Thursday, August 20, 2009

Portraying Christians negatively in literature

I don't read a lot of fiction because whenever I do I can't help but to wonder if it's all made up. (I do read sci-fi, though, I can believe in space aliens). However, my wife, Cathy, keeps up on fiction. On a fairly regular basis, she observes how negatively Christian characters are portrayed. It seems, judging from what she says, that if an author introduces someone with strong Christian beliefs, it's a good bet that they'll rape, murder, or otherwise harm people.

Recently on a trip to Montreal, I happened across this article in the newspaper that discusses this trend in literature of demonizing Christians. Here's an excerpt:

"I have read seven novels from young men and women in the past two years that have had what I consider modern, representative “religious” characters. In all but one of these books, the characters were agents of the most self-righteous kinds of oppression. In fact, in some texts, the words Catholic or religious have become synonymous with all things that good and ordinary people fight against....

The derision toward anyone who believes is swift and non-negotiable among many writers today, or at least in their writing. It is as if a doctrine has been set in motion in which not to demean religion is sacrilegious."

5 comments:

Jay Livingston said...

Is it because the characters are Christians? Or is it because they are sanctimonious and holier-than-thou? Given that are US or Canadian novels, most of the characters are going to be Christians. But the ones who publicly make a big deal of their religion make tempting targets -- Tartuffe, Elmer Gantry, et. al. -- just as in real life, we're much more likely to want to read about the infidelities of a clergyman than those of an accountant.

Brad Wright said...

It seems that when authors highlight someone's Christian faith, it's in the context of them doing wrong. I realize that this makes characters "more interesting" in the same sense that plane accidents are "more interesting" than routine flights, but it does seem like it produces and reinforces stereotypes & prejudices.

erikajphillips said...

If it isn't ironic, we generally don't care. And what scares us most is someone who we should trust (eg, someone very religious) who turns out to be something we fear (murder, rapist, etc.). That being said, I just finished The Used World by Haven Kimmel, which does feature a "bad" uber-religious character but it also delves into the main characters' personal negotiations with Christianity. And there is a great relationship between one character and her reverend, and she is someone I would qualify as a hero in the novel.

Brad Wright said...

Yes, I think that you're right about why the bad-guy-religious-person motif is common.... Who knows, if we hear it enough, we'll stop thinking that it's ironic (ironically enough).

Edward T. Babinski said...

How DARE anyone portray Christians negatively! Don't they know that when Christians even today vote in the millions to "save marriage for straights" that they are NOT being homo-haters any more than the Christians in the South who maintained the importance of "keeping the white race superior?" And don't they know that Christians believe in "hell" only for anyone who is NOT a Christian? So just join the straight Christian movement away from hell, and let's all be friends and not DARE portray each other in a negative fashion.

Either that, or may moderate Christians ought to help their more immoderate brethren admit the same rights to people of all colors and sexual persuasions, and also admit that maybe "hell for anyone who doesn't believe in my religion" really isn't a doctrine of love and togetherness, and maybe consider that if Christians continue to recite that creed that only "they" are "saved" from "hell," then maybe they ought to also be able to take a bit of the fire thrown their way without complaining about being "persecuted for their beliefs."

Personally, I think any infinite Being who thinks it's their duty to torture me for all eternity should switch to decaf. But there it is, in the Christian holy book, "Fear him who can cast both body and soul into hell," and "He who believeth not is damned already," and "tossed into a lake of fire." Really? Is that so? No doubts? It's in your CREED? You don't say. Well, enjoy that creed of yours and your holy book, but please don't expect to be respected FOR such beliefs, not by anyone who happens to believe differently.