Not too long ago, FallenandFlawed blog interviewed me about my apologetics ministry and some of my activities. As tends to happen with me, I got a little long and only a portion of the interview could be posted. With permission, here are the remaining questions and answers:
Q. In 2009 ACM launched a Christian Writing Contest, which was an outgrowth of ACM’s desire to develop a genre of fiction called “literary apologetics.” Forgive me, but immediately books like C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce and The Chronicles of Narnia come to mind. Is that what you’re looking for? What kind of material did you receive?
Lewis’s works certainly represent the epitome of what we think about ‘literary apologetics.’ To expand on our intent, though, you’d have to also mention writers like G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, Madeline L’Engle, and J.R.R Tolkien. We could throw in some others, too, like Graham Greene and Charles Williams. I guess you could say that what sets our vision apart is that we are thinking more intentionally. I doubt very much, for example, that Tolkien meant his work as any kind of apologetic. The key point is to communicate the Christian world view through the arts, and fiction in particular. This can be overt, but it need not be. Quality story-telling from a person who is a Christian may not be explicitly Christian in content but the ‘air’ the reader breathes will influence them towards a Christian perspective. Such literature may not ultimately save, just as ‘clean air’ won’t extract a drowning man from the waves, but at least you aren’t overwhelmed by noxious fumes during the rescue.
Most of our stories received were more on the explicit side but I think our winners were subtle even when they were overt, and that is what I liked. Most of the stories could be read- and enjoyed- even by non-Christians. Our 19 and Up category second place winner has a book or two published already and ACM itself will be publishing a collection of short stories of one of the third place winners from that category. I think there are some people that just ‘get’ how to further the kingdom of God through the arts and literature. We need to find them and encourage them and that’s part of what the contest is about.
What I would like to see come out of our efforts for literary apologetics is more of deliberate approach by the whole Church to raise up writers who are Christian. Intentionally. We need more than pastors and Bible teachers and youth leaders. We need Christians living out their faith in a robust manner in all vocations, and the writing vocation is one that has strategic value in our hyper-media society.
Q. You’ve got a fiction series called Birth Pangs. What motivated you to write this series? What’s it about?
I guess you could say that the Birth Pangs series is my own excursion into ‘literary apologetics.’ It’s pretty unique. A friend has described it as belonging to the didactic genre. The series is set in the ‘not too distant future’ after America has been laid low by foreign armies and a biological and nuclear holocaust. Now, they are rebuilding from scratch. This setting allows me to discuss everything under the sun: what is truth, what is real, how do you know? What is the relationship between religion and government? What does it mean to be human? Or a man or a woman in particular? So on and so forth, only in my series there is no government, church, or school to tell the characters what the real answers are.
The series actually came into my head, nearly fully formed, in the last few months of a stint as an over the road truck driver. I was motivated to write it because I love writing stories but I think the germ of this particular story was my reflecting on all that we take for granted. For example, as a truck driver I was criss crossing the country on nicely paved and administered roads. I imagined what life would be like without that kind of infrastructure. What if I had to walk to California from Arkansas? What if I couldn’t just go to the grocery store to get food? Then I started thinking about what life would be like without that other kind of infrastructure we take for granted- our educational systems, our political system, our churches, etc, in short, our intellectual infrastructure. You could say that the setting of the series was engineered to provide an opportunity to imagine what that would be like.
There is some definite Christian perspective in the series but the whole point of the series is to give other perspectives a hearing, too. I have a good friend who is an atheist and liberal who has enjoyed both books in the series and some of my more conservative friends enjoy it, too. I like that I can appeal to both groups, but the series is not for everyone, either. There can be some meaty philosophy and theology in the midst of the fantastic battles and subtle diplomacy. 🙂
Q. Final question: What do you want the end of your life to look like? What do you want people to say at your funeral?
It is my hope that my life looks exactly the way the Author intended it to look, and I recognize that the Author has higher patterns and themes that he has in mind. I like the image of the handmade tapestry that looks on the backside like an arrangement of randomly covered knots, strands, and frayed edges, but when you flip it over you see the grand picture. I have a feeling I’m one of those frayed edges and I won’t presume to know what it looks like on the other side… or even to offer a hope as to what it will look like as the Artist’s vision will certainly be beyond what I could even conceive.
For my funeral, I hope a lot of money isn’t spent and that the savings will be invested in folks sitting around drinking coffee or beer and chips: the stuff of parties. But if any conclusions were to be drawn, I hope that it will be agreed that I was a loyal friend and a good husband and father. And by ‘good’ I mean in the Aslan sense: “Of course he isn’t safe… but he is good.” People will survive the death of the universe. Only people last: so the meaning of life is found only in relationships. When I look back on my life I see a series of failures on my part to build and sustain meaningful relationships. I hope in the end that there will be successes, too.