Thursday, December 06, 2007

Carole's Plea to Christians...and Mine

It's a really pathetic thing that she needs to even make this plea, but here goes, from her blog Dark Parables:

Wind Follower has six sex scenes that have been giving some -- not all-- Christians a tough time. Only about ten pages in all, but some folks have gotten way bent out of shape about them. If you find you don't like the book, you can pass it on to someone else or donate it to your local library. Don't throw it into the garbage or anything. Just being honest. I know how we Christians can be about our responsibility to the world and our duty to rid the world of any kind of evil.

That said, it's a good book and many Christians like it.

Just for the record:

That a man gets an erection when he desires a woman is not obscene. That a woman gets wet when she's having sex with her husband is not obscene. That women have nipples is not a disgrace.

Humans burp, cough, sneeze, fart, because the body is constructed BY GOD to do such things when there are appropriate stimuli (gas, mucus, pollen, etc). When an object of strong desire is in view or proximity, the human body has reactions. (Can't speak for you, but my parts are in working order.) These reactions are not dirty. These reactions are not something to get worked up over and censor away. They are part of having blood and nerves and hormones and emotions and all sorts of normal connections a la homo sapiens.

I am very glad my lubricating parts work and my husbands erectile tissue is functional. God made us to work that way. Love and desire expressed in story is not necessarily a crime or a sin. God himself inspired erotic poetry. If you think that's bad, tear Song of Songs out of your Bible, would you? Spare yourself the undue excitement.

If you can read a story where someone kills or lies or gossips or gets angry out of bounds or cheats on a spouse or judges harshly, why can't you read one where a husband and wife are naked together? So many sins are okay to read bout, but a non-sin is not? Oops, she's out of her nightgown, RUN FOR THE HILLS! We're being corrupted

What is wrong with this picture?

I also say: Ponder it. Stop with the knee jerk and think about it.

Something is very, very wacky when an author, a Christian author who has penned a God-honoring, well-crafted Christian fantasy with loads of wise teaching within its dialogue and exposition, which points unerringly to YHWH, has to make that sort of plea I copied and pasted. It's so sad, really, that I can barely express myself cogently. I want to scream.

We look like a bunch of dorks when we throw a book in the trash because it dares be as true to life as, well, Scripture. (The marital scene evokes Solomon's writing; the rape scene evokes the story of Tamar.) Being a novel, it has deeper characterization and more "real time," but it's hardly pornography.

Yanno, God's probably going, "Oy, vey!" up there over this. I know I am down here.

Oy, vey.

Buy Carole's book. Terrific story drenched with the author's love and worship of God.

And if it's not your cuppa tea, pass it on to someone whose it might be. This is not a book for the trash heap.



James Frank Solís said...

Not having read the novel, I suppose I can take your word for it that "The marital scene evokes Solomon's writing; the rape scene evokes the story of Tamar."

Of course, Solomon and Samuel are rather sparse on details, aren't they? Although: we can assume that Amnon had an erection when he raped Tamar; and that Solomon no doubt knew that anyone who had experienced sexual desire could fairly accurately speculate about his, shall we say, state of mind.

Given the sparseness of their details, and the fact that they were inspired writers, one can't help thinking that they credited their readers with greater understanding than contemporary writers credit their own. Hence the perceived need for detail.

What really bothers me though is the paucity of Christian porn movies. What could be more beautiful than watching Christian couples copulate.

Oh, well.

By the way, I can assure you Christians look like dorks long before they get round to throwing away books, for any reason. And all the soft porn novels in the world aren't going to alter that.

Glad to know your parts are in working order, though. And your husband's too, I guess.

Heather said...

You crack me up.
Nipple corruption.
I told my mother-in-law about this book. She asked for it for Christmas, and I hope she gets it because I'm poor and am really good at borrowing books.

Mirtika said...

to James: Writers in the past weren't writing novels. Do we not write novels because it's a modern literary format? Modern novels, by nature, go deeper into human experience than, say, historical documents or genealogies or even songs of lament or worship. The very form of "novel" makes it a trip more intimately into the minds and experiences of humans.

