So... I've been reluctant to post about this on my own blog, because I know the elders at the non-denominational church of which I am a former member occasionally check in on it and I'm not trying to start a fight. That bit is over and done. They won't eat with me or socialize with me and that's just not going to change. I'm not even trying to get that changed. This blog post is not about what happened. If you'd like to read more about what happened, I've answered that elsewhere (Note: the online discussion started here then here. I forwarded the link from Jason's site to Lindsay over at Urban Fantasy Land, which led to some discussion here and here. And then some folks were nice enough to blog their support here, here, here, here, and here.) But this blog is about the central question that I still have.
Let me back up. I have always had problems knowing exactly where "the line" is. At Briarwood Christian School, when I was in, I don't know, the fourth grade, maybe? We were doing relay races and I remember acting like a little moron and shouting "boo" at the people on the other teams whenever they got near the rest of us to pick up their baton and run back. Call it the juvenile version of trash talking a batter to mess up his swing. It worked famously and Coach yelled over at me, "How would you like it if they did that to you?"
"I wouldn't mind, Coach. I fully expect them to," I answered back. He didn't respond.
The next time I did it, Coach hauled me out of line, got the wooden paddle, and paddled me. "I told you not to do that," he explained afterward.
"No, sir," I argued. "You asked me how I would like it if they did that to me?" He paddled me again.
Don't feel sorry for Fourth Grade Jeremy, folks, I had it coming for plenty of other foolishness if not for that particular instant and I tell the story not in an attempt to garner sympathy, but to explain that I've never been very good at reading a vague warning. Don't muddy the waters with me. Don't speak to me in vagaries expecting me to read between the lines. Odds are, I won't pick up on it. Don't say, "Do you really want to wear that shirt" if you mean "Change your shirt" either, for example.
So having said all of that, one of the comments I've gotten about the whole church business was a reference to Philippians 4:8
The King James version of that verse says: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
I read that verse to mean that we should dwell on positive things rather than negative thoughts, but I fail to see how it disqualifies Urban Fantasy. For example, most Christians agree that the works of C.S. Lewis are good, but bad things happen in them. Good triumphs over Evil, but some very grisly and unpleasant things still occur. The Bible itself contains accounts of incest, rape, murder, slavery, kidnapping, and attempted genocide... so obviously writing stories that contain those things isn't instantly wrong in the context of a Christian writing fiction. There are also accounts of man being confronted by the supernatural both the divine and the infernal. There is magic, used by evil men and... sometimes... very good men meet terrible ends. So, again, writing about such things is not explicitly wrong. And let's not even get into the fact that the Bible doesn't really address novel writing for good OR for ill. Obviously story-telling is okay, because parables are fiction... so no direct: "Thou Must Not Write Vampire Books" there.
The same commenter pointed out that the book has strip clubs in it and was therefore, wrong from the outset... and true, I have a stripper or two in my novel, but the Bible has prostitutes... so again, I don't see a disconnect. And we can't say that it's unacceptable just because I don't accomplish everything I set out to do with Eric in one novel either, because the Bible is a collection of "books" and not all of them ended happily or with the Jews is the best spiritual place possible.
In Staked, and again in ReVamped, and I dare say in any future Void City novels that I write, Good and Evil will mix it up to some degree. And not to put too fine a point on it, or spoiler anyone, but Good *does* triumph over Evil in Staked. *GASP*
Sure the victory may have pyrrhic aspects, to it, but any win that you can walk away from... Well, you get my point.
So my question is this: Where is the line?
Because... though I'm not exactly certain where it is, I don't see where I crossed it.