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Faith-Filled Fiction

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April 07
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January 2007

From the Editor:

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the latest issue of Faith-Filled Fiction.

This issue is a little late because I've just had a crazy quarter! First our house is up for sale, and the market is bad, so we've been keeping it spotless--no easy feat for a homeschooling family of six--for months without any luck on sales. Then we had a working vacation in Colorado. This was a lot of fun, as my parents live there and we got to see old friends and Liam's godparents, and we also had a very successful booksigning for Infinite Space, Infinite God. The proceeds went to St. Paul the Apostle building fund. Our main reason for going was for Rob to take his squadron commanders' course and for me to take the commanders' spouses' course. (Yep, they have a class for spouses.)


Amid that and finishing my novel and working on the interviews I've gotten for the virtual book tour for Infinite Space Infinite God, which starts in August, I actually found time to read The Grail Conspiracy by Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore. I'd heard great things about it and very much enjoyed the action and the characters. I almost tossed it away, however, because one chapter played right on my pet peeve--the reason, in fact, for ISIG and this site.


Around page 155, the bad guy, Sinclair convinced a devout but ambitious Archbishop Ianucci that God has sent them a sign that they should use the blood from the Holy Grail to clone Jesus--and the Archbishop should raise him to lead the world.  He does so by beginning with "The Bible doesn't really say how Jesus comes back, so what if we consider this…"


Unfortunately, while possibly Biblically convincing, it was not convincing within a Catholic mind-set, at least not to me. The Bible may not explicitly say how Jesus comes back, but the Apostle's Creed says that he will come again from Heaven and in glory. Perhaps if the bad guy had tried to say that "in glory" meant through the church at the archbishop's side, I might have bought it. But the Creed was never mentioned or even considered by the Archbishop; how could he disregard something he repeats every Mass?


Secondly, Sinclair was trying to convince an Archbishop that the Bible verse "the lion shall lie down with the lamb" shows science and religion can co-exist. I had no problem with the argument, but the author presupposed an adversarial relationship between Catholicism and science that needs healing. The Catholic Church has historically been a strong supporter of science, but most people don't know that because history has focused so much on the Galileo controversy. (Incidentally, Copernicus, the first one to promote heliocentric theory, was a monk.) The Church has always taken a conservative approach to science and has asserted that science should not exceed moral bounds; however, the Vatican has its own science academy, observatory, seminars and scientists. They even sponsor papers by non-Catholic scientists.


As you've guessed, I get very snarly when my literary "hot buttons" are pushed. It took me a day to convince myself to chalk up the Archbishop's credulity to the work of Satan and move on. I was glad I did, though. Sholes and Moore did a wonderful job of creating a hero, Father John, that was believable as a priest and a man. I also liked how he hustled the reporter Cotten away from a dangerous situation while she was protesting he give a dead man Last Rites. "Last Rites" (now known as "Anointing of the Sick") are for the sick not the dead; and even then, his first priority was to get Cotten and himself away from the guy shooing at them.


Overall--if you like DaVinci Code, you'll love the Grail Conspiracy. If you didn't like DaVinci Code because of its treatment of Catholics and Catholicism, you'll love Grail Conspiracy even more. Just kind of gloss over pages 150-153 if you're a picky reader like me.


Folks have asked about contributing.  I'm glad to take articles as well as news and have placed submission guidelines on the site--just click on the navbar.
If you have comments, please use the guestbook.
Blessings to you and your writing,

Guest Columnist:



I didn't get a guest columnist this month, but want to share these quotes from writers of various genres and levels of fame about writing faith in their fiction:


My characters live their faith the way I have lived mine or hope to live mine. It is such an integral part of who they are that I don't give a great deal of thought to the faith thread because it is just a natural outflow of my characters.


I think one thing that helps me is that my Bible reading and study time comes before my writing and anything else. Whatever God is teaching me comes out in my novels, one way or another.


Robin Lee  The Forgiving Hour and Return to Me blog:


Q: You've probably answered this question ad fatigue, but... why does religion feature so heavily in your work?

A:  I think because it's something we all, as humans, have in common. EVERYONE, even atheists, have some sort of belief structure. The only thing we absolutely do not know for certain is what happens when we die.  Even the staunchest Christian or Buddhist or Muslim, late at night, when it's just them and their own soul, really doesn't know what happens after we die. It's scary. And since horror writers are in the business of examining human fears, it makes sense.


