The late, great Robert A. Heinlein once said that his only goal as a writer – indeed, he may have said the ONLY goal any writer should have – was to entertain.
The statement seemed to imply that education, elucidation, insight into the Human condition, agenda, politics, religion, and anything else should take a very low priority to entertainment.
I’m not sure all writers would agree. Some seem intently focused on their message and, in my opinion, lose or have lost their stories. They keep lots of the people who read them initially looking for sheer entertainment, but those hangers-on seem to move from fans to sycophants (in case the definition of this word escapes you, try inserting “toadies, flatterers, bootlickers, brownnosers, minions, yes-men” instead and see if that clears things up). Others seem to publish the same thing over, and over, and over again and fans swipe their cards often enough to keep the writer on their leash. It seems rather like farmers who would rather be feeding the world but find it impossible to stop growing tobacco because the profit margin is so high that it would mean financial ruin to follow their convictions.
Jesus probably faced a similar dilemma. He had a message he wanted to deliver to the people of Judea, but the bald face of it – that they needed to surrender their lives to God and follow Him – would probably not pull in enough believers to perpetuate His Church. So he told stories. He told funny stories like the one about the short tax collector in a sycamore tree. He told dramatic ones like the one about the people who worked on a farm all day and the people who worked on the farm for a couple of hours all getting paid the same thing. He told knotty ones like the one about what to do at harvest time if you planted wheat and someone came in the middle of the night and planted dandelions. He told deeply profound ones that even inspired an American Law...(Hmmm, let’s see, in three parables, Jesus hit the humor market, the literary market, the mystery market. Some would say that the story about calling into a tomb and having the formerly dead occupant walk out hit the speculative fiction market (albeit the currently dead zombie market – if you’ll pardon my pun). The last became the unacknowledged basis of a law the general public expects everyone to follow.
No matter how you classify Jesus, the parables he told to the crowds and were recorded by his disciples remain embedded in more cultures than the ones occupying North America.
So who to emulate?
I have tried for years to emulate Jesus and his parables with only a little success. My published work, while far from religious polemic, absolutely includes reference to and benchmarks of my Christian beliefs; and while some might scowl, shake their heads and mutter, “sour grapes”, I have no doubt a few of my stories were rejected because an editor didn’t approve of conservative, Christian touches. I’m also not yet good enough writer to bring a powerful idea to life, or to create a character vividly enough to be able to stand between my faith and the editors or readers; to project my beliefs while living stronger than any reader’s doubts or biases.
Some have – CS Lewis’ short stories appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; Michael Flynn’s faith pops up almost every chapter; Gene Wolfe, while acknowledged by Neil Gaiman to be the “best writer, bar none, of the 20th Century”, is a man whose deep faith in Christ shows up as metaphor and allusion in The Book of the New Sun; and Star Wars author, Kathy Tyers who also has a best-selling Christian science fiction series of books originally published by Ace Books.What am I trying to do with my writing? I am trying to do what every Christian is called to do – CS Lewis, Michael Flynn, Gene Wolfe, Kathy Tyers – “...make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you..” Matthew 28: 19-20