I’ve heard a lot of protests against Christian fantasy over the years. Some Christians firmly believe that a Christian should not read fantasy and definitely shouldn’t write fantasy. And that’s okay, if fantasy causes them to stumble in their Christian walk, they should by all means avoid it. However, I do not believe that fantasy in and of itself is inherently evil, just as I don’t believe other categories of accepted genres, such as romance, are inherently evil, it all depends on the writer. There are Christian romances that have left me in shock that a Christian publishing company published them and there are Christian fantasies that left me wincing because they only seemed to slap a “spiritual angle” on a very un-Christian book. On the other hand, I have read wholesome and satisfying Christian romances and fantasies.
Ironically, the absence of a market for fantasy in the CBA is what drove many Christian fantasy authors to publish in the ABA. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, for example, were both Christians and their books are saturated with their faith even though they published under a secular label. Tolkien was not a fan of allegory and he despised the idea of “The Lord of the Rings” being considered an allegory; however, his faith still brought prominent Christian themes into play. Lewis, on the other hand, wrote his “Chronicles of Narnia” as an allegory where Aslan was meant to represent Jesus Christ.
Part of the reason I mention Tolkien is because he is an example of how Christian writers do not have to write an allegory in order for fantasy to reflect their faith. It is possible to write fantasies from a Christian viewpoint without having to incorporate an overt Christian theme, such as salvation and repentance, or with it being a strict allegory. If Christian writers are remembering to apply biblical principles such as “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it might impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29 NKJV). This admonition is applicable to the written word as well. We want to encourage and build up our fellow Christians while also maintaining the truth that we as Christians are meant to be in the world but not of the world, which means we should be able to tell when we pick up a Christian fantasy that it is written by a Christian for Christians. And if we publish our works in the secular market, we may have to be more subtle with the Christian elements, but it should still be different from those works published by non-Christian authors, i.e., explicit sex and cursing and graphic details should not be featured. If you would be embarrassed to stand before God and admit you wrote something because of the content even though you sprinkled in some prayers, Bible verses, God’s name, and the phrase “I’m a Christian,” then you are not writing as is appropriate for Christians.
I believe that we can address the hard stuff, the messy stuff, and every other challenge we face living in a broken world without being unnecessarily graphic (but I’ll save the discussion for determining whether something is gratuitous for another day). The bottom line is that while not every Christian can accept fantasy, it is not a sin for Christians to write fantasy. It’s the question of “meat” as addressed in Romans 14:20-21 and I Corinthians 8:1-13. For Christian fantasy writers, this can be interpreted not as a blanket rejection of writing and reading fantasy, but an admonition to be mindful of if a family member, friend, or fellow Christian can’t accept fantasy as being something other than a New Age promotion of false beliefs and witchcraft. Don’t discuss your fantasy in front of them and consider waiting to work on it until after they leave the room. You don’t have to stop writing Christian fantasy because some Christians object to it, but you don’t have to throw it in their faces either. Is writing Christian fantasy an oxymoron? Not as long as it is written to honor God (but this doesn’t mean our characters have to stop and pray every other paragraph or be preachy…unless that is a specific character’s personality).
Have you ever been told a Christian can’t or shouldn’t write fantasy? Do you have a favorite Scripture verse to support other Christians who are diving into writing Christian fantasy?