SOF: The Novelist as God

I listened to this week’s Speaking of Faith podcast twice because the idea of authors creating a new perspective of God and faith through novels struck my fancy. I’d never considered how literature influences spirituality — how a novelist’s relationship with faith shines through in his/her work — whether the subject is a bodice ripper or chick lit. In sum, a person’s faith is always reflected in his/her daily actions.

This got me thinking.

The author interviewed for the piece, MaryDoria Russell, wrote “Children of God” and “The Sparrow.”  She describes herself as an agnostic Jew. She was raised in the Catholic church and later converted to Judaism when pregnant with her first child. Today, she feels like God may or may not be there, but Judaism is the closest answer to a faith that makes sense for her. The title for her second book came from Matthew 10: 27-31:

What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

In other words, Jesus is saying — go out and do good works in my name. You are going to be treated poorly. You’ll need to suck it up. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Russell goes on in the podcast to say that if there is a God, he created man because he loves to tell stories. And that all stories are dependent on where you decide to start. She describes the Bible as a series of stories that are generational and depending on where you want to begin, you see the characters as good or evil, wronged or with justice. As a novice writer and a Christian, I find all of this fascinating. I’ve never considered how vast expanses of time certainly influence the outcome of characters through generations of family, etc.

She also says that if there isn’t a God, man created one because we love to tell stories too. While I don’t doubt God’s presence, the story-telling aspect is so true. I know some Christians and Jews feel the Bible (and Torah) were written by God, using man as a conduit. There are too many human flaws in the Bible for me to believe this — namely the way women are told to be quiet in church and to always submit. I’ve got no problem with being obedient to God but I’ve never been terribly good at keeping my mouth shut or blindly listening to anyone’s direction, especially in church.

Questions for the week:

1. Have you ever read a book (novel) that changed your view of faith?

2. Do you have a favorite faith-driven story? (I am very fond of both Esther and Ruth)

3. Do you think this is all a bunch of crap? I can take it, I promise.