Oh God, It’s Sunday

“You know, if Sunday morning didn’t fall after Saturday night, I’d have a lot less reason to go to church…” – Me

Do you believe in God? Most of you do. That’s a statistical fact.

Probably.

I went to Catholic schools all the way from grade school through high school and into college – yeah, a catholic college. I was a good boy. Depending on who you asked. The nuns may have had other opinions. So did my classmates. I pushed back on everything. (Me? Can you imagine?)

So I know the rules, but sometimes I wonder. And yeah if I get into a debate with somebody, I have all the answers – don’t worry. (This will tie into my latest new release, The Navigators. Bear with me.)

For me, whenever atheists come around and want believers to define things down to the Nth degree, I just ask questions they can’t answer. There’s no happy man in the sky? Fine. This all came from a lucky lightning strike? What created the lightning? The Big Bang? What created that? I can go all day. My ideas aren’t always what the Catholic Church teaches, but at some point faith takes over and if you don’t believe, you don’t. If you do believe, you don’t have to have facts or proof. Because faith.

But that’s not why I asked the question.

Do you go to church? Do your characters? I don’t go to church much. I don’t think my characters go to church at all – except to make a comedic scene. I have an author friend who goes to church practically every Sunday and I don’t think her characters have gone to church once. I’m not saying anything by that. It’s just an observation. Here’s why.

I’m from Ohio, so we don’t really believe in ramming our faith down somebody’s throat. Sure we have folks who are that way, but that’s not Ohioans in general. Here in Florida there’s a Baptist church on nearly every street corner but folks aren’t super preachy, which is nice. I assume it’s cos they all migrated here from Ohio.

But the lack of church mentions in stories by authors everywhere who go to church themselves – it did make me wonder. (Actually, it made me wonder a few weeks ago when I was driving, and I goofed off a LOT this week and didn’t write a Sunday post, and this was in my phone notes so…)

Church. We go or don’t go, but our characters rarely go.

Hmm.

Well, I seriously doubt I talk much about my characters going to the bathroom, either, but they do. (I did mention it in The Water Castle, come to think of it. And in Poggibonsi they had to explain bidets to the little girl, and she was afraid of the noisy toilets. Maybe that will be a new thing for me! Maybe each new book will have a potty/toilet reference of some sort. Or not.)

Talking about God in a story can seem a little preachy or awkward. I’m dealing with that in The Navigators, a little. The characters have a chance to answer big questions and other stuff, but late in the story Melissa asks about God and says she’s not sure she even believes in God. Missy’s a grad student – right about the time when most new adults abandon church attendance and go pagan for a while, popping in to say Hi to Jesus at Christmas when home visiting the parents. Then they eventually marry, have kids, and need to decide whether to attend church regularly again. Many will. Some won’t. That’s the deal. Maybe churches need better ads (the Mormons have some good ones. Have you seen them? And the NRA, which isn’t a church, but still. Good ads.)

Then there are Christian novels that get all crazy about God every other page. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about realistic characters asking realistic questions to the people they’d realistically ask those questions to – their parents. And in the story, Dad gives a pat answer. Accurate, not demeaning, but not necessarily deep, yet at the same time wholly deep – to him – but not necessarily to his grad school age daughter, who asked.

The fact is that something like 80% of Americans believe in God. But I think much more than 80% of our literature and movies never addresses it. That’s fine. We go for a story not for a sermon. I get it. I’m not even saying to change.

I’m just curious about your thoughts.

19 thoughts on “Oh God, It’s Sunday

  1. In the story I wrote, when Caleb’s mom asks him if he has seen his brother, Caleb replys…I saw his car parked in front of St. Ambrose, Saturday night. (It might get cut from that section, but will get put somewhere else.)
    Also in the first chapter of the next book, when Caleb ask James if he took all the pills on purpose, and James say…no, but if even you don’t believe me I’m screwed. Caleb’s reply is…I believe you becasue you have that whole Catholic Church, sucide is a sin thing shoved in your head some where…

    So yeah. I talk about Religon.
    Lol…I also talk about pissing.(which I bet will stand out in readers memories, more than religion comments.)
    E6

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My characters don’t go to church because the MC is pretending to be brain damaged so no one would bother taking her. Her boyfriend drinks and gambles a lot and her sister sits around attracting men and grooming herself. They do pray when things get really bad and they think each other might be dead or captured, except for the sister. She’s pretty cynical. As for the bathroom references I only have one, OK two, but they have to do with giving directions and in the second instance my MC is helping her boyfriend down the hall because he’s been shot, the wound’s infected and he has a fever. But they’re in a brothel at the time so… never mind. Anyway this post has given me something to think about. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmm. I think it’s probably out because it has the ability to be…polarizing? Probably the same reason you don’t often hear characters talk in depth about who they’re voting for.

    At least not in the books I’ve read. I remember one novel, actually (darned if I can remember the title or author) where the character and the dude she dated talked about some of this….because they were on opposite sides of some issues.

    It was jarring. And the result it had – for me, anyway, was to make us choose sides.

    If you disagree with the main character’s beliefs, she isn’t as likeable to us. We all have reactions to this stuff, and like it or not, we bring our well-worn preconceived prejudices to the table….

