Fictional Ethics

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

In keeping with the above verse, I have decided to not post any further 1 or 2 star reviews.  If I have posted any in the past I will probably delete them as I find them.    From now on, I will only post 3 stars and up, which means I like the book enough to recommend it to family and friends.  Otherwise, I intend to just ignore books that before I would have maybe reviewed with 1 or 2 stars.  I have decided that if something is important enough, which most times it probably isn’t, I will try to email the author directly in order to discuss whatever problem I find in the text.  If I can’t find an email for the author, then like I said I will just ignore them.  Books I have added to my profile on Goodreads that have no stars means I haven’t gotten around to reading or reviewing them, yet.

So then I ask myself, what happens when I really like the story, but there is also something I really hate about it?  That is a problem, because I would not be honest if I just wrote what I loved about the book and didn’t also mention what I didn’t like about it.  I think I will have to make the call on an individual book basis, depending on the importance of the subject matter of the thing that I hated about the book.  More often than not, what I hate about a book is the slant, the mindset or the conclusion an author makes regarding the said issue.  Also, more often than not, it is not really that important when you look at the thing objectively and when I analyze why it was that I hated it; turns out it probably hit a personal nerve of mine.  Sometimes, it is nothing more than that the book made me feel very depressed while I read it.  A fictional book should lift my spirits and make me wish I was living the life of the fictional characters, so I can live it along with them as I read the book.  I don’t need to live someone else’s fictionally depressing life.  That is just too much for me.

Then there is the question of doctrine.  Do I have a responsibility to point out “the error of someone else’s ways”, and if I remain quiet am I not just condoning the perpetuation of a fallacy?   We are all responsible for our own choices in regards to matters of doctrine.  It is the responsibility of each person to search out the truth for themselves.  However, if a person is only presented with one option, what choice do they have but to believe the lie they are being spoon fed?  Is it not a kindness to at least present a contrary option?

Oh, you may say, “It is only fiction, what is the harm if the doctrine is in error?”  The Chronicles of Narnia are only fiction, however they have taught me more doctrine and more about the character of God — who He really is, how He really thinks, how He disciplines those He considers to be His — than I ever learned in church.  I would never have grown to love God in the same way, had it not been for C.S. Lewis through his fictional character of Aslan.  So to me, it is very important how doctrine is portrayed in fiction.  Basically, if an author is marketing their fiction as “Christian Fiction” then they have a responsibility to make sure it is in fact Christian.  Anything that does not draw us closer to Christ moves us just that much farther away from Him.  So, it is very important indeed.

I understand that there are wolves in sheep’s clothing, and that many so called Christian writers are in fact not practicing Christians at all, and label their books “Christian Fiction” simply as a marketing strategy.  Of course this is not ethical, but it is done nonetheless.  I come back to the same question; do I call them out on it, or do I remain quiet on this issue, and does that not make me an accomplice to their lie?

Now I look at the above verse through the eyes of the reader, and I would in fact like to be told beforehand of such a thing, and yes it would definitely affect my choice to buy a book if I knew beforehand that the author was pretending to be a Christian for the sole purpose of selling more books.

There is a feeling out there that is gaining momentum, that if a book trashes a Biblical character that is ok, if done under the guise of Christian Fiction.  Even Jesus Himself is not immune to such degradation, as is evident in such popular books like The Da Vinci Code.  Now I have to be honest and say that although I never read the book, I did watch the movie.  Had I not known what I believe, I might have been persuaded to believe the lie.  However, I knew full well before I watched the movie what it was about, so I watched the movie fully prepared.  I knew precisely because someone had the guts to call the author out on it in reviews and made such a big stink about it that it was on the news.  I commend the person who had enough courage to do such a thing, it is not easy to stand up for what one believes and take all of the guff and backlash of such a stand.  People are not nice about it and can be very cruel when someone points out an error of doctrine like that.  The double standard is staggering, and can cause even the toughest and strongest Christian to keep silent in such cases.

On a personal note I take my Christianity very seriously, and I would rather die than bring dishonor to the Word by corrupting the Truth, especially for the sake of a fictional story.  So many authors take great pains to do research on some historical battle or person of history.  Why can they not take the same pains to make sure that if they use a character from the Bible they at least have the same respect as they do for any other historical persona?  Or at least have the decency to not try to sell it as Christian Fiction if they change it or slander a person’s character.  These are the same people who are horrified by the portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln as a Vampire slayer, but have no qualms when portraying a Biblical character as less than or even opposite from his/her Biblical persona.  Talk about hypocrisy!

When so many alternative genres are being invented, such as Young Adult and others, maybe a new genre should be invented for authors who want to twist Christianity for their own gain.  They can call it Alternative Christianity or even Anti-Christian Fiction or some such thing, so readers can know from the onset that the book is not pretending to be true to Christianity.  Of course, the wolves have no interest in being honest, so that wouldn’t work at all.

It’s too big of a problem for me.  All I can do is do the best I can with what I have, and that means I will try to stay away from such books, so that I do not have to wrestle with my own conscience trying to figure out if I should or should not call them out on it.  Right now, I have made the decision that I will not read Biblical Fiction for that reason, unless it was originally published a long time ago (40 or 50 years ago) when authors actually respected the Bible.  It’s too bad, because Biblical Romance used to be one of my favorite genres.  Stories written by authors like Patricia St. John and Sallie Lee Bell will always be favorites of mine.  Although both of these authors did take a few liberties in their Biblical stories, they always explained them in their introductions in order to alert readers to the changes, and none of those changes were slanderous to the Biblical character or to the teachings in the Biblical story.  They simply changed minor things.   You can see for yourself an example of this author’s integrity in the below foreword.

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