Growing up as a young boy, I wasn't beaten or abused. On the contrary, my parents worked hard and I had plenty to eat; I attended good schools and benefited from involved and caring teachers. My mom always packed an ample lunch, replete with hostess cupcakes. But aside from that, weekends and after school I was left to my own devices: hills and horses, tree-forts and girls—soon to be a recipe for disaster.
More daunting still, as I entered high school the world of drugs was beginning a raging affair with our young sensibilities. The whole earth seemed to be careening out of control. The high school class, one year older than my own (as is more often than not the case) was filled with "cool-dudes"—soon to be drug addicts and pushers. Their clientele were eager-to-please under class-men, trying to fit in. I was one of them.
Tragically though, through that season of life, many perished. While some were “getting high” and “losing their minds” others were getting dead! One was burned in a fire; another ran over two young girls while drunk, killing them both; and several went to prison at young ages (never to return). My school friend Michael became so hooked on heroin that he overdosed at twenty-years-old. My best friend Phil became a mush-mind, believe it or not, and lost himself in transcendental meditation. There were others, too; but you get the idea. Then came the Jesus freaks. One of my closest friends was approached by a small group of Bible toting, long-haired converts.
I wasn’t into Jesus, but I had become convinced that there surely was a battle for life raging all around me. Friends, schoolmates and even hated enemies were succumbing to death, falling left and right. Mind you, this was middle America, not the ghetto. No one was shooting anybody, they were killing themselves. I’d been raised Catholic. The best I could make out from my catechism lessons was: as long as I made it to confession before I actually died, I could be as rotten as I wanted (and I was) and then, I would confess my sins to God right before death. Although I would have to spend an extended time in purgatory—it would still allow me access to heaven. Made sense to me.
I made it through my young life without sticking a needle in my arm (which seemed to be the quickest and deadliest of killers, and if it didn't kill you, it certainly deposited a residue of moral tarnish upon the soul). Miraculously, a young kid, from out of somewhere, shared something very different with me, and ultimately, the love of God prevailed. "There is life," he preached, "and power, and reality in faith. Peace like you've never known, Tony; come and taste it for yourself." Greater and worse grew the cataclysmic war, evil being carried out, leaving many young men and women bloodied or even slaughtered; lives strewn upon the battlefield of life. Without question, a fight for the souls of men was aflame. Even then, I could see that. One day I was sitting upon the iconic Mount Tamalpais, in Marin County California overlooking the ocean and practicing studiously upon my Gibson guitar.
Seriously, this was the home of some of the country's greatest bands. Above me, meandering down the hillside strolled a different kind of "cool and older" boys and girls. By now, I was about twenty. They gathered around and asked me to play for them a bit on my Gibson hollow-body guitar, which I did—and then—sitting there with me, they had the daring to ask if I was, "born-again?"
Looking back, my response was honest: “I have no idea what-in-the-heck you mean,” I answered. 'Someone told me about Jesus, but that's it." Exuberant, the boys and girls shared with me from the scriptures, explaining these wonders to me, and then,—asked pointedly: “Do you want to do it? Do you want to be born-again, man?”
My expression was probably notable. Blank. “What—?" I answered. "If I’m going to perform this life-changing act—I think it best I do it alone, with the master of the universe…don’t you think?” I responded, looking about at the smiling faces of these young people.
“Understood, man” one of the guys said. (His name was David.) “Hey, here’s a card and my address is right there…if you want to fellowship with us sometime. You’re invited!”
“Thank you.” I nodded to them as they all meandered back up the hill, smiling. I watched as they left me with myself. That very hour I accepted Christ as my Lord. It seemed perfectly logical and right. It fit. There was no reason not to—I mean, I had nothing to lose; and I was lost.
To this day I thank God for his mercy and grace. I rejoice in Jesus Christ for saving my life from certain destruction.
In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And [that] they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. (2Ti 2:25-26 KJV)
So am I a writer who is a Christian, or, a Christian Writer? My novels are written with the defeated and beaten-down in mind, even the arrogant and self-assured. I am not a judge, simply a messenger of “good news!” It’s been said, that as writers we are not supposed to have an opinion, or at the very least, we must allow our characters to have their own ideas, which aren't predisposed to be just like our own. I get that. "Let them come to their own realizations." And yet, almost every writer, when it comes to God, creation, and religion, has belief. I assure you, that whether the writer believes in God, or doesn't, those ideas permeate almost every aspect of his or her writing. A simple example: In sci-fi writer Frederick Pohl’s “The Voices of Heaven” the author begins by declaring that the evil religious fanatics of the future are standing in the way of progress. Mark Twain made no bones about his disdain for everything Biblical, and he did it in a very convincing way. (I’ve always maintained that Mark Twain was at war with God—a terrifying proposition I might add.) Barbara Kingsolver masks very little of her presupposition against missionaries in the “Poisonwood Bible.” Of course, the world raved about that book. "A literary masterpiece," they proclaimed. For the greatest part, the modern literary world has no interest in the truly Christian world of the spirit, and will do its best to quench everything Godly. The war I knew as a young man still rages, it simply travels all about the battle field for its own end. Further, it grieves me to say, if you really believe Oprah Winfrey is promoting the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—you are most deluded. She promotes spiritualism, which just like “Harry Potter” is a lie parading as the truth. Once again, the great acclaim of the world is showered upon these great people. The truth and the counterfeit can only be clearly discerned through spiritual eyes.
As writers we stand, amidst a new age (partly in thanks to, yes, Amazon and the Internet), where the writer may rise up out of the ash-heap of the world’s systems and constraints and is finally able to write what he is inspired to write. No longer shackled by the current school of thought; no longer having to “fit in” with this publisher or that agent; no longer at the whim of some individual, who will do their best to suppress writing that glorifies God, in favor of the “moment-by-moment” fantasies of the world.
Now without question, to be successful you have to write what your audience wishes to read. They’re your only publicity—their word-of-mouth is your reward for a job well done. They can let you know when they don't like where a character or story has veered, even before it's completed. If they're not engaged in your work, they won't review you on Amazon, or tell their friends—which is critical. Your audience can now share in the writing adventure with you, together. And make their voices heard as well. It's a fresh way of looking at your job as a writer. So when the question arises: Are you a Christian writer, or are you a writer who is a Christian? My answer in unequivocal. I am a Christian first and foremost. I am a Christian Writer, not a writer who is a Christian.