Whether you believe in God or not, there’s a good chance that you’ll write a Christian character at some point or another. Here are some mistakes to avoid:
Thankfully, this cliche is dying off, but I still see it every so often. This is most common in Christian Fiction, which I find laughably ironic. As many of us know from experience, faith doesn’t exempt you from hardship. Often times, it throws more trouble your way– not less. Following God isn’t easy. It can be a struggle to stay on the right path when life knocks you down, and being human, we’re all drawn to sin. No matter what mask we put on or what we pretend to be, we’re still flawed. We make mistakes. A character has to have flaws (even if one of their flaws is that they think they don’t have flaws!).
Here we have a prevalent stereotype that often bleeds into writing. The characters are born followers, immensely gullible, dumb as a box of rocks, and most of all: despicably judgmental.
Write whatever you want, but know that you won’t win anyone over by doing this. I’ve put down books over this, frustrated and saddened. Sometimes, one gets the impression that the author sees Christians as mindless zombies with no personality, following their pastor’s command with zero capability of independent thought.
Some of this is due to how some Christians treat people. It breaks my heart that we’re known as holier-than-thou jerks. I fight to break this stereotype whenever possible, simply by trying my best to treat people as Jesus would. I make a lot of mistakes, because hell, I’m human! But that’s the point, isn’t it? Christians are human. They have quirks and personalities and flaws. They’re dynamic–not flat–just like every other human being.
3.) The Only Christians are Cult Members
From TV shows to books, whenever there’s a crime show with a religious cult, there’s a good chance it’s some bizarre off branch of Christianity. I’m not saying you can’t have an antagonist who bases their plan for world domination off the Bible, because you certainly can. (Although, you’d be hard pressed to find a verse that justifies something like that.) What I’m saying is that the same old plot line gets kind of boring. So, if you’re going to do it, give it a twist that makes it original.
5.) Not as Surprising as You Think
However, there is one plot twist that is so popular that it’s hardly even a twist anymore: the seemingly pious and virtuous religious leader is actually everything but. Perhaps this is a personal preference, but I find it way too obvious. Every time a pastor or priest pops up in media, they’re almost always shady, judgmental, or downright criminal. Surprise! Well, not quite.
To be clear, I have nothing against fiction criticizing religion. One of the most basic human rights is the freedom of religion, which includes the right to blaspheme. Any government that prevents this is tyrannical. Any religion that doesn’t allow you the right to leave (become an apostate) is not a religion but a prison. These are human rights that many have died to preserve, and everyone should be able to exercise them if they so wish.
Do you want to be a whistleblower and call out corruption and abuse? Please do! I mean that more than you know. There is no place for that in the church (or anywhere else for that matter.) That being said, I get sick of the pointless hatred, where people drag Christians through the mud just for the fun of it. You, of course, have every right to do that, and I respect that God-given right. Just consider this: try to think of the last time you saw a book or movie with a positive (or even neutral) portrayal of a pastor or priest. If you’re watching and reading mainstream media, you’re not going to see very many. It gets old… fast.
The best bet is to avoid extremes. Don’t make Christian characters out to be perfect little saints or the devil incarnate. Real life people exist on a spectrum. Maybe one of your character is, in fact, an extreme, but it’s not believable if they’re all extremes.
Have fun with it. Change it up. Get outside your comfort zone. Most of all, quit reading and get to writing!
I wish you the best of luck.