Brian Keene The Conqueror Worms, The Rising, City of the Dead, and Dead Sea


Speculative fiction is the best selling secular genre . it stands to reason that Christian fans of spec-fic out there, fans who would rather read something that is more in line with their worldview like when 'you' first read Peretti -- lots of Christians said, "Wow!" For the first time they found their favorite genre in a Christian form.


Cynthia MacKinnon, publisher, The Writers Café


Ever since childhood, sitting around campfires at Royal Ranger campouts and such, I have found that a good scary story has more impact than any other type. Sure, a good love story makes you feel happy and a touching memoir creates a connection with a otherwise unknown person's life but a scary story sticks with you. It clings to memory.


As a Christian, I want to write stories that Christians can enjoy, that identify me as a Christian, and that share something, some sort of spiritual truth, or deeper understanding of morality, etc, or some epiphany I've discovered through my life experiences. I chose horror as a venue because I believe it is a great way to share those stories in a medium that will last longer than the average tale.


The second reason, is because I truly believe that of all people in the world, the Christian community SHOULD be the most open to the supernatural stories. After all, the Bible and everything about it is nothing less than the ultimate supernatural story.


That being said, I believe our world in general can be most deeply touched and fascinated by tales of the supernatural. There are so many groups of people searching for some supernatural meaning in their life and in the world around them that this genre can be the best vehicle toward leading folks to the ultimate supernatural truth, Jesus Christ.


Dan Weaver, Light at the Edge of Darkness and Where Nightmares Walk

Writing Tips:

Seven Strategies to Avoid the Seven Deadly Sins of Portraying Faith

by Karina L. Fabian


Last issue, we discussed the "seven deadly sins" of writing religion in fiction. This issue, let's look at seven things you need to know about religion o write about it without falling into the traps of stereotyping, dogmatizing, judging, evangelizing or generalizing:


1. Know the religion: Not just the basics but the particulars of any practices you plan too use. Find sources that are recommended by that church or find sources who not only know the faith but practice it. The comparative religions professor at your local community college, for example, may be a great start, but may not be able to properly advise you on details like someone who actually lives that faith can.


2. Know your purpose: Writing a fictional expose or satire of a faith is different from incorporating religion into the background of the story. Likewise, humor calls for more exaggeration while suspense/thrillers need more realism. Fantasy and sci-fi can project practices, even warp them, but present-time literary stories need to be current and accurate.


3. Know the character: Pick two devout people of any faith and they will practice that faith in different ways. Look at your character's attitude in general and at the time of the scene, their personality (are they contemplative and private or vocal and extroverted?). Consider their history--some people are raised to know the practices of their faith without the underlying reasons for a practice or belief, while others will have a firm understanding of the basics, but not practice the particulars. Consider the situation: a Saudi businessman on vacation in the UK will practice differently than an Iraqi soldier in the heat of the Gulf War.


4. Know the culture: Just because a country tends to follow a particular religion as a whole, even when it's government-sanctioned doesn't mean they practice it in the same way. Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq, while all Muslim states, practice Islam in different ways and to different degrees. Some cultures have different religious ceremonies--for example, a ceremony among Hispanic Catholics is to celebrate the Quinceanera, a girl's 15th birthday. It is a religious ceremony, with Communion and the blessing of her gifts. It's not a practice for all Catholics, however.


5. Know the sect: Sunni and Shiite Muslims are different in some of their beliefs. Zen Buddhists have different practices than other types of Buddhism. Tridentine and Novus Ordo Catholics are both loyal to Rome, but worship a little differently.


6.  Know the Traditions:  In addition to a religion's holy book, there are usually traditions to add to, define, explain or reinforce the holy teachings. Some of these will become doctrine. Again looking to my own faith as an example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church maps out centuries of beliefs, all with Biblical foundations but which are not verbatim expressed in the Bible itself.


7. Know the time you're writing in: Religious practices are not static; details and attitudes change, even when the core values endure. For example, in the 1950s, no woman would be seen in a Catholic church without her head covered; by the 1970s veils were unheard of outside of weddings. Now, veils are making a comeback, especially among young adults and those preferring the Tridentine or Lain Mass.


Next issue: We'll either look at some writing/editing practices to help avoid problems when writing faith or we'll look at seven god sources for faith-in-fiction questions.

Religion Research:

What Do Muslims Believe In?

