Friday, January 16, 2009

Simon Morden on Christian Fiction

A reader has pointed me to "Sex, Death, and Christian Fiction," a lecture given by Simon Morden at the Greenbelt Arts Festival of 2005. In sum, Morden lambastes the Christian publishing community for stifling creative writing, and Christian writers for putting up with it.

Here's your provocative quote:

CBA authors and editors censor fiction not just because of its potential to offend, but because it offers vicarious experiences that may be seen as sinful. If we believe that sin occurs in the mind as well as in behaviour, any vicarious experience we read about might give rise to sinful feelings or thoughts. If I write a sex scene, which might be entirely necessary to the story, I have to find a way to write it that does not encourage lustful thoughts. A description of a murder must not encourage murderous thoughts, and so on.

There’s a problem here. A hallmark of good writing is that it changes the way people feel. Writers are supposed to offer vicarious experiences, the more intense the better. A book which does not engage a reader’s emotions is dull and lifeless. I don’t want to write a book like that anymore than I want to read one. And yet, CBA fiction censors the vicarious experience, quite deliberately.

In Flannery O’Connor’s aesthetic, we are called on not to rule anything out, not take on God’s duties, not to apologise for God or avoid the ways of man. We are, in fact, to look sin full in the face and not flinch. I think Flannery O’Connor would have argued that the CBA approach to fiction is neither Christian or even fiction. She acknowledges the danger to the reader, but she does at least trust the reader. [more...]

And here's the money quote, further down: "A good message never saves bad fiction."
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