Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Violence in Christian Fiction - Day 4

Psalm 137: 8-9

O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you
for what you have done to us-
he who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.

Yesterday I talked about the Bible and violence within Scripture. The main points were that yes, the Bible has violence in it; it is not very graphic; however it is not written as entertainment - the literary purpose is different.

What about the influence of other media? You can use the terms "the world," "secular," or "non-Christian" for this question. What kind of influence does shows like CSI, authors like Stephen King, and movies from Silence of the Lambs to Saw have on authors of Christian fiction.

That question will have to be addressed to specific authors, I'm afraid. TL Hines, author of Waking Lazarus and The Dead Whisper On, admits to being a fan of Stephen King. While Hines writes some intense fiction, even though he looks to King as an influence, his writing does not approach the horror master in terms of graphicness.

The influence of secular media also plays a role in the reader. I've read one Stephen King book, and still wish I hadn't. I recall that he was very good with suspense, but the subject matter was not something I want to partake in anymore. I've read one James Patterson book. Besides my feeling that his writing is shallow and low quality, his cavalier language and treatment of violence left a nasty taste that still regurgitates anytime I see one of his titles.

Someone who is more comfortable reading King or Patterson, or who routinely watches CSI type shows may be more accepting of levels of violence. Perhaps I'm not the best person to address this subject. As others have mentioned in the comments, it does depend on the comfort level of the individual reader. Some people shouldn't read certain types of books.

Yet the discussion here is simply, is there a point of too much in Christian fiction, and if so, what is that point? I think this can be asked by anyone. I also think I've covered the most important variables that relate to this topic. Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!


  1. I've been bringing up the issue of context with regard to the violence, so pardon me if I seem to be repeating myself. But context is important for determining any number of things--from whether a Scripture verse is used correctly to whether a seemingly scathing remark was really meant that way.

    I think it's important to look at how the writer approaches the violence. In the way the story is written, does he/she seem to be enjoying it? I agree with you about James Patterson--I read one or two and thought they were complete garbage. One of the reasons was that he threw in as many gory/disturbed images as he could. The sense I got as a reader was that he was enjoying writing those descriptions.

    Whereas Robert Liparulo was just as gory in Comes a Horseman, but I didn't feel it was over the line. And I think the reason was that we experienced the gore through the horrified reaction of the protagonists. When we saw it from their point of view, it was clear that the writer felt the appropriate reaction was horror and moral indignation. And that's the way it should have been.

    Roger Ebert has a saying: A movie is not about what it's about, but rather how it is about it. He's basically saying that subject matter is less important than how it is treated. I think to a certain extent that's true.

  2. Boy, did I blabber on. Just slap some duct tape over my mouth, will ya?

  3. I think it's safe to say there is no real definitive conclusion to the topic other than to say a Christian writer is ultimately responsible to God for what he submits to "paper".

    Mark made some excellent points, once again exposing the chasm which separates Christian and secular fiction as a general rule.

    I have friends who cannot watch CSI, for example, but think nothing of their husbands gunning down animals to eat. Nothing against hunters, guys and gals. It's just I can't even think about it because my heart was made tender to animals.

    A reader should not be mislead by a book, but there can be no mistaking what you're getting into by the backcover copy on a Robert Liparulo novel, for example. If you can't handle that kind of violence, skip the book.