By Lane Noble
Okay, so the title of this post may be a bit misleading, because technically this isn’t my new mission as a writer. Rather, this is a conscious modification of an old mission that I’ve had for years.
I enjoy writing non-fiction on my blog, but I also love writing fiction. It’s rather unfortunate that I haven’t done it much over the past few years, but lately, as I’ve come to have more time on my hands, I’ve started to write fiction more.
One thing, however, that I’ve come to think about more often are the kinds of stories that I write. Over the years, I’ve mostly been prone to writing science fiction and fantasy. I think that I also have more of an affection for apocalyptic thrillers than the average writer. (You can imagine how much writing inspiration for those types of stories during the year 2020.) I still trend toward these types of stories. Now, I do also love writing realistic stories as well. I have one in particular in mind that is probably going to take quite awhile to write just because of how intertwined with the evens of the past ten or so years it is.
Lately, however, I’ve been listening to an author and podcaster that I very much admire. I admire him because he, along with myself, just so happens to be a fan of the philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas. Matt Fradd, who actually has a podcast called Pints with Aquinas1, is a very intelligent and inspiring man. Despite the fact that I’m what demographers would refer to as an Evangelical Protestant (I don’t prefer that term) and he is a Roman Catholic, I have learned quite a bit from him. One theme that I have picked up from his podcast that he loves to emphasize is the concept of human dignity. Of course, as a Christian viewing things from a biblical worldview, I most definitely have to emphasize that concept as well. We are all created in the image of God and therefore we have inherent dignity. (Genesis 1:27)
Yet, we live in a society that doesn’t want to acknowledge the Lordship of our Creator and therefore wants nothing to do with being the image bearer of God. They would rather be their own image bearers. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, when this attitude carries over into the views of other people. There is no more obvious place to see this attitude shift then in contemporary art and literature.
Matt often suggests practical ways that we can grow in the virtue of seeing the dignity of others and treating them as such. One such way is by being more selective of the things that we watch, listen to, and read.
You don’t have to go very far on the internet to see anything that contradicts the idea of human dignity. Most channels on television also contradict this view. They subtly, and possibly without even knowing it, communicate messages that influence us to think of human beings as anything but dignified. Human beings are stupid and not worth caring for. Human beings are savage animals with more sophisticated brains. Human beings are sex objects here for our sexual gratification. The list of messaging goes on and on.
As a Christian, I can’t stand for any of that. I know on the basis of God that humans aren’t mere animals with more sophisticated brains. I know that while humans are inherently sinful and therefore often unwise, that does not mean that they aren’t worth caring for, and you don’t even need to be a Christian to recognize the disgusting idea that humans are sex objects. Yet, these messages, through entertainment, literature, the internet, etc. are being thrown at us constantly and, whether we realize it or not, are constantly influencing our thinking.
For example, you may not really believe that humans are mere sex objects, but are you possibly objectifying people that you’re sexually attracted to in your mind? By definition, that is seeing someone as a sex object. What about the idea that humans are stupid and aren’t worth caring for? How often do you turn a blind eye to suffering or injustice because somebody you were too consumed with your own desires and needs? These messages are everywhere, and we need to be cautious of them.
This is why I am committing myself to write stories that dignity humanity. No matter what I write, I want to write stories that don’t contradict the fact that we are made in the image of God and therefore have inherent dignity. Instead of objects of lust, the characters in my stories will be portrayed as people who should be loved. Instead of portraying humans as unworthy of being cared for, I will portray them as image bearers that God loves and, in light of reality, will care for them. Instead of portraying humans as animals that are controlled by their instincts, I will portray us as moral beings who should know the difference right and wrong and can choose virtue over vice, even if the character in question doesn’t do so. I want to write a story that is truly beautiful, and one that is healing and enlightening to the soul. Not one that seers the conscience and abates humanity in the eyes of the reader.
This is something that I can do with just about any story, and I challenge every writer reading this to make the same commitment. Will I be perfect at this? Of course not. I do, however, want people to see my writing as life-giving, not life-sucking.
At the end of the day, no matter what our vocation is, we need to be able to look people in the eyes and value them as human beings, even if they don’t value themselves. This is a command to Christians, not a suggestion. With that said, to God be the glory for having mercy on us and allowing us to see each other in this dignified light.
- Fradd, Matt Pints with Aquinas Matt Fradd pintswithaquinas.com https://pintswithaquinas.com/episodes/