I like to call myself an “at-risk Christian.” It’s not that I don’t believe or have faith or live in doubt. I don’t. I just don’t do what seem to be the Christian things to do: I don’t post sermonettes on Facebook or tweet testimonials or the forward the latest “show you believe in Christ” email. I’m not ashamed: it’s just not my thing.
I guess my political views don’t necessarily equal traditional Christian values either: I don’t believe gay marriage undermines my own marriage. I support a woman’s right to choose. I don’t get my news from Fox News. I think I’m smarter than the average bear: I can research an issue and don’t need my political issues boiled down to sound bites and spin.
You see what I did right there? Segued from religion to politics? These days, that’s how it works. Who we are as Christians—or as Muslims or Jews or Buddhists or any other religion for that matter—seems inextricably linked to the fringes of politics. True or not, all Muslims are branded as terrorists, all Christians part of the conservative right. It’s stereotypical and inaccurate and infuriating and it happens all the time. You know how it goes.
Personally, I hate labels and group identifiers because none of us fit the mold, none of us fall neatly inside these lines that have been drawn for us. My Christianity is really between me and my God, not something that needs to be validated or defined by anyone. I’m neither fully Democrat nor Republican either, though I registered as a Democrat so I could vote in the primaries when Obama ran in 2008. Truth is, none of us are wholly one thing or another—we are free-thinking individuals. We’re all independents. We’re all unique.
I’ve been following Noah Murphy on Twitter (yes, I Tweet!) for a little while. Noah is the author of K23 Detectives–a series of thriller novels set in one of the most complex and fascinating steampunk/cyberpunk/fantasy worlds I’ve ever seen. You check them out here. Honestly, and he doesn’t know this yet, I’d love to write fan fiction for his world someday. It’s that cool. Over the last few months, Noah has been taking a stand with his personal views as a writer and the directions of his stories. This stand has been at the expense of hundreds of Twitter followers and could potentially alienate a portion of his fanbase for making all the humans in his stories brown-skinned.
Now, for many of you, this doesn’t mean much. So what if you lose a few hundred followers? What happens if you make the characters in your world people of color? How much does it matter? When you’re an unknown or self-published author, every single pair of eyes on your words count. Every positive impression someone has of you and your work can translate into a potential sale, into notoriety and promotion and advertising. Word of mouth is still the best form of advertising and the right mouth can create a viral effect for your work. Alienating someone, anyone, is risky.
Noah doesn’t care because those people weren’t who he was after anyway.
Those people don’t reflect who he is.
Noah figured out something that I hadn’t. That many of us hadn’t. He figured out that what we write won’t speak to everyone, nor should it, and we should be okay with that. We should actually champion that idea. I call myself an at-risk Christian because it’s a little bit funny and because my worldview puts me slightly askew from common representations of Christianity. I ask questions and pursue alternate theories and seek to understand the nature of doubt because I accept nothing at face value and I think those gray areas are worth exploring. And that’s okay. My writing reflects that perspective and it’s not for everyone. It’s not for everyone. I’m not for everyone. And that’s okay too.
The point here is “be who you are.” Be true to yourself; speak in your true voice. There are over 7 billion people on the planet now; the ones you are speaking to will hear you and listen. The ones who aren’t interested will vote with their feet. I believe if you write well, someone will always listen. And if they’re truly listening, the right ones will stay.
Those are the ones you want.