Irreverent v. Offensive

As I get closer to wrapping up the second book in the Sinners and Saints series, I find myself becoming more and more apprehensive about how people of certain faith might respond to some of my less conventional theology. I don’t parade it around as fact, the way Dan Brown might, but I also don’t handle the material with kiddy gloves. In all honesty, I suspect if God exists he has a sense of humor (Exhibit A), and while I don’t go out of my way to offend anyone, I am highly aware as I’m writing that some of the content might be construed as sacrilegious.

According to the dictionary, the word irreverent is synonymous with profane. Other synonyms might include rude and disrespectful. Yet its counterpart, reverent, carries with it the implication of being worshipful, of placing overt emotional or spiritual significance in an object or concept. The difference being this: in my stories, all characters are created equal. They are all imperfect, regardless of cultural relevance or consideration, and all likewise have redeeming qualities. I am interested in unorthodox theology, and many of the things I have considered in my own religious journey are included in the Sinners and Saints series…but not because I believe them, rather because I think there are questions/issues/problems that haven’t been addressed, or even truly acknowledged. I don’t write with a mind to push the envelope, rather to take themes prevalent in the world around me and include them in my work. I don’t see my Lucifer or Big J as anything but characters in a book.

To be offended by something, one must go out of one’s way to make it personal. Thankfully, I haven’t received any “you’re going to Hell!” emails as a result of the first book, but I think that might change as the series progresses. And if people choose to believe that, fine. If faith is so fragile to be threatened by a piece of fiction, what does that say for faith?

There are things I could do to intentionally make the Sinners and Saints series offensive, and those things I won’t touch. There will be none of Exhibit B or Exhibit C or even Exhibit D. Not because I think any of these things are offensive, but there is a degree of pushing things too far, and honestly, the series doesn’t call for that.

I know I’m far from the first author to touch upon theological issues in fiction, romantic fiction, or even erotic romantic fiction. This territory, however, is new to me; as the granddaughter of a Church of Christ minister and an inhabitant of the Bible Belt—not to mention a professed nonbeliever—I have to wonder what will come next, and what might possibly be deemed as too much. In the end, though, everything runs the risk of offending someone, no matter the subject matter.

I suppose the point of this post is this: I am aware that the material is sensitive to many, and while my goal is not to offend, people might become offended because of things they read into the text, not things I write. I can’t help that. I intend to be faithful to myself and true to the characters I’ve established. Beyond that, it’s out of my hands.