What does it mean to be a Christian writer? Your views, please by Nikki Salt




What does it mean to be a Christian writer? I mean, should you be able to tell from my writing that I am a Christian? Does it matter?  Are some genres more important than others in terms of writing from a Christian perspective and anyway, what does ‘writing from a Christian perspective’ actually mean?

Personally, I think whatever one’s genre this question is valid but I doubt that any individual’s definition would be necessarily the same as my own and I would love to hear your own opinions.

For me as a writer for children, I believe I have a responsibility to my young readers. Children are very impressionable and I am careful not to preach or lay any of my strong views on their vulnerable shoulders. My aim is to fill young heads with delight, wonder, challenge their imagination, encourage them to step into adventures that will take them through an assortment of emotions but always leave them with a feeling of fulfilment and hope.
I have a responsibility to young readers

In a world where there is so much pressure on our children, the last thing I want to do is manipulate, trick or lead a young person into anything that causes self-doubt or a sense of worthlessness. In fact, my aim is to promote completely the opposite.

My son, a typical eleven-year-old, has struggled with his first term at secondary school. He, as well as many of his peers, are reeling with the shock of being pulled from the relative safety of primary school and being plunged into the rigours of an enormous institution stuffed with hormones and worldly temptations. He goes to a much-respected Church of England school with Christian foundations yet I am aware of how much temptation there is open to my easily influenced young son. Suddenly he has to face teenagers a lot older than himself, evidence of bullying (do not deceive yourselves - it is in every school), subject material becomes more evocative and the dangers of online are truly terrifying. A female classmate fell into her mother’s arms crying with tales of a girl raped and murdered by an online stalker – something she learned in her online safety class.

I agree we need to prepare our young people for the dangers and pitfalls of life and the reality of adulthood but I worry that our children know too much too quickly. What is the balance? Does the onslaught of social media mean it is imperative our children grow up so quickly? I acknowledge I have to be pragmatic but ultimately, I believe, childhood should be a place of safety. A place where children don’t have to know all the gory details of a corrupt world. A place where a child can experience and see the good of a beautiful world. As a parent, I feel a huge responsibility. However, as a writer, I also feel this responsibility. Not to regale children with terrible tales of real-life but to provide children with a break from real life. A safe place they can lose themselves in an adventure, a place where they can identify with at least one of the characters. A place where they can laugh, where they can cry but most importantly a place where they can safely be themselves and find self-worth in who they are.

So, what does being a Christian writer for children mean for me? I think it means I write from a place deep inside of me. From a place of profound faith that does not preach, does not spread evil, does not shock or terrify. Ultimately, I write with love. Am I being gullible?  Naïve? Am I doing our children a disservice? I’d love to hear your views.

Comments

  1. This is a very thoughtful and necessary post, so thank you. I feel the need to ponder more deeply before I can comment but it has made me think, always a good thing!

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  2. A great blog, Nikki. I've got two teenage boys and an 11 year old girl, so we are up to our necks in hormones and so on. My experience has been that good literature makes a huge difference and as parents we can build on that. Keep doing it I would say

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  3. I remember being in that early stage of secondary school. We read a lot of Dickens at school, and those books were a big challenge to an 11 year old brought up in a Christian middle class home in a nice area near London. THe syllabus will have changed - I doubt they read Dickens now - but the same poverty, crime, social deprivation - and probably racism and a few other things - will turn up on the English syllabus. I read Dickens heart in mouth, but his storytelling is so good I read to the end. I never discussed whatI read though. Advice: Christians writing for kids do need to introduce these subjects, and write them honestly and with care, so that children are made aware within the context of a story which may also offer hope and 'safety' but in a realistic way. And, parents need to be aware of the syllabus and be able to discuss with their children. Yes, they do need to know what poverty is like, what it can ' reduce' people to, and what rape is, and to feel they can talk about anything within the family. That prepares them for the News, the on-line stuff, and the potential wickedness of human beings, otherwise they'll find it out anyway but keep it to themselves and worry. Just my off the top of the head thoughts. I've raised 3 kids now in their late 30s upwards. They are all okay - but teens will always give you hairy times!

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    1. Dickens is very much on the GCSE English curriculum, Clare - A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations being the main ones. And because they have to write about the 'contexts' of the novel, they study poverty/wealth/inequality/oppression/workhouses etc. It makes them think in depth, perhaps for the first time, about these issues.

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  4. PS Philip S Davies' YA fantasy novels are really good - esp on relationships - have your kids read them?

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  5. Maybe there's a difference between fiction and non-fiction. For instance, from early childhood, we read children fairy tales with wicked stepmothers and wolves and other baddies, but generally the outcome is good, and the children are reassured. Once they hit secondary school (or before, probably) and are faced with real-life, true examples, such as in online safety classes, this is much more disturbing for them, as there's often no 'happy ending'.

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  6. This line sums it up for me, 'From a place of profound faith that does not preach, does not spread evil, does not shock or terrify. Ultimately, I write with love.' You're making a wonderful difference and probably more then you'd ever realise. On books for kids, Simon Mayo's Itch series could be perfect for your son.

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  7. Education is definitely becoming more challenging now for Christians than it was when my sons were in school (now 28 & 30). I think as Christian writers we just need to be full of God and glorify him in our writing which doesn't mean being specifically 'Christian'. Surely if we are the Lord's and have his values they will come through in our writing whatever we choose to write.

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