Religion and Politics – Part 1

Hello SE readers, Gwen with you today and together we’re going to wrestle with topics that most of us try to ignore – religion and politics.

Photo from Canva

Many of us grew up with the comic strip Peanuts. The characters were part of our lives. We looked forward to the weekly stories that cartoonist Charles M. Schulz crafted. He understood us, and we loved him in return.

I had forgotten about Peanuts until I saw the above quote. Who doesn’t remember little Linus desperately longing to see the Great Pumpkin? But why did Schulz include it as a never-to-discuss topic along with religion and politics? Let’s explore this a bit.

Linus wanted to see the Great Pumpkin much like children who wait for Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. The Great Pumpkin held magic, wonder, and dreams. But what does this have to do with religion or politics?

While Schulz avoided outright political and religious references, he used his comic strips to address both themes. They were as elusive as the Great Pumpkin. Through his unique approach, he got readers to laugh and even think about their beliefs more consciously.

Because of my musings, I searched Wikipedia for a quick look at the world’s religions. To my surprise, I found that 85% of the overall population claims a spiritual identity – 6.7 billion people. After I hurdled my astonishment, I thought about my writing. Did I include this spiritual aspect in my characters? The short answer is not as well as I’d like.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve done some soul searching. The journey has taken me through my hesitancy and into some clarity about both religion and politics. Today I will share a few suggestions about religion, and next month, my post will risk the same for politics.

Prescott, AZ

Here are five suggestions for introducing religious sentiments in your characters. I hope you’ll find them useful.  

  • At the core of all religions is love. Practices and beliefs differ, but love is universal. A person can hold a yoga position and pray, while another might kneel to do the same. Love motivates both. It’s just the form that is different. If writers can focus on the underlying love that drives their characters’ spiritual lives, a reader could easily relate.
  • Faith transcends the boundaries of religious fervor because it is a quality of the heart. One’s faith may be in the Universe, a loving God, or in Love itself. But in all cases, faith is heart-driven and rests in trust. Again, if our characters manifest trust in the unknown, a reader will connect.
  • We all wonder about different religious expressions. We’re curious and our characters are curious. Questions about another’s beliefs are acceptable if they are innocent of judgment.
  • Research is essential if we decide to introduce religious perspectives in our stories. As writers, we need to set aside our assumptions and approach the topic with respect and openness. Research will help us do both and avoid bias.  
  • Finally, if we can accept that we are one family, our characters will communicate that reality.

That’s it for me today, dear friends. I’d love to hear if or how you write about your characters’ spiritual life. My list of suggestions is brief, and your suggestions will deepen the conversation.

Till next month, please stay well and enjoy the delights of Spring. 💗

89 thoughts on “Religion and Politics – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Character Development and Diversity | Story Empire

  2. Excellent food for thought here. Yet, removing judgement when depicting a character can be challenging. Some described behaviours can carry implicit judgement, perhaps even ridicule, simply by drawing attention to certain acts. For example; Juan awoke just before his alarm sounded. He rose from his bed and shuffled towards the wardrobe to put on his magic underwear. Or; Once again, the Rabbi clenched his teeth to remove a portion of another baby’s foreskin. In both examples, there is no overt judgement, only descriptions, the first of a silly tradition and the second of a despicable tradition, but in both cases, the reader is left to judge for themself. Perhaps descriptions that shock the reader generate a reaction that results in some level of judgement. An idiot does not need to be called an idiot, descriptive text illustrating idiotic behaviour will take care of that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Fictional Characters and Their Political Interests | Story Empire

  4. Pingback: Religion and Politics – Part 1 – I Am Awake

  5. Wonderful post Gwen. You said, especially in this day and age, it’s touchy to talk about religion, but for characters in our books, it’s sometimes essential to their resume to talk about religion. As long as it’s part of the character and not the author making opinion, nothing wrong. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: Religion and Politics – Part 1 – zia’blog

