Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Irreverent v. Offensive

As I get closer to wrapping up the second book in the Sinners and Saints series, I find myself becoming more and more apprehensive about how people of certain faith might respond to some of my less conventional theology. I don’t parade it around as fact, the way Dan Brown might, but I also don’t handle the material with kiddy gloves. In all honesty, I suspect if God exists he has a sense of humor (Exhibit A), and while I don’t go out of my way to offend anyone, I am highly aware as I’m writing that some of the content might be construed as sacrilegious.

According to the dictionary, the word irreverent is synonymous with profane. Other synonyms might include rude and disrespectful. Yet its counterpart, reverent, carries with it the implication of being worshipful, of placing overt emotional or spiritual significance in an object or concept. The difference being this: in my stories, all characters are created equal. They are all imperfect, regardless of cultural relevance or consideration, and all likewise have redeeming qualities. I am interested in unorthodox theology, and many of the things I have considered in my own religious journey are included in the Sinners and Saints series…but not because I believe them, rather because I think there are questions/issues/problems that haven’t been addressed, or even truly acknowledged. I don’t write with a mind to push the envelope, rather to take themes prevalent in the world around me and include them in my work. I don’t see my Lucifer or Big J as anything but characters in a book.

To be offended by something, one must go out of one’s way to make it personal. Thankfully, I haven’t received any “you’re going to Hell!” emails as a result of the first book, but I think that might change as the series progresses. And if people choose to believe that, fine. If faith is so fragile to be threatened by a piece of fiction, what does that say for faith?

There are things I could do to intentionally make the Sinners and Saints series offensive, and those things I won’t touch. There will be none of Exhibit B or Exhibit C or even Exhibit D. Not because I think any of these things are offensive, but there is a degree of pushing things too far, and honestly, the series doesn’t call for that.

I know I’m far from the first author to touch upon theological issues in fiction, romantic fiction, or even erotic romantic fiction. This territory, however, is new to me; as the granddaughter of a Church of Christ minister and an inhabitant of the Bible Belt—not to mention a professed nonbeliever—I have to wonder what will come next, and what might possibly be deemed as too much. In the end, though, everything runs the risk of offending someone, no matter the subject matter.

I suppose the point of this post is this: I am aware that the material is sensitive to many, and while my goal is not to offend, people might become offended because of things they read into the text, not things I write. I can’t help that. I intend to be faithful to myself and true to the characters I’ve established. Beyond that, it’s out of my hands.


Sonya Clark said...

Your family is Church of Christ? My husband's family is too, and wow was it quite a thing to get used to. My family's all from the south, all Baptists and Methodists, but CoC is another thing altogether. He knew before we got married that I would never convert so we've done fine, but his family will barely even mention what I write, or even that I write. I think they're very uncomfortable with it.

THIS -> "If faith is so fragile to be threatened by a piece of fiction, what does that say for faith?" is dead on the money. If someone has a problem with what your write because of any religious subject matter, it tells FAR more about their tenuous relationship with their own faith than anything about you or your work. I learned that lesson the hard way and it took a long time to sink in. You are absolutely right to be faithful to your own vision for your work and I for one can't wait to read the rest of the series!

Rosalie Stanton said...

Hahaha. Many who have since departed from or been exposed to the CoC talk about it like a cult. There are varying degrees of CoC, I’ve learned…it sounds like yours is pretty mainstream. They are very different, and it was the church I grew up in. My grandfather is a Golden Age minister for his church now; he was the primary minister of one church for 29 years, and then another for about 15. Surprisingly, my grandparents (both CoC, obviously) have gotten a lot more laid back over the years. My dad & stepfamily are all CoC, too…though I think my dad just married into it. He was with my mom while she was CoC and escaped just to get sucked in again.

I made the mistake of once writing a paper on the CoC for a religious studies course and handing it in to my professor, who was a CoC member. I described them as being “Southern Baptist, sans the whimsy.” LOL

Actually, I could likely write a whole book on my spiritual journey beginning with indoctrination and ending with writing potentially blasphemous erotic fiction. As it is, I’m writing about a lot of what I just didn’t understand in Sunday school (like why is Lucifer considered evil if all he does is keep watch over the people too nasty for Heaven? And didn’t Judas do what he was supposed to do, anyway?) It’s not even a Good v. Evil thing, in my book. It’s a Worldview v. Worldview. And I have fun playing with it.

Thank you for your response. :-) It’s always nice when someone knows the implications of saying, “I have a Church of Christ background.” *shudder*