Secular is not a Genre

I’m a Christian.  I love Jesus, and do my best to serve Him in what I do.  In this journey as a Christian though, I have heard secular come up in sermons and casual conversations as a genre.  Christian is a genre, Religion is a genre, but that doesn’t mean that is the case with Secular.  As a writer this drives me nuts.

When classifying everything that isn’t overtly Christian or religious as a part of the phantom “Secular” genre, it automatically implies that these stories are somehow sub-par or less godly.  In the Christian community there is a general consensus that Christian books, movies, and music should be number one, and other genres should be secondary.  While I love Jesus more than words can express, I rarely find a connection to the Lord through “Christian” entertainment.  Honestly, I find it subpar in quality.  Obviously, this isn’t true in all cases, but it is far too common and rarely admitted.  I have heard the argument that quality doesn’t matter, it’s the message.  Oh really?  Try telling that to any author that’s ever lived.  I connect with the Lord best through things that make me ponder, think, rejoice that He is the way He is and not some awful pagan god that was once worshiped.

Thinking anything that doesn’t wear the “Christian” label is necessarily “Secular” also opens the door to the possibility of the audience missing the messages present.  Just because something isn’t thrusting Christian ideas in the audience’s face doesn’t mean the artist isn’t any less valuable or godly.

Matthew 25:31-46 is the passage used by believers to justify condemning another person’s tastes.  Yes, it is true, we believers need to guard our hearts.  However, if you are going to apply this passage to entertainment choices, I would submit everyone in the west is guilty of consuming media that others would say is ungodly.  We say we use Scripture to determine what is an isn’t Godly.  However, when some are convicted that they shouldn’t read Lord of the Rings because it has magic, where does one draw the line of condemnation?  This is where the Christian genre comes in.  Some say Christians must only consume Christian media.  Many times, Christian movies and fictional books are lacking in quality.  I think this is because there is an argument within Christian culture that quality doesn’t matter the message does.  Well, quality impacts the message, so yes it does. Who are we to say that God cannot use “Secular” media?

Recently, I came across a blog post that gave ten signs you might be a lukewarm Christian. One of which was that you listen primarily to “secular” music. Secular music does not make a believer less faithful than Christian music.  As with everything, discernment must be used, but we also must consider everything effects people differently.  The words of Jesus come to mind when it comes to this logic, “Beware the yolk of the Pharisees.”

My Thoughts on the Erotica Genre

As far as personal tastes go, I understand that everyone is different. Most people are into sports and that is something I couldn’t care less about.  There are people who feel the same way about my books and the fantasy genre as a whole. I respect there are different hobbies and different points of view.  That is what makes us human.  However, there is one thing in the literary world that particularly bothers me, the attempt to claim that erotica is not pornography.

The last sentence of the previous paragraph undoubtedly raised the ire of a few.  Questions such as “how can you claim to be respectful of other people’s interests and make that claim?” For me it’s simple. I am a logical person.  As the old saying goes if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. On twitter especially I have seen erotica authors (which seem to be a dime a dozen on there) make various impassioned arguments that erotica isn’t porn at all.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines porn as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.” That sounds a lot like erotica.  After all, what is the point of a story that primarily centers around sex if not for the soul purpose of arousal?  Sex by itself is not a plot, other plot elements may be intertwined with the story, but if that was the focus it would cease to be erotica.

I bring this up because all other genres may not be enjoyed by all people.  I don’t particularly fancy romance, but at the end of the day it is still art.  That is what sets erotica apart from all other genres.  Strictly speaking, erotica isn’t art, it’s porn.  A quick search into the definitions of the two clearly makes a distinction.  This isn’t about me pushing my morality onto others or to insult those who read erotica, but I want us to drop the pretense that it is some sort of extreme romance and not functionally a literary version of late night Pay-Per-View.

I believe this is an important topic to discuss.  Especially considering the popularity of the genre and recent scientific findings of what porn does to the human brain.  As always though, anyone reading this is welcome to disagree.  I encourage everyone to research it themselves.  Especially the effects of porn and the differences between porn and art.  From my point of view the evidence is undeniable, but of course there are those who feel passionately that I’m wrong.

