Affirmation vs. Propaganda: Mythology in Storytelling

After a dry spell of a couple of months, I finally got another review today on Amazon. Of course, the problem with reviews is that you can’t guarantee they will be good.

ITCcover_onlyThe review was for my end time book, If Tomorrow Comes, and states simply, “The story would be interesting if it wasn’t basically just propaganda.” The book is a novel of the last three months of earth’s history, following one family’s experiences and uses a book written in the late 19th Century by Ellen White called The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan as its blueprint.

The response of the reviewer wouldn’t be worth mentioning by itself. I am unapologetically a Seventh-day Adventist and the book takes my doctrinal viewpoint into consideration when it talks about what is going to happen. After all, that’s to be expected, isn’t it? Responses by readers have ranged all across the board from “Wow, this is a great book,” to one fellow stating that he felt deceived by reading it. Really?

But that’s not the reason I bring this up. I was invited to a Seventh-day Adventist Academy nearby just this past week to talk to their sophomore Bible class. They’ve been reading the same class. And the question that came up was why all of my books weren’t as aggressive in talking about distinctive Adventist beliefs as this one is.

Champion4 ebookCase in point: The Champion. It’s received nothing but four and five star reviews, yet it is presented as a neutral, non-denominational approach to Christianity. It’s the story of a young pastor who grows disillusioned with his ministry and asks God to be used in a greater way. He gets caught up in a conspiracy involving a corporation that is the front for demonic activity. It’s got great action while still providing a powerful Christian message, yet some might say it doesn’t go far enough.

It all comes down to what you believe to begin with. The reality is, we don’t want to hear anything that disagrees with what we already believe. For the reviewer this week, If Tomorrow Comes was propaganda, but for those students, it was affirmation. Was I trying to persuade? Possibly, but only because it’s what I truly believe, not because I am out to deceive and betray, despite what some might think.

Graduate school exposed me to the thinking of lots of different writers, thinkers and scholars, many of whom I disagreed. I never thought of what they wrote as propaganda. The reality is, if all we ever read is what we already believe, how will we ever learn anything new? How will we ever challenge our thinking? How will we ever grow?

Or maybe that’s not something we want to think about.


2 thoughts on “Affirmation vs. Propaganda: Mythology in Storytelling

  1. I’ve always thought that the definition of propaganda involved either deceit, or in some sense the author of the propaganda attempting to take advantage of the audience.
    Everything that we write or make has a message. As it is being written by us, that message will be, in some sense, us – our beliefs and values. Those things often clash with other people’s believes and values.
    I think that the author should not be so concerned with whether or not someone takes their writing as propaganda, as long as they’re being true to themselves. However, I do recognize that authors need to have some amount of self-reflection.
    The reader’s job is to examine the message in any writing, weigh it, understand it, and even judge it regardless if it is “propaganda” or not. We too often use labels like “propaganda” to dismiss a message without considering it. Labels should not precede analysis, but describe the outcome of it (and even then, analysis can come to the wrong conclusion!)

  2. If you talk to students in my Persuasion class, they will tell you that the difference between persuasion and propaganda is that propaganda uses pure emotion and one-sided information while persuasion uses information from both sides and a mixture of logic and emotion. Hopefully my writing leans more toward the latter.

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