Thursday, January 17, 2008

What So Proudly We Hailed (Part 4) – Mainstream or Christian?

This is the fourth in a series of posts regarding the book “What So Proudly We Hailed”.

Because WSPWH deals with situations and questions that – should they ever come to pass – would affect everyone, I tried to write the story so that it would be accepted (or, at least, not automatically dismissed) as mainstream literature. However, I also wanted to explore the situations & questions that the book brings up from a Christian perspective, because I think that the dilemmas posed are a little more complicated for people of faith.

What I mean is, if you don’t believe in God or any of that afterlife business, “right and wrong” can be easily defined by whatever worldly terms you subscribe to. If, for instance, someone hurts you grievously, it might be easy to conclude that you have every right to hurt them back. For a Christian though, it’s not quite that simple, because our actions – if our beliefs are correct – (could? will?) carry some sort of penalty long after this world is through with us, depending on whether or not you believe that the name of Jesus can be used like a “get out of jail free” card for anything & everything you do.

So I tried to write the story so that it would appeal both to Christians and non-Christians, because whatever happens in the future, we’re all going to be living in it together. Whether that was a good thing to do or a bad thing remains to be seen, but I confess that I do feel a little anxiety that, in an attempt to appeal to both “sides”, I may in fact have excluded both. In other words, I worry that it may be too “Christian” for the mainstream, and that it may also be too “mainstream” for many Christians.

For those of you reading this who are not Christian, I hope that you do not automatically discount WSPWH merely due to the mention of God. The main character, Gideon, is a Christian, and he does spend a good amount of time examining & rationalizing his actions and motivations as a Christian might. It’s my hope that as a reader – even if you don’t agree with his particular ideology – you would be able to overlook that and simply confront the issues that he faces from your own perspective and value set, because if the things depicted in the story ever do come to pass, you may very well have to.

For those of you reading this who are Christian, I want to take a moment to tell you why you may be offended by WSPWH, because it is not, by the strict definition, a “Christian” book. It was not written with the intention of “stirring your soul”; it was written with the intention of shaking it a little bit.

First of all, there is some profanity in the book. Not a lot of it – and nothing you can’t hear on any prime-time TV show – but there is some. So if you are intolerant of any profanity at all, please take that to heart.

Secondly, there is also some violence in the story. Most of it is alluded too, much like you’ll find in the Old Testament, but there is some that is a little more personal and graphic. I’m just not sure how to get away from that in a story that deals with violent revolution.

Third, some Christians may be offended that the character in the story – a supposed Christian – is doing some very un-Christian-like things. In the story, there are people who are killed by Gideon. In fact, there are a lot of them. Again, most of those deaths are alluded to rather than described in graphic detail, but they are there nonetheless. If the thought of a Christian man being portrayed in that manner bothers you – regardless of the circumstances that he is in and what he is trying to accomplish – then please be forewarned.

Finally, I think some Christians may not like the book because there is no point in the story where the existence of God is “confirmed”. There is a lot of circumstantial evidence in the story that suggests that God’s hand may be involved, but there is no definitive “proof” of it. That might bother some people. On the other hand, in light of what Gideon does in the story, it might also come as a relief. As in real life, whether or not God is actually an active participant in the story – or even exists at all – is left entirely up to the reader to decide.

All things considered, I don’t thing WSPWH fits neatly into any specific literary genre, nor do I think that it has any specific “target audience”. It simply is what it is. I didn’t write the story to make people feel good, I wrote it to make people think; and if it actually does that, then regardless of how people may feel about it, I can take comfort in knowing that I accomplished what I set out to do.

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