Too Heathen?

Has a secular writer has ever been rejected because their story was too heathen?

While I don’t want to come across as disrespectful and snarky, I do think it’s important to give some thought to the above question. Christian writers are often cautioned against being too preachy…too explicitly Christian. And, frankly, for some reason something about that concern bothers me.

In all intellectual fairness, it must be stated that there are various ways for a Christian worldview to manifest itself. A great example of this is the (Protestant) Bible. It’s a collection of sixty-six books that contain examples of multiple genres written by a host of personalities–all guided by the Holy Spirit. Some parts are explicit in their God-talk and others are less so. One book doesn’t even mention the name of God at all.

But, when it comes to Christian writers writing stories, what fuels the concern about being too preachy? By the way…[Larry slides out a different soap box and jumps aboard]…as a preacher, I take offense to the way the words “preach” and “preachy” are used. [Larry surveys the room and realized that no one else is here, so he shouts, “Amen! Preach it, brother!” Then, feeling silly, he gets off the second soapbox and returns to the first].

Are we to strike a balance between entertainment and mission?  Or do we have to choose between the two? How much is business-driven and how much is a reflection of the current state of American Christianity?

What do you think?



Filed under books, Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, Larry W. Timm, reading, Writing

10 responses to “Too Heathen?

  1. I made the Christian “message” of my novel a part of the lives of my characters. Frankly, I was surprised at the strength of it. It’s okay when your pastor character prays. Isn’t that what pastors are supposed to do? LOL. But when my other characters started doing it, too, I wondered whether the story would be too “soap-boxy.” And you know what? Several of my friends told me they enjoyed the story and they didn’t even mention the message. Sheesh. All that worry for nothing.

  2. I seriously feel that writers have become too shackled with the idea not to offend ANYONE. I mean… how do we not manage that? Open your mouth – or put pen to paper – on any topic, and someone, somewhere can claim offence at what you have said (or not said).

    Too preachy, too heathen, too political, too social, too wordy, too short, too risqué, too polite – where does it end?

    I think people should put their heart and soul into what they write, whatever it is, and let those “offended” by it go off and find something else to read.

    We writers have responsibility for what we write, not for what readers read. Readers have their own responsibility – nothing is rammed down their throats.

    Funnily enough, I’ve just been blogging about this (and now I’m bumping into it all over the place, it seems). 🙂

    My advice is follow your heart and don’t let anyone tell you what you should or should not write. If it’s in you, go for it!

    Cheers! 😀

    • Generally speaking I agree with the spirit of what you’ve pointed out. The one difference of opinion I have is that while I am responsible to write what’s on my heart, I also believe that I am responsible to do it in the most effective way possible. What I don’t want to become is a haughty person who won’t listen to advice from people who understand the “market” much better than me. But I also don’t want to compromise my convictions. You’re right, if it’s in me I’ll go for it. I just want to do it in a way that will be used to reach the greatest number of people.

    • “We writers have responsibility for what we write, not for what readers read. Readers have their own responsibility – nothing is rammed down their throats.”
      So true, A.D. As my pastor used to say, we’re responsible for OUR behavior/words, not how other people CHOOSE to respond. We can only write as we feel God leading us to write (and hopefully we ARE seeking His guidance on everything we write). Beyond that, the results are in His hands and according to the choices of the reader.

      • Thank you. 🙂 You’ve summed it up nicely and I totally agree, we are responsible for our behaviour/words, and our own responses, not what others say or do, nor their choices or feelings (their own responses).

        Cheers to you. 🙂

  3. H Glick

    I think sometimes when people say avoid being “preachy” what they mean is that a writer should allow the Christian message to flow organically. In writing, we are taught to resist the urge to explain, and I think sometimes (not that it’s bad) as Christians, we tend to want to over-explain the message when we just need to insert it and let readers absorb it. When I edited my debut novel, I rewrote the story to allow things to flow more naturally, and I had at least one reader comment on how the Christian message didn’t feel forced. A good example is when I read a manuscript, and the author has a character spouting off long paragraphs of verses. There is nothing wrong with quoting the Bible, but would a character realistically speak like that? They might, or they might paraphrase the verse in everyday dialogue. You write, “as a preacher, I take offense to the way the words “preach” and “preachy” are used.” When I sat here and thought about the word preachy, and its connotation, I realized something. I don’t think of pastors as being preachy. Yes, they preach the Word of God, but when I think of preachy, I think of a late-night telemarketer desperately trying to sell me something, or a politician or activist trying to get me to listen to their point of view. When I Googled the definition, this is what I found: “having or revealing a tendency to give moral advice in a tedious or self-righteous way.” I agree with the “tedious” part of the definition. I think the difference between preaching and preachy is all in the delivery.

  4. You are so right, Larry. And unless the Christian conversations and content is slapped in like an afterthought and doesn’t flow with the story, I don’t get what the problem is. But “preachy”, like with anything else writing related, is subjective. A friend’s book illustrates this perfectly. She’s had rave reviews on the book with two exceptions. One reader said she couldn’t even SEE the Christianity in the book (really? I read it. God was all over the place, blended beautifully into the story.). The other accused it of being “so preachy” as to be unable to finish reading the book.

    Personally, it’s my feeling that we should be writing the stories God leads us to write, not worrying about who we might tick off or make uncomfortable. My mother warned me recently that a friend of hers probably wouldn’t like my books because she would find them convicting, due to the choices she was making in her life and the specific issues some of those characters dealt with. Oh, well. That’s between her and God, honestly. We can entertain AND follow our Mission at the same time. God shows the way. We just have to let Him. And part of that may very well mean standing firm sometimes against some in the industry (which doesn’t seem to welcome stories at times that may convict someone of sin).

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