I’d like to make a possibly controversial statement. I think our faith is more accepted and respected by people in the UK now than it has been in at least the last thirty years. I say thirty years because that, roughly, is the time I’ve been a Christian. I’d like to give a brief defense of my view, and also explore what we as writers can do, if we believe that this trend is true.
Is the Christian Faith ‘in fashion’?
I think the case can be made at a ‘micro’ and ‘macro’ level.
At the ‘micro’ level, there are lots of practical, faith-based projects emerging in towns and cities across the UK. Many of these projects work with, receive support from, and serve the wider community. So for example, in my home city of Cambridge the homeless and vulnerably housed community has been served by “Jimmy’s Night Shelter” a church based project named after, and inspired by Jim Dilley, a homeless man who spent the last few years of his life living under the bridge over the M11 motorway at junction 13. That bridge serves as the Jimmy’s logo.
Cambridge also has a Street Pastor’s team. Street Pastors are groups of Christians who patrol city centre streets on a Friday and Saturday night between 10pm and 4am, assisting anyone in any kind of need. An article in The Spectator at the end of 2015 is typical of the bemused, but warm response that this sort of activity gets from the secular world.
At the macro level, one of the big changes is in the reputation of the Catholic Church. Much of this, whether fairly or not, is focused on the warm response to the words and deeds of Pope Francis. Here’s The Guardian’s view on this issue.
I find this article particularly interesting because it is presented as The Guardian view of Pope Francis. Not just one journalist, but the paper itself. It’s also interesting because the article doesn’t try to ignore what it perceives to be the Popes conservatism (small ‘c’).
So the world is seeing a bit of the church as it is, as it should be, and its response is not derision or indifference. And whether it’s a project, a church based initiative, or simply one person blessing and helping someone else, when enough of these initiatives happen, the world takes notice and, quite often it likes what it sees.
So what should we do?
As writers we are ideally placed to ‘keep in step with the Spirit’ at a time like this. If the Christian faith is being viewed more favourably, and if this means more people are genuinely interested in exploring what that means for them, then there’s a task here for us.
In true sermon fashion(!) I’d like to suggest three things we can do
1. Proclaim Godly action where we see it
I think we can and should be proud of the work that’s being done. See Christ in it, even if we think it’s not evangelical enough, or a bit left wing, or whatever else might make us cautious. Let’s discern what God is doing and then go and talk, and write, about it whenever we can.
2. Tell good stories
Compassionate, God-inspired action can generate great stories. The fact that Jimmy’s Night Shelter is named after a man for whom the roof over his head was a bridge at Junction 13 on the M11 – that’s a story to tell – and there will be many others. We are uniquely equipped to be great story tellers, so let’s tell the stories we find.
3. Let’s do it ourselves
Let’s be part of the story. Let’s find out how we can play our part, in the church, in a voluntary capacity, in a Christian or a secular organisation, let’s be part of this movement to serve others and make Jesus famous for all the best reasons. And of course, if there’s a story within two hundred yards of whatever we’re doing we’ll sniff it out, of course we will, we’re writers. It might not be the motivation for what we do but a good story might be a side benefit.
So, as writers let’s keep up with the current fashion, there’s an important role here for us all.
Andrew Chamberlain is a writer and creative writing tutor. He is the presenter of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt, a podcast that offers practical, accessible advice on the craft. Andrew has published fiction and collaborated on a number of ghost-writing projects through Authentic Media, including the bestselling, 'Once an Addict' with Barry Woodward. He has also self-published a number of science fiction short stories.