I had a very strange experience today. After church, my pastor asked if I had a few minutes to talk. My husband and I followed him into his office where we chatted pleasantly about our kids for a while. He quickly got to the point.
It seems that someone in the congregation found my website, which I write under a pseudonym, along with my Facebook page, my Twitter profile, my books, etc. This person brought it to the pastor’s attention, and long story short, he asked me to either quit my writing career or he would have to ask me to step down from teaching children’s Sunday school at our church. He had gone into great detail about how he questioned the veracity of my faith and had doubts about my walk with Christ. I was stunned.
And what was so wrong with what I write? There is profanity in it. I don’t write erotica, I don’t write about gay relationships–although there are sometimes homosexual characters in what I write–I don’t even write industry-standard romance. I simply write YA books that portray very real scenarios that teenagers struggle with, using language that my readers might use themselves.
Of course, I’m hurt and bewildered. I told him with no uncertainty that writing is what I do and it’s a career I’ve worked hard to achieve, and I agreed to stop teaching at the church if he felt like my two lives were not compatible. I’m not thrilled that he felt called to question the strength of my beliefs, because being a Christian is one of the more profound ways I identify myself inwardly (I’m more prone to demonstrate my faith through my actions than my words, though).
He actually asked the question during our talk, “How would you feel about me as a pastor if you found I was writing steamy romance novels in my free time?” I answered that as a writer, I know what it means to write fiction and I would have no problem with it. He didn’t seem to understand that.
So how do you write the things that you want to write without raising the eyebrows of those around you? I have to wonder how many teenagers have been sent to the guidance counselor for a chat after one too many dark poems. And how many young writers have been ridiculed or picked on for featuring a gay protagonist in their stories, whether or not they are writers are actually gay? What do we do as writers when our craft interferes with our real lives?
I think this is one of those times that we have to choose our battles. I teach Sunday school because my church needed volunteers…it’s almost a relief that I won’t be teaching first graders anymore! But what if this had actually been the principal of the school where I teach English, and I had been informed that I would lose my job and lose the opportunity to work with the troubled youth I teach? What then? I might have to agree to keep it under wraps if it meant losing my income and losing out on the opportunity to work with children who need me. Like I said, as artists, we have to pick our battles.