by Jeff Reynolds
What is the role of fiction in these contentious, divisive days?
My original plan for today's blog failed to materialize, and it would have been interesting to see the reaction. The would be interviewee is a cartoonist where everybody would fall into three categories:
- They love it -- it's one of their favorite strips (count me in this one).
- They hate it -- it's one of their least strips.
- They either ignore it or aren't aware of its existence.
An idealist would see fiction as a diversion from this antagonism if not a possible bridge between sides. However, the more likely scenario is that our storytelling is caught in the cross-fire. So allow me to suggest three random thoughts and see if and how they fit together.
WE ARE PART OF THIS WAR,
LIKE IT OR NOT.
If all you're doing is telling stories, you're safe. However, my hunch is that most of us either don't hide our Christian world-view or we have a Christian theme we're actively promoting. I'd be interested in hearing how many of the published authors get one star reviews on Amazon solely because there lamp's on the lampstand and not under a bushel. One speculative author friend was looking for people to listen to his book on Audible because the only people who critiqued that version panned it because of its faith angle.
WE NEED TO RIGHTLY DIVIDE THE TRUTH,
NON-FICTION OR OTHERWISE.
In a newsletter Becky and I receive, there is critique of various views, and a pair of novels have been scrutinized. They receive numerous letters basically saying, "Leave them alone. It's only fiction. Who cares if the doctrine is off?"
You know what's interesting? In How Should We Then Live? Francis Schaeffer points out that existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Satre influenced more people through his fiction than his philosophical tomes. And would Scientology have been as successful if Hubbard wasn't a novelist? The truth is that we can influence others through what we write.
On my to-do list is to write a letter to the newsletter stating that if I get published I want that ministry to scrutinize my novel and point out its errors. After all, I'm an ordained minister which makes me a minister of the Word. But in a sense if I'm writing Christian fiction, I'm automatically a minister of the Word. We need to be leading people to the truth - not just evangelistically winning the lost but to give the new believer a solid foundation and the more mature believer edification, comfort and Spiritual encouragement.
WE CAN USE OUR SOCIETAL CRITIQUES TO BRING
OR TO DRIVE THEM FARTHER APART.
One class that made a lasting impact on me was a high school course titled "American Humor and Aesthetics of Film." The textbook for the former part mentioned five types of humor: Low comedy, Comedy of manners, Satire, Black humor, and High comedy. I learned there are two types of satire, both named after Greek satirists -- Horatian and Juvenalian.
What's the difference? The spirit. Horatian is kinder and gentler; Juvenalian has a mean streak (is it a coincidence it sounds like "juvenile?"). People like Anne Coulter and Michael Moore are good at the latter, as are many political cartoonists. I prefer the more Horatian type, and I think Indianapolis is blessed to have Gary Varvel who fits that description.
Juvenalian satire is good at rallying the camps. Both camps. It gets those who agree laughing and firmer entrenched, and it gives fodder for those in oppostion so they're also ready to fight. Horatian is better at using humor to point out a fault in a way the "target" has a smile on his face, and both sides are then in a frame of mind to have a productive conversation and reach an understanding.
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Thanks for letting me ramble a little. So what about you? Have you faced opposition because of your message? Have you ever been challenged on the theology of your story? Have you used either Horatian or Juvenalian satire in your stories, and to what effect?