I spoke with a friend of mine today who is a Baptist; she is active in a Baptist church near her suburban Atlanta home. We talked about faith and about what it’s like to follow the dictates of your conscience when it varies from the official or commonly accepted teaching of your church. Based on several things she said, it became obvious to me not only that she is a progressive, but that she and I share a number of perspectives.
I was ready to start recommending all sorts of wonderful writers to her: Marcus Borg, Bill Countryman, Brian McLaren, Anne Lamott, Donald Miller, Spencer Burke, Eric Elnes, Maggie Ross, Cynthia Bourgeault, Peter Rollins… but first I asked her if she liked to read theology. She wrinkled her nose. “Not really,” she replied. She’s lent me fantasy novels in the past and we just recently discussed the Christian imagery in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Simply put, she’s too busy reading fun stuff which she enjoys to slog through stodgy and turgid theological prose. And who can blame her? But I am reminded of the limitation that comes with choosing to write theological non-fiction, especially for a non-academic audience. Sure, academic writing doesn’t sell hardly at all, but at least it conveys a certain credibility. But pop-theology? Yawn. Even when it’s about mysticism, contemplative prayer, blowing our minds through Union with God?!? Another yawn.
I am reminded that I need to keep telling stories. That even if I never write fiction, at least I should fill the non-fiction I do write with narrative tension and other “literary” qualities. In other words: if I want to write about the ineffable, irresistible Love of God, how do I do it in a way that’s — for lack of a better word — fun?!?!?