    So when a character you’re digging whips out a belief/political opinion that doesn’t align with yours, you knock down those neatly stacked “like” blocks the author previously arranged.

    It’s just a theory, and it’s early on a Sunday I skipped church for a 3rd cup of coffee and the last episode of Season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt….so.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s absolutely that, I think. Party manner so we don’t offend. Then when we want to address the touchy stuff, we write a political thriller or a paranormal, etc, to address religion and politics. That way nobody’s offensive.

      I’ve often thought about blasting loose about a touchy subject and seeing what would happen, but I worry I’ll lose all my followers so I’d put a post out on Monday saying Tuesday’s was a theoretical argument, JUST so everybody wouldn’t go bananas. That’s how touchy some stuff is!

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  4. That disconnect is certainly present for me. I go to church fairly regularly, but my characters don’t and they may never reference God. I had one character who prayed but that’s probably it. I think part of it is readers don’t read for a sermon but mostly it’s including what’s relevant to the story. I’m chewing on a new idea that will have to address it in some way, because the premise involves details that are not part of the Judeo-Christian tradition – namely reincarnation. I imagine the MC lives in a Western culture and will have to grapple with that dissonance.
    I have a very devout friend who asked me once how what I write about aligns with my values (which let’s say are more progressive). I told her the surface stuff about character motivations and plot points, but I also think this stuff, writing faith or not, or writing a faith different from our own, allows us to entertain new ideas without necessarily accepting them, which can lead to deeper conversations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suppose God and religion and church are private things, and as such we – most of us – don’t go around spouting off about them all the time. I had a birthday party for my daughter a few weeks ago and I don’t think church came up at all, except for the fact that she went to a VPK at a church school. So for 99% of the party it was not relevant. For the 1% where she was meeting her old friends from VPK, it was, tangentially.

      I think a murder mystery and suspense story and an adventure story probably don’t lend themselves to discussions of church. But they can. And if what was happening to the characters in our stories was happening to us in real life, it probably would send us to church in our search for answers.

      My first book, Savvy Stories, I thought would be a good candidate for calling a Christian novel. Most people who write in that genre disagreed. But many also agreed. In the end, I didn’t go that way to avoid controversy. But I won’t make that mistake again. My books are whatever I decide they are and the public can react accordingly. My “characters” in Savvy Stories prayed. In Poggibonsi the MC goes to church – and gets worse help than if he hadn’t. In The Water Castle the church is more in the background, although it could have been much more pronounced. In An Angel On Her Shoulder, the church plays a much larger role. But if you had asked me if I discuss church or religion in my work, I’d have said no – except the the spot in The Navigators that’s troubling me.

      Church can be… Controversial.

      Controversy isn’t necessarily a bad thing now and then.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. My characters go to church in my urban fantasy series. There’s a lot of talking *about* the Catholic religion in my books, but not any preaching. (I worked through several editors to make certain of that—though a few people still disagree.) But, the book is about demons, and exorcisms take place…and later in the book Saint Michael actually appears to the main character. (In fact, he appears in several incarnations: as St. Mike, as Samael, as Mars…) So: the religious stuff was a necessary part.

    In my other books of mine: not so much. I think you should include religion if its important to the story or the character. If not, as with all things in writing, leave it out.

    (The polarizing effect is absolutely a problem, I agree. Yet it can happen with other things: Colts vs. Ravens vs. Cowboys, etc. Liberals vs. conservatives. etc.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think with paranormal, religion comes in through the front door and takes a seat sits at the dining room table. That precedent may have been set by The Exorcist – partly to show the futility of religion. Also, in Dan Brown’s stuff, religion is a setting almost as much as a character, but nobody seems to mind. So that’s cool.

      As for the football analogy, well… looks my Buccaneers are gonna suck again this year, so…

      GO BRONCOS!

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  6. Speaking of paranormal, right after I read this post, I picked up the book I’ve been reading (Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw”) and the very next chapter started out with them going to church.

    But then, that was written in 1898, when church attendance was much higher.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I enjoyed this post because it speaks the words some would rather not have spoken, particularly in the UK (or maybe most of western Europe- religion being the fashionable and acceptable prejudice)
    I just finished a sojourn into the febrile world of the Amazon Religion Forum in which actual mature discussions are rare events, and nothing upsets someone more than a statement that you believe in 14 billion year old universe, science and God at the same time; it doesn’t fit the pigeon holes of either side.

    Anyhows, writing fantasy sets a challenge of sorts. Do you create your own religion? I opted for a middle ground. There is God as we would understand. However I’ve focused more of the human fallibilities of religion. Rather than opt for either a sinister monolithic outfit or a shinning brave warriors, I have an empire wide somewhat shambolic organised religion filled with fallible folk and petty agendas. I do have an inquisitorial outfit but they’re not so all powerful, ’cause there aren’t enough of them (in the UK it is a given that government organisations are under-staffed). Religion plays important, minor or convenient roles in characters’ lives, depending on them.
    Anddd I gotta bunch of cool demons and evil guys who are intent of harnessing their powers (yeah! that’s what everyone wanted to hear!!)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey, usually when I post I get a BUNCH of emails telling me where the typos were.

    This time that didn’t happen. Yay! No typos!

    Nope, just no emails telling me where they were. Okay, I found three today. Oops.

    Like

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