Too Busy!

Anyone who is an adult knows that with maturity comes more responsibilities.  If you are a typical adult living on your own with a family you’re raising, this is particularly true.  On top of work, raising children, and maintaining a relationship adulthood affords far less spare time than when we were younger.  As a result, friendships fall apart and hobbies such as reading become neglected.  Are we really so busy?  If so, then is it necessary?

Western culture is notorious for cramming our lives with as much stuff and activities as possible.  Children and work are huge commitments that take up most of our daily hours.  Yet how much of this lack of time is due to having too many obligations instead of poor time management skills?  After all, if you really want to read or spend time with a person you would.  Sure, there are a plethora of good examples of things that could separate someone from a friend for a prolonged period or their reading hobby.

I have come across many people who say, “I would love to_____ but I just don’t have the time!” Here is my counter to that.  The things I really love to do I still manage to do.  Things I enjoy but aren’t as passionate about are the ones that get neglected due to “busyness.” Those we love and desire a real relationship with we reach out to even if we our personal lives have little room to work with.  As a writer, when I read the statistic that roughly 80% of Americans do not read, I cannot help but wonder if the excuse of busyness is the reason.  Then the next question that comes to mind is how can we writers come to terms with this and help American adults effectively rediscover the magic of reading?

Perhaps the answer lies in each and everyone of us contemplating what is our priorities in life.  If we enjoy watching television, we will watch it.  We all need to take an honest assessment of ourselves and discover our true priorities.  If there is someone you think of as your friend but haven’t called him/her for years perhaps deep down, you may love or respect them but they are not really as close to your heart as you believe.  The same goes for the more trivial things such as our hobbies.  The point is that we all, myself included, need to reassess ourselves sometimes.  If something needs to me more of a priority we need to make it so, otherwise we don’t care as much as we claim.

Broad Characterizations

There is something I have noticed in Fantasy, and I’m sure many others have too.  Certain races not only share universal characteristics, but individual members are indistinguishable from each other.  Take a look at orcs, not just in Lord of the Rings, but in other forms of fiction they have appeared in.  Their race is depicted as war-like, strong, and destructive.  Depending on the story their might be some variations, but that is typically what happens.  Elves are stuck up prudes and dwarves are rowdy Scotsmen essentially.  Yes, I know, there are plenty of stories that give a more nuanced approach to these races.  However, I feel the generalization of specific races may represent our humanness when it comes to people outside of our group who shares our ideology.

On social media I have become a silent observer of conversations.  I have concluded that arguing on Twitter or Facebook about important issues is rather pointless.  All it does is cause tension, after all has anyone changed their opinion about something due to an argument on Facebook?  If the answer is yes, then I doubt the number is very high.  I’ve seen Atheists attack religious people based purely on presuppositions and assumptions instead of what the person is trying to say.  I’ve seen the opposite where someone assumes things about all irreligious people and create strawman attacks.  This has been happening especially amongst Conservatives and Liberals since the last presidential election.  I’ve seen Liberals attack Conservatives, especially white rural Conservatives, for being dumb and uninformed, while Conservatives attack Liberals for having a supposed mental disorder.  When it comes to these discussions there only listening or reading to respond, not to hear what the other person has to say.  Honestly, this is the sort of thing social media breeds since people can hide behind a computing device and not see the hurt they cause others.

In the Lord of the Rings there is very little attempt to understand orcs.  They are orcs and serve the Dark Lord, and there is nothing more to it.  This viewpoint may work in fiction depending on how it’s utilized, but reality is nuanced.  I have my views on faith and politics, same as anyone else, but I need to listen and understand why someone may believe differently.  If we do not spend the time doing that, how then will people ever understand one another?  How will the chasm between political belief systems ever be bridged if we cannot even agree on the fundamentals of communication and human decency?  Is being right of the utmost importance?  These questions I must ask myself a lot, we all should.