  7. HI Gwen, I was also brought up never to discuss religion or politics as well as money. It was considered very bad manners and low class to ever mention money matters or how much things cost. My books, Through the Nethergate and A Ghost and His Gold are both heavily threaded with religious ideologies and concepts. I am not religious but I was brought up a strict Catholic so these beliefs are ingrained in my psyche.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Robbie, for this insight. My background is similar to yours, and like you, money was never to be discussed. I’d rather talk about religion and politics than money. 😊 As for my writing, religious traces also appear in my books.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Excellent navigation through a divisive subject, Gwen. I’ve worked spiritual lessons and messages into some of my stories without delving into religion. Jesus took the religious of His day to task, as they added their own rules and biased ideology to what is meant to be a path to God, love, light and self-understanding. I love your line that says: “faith is heart-driven and rests in trust.” This is such a beautiful definition. It took me a long time to begin to understand faith, and what it means to trust in something other than myself and my fellow humans. We humans are responsible for all of our failings. I’ve tried to work that into some of my stories and my characters. We are all flawed and broken–as are many of my characters. We have all gone astray at some point. But when we write these stories, we can bring our characters back to a stronger place. Hopefully that bleeds into reality. I am really looking forward to your approach on politics. In today’s world, politics fuels hatred, anger, and division. Us versus them. My team is better than your team. It separates us from one another–including within families. I haven’t delved into politics in any of my stories, so maybe your next post will inspire me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much, Beem, for your thoughtful response. I love how you bring the human journey into your stories. Your characters are real and because of that, they are relatable. We are all flawed, and yet, we are all redeemable. How beautiful! Thank you again. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a tough subject, Gwen. Kudos for approaching it. Well done.

    My characters grew up with a strong religious influence as children. In the books in the series once they are adults, they reflect back on that upbringing, sometimes humorously.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a great approach, Dan! I’d love to read the series. Thank you for sharing and offering another example of how to include religious themes in our writing. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m still essentially a newbie at writing fiction. My current work in progress is getting into some tricky areas because it involves a friendship between an English American boy and a Muslim American youth. There is no way to avoid (nor do I want to avoid) the differences in terms of culture and religion. It’s forced me to dig deeper and research areas that I’m uneducated about because I don’t want to create stereotypical characters.

    Your point is well taken about universal beliefs shared by many religions.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your WIP sounds fascinating, Pete. I look forward to eventually reading it. All the best as you move forward. Thank you for stopping by and sharing as you have. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Religion and Politics – Part 1 – Nelsapy

  12. Beautifully said, Gwen. You have given not only wonderful examples of how to make our characters more spiritual but pointed out what we all have in common. I will continue to look for that great pumpkin. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Gwen, you’ve tackled a difficult subject bravely and sensitively. This is a wonderfully thought-provoking post. Personally, unless I purposely choose a book on spirituality/religion, I don’t want it shoving in my face in a book of fiction. Whenever that happens, it usually comes with an attitude and leaves a bad taste.
    I love the points you make. Bravo! Thanks for sharing and raising this discussion 💕🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Harmony. In my extended family, I’ve relatives who embrace just about every religious perspective and also ones dear to me who find their hope in nature or simply the unknown. I’m humbled by the differences and the manifested love of each. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  14. A super post, Gwen. You approach the subject with grace and kindness. My following book deals with some substantive religious matters. One of the main characters is Lucifer, who is convinced he can set up situations that will cause the antagonists to alter the past, thus disturbing the time continuum. He is even so bold as to send them to the presence of Jesus Christ in hopes that they will somehow make a mistake that could alter the Christian tradition. Evil one that Lucifer. Excellent post. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Hi, Gwen. You addressed this topic with your usual sensitivity and kindness. I love your five suggestions for introducing religious sentiments. I’m one of the 85%ers and faith is an integral part of who I am. In line with my story plot, I’ve made it an organic characteristic in my characters. In some stories, religion can be positive, as you’ve beautifully pointed out. However, it can also be used as a strong antagonist against which characters emerge as heroes. I’m a firm believer that in life, love wins.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Talking about religion is much more acceptable. I’m intrigued by other views as long as they respect mine. Politics–not so much. It usually devolves to bullying and name-calling. I’ve stopped reading several authors I had so loved (Daniel Silva comes to mind) because they had no respect for other political opinions.

    Sigh. I look forward to next week’s post.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I have several authors I’ll never read again, too, Jacqui, for the same reason. They spouted off so much vitriol online, and expressed truly hateful scorn for any who disagreed with them, I unfollowed them and quit buying their books. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, but some folks need to learn to respect the fact that others may not agree.

      Liked by 4 people

    • I’m much like you on this, Jacqui. If bullying is involved, I go elsewhere and don’t support the writer or whomever. I doubt bullying ever accomplished anything good, and yet there is plenty these days. We have to find common ground and if love guides us, we just might. 😊

      Liked by 2 people

  17. I tend to avoid mentioning religion or politics in my books, though I read a good deal of faith-based fiction and non-fiction. I also think there is a line between structured religion and spiritual faith. This is an interesting topic. Just yesterday I was reading an article by J.R.R. Tolkien and how he woven a great deal of Catholic and Christian symbolism into the Lord of the Rings, but most readers never realized it. Sometimes, I guess those messages are there, but you have to look for them to find them.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Very good point, Mae. I share your insight that often stories include spiritual messages, even though they may not be explicit. Thank you for sharing this. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Normally, I’d scroll past a blog post with this title, but with your name attached, I knew it would be addressed delicately and with grace. I believe religion and politics are personal choices. I stay clear of people and blogs who try and force their opinions on either topic. As you know, my books have a faith thread, but I never want to come across as “preachy.” When readers reach the end of my books, I’d like to think they have a better understand of the power of remaining hopeful. Beautiful post, Gwen! xo

