May 22, 2004

The R Word

I'm stalking this girl named Kira, because I like her blog -- I have had to sort of fit her into my busy stalking schedule because I can't slack off on stalking Tayari Jones or Idina Menzel.

Kira and I are currently talking about writing and religion. Often it seems to me that The Arts and Atheism go together like rama-lama-lama-ka-dinkitty-ding-de-dong. Or at the very least The Arts and Agnosticism. But we're both writers, and we're both Christians.

To be clear---I'm not writing "Christian" fiction. I am writing Southern mainstream literary fiction. That said, I think it's almost impossible to write Southern fiction that doesn't have Christians IN it. If you close your eyes and SPIT here in rural Georgia, you are going to hit a Christian.

I wanted to write something that dealt with characters who were Christians, but where religion was not an "issue," or a tool of evil, or an excuse for abuse, or an agenda. It's just a matter-of-fact truth. The family in gods in Alabama goes to church. Everyone prays. Some of them are nice people. Some of them aren't. All of them sin like hell, because, well, people do.

No one in this book comes to Jesus or learns a valuable lesson or experiences an extant conversion. I am more interested in writing a book with a moral center than writing a book with a moral. Morals are easy. Living "morally" is hard. And all the people in this book want to be good people, even the very worst of them. And you know, let me say here, softly, with big-dewy-sincere eyes: I want to be a good person.

Kira says that she finds it hard to walk the invisible Christian line in her writing.

I feel that too, that weird pressure. But really, most times? The conflict was all in my head. SAMPLE: I have this couple and in one draft I had them STOP the entire book, run to Florida and get married really quick, and THEN let them fall into bed, at which point the plot was allowed to resume. Which was just -- It KILLED the pacing and made them WRONG, I mean who says OOPS PASSION IS CARRYING ME AWAY! I KNOW! LET'S LEAVE THE STATE AND MARRY!


So -- the way I ended up handling it was this--I let them go to bed together. They have to---at their age, at their stage of spiritual development, in the situation they are in -- these people WOULD fall into bed. But they don't ignore the fact that its sin, nor do they celebrate it in a feckless LA LA LA! JESUS WANTS US TO FORNICATE BECAUSE HE WANTS US TO BE HAPPY WHOOPEEEEE way. It happened, it will probably happen again, (just between you and me, it will -- in less than 30 pages! *grin*) So they deal with it as Christians and as the people they are. So -- In other words, I took 9 paragraphs to say what Kira said in 4 sentences:

"On the one hand, other Christians seem to think anything
I write should include a plan of salvation. On the other hand, I feel
like I have to defend my faith to people who say "Christian" with the
same contempt they might say "baby raper." But I don't think it's my
place to either defend or evangelize. Truth telling, that's my job."

Right. Tell the story.

Posted by joshilyn at May 22, 2004 7:39 PM

I heart Joshlyn. And *I* am stalking *you*.
Princess Blameless Lamb

Posted by: Kira at May 23, 2004 11:01 PM

Let's not argue semantics or fuss about (as 'retha would say) who exactly is zoomin' whom, but rather let's join forces and stalk Idina Menzel. Because OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS the girl can SING. Also ACT. AND IF I HAD MY BEAUTIFUL WAY and giA was made into a movie, Idina Menzel would play Arlene and her husband (Taye Diggs) would be Burr.

But does Hollywood ever listen to me? No.

Pity, because I could have TOLD them about Showgirls.


Posted by: Joshilyn at May 24, 2004 8:38 AM