Write Right

Jaime Guerrero of Spain was one tough warrior. He was the son of a whore; Señor Guillermo Guerrero was his father. Meanwhile Guillermo’s legal wife had given him other sons, and when they grew up, his wife’s sons threw Jaime out. They told him: “You’re not getting any of our family inheritance—you’re the son of another woman.” So Jaime fled from his brothers and went to live in Portugal. Some riffraff joined him and went around with him.

Have you read the above bible story before? What? Bible story? You ask. Oh yes, the names have been changed as well as the locations, yet relatively same in distance as the original. They story line was untouched.

This is a doctored up cut and paste job from the Message translation (Judges 11). The concept is true to the Hebrew from whence it first was transcribed.

This is not the only instance of earthy adultery seen in the pages of the Bible. On this same page where our tale of “Jaime” is found there is bloodshed, polygamy, human sacrifice, and more sexual sin. We also see the guidance of God, His mercy and people who are wholeheartedly dedicated to His will.

The bible is a fascinating book. When we slow down and really think about the whole situation in any given portion we find true humanity alongside sovereign divinity. People have been people since Adam. Not much in our nature has changed.

As a writer I have been grappling with a question of content. It would seem that nothing is hidden in the stories of the bible heroes. Noah got drunk. David slept around and committed premeditated murder. Peter was a turn coat. The list could go on. As a storyteller, mainly in the fiction realm, how does this affect me? My question is:

As a Christian writer what licence do I have in the themes I choose to include in my stories?

For much of my younger life I was a gullible literalist. Things were very black and white. It thrilled me to be able to proclaim fearlessly and foolishly things as “right” and “wrong”. As the hairs on my head have started to gray I have begun to see the beauty in the shades of life lying in the in-between. I have to fight the urge to slap labels on things, especially in the very public creative expression arena.  There is truth to the notion that some things are neither “right” nor “wrong”, per se.

When I read this part of scripture my thoughts went to the characters in the novel I wrote last year. One of the main themes is teenage pregnancy out of wedlock. A twinge in my gut said that this topic is taboo for a Christian writer. Yet there are also elaborate lies and disobedience to parents. Where does one draw the line?

By telling a story true to human nature I do not feel as though I am being irreverent. What are your thoughts on this topic?

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9 thoughts on “Write Right

  1. 1. Love this bit:

    “For much of my younger life …things were very black and white. It thrilled me to be able to proclaim fearlessly and foolishly things as “right” and “wrong”. As the hairs on my head have started to gray I have begun to see the beauty in the shades of life lying in the in-between.”

    2. Yes, the Bible is full of stories that might not get played on Christian radio or get published in most Christian fiction. But just like in Bible times, our lives and those of the people we live among are pretty messy! Go for it – tell those hard stories, and tell them well!

  2. Angie, I think as Christian writers we should be willing to tackle any theme. The real question, I think, is details. We can tell a story in which a character commits adultery, without gratuitous sex scenes. A character in our story may murder someone, but that doesn’t mean we should go crazy with the “gory details.”

    Consider Francine Rivers’ book Redeeming Love. It is based on the story of Hosea (God told him to marry a prostitute, who was repeatedly unfaithful). This book is a beautifully written story of love and redemption. And, though I would say it is appropriate only for adults, I would recommend it as a shining example of Christian fiction.

    So, go for it, girl!

    1. My Becky, thank you for your pertinent thoughts. Your admonition to take the high road in the manner I choose to relate the images was correct. We can be creative without going crazy. I have another friend who recommended the Francine Rivers books, of which I haven’t read any. Looks like I need to rectify that.

  3. Hm. :D

    Well … as a general lover of black and white myself, I have to admit that I have come to a rather strong opposing conclusion.

    Humans tend to think of “black and white” as meaning that each idea/instance/opinion/perspective, etc, has to fit in either a “black” or a “white” category. Now, “black and white” indicates good and evil. Or rather evil and good. Anyway. And in order for something to be “black” or “white” it would have to be 100% that, right? So then we come up with this “gray” idea that accounts, supposedly, for things not so 100%ly black or white. Except that we also have this thought that “gray” involves an element of the unknown there. We’re not quite sure where to land it, so we say it’s gray. Which … actually, in the world of sight, means we’re not seeing it clearly. We’re not sure of what it is. This seems to indicate that our high-falutent ideas of black and white mean nothing more than clearly seeing, or not clearly seeing. And as we all know, everything which becomes visible is light. So the grey is more not of Him than anything else. But then we have this distinct problem with being able to fit anything into either 100%ly black or 100%ly white. Because … many things just don’t.

    But the really conclusive thought is this: the Bible says that “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Therefore, according to the Word, HE is clearly visible through what was made. And it’s His character that is really the question, isn’t it? We say “evil” or “good;” “black” or “white,” but in reality we’re all wondering if the thing itself is “of God” or not. So it is really His character which we are trying to determine. And this passage (Romans 1:20) says that God Himself is see-able through what was exists. So … when I look at the world … I don’t see black and white. I see color. Lots of it. And so many shades and forms and variations. One could call them infinite. And all this color … is God Himself. Not black and white … SO infinitely colorful and magnificent.

    We want to be able to know Him cut and dried. We want to be able to have a simple two-step judgment system. Black-no; White-yes. He is SO much more infinite than that. So much more beautiful. So much more colorful …

    … that at the end of the day, it comes down to what it has always been about from the beginning: relationship. He wants to know us, and be known by us. He wants us to see Him in all His exquisite colors, and understand the vastness of the landscape that is Him.

    A stick is useful as a branch, as a life-giver to fruit, as fuel for a fire, or as an implement to beat someone with. Is a stick bad?

    A rock is useful as a sturdy foundation or a seat; as a dam in a river, or as a bludgeon to kill someone. Is a rock bad?

    Water is useful as one of the primary sustainers of life on this planet–it can keep man, beast, and plant alive … but it can also destroy homes, livelihoods, and lives. Is water bad?

    The Bible tells about prostitutes, gamblers, drunks, crooks, incest, murder, adultery, seduction, treachery, and greed. Yet the Bible says itself that it is “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” So … interesting that God inspired a writing that includes every “debasement” of the world in it.

    Listen to Him. It’s all about relationship. Use the tool as He inspires you to do, and you will give life as well.

    1. Anita la arcoiris, thanks so much for your thoughts. I love this part where you said that the bible is God inspired and includes every debasment of the world in it. Yes, it is all about relationship.

  4. I say go for it Angie, we are all sinful but Christ paid the ultimate price so that when we fall(and fall we do), we can be forgiven and cleaned as white as snow. Write about real life and how God can redeem, we all need to know we are not alone and we can have redemption for our sins and the sins of others, all we have to do is ask. Characters that lead real lives, have real struggles, have real faith and acknowledge the one true God are role models that are lacking in modern fiction. In my opinion.
    Happy writing :0)

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