I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a program I am involved with, to help inmates of a Florida prison develop their writing skills. I donate copies of my novels, and the prisoners critique them.
As I noted, the reviews can be brutally honest. And it has set me thinking about how we Christians portray other religions in our novels.
My thriller “Military Orders” has a somewhat fantastical plot about a plan by a Christian church to “hijack” the next selection of a Dalai Lama – after the current incumbent dies – and install in his place a secret Christian. Of necessity it includes a lot of information on Tibetan Buddhism, for which I did a considerable amount of research.
I believed – and believe – that it is a resolutely Christian novel, faithful to Scripture and to Christian doctrine.
But one of the inmates, Keith, disagreed –
This book is intended for people who are interested in the Dalai Lama and think that Buddhism is the true religion.
I did not enjoy this book because of the way it portrayed the one and only God and Christians. Like it was God’s plan to protect the Dalai Lama. Are you serious?
And the church was going to bribe a Christian family to give up their child and make believe he was the Dalai Lama. First of all, if a Christian family gives up their child for money, they ain’t really believers. And what did you mean that the child was “christened?”
And here is a three-star Amazon review –
This books comes from a concept that I wouldn’t say is necessarily Christian, but the ending leaves it open to what might happen in a world where a ‘”reborn” Dalai Lama was found as a child. Since I don’t believe in being born again and again, it didn’t hold my interest as much as a book would with more intrigue or twists and turns.
I’ve looked again at what I wrote, and I truly believe the reviewers have it wrong. I think my novel has a strong Christian message. I wasn’t out to knock Buddhism – with which I once had an involvement – but I believe that the book clearly shows Christianity to be the true religion.
I would note that in a previous mystery, “Hot Rock Dreaming,” also with a strong Christian message, one of the main characters was a woman who practised shamanism, and that was a strong theme of the novel. That book was a finalist in the Australian Christian Book of the Year awards.
So it’s win some, lose some. But certainly Christians need to consider carefully how they depict other religions.