As some of you will know, writing fiction is a real passion of mine. What am even more passionate about is spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ....through fiction.
I'm sure many of you can testify to how badly Christians are portrayed in TV shows, books and movies. Mostly they are either shy, conservative nerdy types or religious wackos who don't have a clue about real life. Then there are the Christian characters who start off weird and distinctive to spice up the plot a bit but end up becoming exactly like all of the other characters in that particular story, compromising their lifestyle so that eventually they no longer seem Christian.
As a Christian, this frustrates me. I'm not referring to storylines where a Christian character goes to a party and has a beer....that's not what I mean by compromising their faith. I get frustrated because although a Christian character might initially stir things up a bit, they eventually become 'boring' for an audience because they aren't constantly bed-hopping or getting smashed at parties or getting into fights. So the writers slowly change them to become like everyone else. Yes, I know the writers are probably non-Christians so that's why their view of Christians is based on stereotypes or a few religious nuts they have come across. But still it frustrates me. Even when a Christian character is introduced in a TV show, there is usually little mention of Jesus or even what faith is all about......to the writers it's all about 'morals'.
Home and Away is one of my favourite shows (don't laugh, everyone needs their soapie fix) and a couple of years ago Christian siblings, Geoff and Annie Campbell were introduced to the show. They were orphaned teenagers who lived with their grandfather on a farm. To say the least, their Pop fitted the Christian lunatic stereotype to perfection. He refused to let Geoff and Annie attend school, instead they were forced to work ridiculously long hours on the farm. When the Education Department intervened and they finally went to school, their Pop still insisted they work the same amount. He went even crazier and pulled a gun on Geoff. Eventually, Geoff and Annie were taken away from him but they made peace with him before he died.
Because of their upbringing, Geoff and Annie were both incredibly naive about life and about the opposite sex. When Annie got her period for the first time, she panicked and thought she was dying. Geoff (who is a good looking bloke) wondered why all the girls at his school kept staring at him and giggling. When he was told that one of them had a crush on him, he was shocked and wouldn't believe it at first. I think this is the way many Christians are perceived....naive and sheltered and very gullible. In some ways this is true; I think many Christian parents try to keep their kids in a Christian 'bubble' - sending them to closed Christian schools, making sure all their friends are from church and youth group so the don't mix with those bad kids from public schools and get into drugs etc. So although the Campbells are extreme cases, I think Home and Away touched on something here.
Some of the characters' theological beliefs are quite dodgy. When Geoff killed some sheep on the farm, Annie told him it was an unforgivable sin because he had killed God's innocent creatures. Another Christian character, Melody, who was Geoff's girlfriend for a while, had a crazy psycho mother who tried to perform an exorcism on her. I have noticed that most Christian characters on TV seem to be Catholic or Anglican or quite 'traditional'...or from some kind of extreme cult.
From a Christian viewpoint, there are some good things about having the Campbells on Home and Away. One Easter, Geoff and Annie were passionate about inviting their school friends to church. But slowly they are changing from extremely religious to conforming to the soap world and other characters around them. When Geoff was interested in a girl at school, Annie told him off saying that she wasn't Christian and he should try to find someone who shares his faith. Now Annie is obviously a hypocrite because she is with Jai who isn't Christian. Geoff eventually got a non-Christian girlfriend in Nicole and he slept with her. I commend the writers in the way they showed that Geoff regretted what happened and was determined not to let it happen again but eventually he and Nicole were shown to be too different and they broke up. Now he is with a new girlfriend and has already slept with her. His desire to be a minister when he grew up has faded. These storylines echo what many seem to think about Christian characters, that they might be interesting for a while but eventually they become boring because they don't do anything naughty so they eventually lose their saltiness and conform to the patterns of the world.
What I am passionate about is writing about Christian people, REAL Christian people who aren't sterotypically self-righteous, moral pigs nor easily persuaded to quit following Jesus nor complete crazies. People who stuff up, who sin but are determined to keep going in the race, who have a proper understanding of what the Bible teaches and doesn't teach. We need more Christian writers out there who want to communicate the gospel through fiction. If we don't, who will?