Tearing Down High-Places, by Lela Markham
In the Bible, many a man and a few women stumbled over idols in their pursuit to follow God and there were times in Israel’s history when God sent prophets to the nation to warn them to tear down the high places of Canaanite worship. I believe that these days the churches are faced with similar circumstances and that God can use Christian novelists as messengers to alert His Bride to the need to reform.
“Art, though, is never the voice of a country; it is an even more precious thing, the voice of the individual, doing its best to speak, not comfort of any sort, but truth. And the art that speaks it most unmistakably, most directly, most variously, most fully, is fiction; in particular, the novel.” ~ Eudora Welty in On Writing.
All truth is God’s truth, but sometimes people prefer a comfortable fiction to an energizing reality. That puts Christian novelists in an uncomfortable position, which is exactly where God wants us to be. Telling the truth never endeared the prophet Jeremiah to his society and he was right where God wanted him. Why should we expect anything different? The hands and feet of God have always taken a beating for telling of God’s truth to the nations.
If writing a novel is about addressing individual truth, Christian authors might need to examine some of our “Christian” group-think practices and beliefs. I’m not talking about questioning the Bible. That’s the non-negotiable bedrock of our faith and thus we cannot take what we like and leave the rest. I’m suggesting we question our personal adherence to certain “Christian” societal practices that have far-reaching influences. When I ask myself “What would Jesus do,” I find my answers in the Bible and sometimes those answers differ widely from what the world (or even some members of my church) says the “Christian” stance should be. We’ve erected high places – idols – with the best of intentions and yet, these stand between us and God’s message and, for Christian novelists, our ability to speak to the world as God’s messengers. Finding those high places where I least expected them has caused me to question secular institutions that have become entangled with Christian group identity. Finding that many Christians around me do not recognize these institutions as “high places” has caused me to forge an individual path that rejects the goals of many of those secular institutions. To me, those institutions have become idols among the churches and I see it as my ministry to tear down the high places that have been erected. I do that through writing novels that show the reality of those institutions. Telling that truth through novel form can lead to controversy both with secular society and within the churches. I embraced that as God’s call in my life, as a necessary part of being exactly where God wants me to be.
Many Christian readers have good intentions when being nervous of certain topics. Certainly we never want to disobey God’s laws in what we write, even if it addresses a human reality. Neither should we limit our depiction of reality just because some people might prefer being blissfully unaware. Sometimes it seems like Christians must walk a slack line on some topics and it’s not an easy thing to do. But it is better and more God-honoring to address reality as it really exists than to avoid controversy for the sake of the world’s approval.
“You shall know the truth and the Truth shall set you free.” John 8:32
Lela Markham is the pen name of an Alaskan novelist who was raised in a home built of books. Alaska is a grand adventure like none other with a culture that embraces summer adventure and winter artistic pursuits. Click here to read another one of Lela’s contributions, Let’s Talk: How to be a Christian Creative in a Fallen World.
“I don’t seek to be known as a Christian author, but as an author for whom Christ is so central to who I am as a person that He shines through.”