A Christian Author’s Identity Crisis: To Write Christian Fiction or Not…

[NOTE: Be sure to read all the way to the end to discover a way to receive a free e-copy of one of my books.]
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien, is probably the single most influential piece of literature to have shaped me as both a person and an author. And what many people may not know about Tolkien is that he was a very devout Christian. As a matter of fact, he and C.S. Lewis would spend hours at their local pub, not only discussing their latest literary masterpieces, but theology as well.
Lewis went on to write one of the most amazing (and critically acclaimed) pieces of Christian fiction with his Chronicles of Narnia…an unapologetic allegory of the major tenets of Christianity with Aslan the Lion representing Christ in no uncertain terms. Tolkien, on the other hand, became famous for his epic fantasy series made even more popular in recent years by Peter Jackson’s film franchise (as if its popularity needed to any assistance). But where Lewis made no bones about his work being Christian in nature, Tolkien adamantly denied any intentional use of Christian allegory in his own work.
If you think about it, that’s rather hard to believe. I mean, take a few minutes to consider the over-arching story of The Lord of the Rings. I could list reason after reason why LOTR is Christian (Heck, the title of the third book of the series says it all: The Return of the King…is the event that Christians everywhere have been waiting for since the resurrection of Christ). But I’m not going to try to prove the Christian allegories of The Lord of the Rings simply because the author himself denies that they are even there. If Tolkien says he didn’t write a Christian allegory with his series, then who am I to contradict it? Besides, that’s not what this blog post is all about.
I write all this to segue into the actual topic I wanted to talk about this week…one of identity. Especially the identity of an author, who happens to be a Christian. And hopefully, a very devout one. I am, of course, talking about myself and my own journey as an author and the continuing search for my Writer’s Identity with the context of my own faith.
But first, a little background about myself. It should come as no great surprise for anyone who follows my blog on a regular basis that I’m unashamedly a Christian…a staunch follower of Jesus Christ. I’ve been a Christian since I was seven years old and have been active in church regularly since my mom brought me home from the hospital (this is not to say that I’ve blindly accepted my faith. On the contrary, as an adult, I’ve carefully considered my beliefs and the tenets of other religions, and found the reality of Christ to be true). Eventually, I felt led to go into full-time Christian ministry. So, I went to seminary and received my Master’s Degree in Biblical Studies.
But after seminary, I ran into a problem. What the heck was my ministry supposed to be? Growing up, I was led to believe that there were only three types of ministries a person could do and make a living at it: pastor, youth minister, and music minister. I’m a gifted teacher. My preaching is engaging. But to be honest, I knew I would make a very poor pastor or youth minister (I’m not the most sympathetic person in the world). And I can’t sing a lick, so music ministry was out. Eventually, I did find my place in evangelistic ministry…teaching other Christians how to disciple people. But even that never felt like God’s ultimate mission for my life. I kept searching…searching for that ministry God had for me. The very purpose for my life.
And then, I discovered my passion for writing. I soon began pursuing the dream of becoming a professional author. But there was just one problem. One dilemma that I couldn’t quite get a handle on…
You see, during my twenties and thirties, I read voraciously. But my selection of books were rather exclusive. For the most part, I had read nothing but what is considered to be Christian Fiction. Authors such as Jerry Jenkins, Frank Peretti, and Ted Dekker had become my staple. To me, just like in ministry, there were only two types of writers…Christian or secular. It never occurred to me (at the time) that an author could be either or neither. And so, as I decided I wanted to pursue my writing dream, I had to decide whether it would be part of my “ministry” or whether it would be a more secular avenue of expression.
To be honest, I almost felt horribly guilty for even considering the possibility of not writing Christian literature. After all, I had gone to seminary. I was called to full time Christian ministry. And I discovered a passion and a talent that no doubt came from God Himself. So was it even right for me to even consider not writing Christian fiction? Don’t get me wrong…my guilt did not come from God. I had the distinct impression from the very beginning that He wouldn’t mind either way as long as I did everything I could to give Him the glory. No, the guilt came from my associations…my fellow Christians…my brothers and sisters in Christ. For some reason, I just felt like I would be really letting them down if I pursued a secular writing career.
And so, I set out to write my first piece of Christian literature. A tale about a wisecracking cryptozoologist who travels the world hunting monsters. Really? A Christian adventure novel? With monsters? It made no sense to me. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with a good Christian adventure, but as the story progressed, something just didn’t feel right. I was straining to find the Christian “message” as my fingers blazed over the keyboard with a fun, energetic story. I struggled to teach deep theological truths as Jack was being chased by a bunch of blood-feeding monsters. I had difficulty, not because this subject matter was necessarily contradictory to Christian theology, but rather because…I simply wanted to tell a fun, simple story that would make people laugh and cringe and stay up late at night.