So, your comments about sparseness doesn't apply to the literary form. The fact is the Bible touches the topics of desire and rape and sex and mutilation. The question is why are we afraid of terms that are not dirty? Penis and vagina are not dirty. Nipple and erection are not dirty. Anymore than mouth or fingers or knees or sneeze or blink.

Heather, I hope she likes it. and you, too.


Michelle Pendergrass said...

Mir, I really, really like your style. Let me add that I'm glad all of my parts and my husband's parts work. We're going away for the weekend and doing a few check ups. ;)

I don't have issues with erections or nipples when they advance the story.

But, I don't have problems with much of anything. Things are too real here for me to get all uptight and prude about stuff like that.

Those people throwing the books away would better spend their emotional outbursts helping the single mom next door whose husband was watching real hard core porn enough to lose everything rather than worrying about a book that talks about an erection.

James Frank Solís said...


Respectfully, you were the one who brought up the canonical writers. And when you did so you argued that the similarity between their output and Carole’s justified at least part of the content of Carole’s work. Your argument compared the content of Solomon’s and Samuel’s works to the content of Carole’s with respect to similarities. Like your own, my comment on the canonical writers was a comment on their content but with respect to dissimilarities. Genre was irrelevant to you when you made your move. Inasmuch as my move is a response to you, genre is still irrelevant.

Comparisons, in addition to being “odorous” (Much Ado About Nothing, 3.5.1) are very tricky. Similarity is only one aspect of comparisons which one must take into account. The other aspect is dissimilarity. Oftentimes, when similar instances are employed as justification it is relevant to consider any dissimilarity and to consider whether that dissimilarity renders the comparison inapt. This is called distinguishing. I made no comments per se on the sparseness of details. I offered the sparseness of details as an element of the content of the canonical writers’ output which distinguishes that output from Carole’s.

Since both our comments on the canonical writers were comments on the content and inasmuch as genre was not relevant when you proffered your comparison which considered only similarities (i.e., Solomon wrote about sexual desire and Samuel about a rape; Carole writes about sexual desire and rape; therefore, she does nothing that the canonical writers do not do) genre is not relevant to my comment, which considers dissimilarities.

My comment on the sparseness does apply because this sparseness is precisely what distinguishes the canonical writers from Carole. This doesn’t mean that Carole’s output is wrong. But it could mean that if Carole’s output passes muster, it does not do so for the reason you give respecting some comparison with the canonical writers.

So no, they didn’t write novels. But that wasn’t your point when you compared their output to Carole’s. Your point was about similarity in content. My point was about dissimilarity. Genre is irrelevant.

Also: You seem to think that insulting your opponents is a legitimate response to their concerns. In your posting you refer to their reactions as “kneejerk”. How uncharitable. No consideration of the possibility that they have principled objections, even if the application of those principles is inapt; and, if so, demonstration of wherein the inaptness lay. No. Their reaction is an absent-minded, unthinking, possibly even mean-spirited, autonomic response. Dumb asses.

Then there is your repeated assertion that your opponents are afraid, afraid to talk about this or that subject, afraid of the use of this or that word. Again: dismissal of your opponents as having no case which could possibly be grounded in Biblical principles (again, even if those principles are mis-applied). They are simply afraid. Bunch of pusses.

By the way, I am not exactly a disinterested party in all this. I am in process of re-writing a draft of a novel; and I write poetry. Here’s a sample. (I’m not saying it’s good, just that it’s there.) In one of my poems (not the one I’ve linked to) the Speaker, missing his wife, laments not being able to visit, as often as he’s apparently accustomed to, “the valley created by [her] up-raised thighs”, or “press [his] lips to [hers]” (if you get my drift). So you’ll be hard-pressed to assert some fear on my part of these things.

James Frank Solís said...


Like Miritka you apparently believe it proper to dismiss people and certain of their positions (so to speak) by calling them names. Again: they don't have a principled objection; they are simply prudes.

Also, you've got a nice, false dilemma going on there. Either they spend their time throwing away books or they spend it helping the single mother (who, oddly, enough has a husband with a problem with real, as opposed to virtual, porn!). It is possible to worry about the content of fiction and to help those who have need of help.

I hope you and your husband have a great check up!

