Today we have a guest post from the esteemed Kathryn Page Camp, a licensed attorney, writer, and speaker: “The Secular Market Needs Christian Writers, Too.” It fleshes out a point I perhaps missed in “Rules for Christian Writing:” Christians need good books—fiction and nonfiction—and so do unbelievers! And, by the way, each of us should probably read a copy of Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal —thank you, Kathryn, for writing it!
The Secular Market Needs Christian Writers, Too
I’ve been to several Christian writers’ conferences where people debated what it means to be a Christian writer. Is the label limited to people who write for the Christian market, or does it cover anyone who writes from a Christian worldview? I’m in the second camp. (And yes, the pun was intended.)
Matthew 5:14-16 tells us to shine our light in the world. While lighthouses have several functions, their two main ones are to warn people away from danger and to guide them into safe ports. Once a ship is anchored in the harbor, the lighthouse has served its purpose. Yes, the crew still needs to keep watch to make sure the anchor doesn’t drag or a storm doesn’t smash the boat against the pier, but those dangers require different resources.
Christians need good books—fiction and nonfiction—dealing with the special issues we face. Why did God take our children or spouses or jobs or health? How do we walk as Christians in a heathen world? Why doesn’t God seem to be answering our prayers? Can we ever do something so terrible that we lose God’s love and forgiveness? I Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to encourage one another. People who write for the Christian market are responding to that call.
But just as a lighthouse aims its beams at boats that are outside the harbor, so some Christian writers are called to aim their lights into the secular marketplace. After all, unbelievers aren’t likely to get their reading material from the shelves of a Christian bookstore.
Lighthouses don’t have a magnetic force that repels boats away from danger or draws them into the harbor. A captain can ignore the light’s message. Non-Christians can also ignore God’s message, so we have to be careful how we relay it. Preachiness and pushing our view on others cause them to stop listening or—for our purposes in this post—to stop reading.
To change the metaphor, first we have to prepare the soil. That starts by flooding the secular market with wholesome fiction and nonfiction that shares Christian values. And we don’t have to label either the books or the values as Christian. If we plant corn seeds, we will get corn even if we haven’t identified the crop. If we plant Christian values, we will get Christian values even if we don’t gave them that name.
If we fail at this task, unbelievers will turn to books that fill their minds with garbage. This could be profanity or sexual images or even something as deceptively simple as stories that put so much emphasis on self-esteem that they become lessons in selfishness. And the many Christians who find their reading material at secular bookstores and libraries could fall under the same bad influences.
I started my writing career with articles for Christian magazines. When I branched out to books, I wrote about the debate over the First Amendment religion clauses. The first edition of In God We Trust was put out by a Christian publisher but was intended for a wider audience.
My second book deals with the legal issues that affect all writers, and religion isn’t even mentioned. Nonetheless, this was a book that I clearly felt God calling me to write. He gave me one vocation as a lawyer and another as a writer, and Writers in Wonderland was the perfect way to merge them. The book never mentions Christ, but it abounds with Christian values as it encourages people to follow the law and honor others’ property rights.
I have since turned to writing middle grade historical fiction, and my first manuscript is circulating among secular publishers. Desert Jewels is about a Japanese American girl who lived in California when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. My protagonist is Christian, and the book contains some Biblical references, such as when the pastor ends the Christmas Eve service with the words of the angels to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” But the book doesn’t try to convert anyone, and the hopefully subtle message isn’t overtly Christian. Still, it has a distinctly Christian aim as it reminds the reader that all men must guard against their impulses to be inhumane to their fellowmen.
We need people to write for the Christian market, and I encourage anyone with that calling. But the secular market needs Christian writers, too. If that’s your calling, follow it.
Because it isn’t the market that defines you as a Christian writer.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014. The second edition of Kathryn’s first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, was released on September 30, 2015. You can learn more about Kathryn at www.kathrynpagecamp.com.