My vocation in writing novels is to reflect God’s hope in young adult literature. When I see His creativity in the Bible and know I am endowed with the same creativity, I realize that I can create stories that give meaning and life to my readers, yet my field has become increasingly secular, and most Christian literature is criticized for being too hopeful and optimistic.
In my study of literature at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul, I have observed that Western literature has become more gruesome and depressing after the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries because of historical, societal, and economical events such as the World Wars and the Great Depression. Christian theology has been replaced with secular philosophies such as humanism and Darwinism, and in the previous century, when Americans and Western powers threw off God like a mantle, the Western culture became hollow as authors and laymen denied that God exists.
Christian literature has attempted to remedy this secular idolization, yet much of Christian literature has been given bad criticism for being too optimistic, promising that God’s blessings are guaranteed even though the world suffers a great deal. Despite this criticism, I believe that Christian literature is the answer to remedying our society’s literary depravity, because true Christian writers reveal aspects of God that answer or inspire certain readers who may be lost or who need encouragement.
When I compare my literature to postmodern literature, I see a stark difference: My characters expect hope in their lives. Though they do not always succeed in their goals, they expect the best to happen, knowing that their lives will end in the best way possible for them. Sometimes they appear as John Bunyan’s characters in The Pilgrim’s Progress, quoting Scripture and referencing God, or as C. S. Lewis’ heroes in The Chronicles of Narnia, referring to God not by saying His name, but by becoming allusions to Jesus’ resurrection like Aslan on the Stone Table. Although they do not always reference God, they exhibit how daily Christians cope with daily life, whether in the fantasy settings where animals talk, or in historical settings where Americans in the Revolutionary War would pray to God with Bibles in their hands.
Secular writers, on the other hand, do not portray this kind of hope because they do not house the living God in their spirits. One of the most famous examples is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which shows how America had become morally depraved in the 1920s as a result of the replacement of God with material possessions. I have seen no mention of God in these pieces of literature, aside from daily profanity and the characters’ questioning Christianity as a religion.
The strongest aspect of God that distinguishes Christian from secular literature is hope, but I realize that hope does not automatically mean a happy ending, for by a “happy ending,” I mean the type of ending that guarantees the characters’ desires. Hope is the promise that whatever will happen to the character will be for the character’s best. Sometimes hope does not mean a happy ending, but even if there is sadness, that sadness should not douse the heart, for if hope prevails in the end, the reader shall respond accordingly. Proverbs says that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (13:12). It is hope, not necessarily happiness, that should conclude a story, because hope is the factor that distinguishes Christian literature from secular literature and reminds readers that God is present in the story.