Crosses & Scribbles: Writing As Christian

My faith defines who I am and how I see and interact with the world. Yet, most people I meet are surprised to learn that I, a Christian, don’t line up with the evangelical right on matters of theology—the stereotypical American believer. I don’t accept, as they do, the Bible as a defacto, clearcut instruction manual without error. I read God’s word like poetry and understand that books like, for example, Genesis are allegory—beautiful, replete with enriching wisdom, but not to be taken literally. So, am I an outlier? No, there are millions like me, who appreciate science, who believe in evolution (God-guided), who believe the nature of how mankind has considered and understood God has changed throughout time, and who delight in His grace and redemption.

However, I am weary of people lumping myself in with the young-earth-creationists and intelligent design theorists types. When I meet new people, especially those I want to make a good impression with, I tend to conceal my faith. I don’t know about you, but I sort of wish I had, jokingly, a business card with a QR code for people to scan, linking them to an online page explaining all the nuances of my personality. Basically, it would say, “look I’m not like those crazy other people and here is why.” I get tired of answering the questions, people are apt to ask, as they explore whether or not I am going to be a problem to them. They are weary of judgement. This is particularly true in the artistic and academic communities—places I hang my hat.

Recently, I joined a writer’s group. Everyone shares what they are writing and offer snips of advice. I was so nervous to attend, and my head was filled with all the worries one can expect when one opens their heart to complete strangers. I wrestled with what I should bring, I thought of reading a current project, or a previous—finished—one; I chose the latter. The problem? It was a Christian piece and, by far, my best writing. If I read this one, these strangers, these artists, might worry if they could be open with their own work around me. People can be rightly skeptical of how judgmental Christians can be. I, of course, am not like those believers. But they didn’t know that.

When the day came, and it was my turn to read the story, I did what I always do: I started with a disclaimer. I sat there, my eyes darting back-and-forth between the others, my bottom lip quivered, and my speech turned to blubber. I managed to say, somewhat cohesively, something like, “You don’t know me, but you will think, after I am finished, that I am reading a Christian story. It is, however, religious themed, but not specifically Christian.” I had practiced that last line on the drive over a dozen times. I did not want to make anyone uncomfortable, and so I stretched the truth to get them to like me. When I was done, my heart bleated in the open, and I counted the microseconds before, I feared, their disapproval would come slashing. However, I was shocked.

They loved my story, they complimented my sentences’ rhythm and its arc, but, more importantly, they loved my story’s theme and idea. I was filled with light, and, then I remembered, I screwed up: I projected my fear onto them. I should not have disclaimed that my work was something different than it was because I feared they would mistake me for some stereotype. To share what one is writing is to share something equivalent to sex. Writing is your intellect naked. I have never been so happy to have worried over nothing.

Perhaps, it is a sign of our times that I would worry that people would not like me if they found out how religious I am. It is easy, for us Episcopalians, to get lumped together with the more vocal, more represented, more controversial and larger evangelical community. Of course, I pass no judgement on them. I have in the past been one myself. We truly believe the same core doctrines, but we have different approaches to reasoning out what Jesus teaches. Sometimes, I refer to myself at school as a Two Great Commandments Christian—see Matthew 22:36-40. I attend a Christian university, and, well, everyone gets my reference. They joke, “ah, you’re a democrat then, lol.” The weight of attaching political ideology to one’s religious perspective is one way, I believe, the American church has gotten it wrong, but that is a discussion for a different time and on a different kind of blog. My point is this: I found this group of artists, painters of words, did not hold any animosity toward the religious, and that I was projecting onto them what I thought they wanted to hear. It turned out a few of them are pretty serious about their faith, too. I should learn to just be myself and let the cards fall where they may—one day, maybe I will be like that, but probably not. The hilarious part of all this is that all of it was in my head; to them, I was just a new guy reading a story. That is it. I think too much.

The next week I shared a darker piece, another, in my opinion, well written piece, but one full of grotesque language, horrific scenes, and themes of rape and abuse. Which brings me to another concern: Have I really, truly, decided if I am a Christian author or not?

I want to say yes. I want to yell from the mountaintops, “I write for God;” I want stand loud and proud. I want to tug the hearts of the faithful, and share God’s truth with the curious. I want to entertain and nourish, teach and entreat my readers. Except, can I be a religious author and tell the truth? As an artist, the most important thing to write is the truth. That truth, for me, is that life isn’t sanitized; in fact, life is often a horror story; if you live long enough, you begin to see this complexity and all its colors—philosophically, the one truth about life is: it is not black and white.

This question, right now, sings by the hour in my head: Can I write as a Christian and not hold back? Am I allowed the freedom to share life as it is—full of sex, lies, triumphs, excuses, noble ambitions, petty revenges, destructions, hypocrisies, coveting, etcetera? If I was to write a Christian novel, I would have to write, like all writers do, a human canvas navigating and experiencing life as it is lived; I would have to write the truth. Think Victor Hugo and Les Miserable! At least, this is what I want to do.

