Crucified by the Critics
This January makes two years since I’ve become a part of the author world. Yep. Still a newbie with lots to learn. Fellow authors have been generous with sharing advice on how to maneuver this delicate world. A significant lesson shared numerous times is, “Grow a thick skin.” I thought I had that one down pat long ago. Not because I’m a bit pudgy, mind you. My life has been quite difficult at times, but that’s another blog post…
Another wise snippet of advice that I’ve heard from several authors is to never respond to the critics. Yes, we all have them. I even have a few who believe it to be their jobs to follow me from book to book to remind me of how much they dislike my work. That’s just a part of it, I suppose. Sadly, my harshest and most brutal critics have been fellow Christians. Not all Christians, but some. Their analysis has been biting and judgmental. That’s a part I wasn’t prepared for, and have had to start listing my books as Inspirational just so I won’t rile up the Christian critics.
I’ve kept both of these pieces of advice until this past November. A disgruntled reader sent me a string of emails with the basic message that I should be ashamed to call myself a Christian author. She had recently read my romantic comedy, A Bleu Streak Christmas. Oddly enough, this book has no sex scenes and no profanity, but boy oh boy was she livid with me. From her opinion, I guess pranks and some flirting are not permitted in the Christian world.
Here’s what rubbed her wrong:
In the opening scene, the guys swipe Mave’s clothes and all of the linens from the bathroom while he showers, except for one washcloth. As he opens the door to streak in his birthday suit on his birthday with only the washcloth as coverage, he finds a room full of friends and family shouting “Happy Birthday!”
I used a slang word, dang. I honestly didn’t know that people consider this a curse word. Did you?
Max decides to dance in public as a joke in only his boxers… Confession, I watch Survivor and am used to the contestants walking around the island in their underwear. Maybe I’m desensitized…
My intentions are never to offend someone. I don’t mind taking a word out or toning something down. But one thing I won’t do is change the message. My stories aren’t shared for merely entertainment purposes. Before the first word is typed, the message has been laid out. Along with this, prayer in seeking God’s guidance and scripture references are written out. Only then do I start Chapter One.
Here’s what I did in hopes of correcting the err of my book’s way:
Had the guys tone down the opening prank at bit. They are a rowdy bunch, but graciously agreed to do so.
Told them no more using the dang word and removed it from the book.
I scolded Max and made him put on a pair of shorts.
Below is only part of her email and I’ve omitted her name, because I’m not here to crucify her even though she felt it her rightful place to do so.
There is a point to be made in my ramblings. Be patient.
I just finished reading a Bleu Christmas. I am wondering how it got classified as Christian Fiction? After reading about Mave prancing around in the nude, I was ready to quit reading it. I did want to see how that fit into Christian reading so continued on. Then out of the blue they talked about praying and then then quoted scripture here and there. I was totally disappointed in the whole story. I do a lot of reading and don't know when I was more upset about a book than this one. I certainly wouldn't encourage anyone else to read it. How do you view your book? Can you put scripture and a relationship with Jesus in the same category as some of the scenes in your book? How would you, yourself categorize the book? Would others find Jesus in it? These are questions that you need to answer for yourself.
So, how did I break those two pieces of important advice?
After receiving her email rants, I sat myself down and had an ugly cry. My skin was feeling pretty thin at the time. Talk about feeling like an absolute failure. My first thought was to unpublish the book. I was ready to tell Mrs. T.I. Lowe she was not welcome in my life anymore and show her to the door. I just wanted to be plain ole Tonya Lowe again—the country girl who had no trouble fading into the background of life.
After the tears dried, I prayed. After I prayed, I reached out for some advice from a fellow Christian author. After that, I prayed some more. Only then did I reply to the lady’s email.
I've taken your opinion under consideration and will be spending the morning toning some scenes down. Never was it my intention to offend. I was trying to capture the silliness of the young guys and may have taken it too far. Again, I apologize. I consider this book Inspirational Fiction. Jesus said for us to reach a lost and dying world. Jesus was found with tax collectors and prostitutes and other sinners during his earthly ministry, because those are who needed Him. My hopes and prayers is that someone picks this book to read a humorous holiday story and find that through a recovering drug addict that God can heal them just the same. So many are hurting in this world. It's not my job to judge but to reach. I ask that you pray for me that God leads my words to do just that. He has so far and I've received hundreds of emails from people hurting and thanking me for guiding to or back to God. We serve an amazing God. He loves and forgives even the prodigal sons of this day.
God bless you and thank you again for your time. T.I. Lowe
Needless to say, she’s not emailed me back…
Here’s the point to this post:
Matthew 9:37-38 “Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
The divine gift of becoming a Christian is not so that we can put ourselves up on a pedestal and look down on those not fitting into our closedminded bubble. It is not our place to be harsh judges. And it’s wise to never forget we are mere sinners saved by grace. Your message may not be told through a novel, but be mindful that you have a responsibility to share your message as well. I can promise you this, your message is not to go around tearing down others that are reaching out to this world in God’s name.1 Corinthians 9:22 “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”
If I put my characters on pedestals and made them into mortal perfection, who would I reach? They each are flawed in some way, because I want the readers to be able to relate to them and to also learn from the characters’ mistakes.Mark 16:15-16 “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
I share this now in the New Year with hopes we all focus on what’s important and set aside what’s not. Our views may vary, and that’s okay, as long as we’ve got the significant part in common—Jesus came not to condemn the world but to save it. We all have our part in His plan. Let’s GO!