    Liked by 4 people

  19. Beautifully said, Gwen, and I applaud your thoughts on this often touchy topic. While I don’t write about specific religious beliefs, per se, I do like to have some characters who are strong in the overall belief that Man is not the Highest Power in the universe. Even in my Emissary novellas, which feature an angel and his human helpers, I keep the dogma out, and try to focus on love and how it can change the world. I do steer clear of both religion and politics on my blog. That’s not the purpose of a writing blog, and I want to avoid any and all conflict there. But I have no trouble with a character like Rabbit sharing his belief that his Gran watches over him from Heaven. And I pray (literally) that this current censorship nonsense goes away. The sooner, the better. I want to be free to choose for myself what I write about, whether it’s religion, politics, paranormal, all of the above, or none of the above.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post, Gwen. 😊

    Liked by 5 people

  20. You are brave to tackle these two topics, Gwen. There are so many varied opinions everywhere. I tend to steer clear of the word ‘religion’ because to me, it carries a negative connotation. Many wars have been fought and lives lost under the guise of religion. I prefer ‘spirituality’ as it brings it down to a more personal level. I have included some aspect of my own spiritual beliefs in most all of my stories leaning heavily toward the paranormal. One thing that comes to mind is D.L. Finn’s Angel Series. I loved how she showed that realm in her stories. Thank you for tackling this difficult subject and I totally agree that the basis of it all is love.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you so much, Jan. My extended family is very diverse in terms of religion, yet love has kept us close. If only the world embraced the same! 😊

      Liked by 4 people

  21. Reblogged this on Pattys World and commented:

    A wonderfully thought provoking post to begin my day.
    Even though most of my writing is memoir I am just now getting to the point of really being comfortable with expressing my opinions on these topics through my writing.
    Check out the post and add your own thoughts.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. What an interesting post and reflection, Gwen. Of course, you address the topic with a load of kindness… as always. I would add, that when we include religion in our books as a motivator for bad behavior, it’s the character’s interpretation that is warped, not the religion. I think if we are clear about the distinction, then we should be in good shape. One way to make that distinction is to have two characters of the same faith share their differing interpretations. Since I write fantasy, I get to explore this situation with fake religions. I have a nice little cushion there, but all your thoughts still apply.

    Liked by 6 people

  23. I have written religion into my stories. I was trying to capture authentic Italian American culture, and (in my personal experience) religion is a big part of that. I didn’t preach that view or evangelize, though. I just showed how these characters live, and their faith is part of their life. My feeling was that if I wasn’t trying to convert someone, which I wasn’t, it shouldn’t be a problem. It was no different than the role food played in the work. To me, accuracy and truth were most important. If I lost some readers because of it, they weren’t my audience, anyway. But nothing I said should have been offensive. And in my work where religion doesn’t play a part in the characters’ culture, I don’t include it. I doubt any people of faith would be offended by that.

    My social media is a different story. I tend to be much more careful to be neutral about everything there. But don’t we all have to be these days?

    Great post, Gwen. Looking forward to part two.

    Liked by 5 people

  24. I’m like Joan and avoid religion but do write of love as a redeeming power. All religions come under fire from those who have different beliefs and I think that that often hardens viewpoints so that a barrier is created to accepting even a mention of anything else. One of my father’s favourite poems was Abou Ben Adhem – it’s not a long one but it puts forward the notion that God loves those who love and respect their fellow human beings regardless of their specific faith. Having said that, a person’s faith is often a vital part of their life and as such it perhaps ought to have much more significance in a novel. As an aside, it’s lovely to see Schultz here. I have a stack of the Peanuts books and learned early on the perils of beginning with “It was a dark and stormy night”. Interesting topic, Gwen.

    Liked by 4 people

  25. Good topic, Gwen. I tend to steer away from religion (and most definitely politics) in my books other than brief references. As you pointed out, the core is love – something we can all use a bit more of.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Joan. I suspect most of us tiptoe around religious sentiments when we write, and sometimes less is more. Love is the uniter for sure. 😊

      Like

  26. Beautifully said, Gwen! My Diasodz series is a fantasy series that focuses on a strong faith in a Goddess. As you said, at the core it is all about love, trust, and oneness. I’ve read books where the character has a strong base in faith. For me, it has never enhanced or deterred me from the story. It is simply one more layer of characterization that helps the reader better understand the character. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

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