Thank you for reading this piece. I would love to hear your thoughts. In fact, it would be a comfort for me talk these things out with you. Please share your thoughts, and share this post with others. It is no easy thing to be so honest, so naked online, but I do it because I believe writing the truth is the highest virtue in the art of writing. Help me grow my blog by sharing my posts with others and subscribing. God bless.—W. Alexander

More From Me

The Miraculous Rise of Phillis Wheatley

Wheatley achieved the miraculous, the impossible, the unthought of: she a black-African-born-woman did not peel at the edges of prejudice, she slashed it, and all were forced to recognize her gift and confront their misplaced assumptions on the place of women and slavery.  

Book Review: The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James

“Throughout these pages, the reader finds the brushwork of the master, and like all great artists, James can not only paint a story by the prowess of his craft, but, simultaneously, he hangs a mirror of enigmas and human complexity. Every reader can relate to the figurative handcuff’s persons’ finds themselves confined to.” —W. Alexander

Writing Against The Odds: Ignore The Noise

Have you ever heard it said I would love to write a book, if only I had the time? I hate to hear those words. They imply that writing is easy; some people think they can just sit down, one-day, and produce a story. I want to reply: I would love to be an astronaut or a theoretical physicist, if only I had the time. It is irrational to think writing is not serious, hard work. Some people think art is a childish past-time. However, we know writing is a craft, and the technique requires mastering, and sometimes that takes decades.

These people think since money buys everything, therefore it means everything, and dreams come, unfortunately, second. They understand little in regards to what a person is called to do. Unfortunately, haters are here to stay in our lives, so we will always be surrounded by people who grade another’s worth in numbers. Below are some examples of what you have, no-doubt, personally heard:

  • Do you know how difficult it is to get published? This is often the first frustration they reveal, as if you had not considered the odds. True, for some it is hard (depending on your goals), and recognition would be nice, if only to shut-you-up, but money is not the goal. Money and recognition are nice to have, but creatives would rather live without those things than work for them. See as an example, the entire life of James Joyce.
  • It is a fine dream, but take care of your life first, so that way, when you do not need to work anymore, you can go for it. Again, money is never the goal. These people always think in terms of money (that famous glass castle). I find it ironic when religious people give this opinion. Jesus teaches that nothing robs a person more of who they are—and their salvation—than the cares of this world. They are literally asking you to say to God, whether they realize it or not, I know you made me for this, but you were wrong about the timing. Trust me, God is on the side of those whom obey his call, and not with those who heed worldly-wisdom (common sense). Heaven’s wisdom never has and never will make sense to the ways of the world.
  • It does not pay well. Blah, again, it is always about money. No writer writes for money; no painter paints to be rich. Personally, I give away the wealth I already have. If I made a million from a book, I would not keep more than a couple years of expenses (if I needed them). Nothing frightens me more than arriving into old age with wealth and security, because I fulfilled someone else’s dream. The biggest lie America, ever told is that God wants you healthy and wealthy. No! God wants you humble, obedient, and kind to one another.
  • It sends the wrong message to your kids. What a foolish and hypocritical thing to say. Artists are not burn-outs: they have mortgages, they have families, they have financial goals too, but they, as best they can, resist this horrid ultra-capitalist attention-economy. I want my kids to be themselves, and not what the world tells them they should be. I want them to make smart decisions, but not decisions to fit-in. They will be a great disappointment to me if they sacrifice spiritual and personal goals for financial and professional reasons. I would be ashamed!
  • Most people fail doing this. One, these people don’t actually know very many artists or they would realize that failure, as they regard it, is a subjective construct. I see failure as never writing, regardless of recognition. Some writers would say the opposite: to be published makes it real for them. Others, like Emily Dickinson, refused to be published until after her death (she thought fame might rupture her creativity). You are a writer now, and not, only, after someone reads your work.

These are only a few of the experiences we have all had, but every artist has their own unique resistance to work against. One thing God has been working with me on, is judge not, lest you be judged accordingly. Until recently, I never conceived this as being karma, but it is true: what you put out, you get back: if I criticize others, I invite criticism into my life; if I judge other’s life-style, they will judge me by mine. As an LGBTQ+ Christian (we won’t get into that), I have quite a bit of conflict in my heart. I should keep my mind off of others and onto God.

