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.
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.
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. 💗