Thinking about the ACW blog


In her recent email, Wendy made a good point: the blog has slipped into being more of a ‘Christian’ blog than a blog about writing, by and for people who self-identify as Christians, reflecting a Christian world view. Maybe it’s a lot easier to discuss one’s faith than to discuss writing, given all the other writing blogs that are out on the web. We all know those blogs which try to teach other writers the craft, some addressing beginners and others suggesting new things to try. It sometimes seems as if writers would rather tell other writers how to do it than to buckle down to doing it themselves! Our discussion of writing needs to be done in a new and as yet not overdone way while also coming at the topic from a distinctively Christian angle.

And is this a spiritual angle, a theological angle, a moral angle, a traditionalist angle, or what? Or is it more like something concocted from a special language and terminology designed for the consumption of Christian insiders? This is a real and relevant question to ask of something written from a particular viewpoint, whether that of Christianity, another religion, a political stance, or a particular profession or industry.

Obviously how language is used is the most important element of writing. All special interest groups have created for themselves a specialist language, or rather a species of jargon. For example, the language of corporate life has taken on many metaphorical uses from sport, such as the ‘ballpark figure’ or the ‘level playing field’, or the labelling of people as ‘players’ or ‘stakeholders’. We all know and use such waffly expressions as ‘a raft of’ or ‘skyrocketing’. In Christianity there are also many terms which began in a very different context from their current popular use, phrases Biblical and non-Biblical.

There are, for example, terms whose meaning in the original historical setting is no longer active, such as Jesus’s titles of ‘Lord’ or ‘King’. As Christians we may be quite happy to sing the line ‘hallelujah, Jesus is our King!’  However in a world where there are few kings, and where many would regard kings negatively as absolute rulers or see the concept of king as outdated, is describing Jesus as our king necessarily the best way to communicate his status?

A closed door for some readers?
The case of ‘Lord’ is also challenging. When the church was new, the only person who could be referred to as Lord was the Roman Emperor. So to call Jesus Lord was to make a revolutionary statement which amounted to treason against the Empire. ‘Jesus is Lord’ was a bold statement not lightly made. But now, to those outside the church ‘Lord’ is largely an outdated title associated with the aristocracy or with people who have been awarded a peerage for services to the country.

Arguably, the way the early church used titles is 2000 years out of date. But as insiders we continue to use them while secular outsiders find them meaningless or confusing.

Another phrase which may appear in a blog which has slipped over to dealing with the Christian life, is ‘Child of God’, used by the blogger of herself or himself. This is a powerful concept based on the relationship of a father to a daughter or son, irrespective of the person’s age. It conveys confidence in our relationship with God. But the New Testament writers also use ‘child’ to refer to an immature stage when recent converts may need to be fed on the spiritual equivalent of milk, which we are urged to leave behind. There is a strong possibility that readers (Christian or secular) unfamiliar with the first image may get the impression that the person using the expression sees herself or himself as a child in the second sense, permanently stuck in immaturity.

It is not that these words or phrases are wrong in themselves but that they do not give a clear picture of what Christians are talking about.

Perhaps our blog has slipped towards being one about the Christian life and experience because some people have without realising it been drawn away from the subject of writing by the need to express the reality of their spiritual lives.  As a reaction to this, others have begun to lean the other way, drawing the attention of readers to the world outside ourselves and its problems. This dichotomy has begun to take precedence over the simple fact of our being writers, who write with a Christian viewpoint. The blog could indeed benefit as we collectively become clearer about whether we are primarily Christians or primarily writers, and how the two become one in the phrase ‘Christian writer’.

Edmund and Clare Weiner

Comments

  1. Interesting! What makes a person a - good writer? Does being a ‘Christian’ help?

    Personally I’ve always felt God inspires me to write: his heart, his thoughts, his will for humanity, I have no talent of my own...

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  2. Thank you for this important post. I've almost stopped reading the posts because so many seem to be 'mini-sermons' and I'm an ordained minister and have to write those myself frequently! I'd welcome something more rigorous about writing itself. I'd also appreciate receiving fewer blog posts. Once a week I think would be fine.

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  3. I think I'd like to see more emphasis on the craft of writing and the different ways ACW members use writing, and also the state of the market and what publishers, competition judges etc, are looking for. What can be difficult is when someone feels that they want to write to express their faith, but then feels very hurt when that writing isn't taken on by a publisher. Every writer, Christian or not, feels bad when their work is rejected, but it is part of the business, a bit like acting. I get worried by some online posts in ACW (not necessarily talking about the blog itself) when work not getting published is seen as a challenge to faith, but considered less of a challenge perhaps to their approach to writing, or their knowledge of what is being published, or a normal state of affairs in an uncertain industry, and just part of the nature of the book business.

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