I have an unhealthy inner dialogue with my haters; they live in my head rent-free. Every new idea seems, internally, to have-its-say against them (family). I confess to being human: I want justification, I want to be believed in, I want support, I want respect, but it is not going to happen. It takes courage to be who you are, when you have to go it alone. You cannot please everyone, so focus on your inner-circle of support. At some point, we all need to give up on wanting to please everyone. This is my prayer:

Lord, I worry about how others think of me, how they see me, and how they unapprove of my efforts. Lord, you know I spent years, a decade, trying it their way, giving all of myself to corporate work-culture, collecting accolades from work-achievements, saving more money than I need, concerning myself with the cares of this world, worrying over my future, planning everything down to the last detail. I did not know, when I could no longer be who everyone else wanted me to be that I would feel so rejected. I believed their love ran deeper than it did. I did everything right for years, exactly as it was suppose to be, and where did it get me? It got me one year ago, last week, in the ER, wanting to take my own life. I can’t go back to pretending to be someone I am not, and they can’t support me on this journey. Jesus, I trust you, and I give all of myself up to you. You are my only true friend. You have blessed me with the ability and opportunity to go after what you created me for, and I will not say no this time; I will write for you. You are worth all the hurt; you are the object of my complete devotion. Thank you for my wife, whom is my greatest, next to you, support and best friend. Reveal to me how I can be, everyday, the man she prays for. Thank you for my children. Reveal to me, Lord, how I am to raise them to seek you above all else. Thank you for my doubters. Reveal to me Lord, how I can glorify you with the work you have called me to do. Lord, thank you for creating me. Lord, thank you for pushing me forward, when I want to give up.

-Amen

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk. Keep writing friends!

Other Personal Posts:

Book Review: My Utmost for His Highest

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I read this devotional differently, because it was an assigned reading for class. Meaning, I read the year-long devotional in four weeks. My Utmost for His Highest is heart penetrating with surgical precision. There is no fluff; no prosperity gospel. Read this and you will be told the unsanitized and all challenging truth. If you are serious about serving Christ, and not yourself (your own desires for your life), then you will find this devotional life changing.

If you do not like the intellectual, academic approach, or perhaps prefer to be told how important you are, verses how loved, then this book is not for you. This is for the Christian whom is serious about their faith, and their relationship with Christ. I promise you will be challenged, and happier for it.

May God Bless and sustain whosoever reads my review.

Jesus did not die for our problems. He hates our sin to such an extent, He had no choice but Calvary. He died for you to have access to the Father. That is how much He loves you. God is not a therapist; He is salvation.W. Alexander



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A Season of Faith

I reached a milestone this week. I finished reading the entire Bible. I am proud of myself; this was no easy feat. I finally can say I have read the whole Bible, every word. I do not know whom in real life, I would actually say it to. But I can say it, and that is something. You might say, that is good for you, but how is this related to your writing blog? My answer, God is my inspiration for writing. I just did not know that for a long time.

This post is not meant to be self-gratifying or boastful. My purpose is to show you how transformative reading the Bible is.

If you have read my work, you know I teeter on the edge of existentialism. This life is a mess, and God gives me a firm foundation in a collapsing world. He gives me a reason for hope. As an artist and scholar, I have long looked for my voice. I think I found it now; Or at least I am close. I do know one thing for certain, my writing is meant for ministry. Whether that is apologetics, fiction, or creative nonfiction, I do not know, but I know I am called to both cloth and pen.

“I Am Second”

W. Alexander

I study creative writing at Liberty University, under New York Times Best selling author Karen Kingsbury. Both play a major role in influencing me. But for once, I do not mind being influenced. When I write about God or themes of God, my heart feels unleashed. I feel nothing, but peace, love, and fire. There is more to my writing than mere words. A higher message is being conveyed. One of hope, in a world that suffers generation-to-generation.

With that being said, I confess I am no pedantic observer of every scriptural truth. I am after all, human. God and I disagree on quite a bit. I lean progressive in scholarship; think C.S. Lewis. But I do submit to God’s design for life, not mine. I do not understand why some things are sin and others are not; etcetera. But my feelings on the subject are not part of the equation. I am second. This is where I find peace. Submission brings inner peace. That is the lesson I learned from reading the entire Bible.

Now, I am curious to learn what inspires you? What makes your heart race when you write? Whom is the reader you imagine reading your manuscript? I cannot wait to read your answers.

Below is my Goodreads review for the devotional Bible I finished a couple days ago.

Wow! I did it. I read the entire Bible, beginning to end. Peterson’s edition is designed to only take one year; it took me three. Life gets busy. I have school, a toddler, work, other books to read, etcetera. But I am proud to say, finally, I have read the entire Bible; every single word. I spent my mornings with the Bible in one hand and coffee in the other.

You should understand that The Message translation is not an authoritative translation. And Peterson’s, The Message Remix is to be read as a devotional. Serious scholarship will be done elsewhere. But you are not reading this Bible for serious scholarship; you are reading it to spend time with God. To have a daily conversation with your creator, I highly recommend this Bible. It took me years, but I am glad I finished it.
W. Alexander’s Review

A Nod To Derry’s Son

Derry, New Hampshire was the longtime home of Robert Frost. This poem is in dedication to my favorite poetry book: North of Boston, and his poem October.

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