The S Word
I’m excited but not surprised at the lively discussion that’s been taking place in response to yesterday’s Q4U. Anytime we bring up the issue of “safe” in Christian writing and publishing, opinions abound. I’m impressed with the thoughts you’ve expressed here and I don’t have much to add that’s any different from what you’ve already said.
To me, the issue of “safe” is okay for a radio station because I listen in my car and my kitchen, where the kids are, and I like feeling comfortable that anything they hear is going to be appropriate for them. But I think the question of safe is different in publishing. We need both safe and unsafe books. It’s not about being kid-friendly.
Some Christian books are wonderfully written, totally edifying and/or inspiring, and also safe. They don’t necessarily challenge the reader to change in any way. Other books are “unsafe” in that they challenge a reader to go deeper, to think harder, to take a different look at their life in Christ. They shake people out of their comfort zones and leave them feeling unsettled rather than inspired or comforted. These are great books too.
Everyone has a different view of what “safe” means. What did Lewis mean by saying that Aslan wasn’t safe but he was good? I think it meant that Aslan (Christ) was a threat to people’s very lives… as they knew them. That he threatened their sense of security and comfort in the world. That he would force them out of their conformity and into a new understanding of what life was all about. It feels very dangerous. But it’s good.
In Christian publishing… I disagree with those who say “unsafe” is the only way we should be writing. People need that, yes. We all need to be confronted, shaken up, kept off balance, in order to keep our relationship with Christ alive and real. So books that do that are valuable. But we also sometimes just need to learn. Or to be entertained. Or to be inspired, encouraged, or uplifted. And all of these goals can be reached in books that are basically safe. They might not shake you out of your comfort zone, but they serve a purpose.
So I never decide whether to read a book, or whether to acquire or represent a book, based on its relative safety. I read and enjoy both kinds of books.
That’s my view. By all means, continue the conversation if you have more to say.