Last May, a fellow author
contacted me about collaborating on a book he was putting together
about the role of “edgy” fiction as a sub-genre within Christian
inspirational fiction. He introduced himself as a former horror writer
who recently came to Christ. The list of authors already committed to
contributing was both long and impressive. My part, like most of the
other authors, was to participate in an interview. It seemed simple and
straightforward. I wrote back that I would be happy to help.
A couple of weeks into the
project, I shared about the venture with a few writer friends. I was
surprised by the bipolar reaction I received. On one side, some friends
were excited for me and seemed genuinely interested in reading such a
book; but others warned me against it in the strongest of terms. Their
concern was that by associating myself with this project I might
alienate potential publishers in the future.
All of a sudden, my enthusiasm
for the project sank like a rock thrown into a pond. Had I made a huge
mistake that would derail my career as an inspirational novelist before
it even had a chance to take off? I hit the brakes. For the next two
weeks I prayed over it and debated the decision from every angle.
Should I back out? After all, I had not yet signed the contract; but on
the other hand, I had already given my word—something that means a
great deal to me.
At first, I had all but decided
to decline the project and offer a sincere apology; however, as several
days passed, I felt a growing peace to proceed. Not only was it right
to keep my word, but I felt sure that the Lord was in this somehow. The
deadline for my involvement was only a few days away, so I sent in my
signed contract and received the interview questions. I prayerfully
wrote out my answers and sent them back to him by the deadline. My
delay pushed my section to the back of the book, but isn’t that
supposed to be the best part anyway? (I’ll share more of the
particulars of the book with you all as its publishing date arrives.)
Is there such a thing as
After all, isn’t inspirational
horror an oxymoron? It might be; nevertheless, the answer of whether or
not the horror genre can be inspirational is not found in the horror
side of the equation, but rather in the very meaning of the term inspirational.
Can a story set in a backdrop of terror and utter despair be used to
display God’s miraculous deliverance? Yes, absolutely. In fact, in real
life, God does it every day.
By definition, inspirational
fiction has the ability to open readers’ minds and hearts to a new
level of hope and understanding. Fiction has the ability to demonstrate
truth in a powerful way. I’m not talking about the good feeling we
might get from a well-written book that touches our hearts. I’m talking
about a book that somehow goes the extra distance and opens our hearts
and lives in a way that we had never experienced before.
An example from the Bible.
In the book of First Kings
chapter 18, we read about one of the darkest times in the history of
the nation of Israel. Under the corrupt leadership of King Ahab and
Queen Jezebel, Baal worship and other detestable forms of worship had
become the norm, and nearly everyone had forgotten the true God. Not
imagination of today’s secular
horror novelists could match
the sheer depravity of Elijah’s day. It was a dark time filled with
every kind of extreme wickedness, including demonic gods that demanded
human sacrifice and even infanticide.
Admittedly, this example is not
about fiction, nor is it about the topic of the horror genre; but it
does speak to the key ingredient of inspirational fiction: altering
strongly held perceptions and setting the mind and heart free. In this
case, the people of Israel needed a wake-up call, and God used His
prophet Elijah to achieve it.
Elijah called for a contest
between himself and the 450 prophets of Baal. In response, King Ahab
gathered all the people and the prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel.
Perhaps the utterly lost state of the people is best summed up in their
flat response to Elijah’s challenge. “Elijah went before the people and
said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is
God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said
nothing” (1 Kings 18:21 NIV).
We all know the story. Elijah
challenged the prophets of Baal to build an altar and prepare a bull
for sacrifice, and then to call down fire from their god to ignite the
wood on the altar. The prophets carried on for hours, chanting, cutting
themselves, and dancing in ever-increasing fervor. All the while, and I
believe for the sake of the people, Elijah taunted them in a way to
deliberately cause them to realize that Baal was no god at all.
When it was Elijah’s turn to
call down fire from above, he built a new altar made from twelve
stones, which the people would understand to represent the twelve
tribes of Israel. After he placed the bull on the altar for sacrifice,
he ordered twelve barrel-sized jars filled with water to be poured over
the sacrifice, the wood, and the altar. Elijah even ordered that a
ditch be dug around the altar to hold the excess water.
What followed was a miracle on
more than one level. Fire fell from heaven and consumed the sacrifice,
the wood, and even the stones and water. But the biggest miracle is how
the event unlocked the people’s hearts to perceive the existence of the
true living God for the first time in their lives. At the beginning the
day, their hearts and minds were locked in deception. When the fire
fell, it opened the eyes of the people, which would have been
impossible in any other way. Once again, the people’s response summed
up the biggest miracle of that day—the opening of their eyes. “When all
the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD—He is
God! The LORD—He is God!” (v. 39 NIV).
In the space of mere hours, the
Lord opened the eyes of an entire nation. Fortunately for us,
inspirational fiction, and, yes, even the horror variety, carries the
same power to open the eyes and hearts of the reader to the wonderful
truth of God’s amazing love.
Until next month, may God richly
bless you all.