Mirtika said...

I consider the comparison valid. That issues of currently taboo nature among some Christians (sex, violence) are not taboo in religious writings in the canon--which are HOLY books, by definition--means to me that those very subjects (violence and sex) are not in themselves taboo in novels and poetry in modern creative endeavors.

I don't know if you've seen some of the conversation and lists passed around which have things like the words "breast" or a kiss beyond the most decorous as unacceptable. Husbands and wives in skivvies as unacceptable. Mention of desire unacceptable. I find that wacky beyond belief. My reference to Scripture is because in Carol's novel, she actually is inspired and uses situations from Biblical events and passages, and as such, discussions of marital sex, rape and torture become part (and even essential) to the storyline. That this would cause some to call it vile and throw it on a trash heap makes me wonder why they don't throw the books of Judges, Samuel, and Song of Songs in the trash heap, too.

So, I stand by it. If it's okay for God to mention body parts in erotic poetry and foreskins in historical documents, I think it's silly that we fear using the names of undirty bits. :D


Mirtika said...

I use kneejerk because I have witnessed kneejerk, hence I"m referring to those who simply dismiss any book with some sexual content, without giving due consideration to how the content is actually presented or why.

I'm serious. I've heard the label "trash" and "porn" labeled to a novel just because there is a scene that addresses sexual content. I consider that kneejerk.

It may not be YOUR definition, but an immediate reaction to ANY sexual content as porn or trash is kneejerk to me, James.

I do understand PRINCIPLED aversion, but when someone says they refuse to read and review a book cause they heard there's a scene of rape or sex (on the basis of that, not on having someone say that it's actual porn or disgraceful or whatever) and are throwing the book in the trash, I can't help but wonder how much is principle and how much is a simple emotional reaction or fear or prejudgment.

If they wish to throw out the third book in His Dark MAterials trilogy after reading what it contains, okay. If someone who read it said, "This is outright filth like you'd find in Penthouse or Hustler or whatever is the dirty magazine of the day", okay. But that's not what I'm hearing. IT's the mere mention of ...S-E-X. As if S-E-X itself were a grave sin.


James Frank Solís said...

First off, Mir, it was not my intention to give you the impression that I think you don’t understand principled aversion. You give every impression of having enough intelligence to have that understanding. I always read bloggers’ profiles before I comment. (I too am an admirer of Dallas Willard, D. A. Carson, and Peter Kreeft. I may be one of the few men who will admit to enjoying Bronte and Austen, and T. S. Eliot is my favorite poet!) I also took a peek at some of your other blogs. So I had no doubts about your education and intelligence. Can we chalk this part up to paucity of expression on my part? I hope so.

That being said, however, (and, I suppose, in defense of kneejerk reactors) an objection to any and all sexual content is, or at least can be, a principled objection, even if, as I said, we would find fault with the principle. And this principled objection could be sustained even in the absence, on the part of the objectors, of any consideration for how the content is presented. The principle must surely be: Any sexual content in Christian fiction regardless how presented is objectionable. Or perhaps, more charitable to them: Given how overly sexualized our culture is, any sexual content, etc.

You and I would probably want to say something like, “Actually, given our overly sexualized culture perhaps we should explore ways of depicting sexuality in our artistic endeavors in such a way as to put sexuality in its rightful place.” Perhaps Carole has done this. As I admitted: I can’t comment.

I will join you in arguing that the aforementioned standard is too high a standard. But I still think dismissing it as kneejerk isn’t very charitable. People aren’t being kneejerk simply by virtue of the fact that they base objection on incorrect or inapt principles.

On the other hand, while you are sensitive to kneejerk reactors (given your personal experience of them), I am sensitive to the uncritical justification of everything done in the name of art. Clearly, we both have issues.

But since it appears now that the only difficulty we now have is how properly to classify peoples' reacions as "kneejerk" I think we can safely consider the dispute between us resolved.

Paz a usted.


I was trained to think by lawyers and analytic philosophers. So I hardly ever run with 'my' definition of a word. Before I commented, I refreshed my memory by looking 'kneejerk' up in the dictionary. Your use of the term, however, is duly noted and not irrelevant.