It was then that I understood Tolkien’s dilemma. A story must remain true to itself. A story is a story for its own sake and not for any message that could be implanted within its words. 
Strangely, one of the so-called Christian authors I mentioned above–Ted Dekker–helped me to figure that out. You see, Dekker is a Christian author who specializes in knuckle-whitening thrillers that leave you tense and sweating and afraid to look outside of your covers at night. With books containing deranged serial killers, sadistic hit men, and evil personified, his stuff can be dark. Definitely suspenseful. And very very rarely do his books ever have any mention of Christ or the Bible or anything typically Christian in them. But what everyone of his books have in common is the age old struggle of good versus evil…with good always overcoming in the end.
Through Dekker’s influence, as well as my own reflections on the topic, I came to realize an important truth about ministry and being both a Christian and a writer. None of those things have to be mutually exclusive, yet they also do not necessarily have to co-exist either. By this, I mean, I’m a Christian. And I’m an author. And I do consider my writing career to be part of my ministry. But it doesn’t mean that my books necessarily have to always be filled with biblical truth or Christian messages.
Some of you may have noticed my evolution as an author within my three currently-released novels. Primal Thirst, as is noted by more than a few reviews, definitely contained a stronger Christian message than Sirens’ Song (though I’m proud to say that even the more negative all agree that it wasn’t “too preachy”). The Curse of One-Eyed Jack had even less than Siren’s Song. But some people may be caught off guard when they read my upcoming THE DJINN, because it will probably have the strongest Christian influence of all.
So, which is it? Is Kent Holloway trying to brand himself as a Christian author or as an author who just happens to be a Christian?
The answer to this is easy, but definitely not simple…yes. In recent months, I’ve discovered that there should not be a distinction. When writing a story, my first obligation is to my convictions (meaning, I can never write something that uplifts a tenet my belief system says is wrong) and my second obligation is to the story itself. “Ministry” follows after story. Which means that my Christian worldview will always be present in my stories (i.e. no foul language; no explicit sex scenes; and I will never uphold the theory of evolution (FYI, I believe cryptozoology, as mentioned in my stories, better serves to establish the fallacy of evolution…but that’s another blog post entirely)), but my stories may or may not be Christian, in and of themselves.
In short, the stories themselves dictate whether they are “Christian” or not. For instance, The Djinn almost has to deal with Christianity by its very nature simply because it takes place in Jerusalem during the Crusades. The question of religion of God versus relationship with God is vital to any discussion of the darkest times in Christian history. The role of the Church in the people’s lives or the potential for deceit that comes when the Bible isn’t readily available for the people to read would be integral in that discussion as well. But don’t worry…even when the story itself lends itself to a deeper theological dialogue, I must still remain true to the story. And The Djinn story is first and foremost a swashbuckling adventure in the tradition of such tales as The Shadow or Batman. It’s full of pulpy goodness…not depressing social commentary (another characteristic of my writing…I’ll always lean to pulpy goodness over social commentary any day of the week).
So, to sum up…though some may always find elements of my faith within my stories, each tale will dictate on how “Christian” it is. I don’t identify myself as a Christian author, but rather an adventure-mystery author (who happens to be Christian). It will always be my greatest priority to thrill and chill my readers with fun, adrenaline-pounding stories rather than disguising a sermon around a mediocre tale.
So, that being said…what’s this about receiving free ebooks? Well, it occurred to me that some of you may have never read one of my books before. Perhaps you’ve seen some of the reviews about the “Christianity” involved (though there hasn’t really been that many complaints). Or perhaps you’ve just never had a good enough reason to give one of my books a try. Well, here’s your chance!!!
I’m giving away ten free copies of your choice of PRIMAL THIRST, SIRENS’ SONG, or THE CURSE OF ONE-EYED JACK. This offer is for the ebook editions only. To win, simply email me at kholloway@sevenrealmspublishing.com with the subject heading “Blog Contest” and include your book of choice. I will send you a code to Smashwords for a free ecopy of the book you’ve chosen. This will be a first come, first serve contest.  Enjoy!

Coming Soon!
Oh, and FYI, be on the lookout for TWO new book reviews coming up in the next week or so. I’ll be doing a book review on Lincoln Child’s TERMINAL FREEZE, as well as Tim Powers’ ON STRANGER TIDES. These are two books that I definitely think you should become familiar with…so I want to tell you why.

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