The title for this post may catch you off guard a bit. What do Easter and fantasy have in common? Should they have anything in common? As Christian writers, we need to ask ourselves some very tough questions about writing and Christ. So, in honor of Easter Sunday coming soon, I've decided to address these questions now.
Just to warn you a few things before we begin: these are extremely controversial topics, and there are no easy answers. Whether or not you agree with my thoughts and conclusions, approach this post with a lot of prayer and listen to what God is telling you about your writing.
The overarching question here might be as follows: "Must Christian writers (especially of fantasy) present a complete account of Christ's saving death and resurrection in their stories?" Along with this comes other questions: "What exactly makes a story 'Christian?' Simply being written by a Christian? Having Christian themes? Presenting the gospel?"
In short, I would like to suggest that "Christian" writing is a lot more complex than it appears at first glance. To answer some of the secondary questions above, just because a "Christian" author writes something doesn't make it inherently Christian. Conversely, even nonbelievers can write works that support Christian themes through God's common grace.
In the course of study and prayer, I've found the following Biblical guidelines helpful for providing rules to guide my own writing:
1) What is lawful/unlawful?
What does this mean for writers? We should not glorify anything in our writing that the Bible presents as unlawful. So if someone murders, show that murder to be wrong (through the murderer's punishment or through other characters' condemnation, and so on).
2) What is helpful/detrimental to my walk with Christ for me, personally?
This is often determined by your culture and upbringing--for example, in the Corinthian church, those who had been brought up eating food offered to idols as an act of worship felt it weakened their faith to eat the food after they became Christian. For others, however, raised in different circumstances, eating that food was just like eating any food.
So what does this mean for us? Well, first, as writers, we don't want to write about something that will tempt us to think sinfully or even something that distracts our focus on God. For example, some Christian writers (especially younger writers) prefer not to write about romance. They believe it's fine for others to, but for them personally, it's not helpful or edifying at that time in their life. The same can be said for using certain types of profanity or substitutes for profanity--some may find it deeply offensive; for others, it's just second nature.
3) What builds up/sets a stumbling block before other Christians?
This is a very difficult guide to follow writers. We write, after all, so that other people can read what we've written (at least, most of us do). Often, our readers may be brothers and sisters in Christ. Thus, we come under this guideline all the time. But how, you may ask, can we protect other Christians from stumbling in the context of a fantasy story? Clearly, it's impossible to foresee every single detail that might cause one of our readers to stumble.
This is one of those areas where there are no easy answers. I can't give you a magic ruler that says, "That sentence there, especially the adjectival clause, will cause Mariella to stumble, so cut it out!" Here, you must pray sincerely and deeply to God and trust in Him to lead you as you write and edit. Consider getting someone you respect, who has both life experience and Biblical understanding, to look over your draft and point out some potential problematic areas. Again, pray, keep praying, and don't stop praying.
4) What reaches out to non-Christians?
As Christians, one of our primary responsibilities is to "Go, make disciples." We are to proclaim the kingdom of God; a weighty task, certainly. So what part does our writing play in the process?
Basically, the answer is different for each individual. God may call some to write directly allegorical stories (Pilgrim's Progress, and the Chronicles of Narnia, to an extent). For other stories, an actual "salvation experience" is not necessary; instead, God speaks through Biblical themes of redemption and love and sacrifice.
Here, again, use much prayer. God does have a plan for your writing, just as He does for your life. Your role is to trust, pray, and obey!
I'll conclude my post here, although there's much more to be said on this topic. Hopefully, you've been challenged to think deeply about how your writing relates to your Christian walk. Whether or not you agree with the points I've outlined, I pray that you'll at least be led to give further thought to how your writing is a part of God's plan for your life. May God bless you, and have a happy Easter Resurrection Day!