Great fiction has sometimes changed the way the world thinks. Readers may have identified so closely with a character’s plight that inaction at the end of the story was not an option. Or, an author’s vivid portrayal of filthy housing conditions, chain gangs, or slavery sparked a movement that fostered social change. Books like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle come to mind. (Sinclair’s novel about the unhealthy conditions in the meatpacking industry was initially rejected by publishers because it was “too shocking!”)
And I’ve read many, many books that have enlarged my world. I’m sure you have, too.
That’s one of the reasons I write. Some stories are meant to entertain. Others are meant to comfort, teach, or inspire. Some stories challenge the reader to think differently about a subject. As a writer who is also a Christian, I want to use my creativity to influence the way the world thinks about God. Especially the things that God cares about.
So, what does he care about?
He cares about the poor. He cares about the afflicted. The fatherless. The oppressed. The widows. He cares about His Creation.
He cares about you and me.
At times, Jesus used His creativity to expose social injustice. When He said “…but if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also,” it had nothing to do with being a doormat. It had everything to do with placing the person being struck on equal footing with the person doing the striking. Very clever.
Here’s another one: when Jesus tells the listener to walk a second mile when impressed by a Roman soldier to walk the first one, that suggestion, too, was a creative way of challenging oppression, since walking the second mile was against military law. His creativity in response to a social wrong shouldn’t surprise us. He’s the author of creativity and instills those same desires in our heart.
I thought a lot about creativity and social injustice while writing Green City Savior. The story challenges the reader to think differently about corruption and environmental defilement. I didn’t want the novel to be dismissed as an issue-driven book, since it's not, but I wanted to use whatever talent I had to address what I perceived as a social wrong. You'll read about families struggling to come to terms with what's happened to them and to their once-magnificent city. You'll read about a dark family legacy and one character's attempt to escape it. You'll read about redemption. A fresh start.
Some of you know my own story. Years ago, I noticed that a lot of relatively young people in my hometown of Niagara Falls, New York, were dealing with cancer or other serious diseases. I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma at the age of 31. I didn’t have any risk factors. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t go to tanning booths (and growing up in Niagara Falls didn’t expose me to too much sun either!) Soon, family members, neighbors, and more friends were diagnosed with unusual problems. It dawned on me that I shouldn’t know that many people with debilitating illnesses. My gut told me that something wasn’t right.
So I began to research our area’s environmental history. I learned some astonishing things and started to write about them. I began to think more deeply about the impact of wrong choices on families: The fear of becoming sick. The devastation of losing someone. The loss of a home, or a sense of security. The guilt over not moving away from a toxic area soon enough. The responses required of us. Writing fiction became a creative way to expose a social injustice that had gotten a hold of my mind and heart.
Sometimes no amount of statistical analysis can accomplish what a good story can show.
You and I may be focused on different things. We may express ourselves through painting, singing, building, working, or playing. For me, as a Christian who also happens to be a writer and attorney, I want to be at the forefront of protecting the things God cares about and loves, even if it means doing so through a good novel. Call me a rabblewriter.