Sunday, August 15, 2010

Anesthesia For the Christian Heart

I stopped by Shawna Williams's blog today and read her excellent and thoughtful post. One short but pointed comment, left by Keith Madsen, really made me think.

To paraphrase what "the other" Shawna and Keith wrote (with a little Shawna V twist, of course):
Fiction that isn't honest is nothing more than reality's anesthesia. And as Christians we shouldn't seek to be anesthetized by what we take in to our imaginations, but rather, transformed.

(Kudos to Keith for those two words "anesthetized" and "transformed.")

As Shawna Williams so kindly and eloquently pointed out, reader expectation is key when it comes to acceptable realism in content. If a reader picks up a book with the expectation to receive the sort of ministration that keeps them "safe" from the influences of the world, then it's available.

Oh, yeah. It's available. Readily available. Abundantly freaking available. So, when we need to be anesthetized, we need have no fear of being able to find a book in which to stick our noses. The CBA Powers That Be crank out TONS of tie-a-pretty-bow-on-it Christian fiction for those times and those readers. Positive messages and pristine characters. I guess some people like that. And there was a time when I liked it, too. Sometimes I'll still read one, just so I'll be "safe"--not convicted of sin nor challenged to be transformed.

But not very often. I like being made to squirm a little. It makes me grow and keeps me hungry.

I guess sometimes the surgery needed in our hearts is so very major that we need a little anesthesia just to make it through the day. We need to be "the bubble boy" for a while until we get back on our feet. So we immerse ourselves within the Christian Culture and see the world through stained-glass colored glasses. There is The World and there is Us. And it's Us against Them. And we are pure and shall not be soiled by Them.


Maybe that's why there is such a demand for Christian Fiction which serves as anesthesia--to put us in a place where we can escape conscious thoughts of our bad condition and feel no pain. Where we can identify with characters based on saccharin characteristics and flaky fakiness.

Or maybe the demand is simply there because so little else is offered.

If you watch shows like Dateline, 20/20, 60 Minutes (is that even still on? I'm not big into that kind of TV, but I used to have grandparents who were, so I've seen them. LOL) or even Grey's Anatomy or ER, you may have seen a story or two that made you scared to have surgery. Every once in a while that rare person comes along who, while appearing to be unconscious during surgery, is actually fully aware of all the pain and sounds and processes being done to them, but simply unable to react or respond. Or, you hear of that person who doesn't get quite enough anesthesia and wakes up mid-procedure.

That must totally suck.

I've had that happen while reading mainstream Christian Fiction. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.) I'll be happily floating along in a squeaky clean story where everyone is fluent in Christianese and... BAM! I realize I've been drugged.

When I awaken from my stupor, I usually make some sort of snorting sound, followed by the sound of a book slamming shut and words such as, "Really?" and "Yeah, right." coming out of my mouth with that tell-tale sarcastic tone you know so well.

But, luckily, there are some edgy authors out there and some risk-taking small and e-publishers who are willing to be real. Authors like Tosca Lee and Kristen Heitzmann (who got mainstream pubbers, KUDOS!), and Shawna Williams and others on the ECFL Summer Blog Tour, who've had it with selling pink frilly drugs and are ready to give their readers a shot of adrenaline-laced Truth.

So, while I cannot cry out against the benefits of anesthesia when necessary, I do like waking up with the stitches pulling at me a little bit uncomfortably toward that place where fiction more accurately mirrors truth.

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