Last week I crunched my way through four colors of cauliflower: standard creamy white; rich amethyst; Day-Glo cheddar; and a white tinged with veins of violet. The web of tailgate markets crisscrossing my adopted hometown of Asheville, NC, allows me to indulge in multihued crucifers. However, when all is said and done, I’m still eating the vegetable cauliflower, not a chocolate bar or a muffin.
I have that same basic approach to my religion. I was raised a Christian. I don’t practice in a specific denomination because, to be brutally honest, the meanness that the “rules and regulations” can often generate troubles me. In my religious viewpoint, Jesus isn’t standing around with a sword of righteousness ready to poke people who don’t follow a prescribed path or even a Christian path. The wonder of Jesus is that he gave everyone the right – and the ability – to find their own path to God within a framework of love, kindness, compassion, and mercy. It’s the rest of us humans who have turned religion into an obstacle course chock full of conditions and qualifiers over the last 2,000 years.
My point is: I like to be open to people whose path to God is different from my path. Yet at heart I am still a Christian, just like cauliflower remains cauliflower no matter how much its external coloring may suggest otherwise. And that Christianity informs everything I do as a writer.
That’s not to say that I “write Christian,” with Christian characters battling Christian problems and making Christian decisions based on a Christian thought process. So far, the short stories I’ve written have tackled everything from apocalypse to incest, war, alcoholism, lost chances, the sadness of women’s lives as embodied by condiments (yes, mayonnaise, mustard, and the like), and in my story “Epiphany” in Relief 6.1, a woman struggling to grasp the sudden death of her husband. The characters aren’t always Christian, and they may not go in the same direction that most Christians would themselves go.
However, I like to think that those core Christian beliefs of love, kindness, compassion, and mercy color the actions of many of my characters – or, even better, are evoked in readers as a response to my stories once they move past their initial reactions of sadness, happiness, hope, despair, laughter, or disgust. (Note the omission of boredom in this list of possible reactions, reader boredom being anathema to writers the world over.) In other words, I hope my stories entertain, linger in the brain, and make inroads to the heart.
Caralyn Davis is a fiction and nonfiction writer based in Asheville, N.C. Her work has previously appeared at Monkeybicycle, The Drum, and Side B Literary Magazine. She is a student in the Great Smokies Writing Program, a continuing education program at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.