By Sis Zabrina

As an introduction to Islam, I would be writing a series on the basis of the Muslim’s belief.

The past issue, I have spoken 3 out of 5 of the foundation or pillars of Islam. They are:

·         Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad

·         Establishment of daily prayers

·         Concern for and almsgiving to the needy

Now, I am going to continue with the last two pillars which are as below:

·         Self-purification through fasting

·         The pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.

The fourth pillar – Fasting


Fasting is one of the pillars of Islam. It has been an integral part of all major religions. The Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) fasted for forty days before he was called to prophethood (Matthew 4:2). Similarly Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) fasted for forty days and nights before he was given the Law (Exodus 24:18).


God states in the Qur'an:  "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may learn self-restraint." (Qur'an 2:183)


Although fasting is beneficial to health, it is mainly a method of self-purification and self-restraint for Muslims. By cutting oneself from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person focuses on his or her purpose in life by constantly being aware of the presence of God. 


Fasting in Islam involves abstinence from three primal physical needs of human beings- food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn (approximately one and a half hours before sunrise) to sunset during the entire fasting day.


Muslims can fast on any day in the year except for a few forbidden days. It is well known that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) regularly observed fasting during other days of the year besides Ramadan, and he always exhorted his followers to do the same.


Fasting during the month of Ramadan is when the entire Muslim community all over the world observes fasting that has a special meaning. It transforms fasting into an institution that elevates the human soul to unprecedented heights.


Association of fasting with the month of Ramadan reminds Muslim that it was during this month that Allah perfected His blessing upon mankind by giving us His last book, the Qur'an.


"Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Qur'an as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgement (between right and wrong). So everyone of you who is present (at home) during that month should spend it in fasting." (The Qur'an, 2:185)

Ramadan -a month of obligatory daily fasting in Islam is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar. Daily fasts begin at dawn and end with sunset. Special nightly prayers called, Taraweeh prayers are held. The entire Quran is recited in these prayers in Masjid (Mosques) all around the world.


The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

Whoever fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven. Whoever prays during the nights in Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven. And he who passes Lailat al-Qadr in prayer with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven (Bukhari, Muslim).

Ramadan ends with a day long celebration known as Eidul-Fitr. Eidul-Fitr begins with a special morning prayer in grand Mosques and open grounds of towns and cities of the world. The prayer is attended by men, women and children with their new or best clothes. A special charity, known as Zakatul-Fitr is given out prior to the prayer. The rest of the day is spent in visiting relatives and friends, giving gifts to children and eating.


Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are menstruating, pregnant or nursing, are permitted to break the fast and  make up an equal number of days later in the year if they are healthy and able. Children begin to fast (and to observe prayers) from puberty, although many start earlier.

The How To’s of Fasting

1. Niyyah or Intention of Fast

To observe the fast, the intention of fasting is essential (compulsory). The intention should be made daily, preferably before dawn of each day of fasting (in Ramadan).

The wording of Niyyah may be as follows:

"I intend to observe fast for today."

2. Suhoor or Predawn meal

Suhoor is a light, predawn meal, recommended before actually fasting. It is a blessing and hence recommended but not essential.

Any consumption of food or drink should cease at least five to ten minutes before the onset of dawn.

3. Iftar or Breaking the fast

Iftar is an Arabic term meaning breaking the fast immediately after the sunset. Iftar is a light snack consisting of dates or desserts, along with liquids, such as water, juice or milk.

This is eaten after making the following Dua (supplication) for breaking the fast:

"Oh Allah!  I fasted for your sake and I am breaking my fast from the sustenance You blessed me with, accept it from me."

* Muslims are permitted to break their fast of Ramadan when there is a danger to their health. In this situation a Muslim should make up his/her fast later. 


4. Taraweeh (Special Prayer only in month of Ramadhan)


These are special Sunnah (not compulsory but highly recommended) prayers in the month of Ramadan. They follow the Isha prayers which is the last prayer for the day.  A minimum of eight and a maximum of twenty Rakat (one cycle of standing, to bowing on the floor, to standing again is called one raka'ah) are offered in pairs of two.


5. Lailat al-Qadr (Special night only in the month of Ramadhan)


Amongst the nights of Ramadan, there is one special night of Power (Qadr) which is highlighted in the Quran. 


It has the significance of being better than a thousand months (Quran 97:3). 


