The Problem of Literature


Since I am on spring break, I feel an obligation to do some pleasure reading. Lately I’ve been reading almost entirely for my humanities class at school, and before that, I knocked out some of the classics. Right now, I want to give contemporary literature a chance, especially after reading a book called “The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver. I have been trying to seek out Christian fiction like this. So far, to no avail.

It’s possible that good Christian YA fiction exists. But who can tell what is good and what isn’t? Especially with lots of sappy book tittles and summaries that contain things like, “Jodie Morrow has just married for love…”

I am not the first critic of Christian fiction. If you are really interested, you should read this article like I did yesterday. It inspired me to keep pushing towards my goal of producing good Christian fiction.

What concerns me is this “problem of literature.” Not vastly different from “the problem of pain.” Why do secular artists seem to have an easier time than us? History is filled with beautiful poems, plays, novels, and films, which are, more often than not, glorifying some things that aren’t all that noble or worthwhile. But we relate to it, and it makes us feel something. That’s what makes it “good.”

There shouldn’t be anything more beautiful than all-powerful God and the message of the Gospel. Then why is it so hard to portray? Why does everything else get sanctified so easily by artists?

Yet maybe I am barking up the wrong tree. Is there really a “problem of literature?” Or does it just seem like there is because we are simply outnumbered by secular artists? Maybe good art exists, but no onediscovers it until after the artist has died.

Surely it’s been done. Look at The Brother’s Karamazov, which seems to be everyone’s all-time favorite book nowadays. And I’m not trying to put it down, I absolutely loved it myself. It is, after all, one the greatest and most famous literary works of all time. And it’s a Christian book. Or Anna Karenina, for example. Paradise Lost. The writings of CS Lewis. I’m sure there’s many others, but I just can’t think of them.

I’ve heard some pretty Christian songs. Some are hymns that I’ve forgotten the words to. And I really liked “Everything” by Lifehouse.

Whether or not there is a “problem of literature,” I don’t think it would hurt some of us to try harder. The Bible itself doesn’t gloss over sin. How can we? The Bible itself has passages that express doubt, suffering, worry. Psalms anyone? I’m not saying that Christian fiction ignores these things. That would be completely impossible. But somehow, we need to do a better job with it.We need to paint the whole picture. We can’t just tidily tie up all the loose ends of the faithful life. But we can’t leave our characters in despair and oblivion either. We can’t justify. But we must depict. It shouldn’t be our goal to encourage a new generation of overlyskeptical and rebellious children. But no one wants to read about a family of saints either. We must use real people, who are really going after God, who are really having a hard time. That’s all much easier said than done.

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