This is the first of a series of discussions that I’m planning based on my experiences at RT 2015. These are thoughts that were inspired by specific panels, or by books from RT, or just by random passing things that happened there. I love that events like this help me to think critically about books, blogging and the publishing world in general!
So, today’s topic can be a little touchy. “Faith in Blogging” – just that part of the title, and some of you are probably tempted to hit delete (some people probably already have). Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ll get as many readers for this discussion, but that’s okay with me. Because I still think it’s something that needs to be talked about.
NOTE: Throughout most of this post, I’m going to refer to Christianity (because that happens to be my faith and the faith of the authors that spurred this discussion), but everything I say here could really be applied to ANY set of religious beliefs. The discussion shouldn’t be exclusionary. I’m also going to assume that you’re not specifically a Christian (or other religious) book reviewer – because, well, then I’m assuming sharing your faith is not an issue for you.
What inspired this post, you ask?
Well, at one of the YA panels, a question was posed (that I won’t even talk specifically about because that would get me majorly sidetracked) that prompted Kiera Cass to say that she’s a Christian and that she’s pretty open about being a Christian on her blog and social media (so true; a quick search brought up this fun post on her blog about scrapbooking style Bible journaling). A few authors later, Gena Showalter mentioned that she, too, is a Christian (you can find Gena’s testimony on her website). I could tell that, for both of them, especially in light of the question that was being asked, it was a little bit of a step of faith to just come right out and say, “Hey, I’m a Christian.” And I totally respected them for it.
After the panel, I specifically went up to both Kiera and Gena and shared with them that I was thankful that they put their faith out there. Both of them were super sweet and shared with me a little bit of their experiences. Kiera said that, for the most part, she’s had really great experiences with people of ALL faiths being receptive to her being open about her Christianity. Gena also said that she’s had some really positive interactions as well, but she also mentioned that it was definitely hard at first for her to share her story and that there have been some negative ramifications. Not everyone has positive things to say about an author who speaks out about God. But, Gena said that her faith is such a huge part of who she is that hiding it felt like denying a major part of herself – and she just couldn’t do it anymore. I left the conversation feeling really encouraged and uplifted. And that inspired this post.
What does this have to do with me?
Most of you who read my blog regularly, know that I’m a Christian. I believe in a God who loves me and who takes an active role in my life – I’ve seen direct evidence of that, but I won’t go into my specific story here. It’s not like I’m on here preaching or posting daily devotionals or anything, but my faith sometimes comes up in a Sunday Post when I’m talking about what went on in my week and it occasionally comes up in my reviews. I have to tell you that it was a tiny bit difficult for me to broach the topic of religion on this blog at first. The book blogging/publishing/writing community in general is often a little more liberal than some other communities, and the mere mention of the word religion can make some people cringe. I get it, I do. Actually, I’m a pretty liberal Christian (as you can probably tell from the types of books I read and review), so I sometimes cringe myself at certain things said and done in the name of religion.
But, just like Gena said, my faith is a part of who I AM. I can’t separate myself from it, any more than I can deny being a mom or an American or a woman. These are the things that make me Nicole. And my faith colors how I see the world, including how I respond to the books I read. When I see religion addressed in a book (especially as a side topic), I worry a little, I have to admit. I start to wonder how the Christian characters are going to be portrayed – will they all be judgmental fanatics? Will they be the devout parents who ruin the child’s life? Or will the book show the broad spectrum of Christians who I know in my own life? (I love when I see this!)
My faith also informs how I view issues in books – which is why I LOVE books that make you think about issues without giving pat answers. Unwind by Neal Shusterman is a fantastic example of a book that delves into the issue of the value of life (and even into the issue of abortion in a roundabout way) and truly makes you think and come to your own conclusions. LOVE this!!
Anyway, so I made it sound (in the title of this post) like I was going to be giving some ultimate wisdom about how to mention faith on your blog without making people upset. And, really, the actual answer may be that you can’t. You may HAVE to rock the boat a little bit. In fact, I think sometimes that I might be rocking the boat in a bunch of different directions – the mere mention of Christianity might turn some readers off, while plenty of Christian readers might be turned off by the types of books I read and review. (After all, LGBT is not acceptable reading among some Christians – neither is a lot of the New Adult stuff I read. I’d love to dive in and read more Christian books, but honestly, I’ve found many of the ones I have read to be just a little too cheesy, schmaltzy or preachy for my taste – I’d love recommendations for good ones if anyone has any!)
But here are a few basic guidelines:
- Don’t try to hide who you are. This is my biggest message here. No matter what your beliefs, don’t try to hide them simply out of fear of being misunderstood. If your faith is important to you, treat it that way and feel free to mention it now and again! Remember, this is your blog! (Well, probably – I guess if you’re a co-blogger, you’ll have to discuss this with your partner(s) in crime, but hopefully they’ll be open to you sharing this part of yourself.)
- Sprinkle it in. I wouldn’t recommend blindsiding everyone with a sudden diatribe on faith if you’ve never even mentioned it on your blog before. This is definitely the most I’ve ever discussed faith on my blog, but I’ve been throwing in references to it for the past two years. Hopefully none of you are shocked by the revelation that I’m a Christian!
- It’s all about tone. When you do include issues of faith in a post, pay attention to your tone. Just like with any controversial subject, your attitude makes all the difference. This is especially tough in the written word because inflection and body language are missing. Read, read and reread what you wrote and think about ALL of the ways it could be taken. Does it really say what you want it to say? Trust me, I’ve had plenty of “friendly debates” with people (both Christians and non-Christians) – even about really touchy subjects. It can be done if everyone keeps their cool and stays away from personal attacks. I am a firm believer in the idea that friendly debate is always healthy.
- Know that it might end badly. When it comes down to it, someone might respond negatively to you mentioning your faith. No matter how delicately you try to phrase something, someone might misinterpret you or just plain hate what you have to say. And, in the end, you can only control your side of the conversation. (Though you can, of course, delete comments if they are hostile.) You might lose a follower or two. You have to be okay with that.
- Remember, sharing is caring. (Yep, I totally stole that from the Care Bears.) The same way that we gain perspective about people who are different from ourselves by reading books, we can gain perspective from reading each other’s blogs too! Every time you represent your faith in a positive way, you are helping someone else to understand where people of your religion might be coming from.
Now, after saying all that, I have to say that I haven’t ever received any really negative feedback because of mentioning my faith on my blog. I’ve felt the tension occasionally when it’s come up in “real life,” but I’ve never had a nasty comment or anything – and if anyone’s unfollowed me because I mentioned faith, I didn’t know about it. My lovely followers, I’d like to think, are free-thinking people who are willing to open their minds to my perspective on life, even if it doesn’t match their own. I hope that’s encouraging to anyone out there who’s been nervous about broaching the subject of their faith on their own blog!