Mirtika said...

You are a very cool gentleman, James. And I thank you for commenting many times.

As someone who lives in a city where art is a big, big, big thing, and who remembers the nausea at "Piss Christ", I too understand that art can be an excuse for insult and mere shock value for publicity or, simply, an adolescent impulse to be rebellious.

However, I believe in the creative impulse too greatly--as clearly you do as well--to think that because sex is abused in our culture (in private lives and in teh arts) that we should make our boxes smaller and tighter and more soundproofed. :)

We're on the same side. I just mouth with less intellectual panache than you do. :)


James Frank Solís said...

Now that we are on friendly terms -- thank the Lord -- let me run something by you. Let's file this under "Why we ought to understand and appreciate the kneejerk reaction."

In a 1986 lecture, "Advice to Christian Philosophers", Alvin Plantinga argues, among other things, that, because philosophy is really a social endeavor, the Christian philosopher is the philosoher for the Christian community. There are many questions that the Christian community needs their philosophers to be working on. He went on in the lecture to extend his thesis to all forms of intellectual endeavor.

Would you object to conceiving of the Christian artist as the artist for the Christian community? Art is after all a social endeavor.

One of the reasons, I think, for these sorts of reactions is that Christians (rightly, I think) have some inkling of the notion that, the Christian worldview being a unified view, Christian art must comport in some way with Christian ethics. The problem, I think, is that Christian philosophers (especially aestheticians) and artists don't seem to have worked out a theory of art which could explain how our art can comport with our ethics such that there is a way to include sexuality in Christian art that is godly and at the same time does not satisfy people with purely prurient interests.

What I believe Plantinga would have Christian artists do is, among other things, acknowledge that we serve the church and owe the church an answer when it asks why we do art the way that we do. (I suppose I could write him and ask, just to make sure.)

Most Christians are not trained to think in the categories that you and I and others employ in thinking through these things. They cannot follow along; and for that reason most of what we say sounds, quite frankly like artsy fartsy bullshit. This, I think, explains the kneejerk reactions. And although these reactions are annoying, irritating and at times down right pissing us off, sometimes its really our fault because (let's admit) we really don't have the time or the patience to explain ourself. And frequently we indulge the notion that we don't have to explain ourselves.

But remember something that our friend Clive Staples once said, speaking to a group of clergy: "You must translate all your apologetics into the vernacular." Yes, he was talking about apologetics, but I think the principle is the same. If we have an aesthetic, then perhaps all these kneejerk reactions should be telling us something about how poorly we have translated it into the vernacular.

On the other hand, these kneejerk reactions may be telling us that we don't have an aesthetic at all. In that case we need to be more patient with our non-artsy-fartsy bretheren. It's difficult to follow people who don't seem to have a plan.

I just read through all that. Sounds like a lecture. Let's chalk that up to paucity of expression also, shall we? It's just that I'm really on about this because I spend a lot of time thinking about Christian aesthetics and I haven't worked one out myself. That's the greatest reason I haven't published yet. It's hard to work without a plan.

Once Upon A Dieter said...

I have to admit to have done very little philosophical reading in the last, oh, three or four years. I went through a time when I read a lot, mostly to satisfy some questions I had, partly to fill an educational gap. Let's face it, one thing the educational system (public and often private) sucks at is teaching us how philosophy can be an aid and friend to our ongoing learning endeavors. So, my philosophical training is scattershot and not at all impressive. Nevertheless, I do count Christian philosophers in my library and past reading.

As a Christian, I do know that there must be an ethical evaluation to everything. I cannot simply "Just do it!" I am accountable to a husband, community, and Highest Being. However, because I do consider myself someone who likes to consider the why of limitations. Is it based on true spiritual-Biblical concerns, or is it custom or preference or fear or something else.

The question of modesty itself is not clearly defined.What was immodest in X era is not immodest in ours. Do we hide under burkas, must to be safe? Am I still suppose to be veiling my hair? If I show my legs in a skirt, am I indecent?

I've seen debates on modesty, and I am not convinced we've nailed that one, either.

