Controversy

Congratulations to Joy Muldoon! She is the winner of the C.S. Lewis on Love book! Merry Christmas!

Seven years ago, I wrote a play and submitted it to publisher. My rejection letter said that it was “too controversial”.

Best rejection letter ever.

But, really, the controversy was that my characters blended Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations.

My writing colleague, Brandon Clements, wears that title. And he earned it. Big time.

Brandon wrote a novel called Every Bush Is Burning. Here’s the blurb about it…

“A gritty, emotionally gripping story about forgiveness, family, and the sometimes tragically painful sins of the church. 

Jack Bennett has a wife, two kids, the perfect job–and the perfect affair. When he is caught and it all comes crashing down, Jack is left with no one to turn to. No friends. No family, except his recovering drug addict of a sister.

On a Sunday morning drive, he sees a homeless man locked out of a church service, banging on the door. He stops and offers the guy a cup of coffee. He asks the man his name, and the guy says Yeshua. As in, Jesus.

Jack’s not stupid. This isn’t the real Jesus. But with nowhere else to turn, Jack forms an unlikely friendship with this eccentric homeless man–one that will test his idea of truth, faith, love, and forgiveness.”

Now, Brandon’s book is not CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) friendly. It contains language that couldn’t share a shelf with an Amish love story. The idea of Yeshua reacting violently to a Westboro-like character, although awesome, might make some readers cringe a little. Adultery, drug use, alcohol drinking, etc.

But none of it is glorified. Instead, what is glorified, is the truth throughout. Truth about God’s care for us. His presence in our despair and loneliness. His redemption. And, quite honestly, God shines in this book as a beautiful contrast to the dingier aspects. And, I’d bet $10 that it was at least a little bit of Brandon’s plan.

This book isn’t for people who are offended easily. But it is for people who want to see a little bit about how the world sees Christianity, Jesus, suffering. Brandon did a great job.

Brandon wrote in a conversational, journal entry style that I rather enjoyed. At one point, I put the book down and clapped my hands before I continued to read. Yes. Jeff looked at me like I was a crazy person. But it was worth it! I laughed several times. Cried a little. Stayed up way too late reading. And, really, I was edified by this book.

If you’re interested in reading it, you can get it as a paperback or digital download. Check out Amazon (it’s a .99 download for the Kindle).

And now for today’s give-away. I was thinking about giving away my paperback copy of this novel…but I want to read it again. Instead, I’d like to give away a copy of my play “Merry Chrismukkah” (the controversial play that was published in 2007). It’s full of Christmas sillies. To enter, please leave a comment answering the following question (because I’m curious)…

What do you think about controversial literature? Can it make a point? What if it isn’t gratuitous (like Brandon’s book)? 

I’ll announce the winner on Friday!

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8 thoughts on “Controversy

  1. Every book, play, poem, anything written is controversial in someway to someone. The way it should be. Make people think. Make people feel. Your play was deemed too controversial by one person (or group), why? Many, many things are published every year I would consider much more controversial than people coming together to celebrate. Putting aside differences. Loving each other.

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  2. I’m glad you feel that way, Adrienne. I think that there is a place for reading which entertains, however, we need to allow for literature that challenges us. And if the two styles can blend, so much the better!

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  3. Of course it can, think about it the letters Paul wrote were controversial at the time, Revolation was controversial when John wrote it. yet years later we are studying these books/letters. If a book is not controversial there is a reason. Some one some where was upset by something in it. My mom thought The shack was controversial because it challenged her. I thought Velvet Elvis was because it challenged me it made me think. Isnt something controversial what we all really want. Dont we want to think dont we want to be challenged. Thats why I read thats why I write because if I want to turn my brain off I watch a movie.

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  4. To me, it comes down to intent. What was the intent of the author? And who is the intended audience? If the intent is to bring notoriety to the author by shocking the audience through the use of inappropriate language or controversial situations, it offends me. If it contains inappropriate language or controversial situations but does not include some indication that its intended audience is other than the general public, it offends me. There is very little effort involved in saying, “This work intended for Mature Audiences Only”.

    Even so, the question always arises as to the author’s skill in communicating the peculiar idea around which the story revolves. If the author can find no other way to express an idea than to utilize gutter language and lurid scenes of debauchery – using the excuse that it is more ‘realistic’ that way – my conclusion is that he/she lacks the talent or ability to point out the sin without making the reader feel as thought they had participated in it personally. If the author introduces controversial topics solely for the purpose of scoring points against some imaginary reader who is on the other side of the issue, my conclusion is that he/she is mean-spirited and competitive, seeing the issue as a contest which must be won rather than a theological concern which needs to be discussed.

    There are readers who like to be challenged, just as there are patrons of the Theater Arts who enjoy cutting-edge, controversial works. But there are also those who read for comfort, for enjoyment, for reassurance; and there are those who like to see the same old classic American plays over and over again. It is best to provide such warnings as might be appropriate and let the patron decide the level of challenge they are willing to endure.

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    1. I agree. Gutter language for the sake of shocking is unimaginative. I know that wasn’t Brandon’s intention at all. And, in fact, the naughty language he used was mild, really (but it would still make an Amish novel cover girl blush). But, how he used it was really as a contrast to the bits where he brought Gospel truth in…it really glowed. 🙂

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