Cultural Apologetics

  Imagine you're a struggling fiction writer. You've written six novels and some short stories, but so far nothing has hit the best-seller lists. Then one day the phone rings. It's Oprah Winfrey! She says your book has been selected for her Book Club, which you know means overnight fame and best-seller status. You shout for joy—and then wake up to find it was all a dream. But for Bret Lott, who recently published a novel, it was no dream. And it provided him far more than worldly success: It gave him a tremendous opportunity to speak God's truth to millions. Lott's novel is titled Jewel for its main character, Jewel Hilburn, who lives on a Mississippi farm in the 1940s with her husband, Leston, and their five children. At age 40, Jewel is overjoyed to learn that she's going to have another child. But a friend delivers an ominous prophecy, telling Jewel that the baby will be a great test in her life. A few months after the baby's birth, a doctor diagnoses Down's Syndrome, predicting that the child will not live beyond the age of two. He tells Jewel to put the baby in an institution. Jewel refuses to accept the doctor's advice and instead takes the baby home. Over the years, sacrificing her own life to care for this child, Jewel learns that the greatest of burdens can bring the greatest of joys. In this novel Lott has created what one critic calls "one of the finest, most indomitable heroines in contemporary American fiction." However, Jewel isn't completely fiction. The story is based on the life of Lott's grandmother, who raised a Down's Syndrome daughter in Mississippi in the 1940s. After Oprah selected the book as her "best read of the year," Jewel quickly shot to number four on the New York Times best-seller list. And when Lott appeared on Winfrey's program, they had a long discussion about the book's Christian and prolife themes. How did this happen? How did a prolife book make it past our cultural gatekeepers who usually have such contempt for the prolife viewpoint? The key lies in a truth C. S. Lewis once pointed out: The world needs not more books about Christianity, but books by Christians on other subjects with a Christian worldview woven into them. And Lott is doing precisely that. He's writing stories about real people undergoing real struggles with God's help. He's not writing for a Christian audience in the predictable evangelical format. He's writing great stories. Yet, his books are profoundly Christian. As he put it, his characters "must accommodate themselves to what has been given to them, to God's will." By "flying under the radar" of the secular cultural elites, so to speak, Lott has introduced millions of people to a prolife message they might never have heard otherwise. Why don't you buy a copy of Jewel, and share it with an unsaved friend. It may give you the opening you've been looking for, for a serious discussion about faith. And if you're an aspiring Christian writer, keep in mind Bret Lott's philosophy for writing great books. Remember, there's something even better than writing a best seller—and that's writing a best seller that points readers to the Author of the universe.


Chuck Colson


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