But I think blogdom has initiated a continual discussion on 1. what is Christian fiction allowed and 2. Why do we simply ban sexuality from storytelling when we don't ban other elements? What is the driving factor to that sort of taboo. And, concurrently, there is discussion on the use of swearing. One can add elements of other sins, but heaven knows the poop hits ye fan if someone writes "damn."

I constrain myself when I write, and I don't always think that's a bad thing. However, I suggest it's a bit more fretful when we constrain OTHERS, because what they are led to write, even if it's not what *I* would with my particular hang-ups or handicaps, doesn't mean what they write is sinful because they go farther afield or deeper inland.

As long as publishers are led by that fear of the kneejerking reader's response leading buyers to run complaining to stores, it does affect "art" and artists--and not just art, all creative endeavors. Everything. Which is why it matters. And why I get frustrated.

Your average reader will not be rushing to buy philosophical treatises on aesthetics and ethics. So, non-philosophers like me just get all up in their faces hoping to start chatter and ponderings.


James Frank Solís said...

Well, it did take the Church Fathers several hundred years to work out the orthodox creeds. The present discussions -- and nasty disgreements -- haven't been going on very long. No rush, I suppose.

You are right, of course, when you say, "Your average reader will not be rushing to buy philosophical treatises on aesthetics and ethics."

I would add that the average reader perhaps shouldn't have to do. Perhaps the responsibility for teaching Christians to think about aesthetics doesn't rest as much upon the people "in the pews" as it does upon leadership. Goodness, we get counsel from the pulpit on everything from how to have a good Christian marriage and raise good Christian children to how to approach politics from a Christian perspective. I suppose one should hold Christian leadership responsible for the lack of aesthetic thought on the part of the so-called laymen.

And I suppose we must also fault Christian philosophers, who don't always write in such a way as to make easier the dissemination of Christian philosophy to the people in the pews. Of course, having said that, one has to recognize that many in the pulpit (and in the pews!) don't think philosophy has any business being distributed from the pulpit. Boy, there certainly is enough blame to go round, isn't there? :)

Another thing that might be said is that, if the average reader is not going to buy treatises on ethics and aesthetics perhaps we should find better ways of including (good) philosophy in our fiction. Perhaps we should study more existentialists and nihilists like Sartre, Camus, even Walker Percy, to see how they exhibited philosophy in their fiction and poetry.

Ever read Sartre's Nausea or "No Exit"? Percy's Second Coming or Launcelot? Just curious.

"Good philosophy must exist if for no other reason than bad philosophy exists and must be answered." C. S. Lewis.

Hmmm. Surely, if good philosophy must exist in order to answer bad, then it must -- being good -- be worthy of distribution from pulpits.

Funny thing about Lewis: As much as he is appreciated today, he wasn't very much appreciated in his own day.


Mirtika said...

Yes, to NAUSEA and "No Exit" and a long time since I read a Percy (not Second Coming), though I did read some of his non-fiction. However, the gift of being able to reduce philosophy to digestible dialogue and narrative is not everyone's. May not be mine, either (though I can hope). If one wants to write "disposable" fiction--I don't say that snarkily, I say it realistically--such as pop fiction or the genres considered transient such as category romance or Chick Lit and such, then there is little room for philosophy.

In SF, my genre of preference, there is lots of room for it. :) Heck, the atheists propound their philosophy in science fiction, and the pagans (self-called so, I am not tossing out epithets) in fantasy, so we should be quite free to do so.

I do fear that as long as a large portion of ministers are suspicious of the arts as a haven for wild sexual and anti-Christian thought--rather than as a place where roaring lambs need to stand ground--there won't be much philosophizing about ethics and the arts, unless one's pastor has read Schaeffer (both father and son, given Frank Jr's book on Sham Pearls before Swine) or others who take up the banner for a flock that isn't afraid to seek excellence and even a livelihood in the arts (beyond CCM, painted tea cups, homey framed pics, and Thomas Kincade landscapes on Bible Covers found in Christian stores).


James Frank Solís said...

"beyond CCM, painted tea cups, homey framed pics, and Thomas Kincade landscapes on Bible Covers found in Christian stores"

Yes. Like the stuff one can purchase at Family Christian Trinkets Stores.