theology as fiction

May 10, 2006

christ the lord: out of egyptA few months ago, I wrote my thoughts on Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. I had a chance to meet with Steve Lewis today and we talked about how much we both enjoyed the book. The conversation reminded me of my conclusions about the book, which seem especially fitting with the DaVinci Code’s realease next week:

With The DaVinci Code set to release this spring, there will be another cry among Christians to find a conservative and reliable presentation of the historical Jesus. Maybe the best resource for many won’t be a reference work, but another fictional novel.

There is a big push for Christian’s to rediscover the arts, and I’m all for that — whether it be photography, painting, sculpture, music, film, or whatever medium. It seems like one medium that is worth more attention than effort has been creative forms of writing, and especially historical fiction. If there is one thing DaVinci Code has showed us, it is that a well-written story can awaken spiritual stirrings in all. For many, there is more interest in the experience of the story, than in the facts or truth of the story. Anne Rice also describes something similar on her website as she describes the response to Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt:

At some point I will try to draw together my thoughts on what I’ve learned from email since late October, 2005 when CHRIST THE LORD first hit the stores. But my first obligation right now is write the next book about the life of Our Lord. And research and writing consume almost 100% of my time.

For the moment, let me say that I’ve been pleasantly and at times joyously overwhelmed by the evidence of religious faith in the letters I’ve received. Generous and loving letters have poured in from Jews, and from Christians of all denominations, from gay people and straight people, and from some people who are not connected with any organized religion in any way.

This has given me a magnificent glimpse into what really matters to a lot of readers — an awareness that when they are permitted to do so, these people want to talk reverently and intelligently about their relationship to God. They have volunteered stories about searching for faith, of perhaps losing it and then finding it again, of trying to live without it, of wanting to share the joy of experiencing it, of wanting to welcome some one (me) who has only lately returned to the fold. Even those who are highly critical of me and my work are often driven by the best of intentions, and a burning need to speak from their hearts. I sense in this body of letters a great spiritual urgency and a great spiritual depth. I’m humbled by all this. I’m amazed. It seems I have to get used to being amazed. How do you do that? I don’t know.

It seems that many are finding her work as a safe exploration of who Jesus was. I wonder how else we can use fiction, and especially historical fiction, as an exploration of faith. It goes without saying that many more people can connect with theology through well-written narrative rather than charts, acrostics or outlines. I’m looking forward to the rest of Anne’s book in this series, and I hope there is a whole genre can begin to be explored.

And one more thing…I think this officially declares my interest and support of Zach’s new club: Christians Not Afraid of Fiction. Count me in, my friend!

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