If you haven't read the first part of our interview, you can find it here:
Rusty, as someone who writes from a Christian faith-perspective, how do you choose a topic for a secular audience?
Two things: I read secular material and I spend time with people who aren’t believers.
I do read Christian stuff, but my main interest is finding what’s going on in the hearts and minds of non-believers and choosing subjects they’re interested in. I read the New York Times a lot, I watch the BBC, I read Time magazine, things like that.
And I mix with non-believers. I spend time with friends who are atheists, some who are agnostics. So I know what interests them, and what is going to have a natural spiritual connection.
On my own website, there are topics like humour, current events, relationships, AIDS, racism, Freud, and Elvis.
One of the topics that has generated a lot is interest over the year has been “Forgiving Bernie Madoff?” He’s the scam artist who had the Ponzi scheme that ripped off all kinds of people. Lots of people would want to ring his neck, and now he’s serving life in prison. Suppose you were one of his victims. Would you be able to forgive him? That’s a story that has contemporary news interest but also grips people where they are, because we’ve all had people who’ve done us wrong.
How can Christian writers build bridges to the secular world?
I like to call this “advocacy apologetics.” When you are trying to communicate your faith, how can you be an advocate for what the other person believes? It starts by agreeing with him where you can.
I remember a church leader in a third world country talking about how he tried to reach a certain group. He said there were two ways you could do it. You could start off by talking about the differences between their beliefs and Christianity, but that would just get them angry.
The second way is to find things in their belief system that you agree with. For example, if they believe suffering is universal, you can say, “As a Christian, I, too, believe that suffering is everywhere, and something needs to be done about it.” Start by looking for areas of agreement, and then build relationships.
I encourage people to ask God to break your heart with a love for the lost. And I ask myself if I view my intellectual adversaries as the enemy, or as people desperately in need of God’s love? Am I trying to win an argument, or am I trying to win a person? Attitude makes all the difference.
Can you identify which media are best for Christian writers to break into, and how might they go about this?
I think there are many ways that writers who are Christian can do this.
Letters to the editors of newspapers are a great place to start. The Amy Foundation (www.amyfound.org) has a writers program in which they encourage believers to get together and plan how to write letters to the editor.
Newspaper opinion pieces – many newspapers are looking for these.
Websites and blogs are great places to contribute. In Canada, the organization, Power to Change, has an excellent portfolio of websites aimed at reaching non-believes (www.truthmedia.com). They are looking for writers and they have training information on how to communicate with non-believers.
Tell me more about the Amy Foundation. Are Canadians allowed to participate?
The Amy Writing Awards recognize skilful writing that applies biblical principles in a sensitive and thought-provoking manner to current issues. The awards are given to people who present biblical perspectives in the secular non-religious press, such as newspapers and magazines, as well as on-line.
To qualify, the point needs to be reinforced in the text of the article with at least one Scripture passage.
Large dollars are given away. $34,000 are spread annually among authors. The top prize is $10,000.
And yes, entries from Canada are very welcome.
In closing, is there anything that you would like to add?
I am praying that God will use me to equip writers who are Christian to reach out effectively to those outside our faith and nudge them closer to God. With all the opposition you see in the world, and all the criticism, sometimes it can seem hopeless, but God loves folks who are non-believers and they need Him desperately.
I also want to learn from those I meet at Write! Canada. I am looking forward to it
Interview conducted by Fred Ash.