When I tell people that I write “Christian Horror”, the first question I’m usually asked once the initial shock wears off is “Does the Church have a problem with you writing about such ghastly things?” And, I’m actually pleased to say that, most of the time, the answer is “no”. There was some initial doubt and concern shown when I started on this "Christian Horror" crusade, sure. But, as I've "made my case" over the years, and as people have read the Xulon Edition of "The Coming Evil, Book One" and seen firsthand what I've been talking about, I see that they're finally starting to "get it". Since then, I’ve encountered very few people within the Church who denounce the fact that I get a thrill out of writing about slimy, fang-faced monsters. Sure, they might laugh it off as childish or raise an eyebrow and let me know, up front, that they don’t read “that kind of stuff”, but it’s a rarity to find a fellow believer who rears back in revulsion, points the lone, condemning finger of Heaven at me and bellows, “Beware, young soul! The Devil has his snares in you!” And for those I have encountered who do feel that way, I’ve already posted some of my thoughts on the horror genre (and why I don’t feel it’s inherently evil) in an earlier blog post.
For the most part, the Christians who’ve read my writing instantly recall the scary movies or scary stories they saw/heard as kids and they get a nostalgic gleam in their eye. It’s fun. Even when they tell me how scared they were, there’s an unmistakable excitement there. And that’s exactly why I love writing what I write. Monsters are fun, escapist fantasy.
What people do scoff at, however, is the other part of my “Christian Horror” equation—the “Christian” part. Horror fans are a hard crowd to “win over” to the faith, and for good reason. Horror has long been perceived as the Enemy of Good, Decent Folk. How many church groups have protested horror movie openings at their local cinemas since the silent movie era? How many preachers have spoken from the pulpit of “the Satanic power of horror movies and rock and roll”? Horror fans, therefore, are too-often labeled as maladjusted, Satan-worshiping, dark siders who are best avoided by clean-living, respectable citizens. Because of that, it seems the horror community has built up a sort of defense mechanism—a knee-jerk reaction when “those Bible thumpers” enter the room. It’s like the Hatfields and McCoys all over again. I’ve been to sci-fi conventions. People are really friendly to me (because I try to be a likable guy), but as soon as word gets out that I’m a Christian or—gasp!—that I’m polluting their favorite genre by writing Christian Horror, I get the looks. You know the ones. The “get away from me you fundamentalist wacko” looks. They don’t know me. They’re judging me based on some bad examples of “religion” they’ve been exposed to themselves or heard about in the past.
But that’s okay. I expect that. Jesus said the world hated Him, so if we’re following Him, it’s only natural that they’ll hate us, too. I don’t like being “hated” any more than the horror fans who feel labeled and bad-mouthed by the Church, but there you have it.
What surprises me, though, is that I’ve found a number of people within the Church who are upset that I’m writing about my faith. That was not something I expected. It seems that, in an effort not to look like “the crazy evangelical” that the media is so quick to dismiss, there is now a growing sentiment that we should not talk about our faith at all. A faction who feel that our beliefs are private and personal and we shouldn’t share them, lest we make someone feel uncomfortable, or whatever. “We should simply live our lives based on our convictions and let that speak for itself”—which I agree with, in large part. But, at the same time, when did we grow so frightened of openly talking about what we believe in? Now it seems that, if you even mention your faith, people leap over furniture in an effort to get away from you, shrieking, “Don’t preach at me, man!”
“The Strange Man” talks about Jesus. It talks about Christianity. Why? Because it’s a book about Christians. And I can’t very accurately (one hopes) depict their struggles with their faith without talking about said faith. I’m not trying to preach—I’m trying to show. I’m trying to communicate—maybe even open up a bridge of understanding between my two “families”: the horror community and the Church. The problems that the characters in my book face are problems that I’ve faced in my own Christian walk. I’ve dealt with doubt, anger, feelings of entitlement, wondering why God didn’t “do more” for me. I’ve been mad at God, terrified of God, cold towards God—but I’ve also been searching for His heart, upset when I see others mock Him, and longing to live in His perfect will. It’s been a journey of ups and downs, of doubts and certainty and, you know what? I want to talk about that. Art is about expression, and just as I love gushing about wolf-men and killer gremlins, I also long to express myself in regard to the beliefs that have shaped my entire life.
I’m not trying to be “evangelical”. I'm not trying to "shove my religion down your throat"; I’m simply trying to be open and honest about the Christian faith as I’ve experienced it. I know a lot of Christian writers who are hoping to, perhaps, “tone down” the Christian content of their novels—placing it in the subtext—in order to have a more mainstream appeal. That doesn’t bother me at all, if that’s where God has led them. In fact, some of my other stories, like “Flowers for Shelly” or “White Ghost” have only the faintest shades of my Christian worldview in them. In fact, some great Bible-believing Christians I know don't feel that their faith should come into play at all with their writing. They're just in the business of telling good stories and don't feel that faith--in text or subtext--really belongs. Again, if that's where they feel led, don't let me stop you. But that’s just not how “The Coming Evil Trilogy” is made. And that might mean that my readership is downsized as a result. Undoubtedly some people will not be able to get over the “Jesus” hurdle. Perhaps some of my peers will think that I’m just “preaching to the choir”. But I’ve seen “the choir”. Churches are full of people struggling with addiction, unhappy with their marriages, fighting losing battles with their children, and feeling uncertain about their futures. If there’s any sort of “message of hope” in my little book about monster-fighting, then I pray God gets it to whomever needs it the most, whether it be those in the Church or outside it.
I just want the opportunity to write from my heart. As it turns out, my heart is full of a desire to please and serve God, as well as a desire to daydream about strapping on a sawed-off shotgun and fighting a horde of flesh-hungry ghouls. Go figure :)