Sunday, August 01, 2010

Update: TV Review, Shame & Novel Reboot

I suppose in writing about the relationship between sex and religion and porn, I overestimated the response. I assumed I would be awash in comments. In some ways, it was a good reminder of just how effectively we have bathed our sexuality in a culture of shame. The truth is that even for those who have grown and shared the experiences mentioned in my article, offering an opinion on religion and porn means exposure and vulnerability of a kind that most people are not willing to risk. The reason for that is that is simple. We've learned what happens when we open ourselves up, especially when it comes to ideas about sexuality. Faith should not be about perfection or the pursuit of perfection, but the shared journey of fallible individuals working together to understand what life is and what it means. The "Christian" publishing industry certainly doesn't help. As a young writer, I was informed by the Christian publishing houses, the ones to whom I was sending my work, that there was to be no sex in the novel unless the characters were married. The beliefs of the characters did not matter. I still remember questioning one of the editors, who merely shrugged and said the publishing houses were worried about the sixty five year old Christian lady walking into a Christian bookstore and discovering 'sex' in one of the books. I struggled with her answer. I remember asking her if she was comfortable with the fact that basically, Christian writers would be held back from writing real characters, from writing something real, because of one person?

I ended up writing a novel called Ravin, about a stripper who is abducted by the leader of Venezuelan cult, and whose only chance for survival lies with her sister, a snobbish lawyer with whom she hasn't spoken in five years. A number of the editors liked it, but they had no idea where to put it on the shelf. It was my last attempt at "Christian" fiction, a real learning experience regarding the shame that sex still holds in religion. Unless you want to publish a book about the merits of abstinence, you're certainly not going to find anything helpful about sex on the shelves of religious bookstores. Their inventory is driven by the single, unhappy, self-righteous customer. And since they don't do enough business to ignore the loudmouths, they have the last word over the needs and wants of the majority.

Speaking of which, the same is true in many churches across the continent. I've seen it so many times that it has become cliché. One small contingent of highly self policed, egocentric moralists, controlling large populations within a religious community. This is not unlike high school, where the popular clique is usually the one that is the hardest to please and have the most money. For a church to function properly, these groups must be smashed. A strong pastor can do it. Most of the time however, it requires the strength and guts of the congregation to ignore these willful power mongers whose goals lie outside faith and are only concerned with power. What we need are more people willing to speak about their experiences, including their sexual ones, and face down the moralists who think shame is somehow related to following Jesus. Do not let others dictate your guilt. Normally, the power mongers have the advantage because they are less concerned with being fair and more interested in retaining power. Just remember, these people are found in every organization in the world. They are not particular to religion, but are attracted there by the possibility of power and control. The more we learn to stand up to them, the more we'll be able to grow the types of communities that not only make a difference in our lives, but in the lives of those around us.


***

I didn't want to do an entire review on it, seeing as how I'll be doing a movie review in the next couple of days, but last night we(Bethany and I) watched the first installment of an 8 part mini-series last night for The Pillars of the Earth. This has long been one of my favourite novels, and the mini-series adaptation (at least the first part) was excellent. The production is well done and the cast is terrific. The Pillars of the Earth was the result of a decade long study of castles and cathedrals by author Ken Follett. It details the story of a faithful monk who desires to build a cathedral to God's glory, and the mason who feels the same calling. Majestically written, it is a wonderfully told and tremendously uplifting. It seems as if the mini-series is doing it justice.


***

I was listening to one of Brandon Sanderson's writing podcasts last week, and he was discussing what to do with a story when you have to revamp it. I enjoy the Sanderson podcasts, as he writes Epic Fantasy, the genre I am currently attempting to break through in. At any rate, he mentioned that sometimes it helps to start by writing the ending when you're stuck, so that's what I'm going to do tomorrow, as I've been stuck on 130,000 words for the past three weeks. Wish me luck.

The new movie review will be up in a couple of days. As always, feel free to comment or write.

Blessings

Steve