This was the night when Quran was revealed to mankind. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) recommended Muslims search for this night of Power (Qadr) in the odd nights of the last ten nights in Ramadan. Muslims spend the night in Ibadah (worship), asking forgiveness of their sins and reciting the Quran.

In the next newsletter, I shall continue with the last pillar of Islam- pilgrimage.


For More Information:


About Sis Zabrina:  Sis Zabrina brands herself as ‘Life Storyteller’ who writes on daily happenings in life. She believes that it is the small things in life which people often overlooked are the ones that make life matters. Her writings are available at her blog, http://wisdomthruwords.blogspot.comand her website


Copyright © Sis Zabrina 2007.  Used with Permission

“Baptism Makes You Greek” and Other Misconceptions about the Orthodox Christian Faith

 by Katherine Hyde


Editor's note: This issue, we cover facts 4-8. 


If you’ve seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, maybe all you know about the Orthodox Church is the scene where Ian gets baptized in a kiddie pool under a huge chandelier and comes out saying, “Now I’m Greek.”


On the other hand, if you’ve read The Brothers Karamazov, you may have some inkling of the spiritual depth and richness of this ancient faith once embraced by half the Christian world.


Which is the true picture? Unfortunately, both. For a lot of historical reasons too complex to go into here, many Orthodox Christians in America seem a little confused as to where their ethnicity leaves off and their religion begins. But the truth of the matter is that the so-called Eastern Orthodox Church is not exclusively “Eastern,” or indeed exclusive at all. It is a church for all Christians, as Western converts are discovering every day.


Let’s get down to some Useful Facts for Writers.


(4) Orthodox churches do not have statues but do have icons—painted representations of Christ, His Mother, and the saints. These icons are “venerated”—shown the kind of honor most Christians would show to the Bible—but they are not “worshiped.” The honor shown to the icon passes over to the person depicted. The artistic style of icons is deliberately stylized, in part to discourage idolatry.


(5) Orthodox Christians regard the Bible with great reverence as the inerrant Word of God. A huge part of the liturgy comes directly from Scripture, especially the Psalms. However, Orthodoxy also recognizes that the Bible is one part—the greatest part—of the complete Holy Tradition of the Church, which has been handed down faithfully through all generations from the original Apostles. This Tradition includes the writings of the early Fathers of the Church, the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, the liturgy, the music, the icons, the lives of the saints, and every other aspect of the Church’s life.


(6) The Virgin Mary is greatly honored as the first and greatest of saints, with a unique role in salvation history and a unique position of intercession before her Son. She is considered the Mother of the Church—but she is never confused with divinity. She is believed to be ever-virgin but not immaculately conceived. Immaculate conception is a baffling idea to Orthodox because they do not believe in original sin: the human race inherited Adam’s tendency to sin, but not his guilt.


(7) The Orthodox concept of redemption is not juridical as it is often seen in the West. Orthodoxy sees Christ’s death as a ransom paid to death itself, not a penalty exacted by an angry Father. By His death and resurrection, Christ destroyed death and showed humanity the way to return to paradise. We share in that death and resurrection through baptism.


(8) The Orthodox Church baptizes by triple immersion, either in infancy or at the time of conversion. Chrismation—anointing with oil for the reception of the Holy Spirit—follows immediately. (Adults who have already been baptized in another Christian church are often received through chrismation alone.) All baptized persons may receive the Eucharist (Holy Communion). There is no “confirmation” at a later age.


Along with the other major sacraments, or “mysteries,” baptism is not seen as merely symbolic but as genuinely conveying the grace of God. In fact, all of life is regarded sacramentally—the grace of God infuses creation and touches our lives at every point where we allow it to. The major, “official” mysteries include baptism, chrismation, the Eucharist, confession, anointing for healing (holy unction), marriage, and ordination. The Eucharist is celebrated every Sunday and feast day in a service known as the Divine Liturgy.

About Katherine Hyde: After a mainline Protestant childhood and misspent agnostic adolescence, Katherine Hyde joined a group of evangelicals who were looking for the true Church. Their search led them to Orthodoxy. Katherine has spent much of the last twenty years editing and writing for Orthodox publications and has recently returned to her lifelong dream of writing fiction. She is currently looking for a publisher for her first novel and is in the generative stages of a second. Katherine lives in the redwood country of California with her husband and the younger two of her four children.


Next issue:  Points 9-12 about the Eastern Orthodox religion.  Missed 1-3? Can't wait or the rest?  View the entire article here.

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