Christianity and Culture: One Woman’s Worldview

As an ardent citizen of the United States of America I enjoy politics and debate, but the current climate is so very noxious that no true discourse seems possible.  We’re all at our keyboards in our little offices, caves, couches, and rumpus rooms tweeting, FaceBooking, and commenting, and it’s all filled with…Hate.  The four-letter word that poisons our happiness, destroys relationships, and ultimately builds a thick wall between us and anything good, not to mention between us and God.

If you’ve read my About page you know that I am a Bible-reading, hymn-singing, Jesus-loving, evangelical Christian, and either you’re cool with that or you’re about to run screaming for the hills. Don’t run. I don’t bite. Really.  I’m not going to shout scripture at your or hit you with my Bible.  I believe firmly in being in the world, but not of it.  The world can do its thing.  I believe the Church (being the true people of God) should stand apart, a contrast, a place of refuge from the world, not forcing it’s way into culture and setting up shop.

I don’t care whether the dominant culture of the place where I live reflects my faith or not. People worry about the de-Christianification of the country.  They worry that our Judeo-Christian foundations are crumbling, our Christian-ish roof is aflame. I say let it burn.  That’s right.  Let it burn.  It’s fake; an artifice; a facade.  I’m calling BS on all of it.  If you find this shocking then I suggest reading this: Spurgeon on Christians who Rail Against the Times.  Worth the read, and does a better job of explaining this view than I probably just did.

There’s ‘Christian culture’, and then there’s the actual ‘Christian faith’.  They are not the same.  There are thousands and possibly even millions of incomplete Christians in this world.  These are folks who buy into the culture, but reject the actual faith.  That’s why I welcome the end of the culture.  It’s the cheerful little light on the path at night leading off to our destruction and away from the true light, who gives light to everyone.

You may be wondering, why on earth is she on a tear about Christianity and culture?  Well, my next book,  BITTERSWEET, is firmly Christian fiction, and I wanted to share a bit more about my worldview so nobody freaks out when they read it.  Everyone (seriously, everyone) has on a set of glasses through which they see the world.   My faith shapes every aspect of my life and how I view the world.  Contrary to what you might assume, I’m not a traditional conservative.  I’m what I like to think of as  ‘Teddy Roosevelt Progressive’ – I’m for a small, efficient government that does it’s job in ensuring national security, keeps corporations from pillaging, provides a social safety net, and stays out of any other social issues whenever possible.  I’m a firm believer in the separation of church and state.  Again – in the world, but not of it.  I’m not sure Christians have a place in politics at all. A voice, yes, but should we hold public office?  I’m really not sure.

One of my concerns about publishing in the Christian market is that I don’t tick a lot of the boxes on the ‘Traditional Christian Wife and Mother’ checklist.  For starters, all of the above.  A member of our church once said to my husband, Steve, “Christa’s really… political.”  I think he meant ‘opinionated’.  I’m cool with that.  For another,  I work full-time and I’m the primary breadwinner.  I don’t do all the school stuff – Steve does (and he’s so much better at it).  He arranges the playdates, he handles the sports stuff, he drives them to scouts, YMCA outings, sledding and the rest.  And that’s by design, not by accident.  A few years ago he took his ambitions and shelved them, choosing a rather humble, part-time job that allowed him to be Super Dad so that I could fully pursue an opportunity that sort of landed in my lap.  Even now that I’m working on a second career as an author, he’s making sacrifices yet again so I can give it a real shot.  This is definitely counter to the traditional model, and we’ve both had to deal with how that has made it harder to participate in a Christian community that is often geared towards traditional households.

At times those within the Christian Church can be fearful of strong women.  This annoys me because the experiences I have had in my life – the ones that have given me a softer heart, made me a better mom, a better wife – have also made me strong.  I can’t undo any of it.  My husband and I have said all along that if we felt God leading us to make changes to our household, we’d do it.  That leading has never come.  In fact, we’ve felt the Refiner’s fire over the years but never a nudge in a different direction.  At times I’d love to quit my day job because for various factors – it’s more difficult than it was a few years ago – but I still feel that thrill sitting down (or sometimes standing – I’ve got a convertible desk.  They rock.) at my desk and facing a day of what looks like impossible challenges and thinking, ‘bring it’.  When that thrill is gone, it’ll be time to go.

What I try to avoid in my writing and in my life is the trap of thinking that my faith makes me a better person than anyone else.  I am a sinner, and it is by grace that I am justified.  Sanctification is a work in progress, and my sin is no better or worse than the sin of any human on this planet.  All have sinned, all have fallen short, and God does not measure our sins.  White liars are no different from liars.  Sin is sin.  I’d love to digress here into a few hot topics, but I’ll leave that for another post.

It is truly important for those of us who are possessed of an opinion and the platform to express it that we do so carefully and as honestly as possible.  I strive to do that with absolutely everything I write.

So, there you go.  Not my statement of faith, but my statement of worldview.  I’d welcome any comments or opinions you have.  I love hearing from you.

Essex Salt Marsh Panorama

The beautiful place I live in…

GoodMorningGloucester

Essex Salt Marsh ©Kim Smith 2015Still frozen, the Essex Salt Marsh panorama was taken yesterday.

Click to see full size.

