I’m a member of Goodreads, the website that concerns itself with all things related to reading and books. This year, I’ve taken on the challenge of reading 30 books before Dec. 31. Well, I currently have 27 completed and will probably not finish the last three in time, but you can see that I read a lot, even when I am busy with other things. Funny thing is, unless I were to sit down and really think about it, I probably couldn’t list five of those titles that I read this year.
I teach college classes, and am constantly challenged by students who turn me off if I don’t seem to move fast enough in my lecture to entertain them. There’s always the ubiquitous smart phone or laptop that challenges for their attention. But that’s nothing new. I remember studying in college with the television on and the radio playing in the background. They seem to believe–and I remember thinking the same way–that there was nothing wrong with multitasking and that multiple, simultaneous entertainment venues were a healthy thing. Trouble is, and research backs this up, there is no such thing as true multitasking. The brain can’t handle more than one task at the same time. It switches back and forth at lightspeed. And when it does, you’re not getting optimum use of it.
Even today at age 62, my wife and I watch TV with our laptops in our laps, reading news or shopping while a show drones on. We make sure that our favorite shows are recorded, only to realize we don’t have time to watch them. My fear is that retirement will be one big commercial with us finally able to find the time to watch all of the TV we want to, but don’t necessarily need to.
My friend Celeste Perrino Walker raised an interesting question recently in regard to Christian fiction. She asked: Is Christian Fiction Dead? Or rather she just point-blank said it was dead. The reason? It seems to be disappearing from shelves in local bookstores. My response to that is this: It is if it is treated like every other genre.
About 20 years ago, I wrote an article for a magazine called Adventist Review where I proposed that it wasn’t the call of Christians to speak out against the information glut that was threatening to swallow our lives. Rather it was our call to help make sense of all that information. More than ever before, we find ourselves immersed in so much data that rather than fortifying ourselves to make better decisions, we find ourselves petrified and overwhelmed.
Christian fiction can’t be just entertainment. It can’t be and survive. You can’t just tell a good story and tack something Christian onto it and expect it to fit the genre. Like my article 20 years ago, our mandate is make sense of this crazy, overwhelming, entertainment-obsessed world. If my readers can’t come away from my Christian fiction story with a better understanding on how to live their lives, how to make sense of their world, then I’ve failed as a Christian fiction writer. What’s even more challenging, I can’t tell them how to do that through preaching. I have to show them through telling a fascinating, captivating story that sticks with them, that makes them think, that wakes them up in the night and calls for them to change their lives. That’s the call.
It’s no easy task.
As far as being too entertained…well, maybe we haven’t been entertained enough. Or maybe it’s not about entertainment. Maybe it’s about people looking for stories that say something new and help them make sense of their lives.
It’s a daunting task. But Christian writing was never a calling for wimps.