67. How Do Fantastic Stories Avoid Preachiness While Still Discipling Readers in Christ? | with L. G. McCary
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“Fiction should not preach!” many critics say. They may even preach about it. But even if excellent Christian-made stories should not preach, does this mean the stories will have no teaching at all? Is preaching the only way we learn, or don’t we also learn through discipleship. This includes but isn’t limited to sermons! With help from Lorehaven writer and That Pale Host author L. G. McCary, we explore how great Christian-made stories do have a purpose: not to preach at readers beyond the “fourth wall,” but to help disciple our imaginations in Christ.
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L. G. McCary is an old-school Whovian and a lifelong Trekkie. She has a bachelor’s in psychology which means she knows enough to mess with readers’ heads but not enough to diagnose their problems. She is the wife of an Army chaplain and the homeschooling mom of four rambunctious kids. She writes supernatural and dark science fiction on topics as diverse as artificial intelligence, ghosts, sentient snowmen, and space hotels. Her first novel, That Pale Host, releases October 2021 from Monster Ivy Publishing. Her short story, “Rendering,” appears in Havok’s Rebirth anthology.
1. What do we mean by ‘preachy stories’ and what’s the problem with this?
How do we understand this label preachy?
- What are legit examples of preachiness?
- How do both evangelical and secular stories get preachy?
- Preachy fiction feels annoying. But so can preaching that we need.
- The best rebukes to bad “preachiness” are based on biblical facts, not our dislike.
- Biblically, stories aren’t meant to preach.
- Sermons are meant to preach.
- Stories and sermons have different purposes.
2. Why do Christians overcorrect in trying to avoid ‘preachy’ fiction?
- In response to preachiness, fans may reject not just preachiness but meaning!
- This can lead to stories that feel at once even preachier and more shallow.
- This is Stephen’s one exception to his working definition of “Christian fiction.”
- Usually he defines a “Christian thing” as, “A Christian made the thing.”
- Exception: Unless the Christian forces a solid (even secular-preachy!) partition.
3. How does great fiction help disciple (not preach at) readers?
- We may subconsciously define “preacher” with images, not words: he’s a distant figure at a pulpit.
- Instead, let’s subconsciously define a good pastor with images, not words. He’s a teacher, brother, friend.
- These are very different concepts. The preacher simply lectures at a distance. The other helps pastor you in person.
- As Christians, we ought to seek Christian-made books that help with this pastoral act of what Scripture calls discipleship.
- This is how we grow. Sermons help disciple us, but as part of greater whole.
- We grow by truth applied in relationships. Fiction alone helps simulate this.
Next on Fantastical Truth
What if your father drank a vial of holy water that might have come from the Tree of Life? Then you researched his work, and found yourself waking up in the Middle Ages—just as the peasants began revolting? Novelist Jody Hedlund explores this in Come Back to Me, book 1 of her fantasy-romance-time travel series The Waters of Time, and next week she joins us on Fantastical Truth.
Explore the best Christian-made fantasy, sci-fi, and beyond, and apply these stories' meanings in the real world Jesus calls us to serve.
I think a large part of the problem is that a lotta people in this subculture have trouble distinguishing between “descriptive” versus “proscriptive.” Which makes sense because there have been countless denominational and church splits over what, exactly, is descriptive vs proscriptive in the Bible itself. (At least they come by it honestly?)
Also sidetrack: I found this tumblr scheisspost that talks about the difference about Joss Whedon!Thor and TaikaWaititi!Thor that reminds me a lot of Burnett’s very many feelings about firstmovie!Thor and Ragnarok!Thor, and I find it interesting:
An excellent biblical story/show/whatever is the animated short film Adam And Dog. It’s somewhat fantastical in the way the scenery is illustrated and such. But it basically goes through the story of Adam and Eve from a dog’s perspective, which gives a fresh take on the whole situation. It did a great job of showing, rather than telling — letting the audience experience the peace and beauty of Eden and the sadness of having to leave. I’d say it’s even more poignant since it’s shown from the perspective of a character that doesn’t entirely understand what happened with the humans. There is some nudity, since it’s about Adam and Eve, but it’s animated(and therefore not exploiting real people) and isn’t hyper sexualized. But anyway, here’s a link to the show: