agree that killing is bad, but when you're watching it, there are times when you go, Vash, just kill the guy, dang it! Legato is evil, stop being so pure and just take him out!

The thing about Christian ideals (and most other religious ideals, I'm sure) is if you really live by them when you're in a really harsh environment (like Gunsmoke), they aren't easy to live by. Vash would have had way fewer scars if he was a bit more practical, that's for sure. You have to show that, and not belittle the sacrifice being made. You have to put the character in a situation where you're made to question the validity of those beliefs. That is, if you really want to explore the religious themes in depth.
SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)
Element of love
Thanks a lot guys you have helped me a lot I will certainly read all of those :)
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. C. S. Lewis
Hugs for everyone!
[up][up] That is what I think is involved in christian stories that don't bludgeon you with christianity: the main theme (or one on them) is sacrifice.

The key role that the main character (or principal character who embodies the themes) takes up is selflessness. Not blind selflessness; the character has to know his strengths and limitations (at least to some degree) and usually has the wisdom to play his strengths as much and as hard as possible (Vash). Or the character could be struggling and does not know where his real strength lies, and so goes about for most of the story the entirely wrong way, until he learns what he's been missing since the beginning (Wolfwood).

Generally, the theme and motives of the main character have to be interconnected in order to not feel like a formula. If the central conflict is that the Devil shows up to kill people, and the only thing the main character does is invoke Christ a thousand times to banish the Devil, then you don't have a Christian story, because invoking the name of Christ in itself does not create good. It requires real sacrifice.

The thing is, this should not be easy. It should NEVER be easy, and an issue with a lot of christian fiction is that it is portrayed as incredibly easy. Usually because these authors are afraid that if they portray it as difficult, they'll be sending the message that Christ is not as powerful as Superman. If the main character does not have a weakness that is CREATED by the same convictions that give him strength (As in Vash's refusal to ever kill anyone is played against his desire to see nobody hurt, or Wolfwood's bitterness because he feels forced to kill some people to save others) then it is often not as powerful.

edited 19th Dec '11 9:58:46 AM by RickGriffin

I'm sure the cold hand of science will be able to overcome his magical powers—— http://www.housepetscomic.com
 22 USAF713, Mon, 19th Dec '11 10:09:30 AM from the United States
I changed accounts.
Well, thing is, the simplest way to avoid preaching is to avoid strawmanning the opposition, and to present your own side as nuanced, rather than monolithic.

I mean, Jesus and the four Gospels provide all kinds of rich and interesting themes and moral teaching, from the futility and ultimate foolishness of retributive punishment ("...let he without sin cast the first stone..."), the separation of church and state ("...render unto Caesar..."), the folly of materialism ("...let the dead bury their own dead..."), turn the other cheek and love thy neighbor, etc.

You need not get up and talk about how homosexuality and abortion are wrong, mkay, don't do them. We hear enough of it from the fundamentalists. There are a billion different things to talk about from a billion different angles just in the New Testament, and many are far less controversial than the two I just listed.

(Speaking as an agnostic theist who may or may not agree some with some of the things I just listed).
I am now known as Flyboy.
I'm not sure whether I might be extrapolating too much from my own preferences here, but I think either an extremely obviously, blatantly Christian story or a very mildly, subtly Christian story could work. There's some middle-ground that doesn't.

For example, if you have a Police Procedural where the main character is a Christian, but it doesn't come up in every scene, and most of the show is about looking at security camera footage and interrogating suspects and witnesses until they slip up, then that would be fine.

On the other hand, I think it also works if you go completely Christian in theme. Write about a Christian woman in Trebizond during the reign of Diocletian, trying to reconcile with her estranged Mithras-worshiping father while surviving Diocletian's reign. Write about Trappist Monks living in Algeria during the civil war.

There's an intermediate that doesn't work for me (agnostic) though. It's neither fully Christian nor mildly, incidentally Christian. These works come off as preachy to me in a way that, paradoxically, the totally Christian-themed works don't. An example that comes to me is The Brothers Karamazov. (Yes, it has some brilliant stuff, but a lot of it is heavy-handed and preachy.) I think Garrison Keillor, when he gets into his more Christian moods, also slips into it at times.

The basic problem with these works, I think, is that they portray the problem as being some of the common flaws of humanity — from disharmony in marriages to substance abuse to uncertainty about one's direction in life — and portray Christianity as some kind of solution. Whatever solutions those problems have, it isn't Christianity, and whatever Christianity is a solution for, it isn't those problems. This is what rings false. Christians have conflicts with their spouses, substance abuse problems, etc, too, and it's unlikely that this is just because they're not Christian enough.

Mildly Christian works portray Christianity as an incidental part of a person's character. Purely Christian works portray Christianity as a transcendental mystery entailing a whole way of life. It's the middle ground ones that come off as preachy because they seem to portray Christianity as a solution to problems it doesn't solve.

edited 19th Dec '11 2:19:11 PM by Maklodes

 
I don't mind religious themes at all as long as they avoid Space Whale Aesop format. As Maklodes suggested, I don't think even the most hard-core Christian seriously believes that nobody who believes in Christ has problems.

I think what makes the difference for me is that I believe doing the right thing and finding peace of mind are very difficult goals, and you can treat religion as an aid that gives that struggle context, community and guidelines, or you can treat it as a magical shortcut that absolves you of responsibility for independent moral thought. If you encourage people to do the latter, then you're lying to them in a very dangerous way, regardless of any metaphysical factuality, and I think most religious figures would see it like that too.

If, on the other hand, a work explores the moral issues at the core of the religion and its history, showing the painful sides as well as the pleasant ones, and the many ways that faith, religion, doctrine and morality can interact with everyday life, then it can be extremely powerful for it without alienating anyone, and can do a lot more to advertise the moral core of the religion and perhaps even interest people in it. I liked Joan of Arcadia for instance because (with the exception of the premise) it didn't rely on improbable events to make a point, in fact the links between cause and effect and the random outside complications were almost brutally realistic in some places. Not that every story has to be so down-to-earth, of course. But if you're making a point make it properly and if you're departing from reality make it clear that's what you're doing.

edited 19th Dec '11 5:22:15 PM by Kesteven

 25 dorkatlarge, Mon, 19th Dec '11 9:19:53 PM from Parts Unknown Relationship Status: Maxing my social links
Brosuke wannabe
Read some of Doug TenNapel's comics. His creative output has never been confined to the "ghetto" of Christian bookstores. (And the bands he created art for? They were at the edge of the subculture.) I found a few trade paperbacks at a comic store, and from what I recall of the liner notes of one story, he admitted he'd received both criticism and praise on whether the story was didactic.

There are plenty of people who made content prior to the mid-70s, and thus they never had the option of creating content for a Christian market. And since then, there have been others who have chosen to work within the mainstream. I won't bore you with a list of names. Just start with the Switchfoot quote on the Not Christian Rock page — it seems like a summary of the ideas from Bob Briner's book Roaring Lambs.

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