As we were talking about salt marshes on a recent podcast, the following is information provided by the Massachusetts Bays Program:

The Essex Salt Marsh is part of the 17,000 acre Great Marsh that extends from Cape Ann into New Hampshire. Salt marshes are found in coastal areas. These unique ecosystems are formed within protective estuaries and support numerous plants and animals. Salt marshes are among the most productive lands on earth, outcompeting even the best-managed farms. Two-thirds of all marine fish and shellfish depend on salt marshes during some portion of their lives.

Salt marshes are divided into two general vegetation zones. The Low Marsh is flooded twice daily by the incoming tide and is dominated by Spartina alternifolia (low salt marsh grass). The High Marsh is flooded sporadically and is dominated by Spartina patens (high salt marsh…

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Here Be Dragons: Twitter’s Stormy Seas

Hands down the most helpful information I have sourced on publishing and even creative writing itself has been through Twitter.   I opened an account years ago just to check it out and then ignored it for a good five years because my life got really complicated.  In a six month stretch I had a baby, my husband was laid-off from his job, my career took off in an unexpected way so I was a bit distracted for a few years.  When I decided to take writing seriously again I found my way to Twitter through a random blog I was ready and BAM!  The info dump began.

If you’ve read some of my other posts you’ll know that it was through a Twitter pitch contest, PitchWars that I realized my finished manuscript needed some serious work and that I was not prepared to publish.  I began to follow editors, agents, and fellow authors on Twitter and the information kept flowing. I did an online workshop From Pitch to Published and finally learned what my MS needed and it was through yet another pitch contest that I realized my MS did not have what it takes to attract an agent and eventually trunked it to concentrate on new work I was far more excited about.

My engagement on Twitter has helped to demystify the process of querying and has given me a far better understanding of the publishing industry.  So, Yay Twitter!  Right?  Yes, with a few caveats.

1. Just like anywhere on this planet, there are people on Twitter looking to make money off you by offering you products and services you do not need.  If you’re a writer you really need to pay attention since there are a wealth of really great offerings and among them, some iffy ones. Research is your friend here.  I found a great workshop on Twitter, but there’s others out there that are squiffy. Make like Sherlock.

Sherlock
That’s Jeremy Brett, Baby. Cumberbatch wishes he was this awesome

 

2. Twitstorms:  Holy Toledo is Twitter filled with some rage.  It’s the ‘car effect’ – you know when you’re in your car and someone cuts you off and you let loose a stream of curses against them, their house, their dog because the physical isolation let’s you forget their humanity?  Twitter (and elsewhere online) allows you to have a degree of anonymity and just enough distance from your target to bring out the worst in you.  There is a person on the other end of that post or that comment.  Do not engage unless you can remember that.  Your shouty rants can be seen, screen captured, and live for eternity.  They can also end your career.  The thing about Twitstorms?  They get out of hand quickly so protect yourself.  When someone gets all up in your face, walk away.  Do not engage.  Seriously.  And if someone needs it – block them!  I actually had to do this just once when a gentleman did not care for my reply on someone else’s Tweet. He was rather…unpleasant so I blocked him.

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See that cow. Don’t be that cow.

 

3. Scam/spam/phishing:  Use the same common sense you use elsewhere online.  Never give out personal info, guard your passwords, don’t click on links from unknown sources.  Really.  That is baaaad news.

mad eye
Mad Eye was right.

4. Friends and Followers:  First of all, follow you you find interesting, follow fellow authors, follow editors and agents and publishers you’d like to work with and do not freak out if you have too few followers.  Unless you write non-fiction a potential agent doesn’t care how many followers you have on Twitter.  Use it as a tool, a source of entertainment, and when you have a readership as a way to connect with them.  That being said, there are programs out there that help you manage your followers if you’d like to obsess about that. I like Friend Or Follow.  It’s free and if you want to see who unfollowed you it’s an easy way to do that.   As a general rule when someone follows you, check out their profile and if they seem to be someone you might like hearing the thoughts of, follow them back.  If not, you can ignore them entirely or tweet to them to say thanks for the follow.     If you find someone you follow interesting 90% of the time then they start live Tweeting episodes of the Bachelor or something equally heinous – you do not need to unfollow.  You can Mute them instead.  Then unmute them when you think the coast is clear.

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5. Politics:  I like politics. I love to debate.  I am also pretty dang opinionated and I can get downright fiery.  But, even I am astonished by Twitter’s ability to get uppity about polarizing topics.   Twitter is both reactionary and self-righteous in it’s anger and no subject is too petty.  Doesn’t matter what side of the issue you are on, there’s bound to be some shouting.  People assume the absolute worst about every comment made, every person speaking.  The hate that is then spewed at that person for making that comment is then extreme.   Tread lightly, friend.  I’m not saying keep your opinions to yourself. I would have an aneurysm if I tried, but go with care knowing that the Twitterverse is ready to misinterpret, misunderstand, and take offence.   As Facebook is often conservative in it’s overall tone, Twitter is often progressive, but both are shrill and often one-dimensional.   Facebook can be an ech0-chamber if your friend group is not diverse and that’s where Twitter differs.  Sure you can follow like-minded folks only, but your tweet can be see by anyone so you’ll get comments from anyone – no privacy settings to save you.  I’ve waded into these choppy waters cautiously because I feel strongly about having constructive conversations with fellow citizens I don’t agree with.  I encourage you to do the same, but again – cautiously.

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All that being said, if you’re an author looking for representation or just looking to better understand the industry – get on Twitter!  Go now!  And upload a picture when you get there – don’t be an egghead.  🙂

Sound off in the comments:  Who do you follow and why?  Have you been caught up in a Twitstorm?  What’s your best advice for a newbie?