Late last week, I posted a fictional story titled Jen Fled. It was a short piece for my ‘The Friday Muse’ segment on my blog where I write a short piece of fiction each Friday to discipline myself in writing on a regular basis and to give my followers/readers something new each week.
Jen Fled is a piece about domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse is not covered in Christian fiction circles very often – if at all. I can’t remember EVER reading a piece regarding domestic abuse, aside from a brief mention here and there of the victim. Definitely never any pieces that showed actual domestic abuse happening. Christian circles tend to shy away from any form of violence, even mentioning it most times. It’s just too much.
But I got to thinking: Why?
I started The Crossover Alliance publishing company because I believe Christian fiction needs to be redefined. For too long, publishers have boxed in Christian writers, and Christian writers have boxed in Christ-themed stories into something so sanitized, Mr. Clean would be proud. Because of this, many people can’t relate to Christian fiction – well, most parts of Christian fiction, aside from the ‘being saved’ part. Then again, even some of those are a stretch in Christian fiction stories.
Needless to say, there is so much material, so many human and social issues, so many struggles that Christian fiction has completely ignored all these years. We’ve left it up to the ‘secular’ crowd to broach these subjects, and as such, Christian fiction stays by the wayside, completely and utterly irrelevant to today’s society. The world puts their own spin on these issues, never once acknowledging what these situations would look like with God’s intervention or help, or the inclusion of the element of faith.
And yet, our mission as Christians is to go out and spread the Gospel (Good News). The Good News of what? If we don’t show what’s wrong, how do we prove what’s right?
In relation to this, I believe domestic abuse is one of the most undermined issues in Christian fiction. We’ve (been) scared to talk about a husband beating his wife – it’s too violent. Or of a wife beating her husband – that never really happens…right? Or of parents beating their children – that’s just too much for my fragile psyche to comprehend. But the abuse is real. Physical. Verbal. Mental. This is a serious issue that rings true in so many households, and yet everyone is afraid to touch on the subject matter.
Are we afraid we’ll offend those who have faced domestic abuse? Are we afraid we’ll fill everyone’s head with violent imagery and push someone into domestic abuse? Are we scared we’ll tarnish the good name of ‘Christian Fiction’ with bloody and verbal scenarios? I mean, Amish romance doesn’t really have room for an abusive husband, does it? So why should the rest of Christian fiction?
Let’s face it, we’re afraid to talk about a lot of subjects relevant to today’s world. ‘We’ being Christians. ‘We’ being Christian authors.
A couple years ago, I was attending a weekly home-based bible study. One particular night, someone was discussing the verse “turn the other cheek”.
"But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Matthew 5:39 (NASB)
Someone mentioned that if an individual was being abused, according to the verse, then they should turn the other cheek. I don’t remember all the exact details of this discussion, but that was the gist: allow the abuse to continue because Christ said to, ‘turn the other cheek’.
The leader of this particular bible study group did nothing to counter the ridiculous point. He allowed the heretical theory to go unchecked. My heart beat rapid in my chest, because I knew it was wrong. The verse was being taken out of context, and I knew I had to say something about it. I opened my mouth, but before I could speak, another woman in the group stood up and announced that the theory was wrong, that the verse was not speaking about allowing people to be habitually abused, and that the whole concept of allowing it to happen was making her ill. I chimed in with my agreement regarding her assessment, and then the leader of the group corrected himself and said that he felt the same way.
I’m gonna say it, even if nobody else will. As Christians, many of us have been conditioned to be passive. We have. With such verses as ‘turn the other cheek’ taken out of context, we’ve taught Christ’s followers to take abuse, to take wrongdoing, to take manipulation and just let it go. To let it happen.
I’m not advocating violence. I just believe we need to start taking things in the right context. And this verse, at this bible study, was taken in the wrong context. Yes, there are times where ‘giving your brother your cloak’ is definitely what we are called to do. But that doesn’t mean all situations at all times. And I don’t believe it regards habitual abuse.
Discernment, people. For the love of all that is holy, please start using discernment.
Back to my original point: Why do Christians (both authors and regular folk) shy away from discussing matters like domestic violence? Or rape? Or even murder? Is it because we, deep down inside, believe we should allow things like this to go on in the world? Do we believe that if a woman is raped that she shouldn’t pursue (legal) justice for herself? Do we believe that if a child is abused that we shouldn’t pursue (legal) justice for that innocent victim? Yes, vengeance is the Lord’s, but we also have legal structures set in place to get these evils off the street.
There’s a line. Like there is with all things. The problem is, Christians have taken the line and moved it back so they can have a more manageable ‘safe space’. The more area we try to cover in regards to the ‘real world’, the more danger there is that that ‘real world’ will seep into our world. Problem is, we don’t realize that we are in this world. In it. We are in the real world. We are not of it, but we are in it. And we need to acknowledge this world’s sin, this world’s idiosyncrasies, this world’s processes, and we need to address them all through the lens of the Gospel. Not the lens of passive avoidance.
Writers, stop being afraid. There’s someone out there that needs to hear your story, but through the lens of the Gospel. No, the Gospel isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but it is hope. Hope in a future that’s already been fashioned, free of sin and this violence we so often ignore.