Sunday, March 4, 2012

Satan Behaving Badly

            Why do we write? It’s a mystery, this compulsion to share stories. I’m once again participating in a creative writing workshop at the junior college. Its enjoyable, frustrating and tedious. Reviewing manuscripts of my fellow classmates always presents a challenge and a wealth of comic material. Not to insult their work; it is often very good and enjoyable to read. But the class discussion does illustrate this reality: each of us wakes up every day and we walk out into the same city, speak the same language and see a vastly different and unique world.
            In past classes I have been the only Christian, or I should say writer that chooses to include an element of my Christian beliefs into my work. I go in knowing my work will receive an emotional reaction. The mere mention of a priest, prayer or female bible study leader will set many readers down a path of deeply rooted “gut reaction” that has little to do with my actual plot. I have witnessed characters from science fiction novels who torture and murder their victims receive a more favorable reaction than one of my Christian female characters who has an unkind thought. Our feelings about religion, negative or positive, strike a sensitive nerve.
            This semester, my manuscript is number eleven on the docket. We review four a week in the three hour class period. The first week, I was surprised to receive a manuscript with a biblical reference in the title. It was a very well written short story, with even a fairly long passage where the character read the bible passage to her Sunday school class. Unfortunately the message meant nothing, to either the characters or the plot. I was unsatisfied with the story, because it was so well written and had so much potential, but ultimately left me with a cast of shallow characters who I didn’t care about. I didn't connect with them because they didn’t seem to care about themselves, or each other, or their faith. Waste of a perfectly good bible metaphor if you ask me.
            Week two presented me with an even bigger challenge. The manuscript once again was technically well written. It was the opening prologue of the second novel in a trilogy. The opening point of view character was Satan. Interesting premise, however this Satan was a bit neurotic and far too human to represent the source of all evil I am familiar with in the bible. At one point, Satan is having a flashback to a confrontation with Michael the Archangel and he states that he “behaved badly”. Seriously?!? Does Satan behaving badly mean he was inadvertently kind, perhaps he held the celestial gates open for Michael or offered him a cup of tea? Who knows, but in speaking with the author I did learn that he is aware his portrayal of biblical figures is not scriptural and he doesn’t care. It is just a story to him, and these are just dramatic characters.
            No one else in the class had a problem with that because no else saw God as real either. The bible is just good literature. It can be pillaged at will and no one cares. I posed the point to my fellow classmate, an atheist, that if I met your mother and decided she would be a great character, would it be fine for me to use her name, and fictionalize her, using only the shreds of truth about her life I found appealing? “Of course not, she is a real person” was my classmate’s response.
            God is very real to me, as are Satan and Michael the Archangel. Jesus Christ is “the Word made flesh who dwelt among us”. John 1:14   It is offensive to me when they are portrayed inaccurately. Moreover, I believe it is dangerous. Most people will accept fiction as gospel truth without ever reading the bible or any credible theological work. Ignorance is bliss. This week my manuscript is up for review. It’s a humbling process, but ultimately it promotes my growth as an author. I’m praying most of all to stay true to my faith beliefs and that nothing I write would lead others away from Christ.

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