I certainly believe the U.S. was founded on general godly principles, but the founders were still human beings lacking the all-knowing and all-seeing ability we might want to assign to them. They were not gods.
The founders of the United States disagreed with one another on just about everything. While most Americans enjoy a level of freedom not enjoyed by most peoples in the world, the road to that freedom was bumpy and not exactly straight. And it is still a work in progress.
Take Thanksgiving for instance. It was first celebrated in some form about 400 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it in 1863, but it wasn’t until 1941 that president Roosevelt declared it a national holiday and he wanted it on the third Thursday of November instead of the fourth so Christmas shopping could begin earlier.
Some southern states viewed it as a “New England” celebration and didn’t like the idea of the federal government mandating something to all people.
Hmm, where have I heard that before? Don’t tell me, it will come…
Thomas Jefferson said that the concept of Thanksgiving was, “The most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard.”
Benjamin Franklin wanted the national bird to be a turkey and not the Bald Eagle. “For in Truth, the Turk’y is in comparison a much more respectable Bird.”
Those wacky founders of the country. They were an interesting bunch.
When telling a story or making a point in a non-fiction work, telling the complete story is important. Especially for books with a Christian message.
Fiction is mostly about suspending reality and making up new people, situations and locations. But for non-fiction, you better be accurate and complete, or else you will have something “hot and unpleasant” to pay from readers who know there is more to the story.
For instance, the real story of Thanksgiving is a lot less inspiring than the Norman Rockwellian image we have of it. Native Americans have an entirely different perspective on the matter.
The founding fathers of the U.S. were not perfect omniscient beings and while this country has been blessed by God over it’s history, we are hardly perfect or deserving of that blessing.
I am uncomfortable when I hear people say the blessings we have received as a country by God are because of how good and righteous we are. I tend to err on the side of thankfulness to God in spite of our lack of goodness and righteousness.
When you don’t feel like you deserve something, you become more thankful.
Writing the whole story, good and bad, righteous and unrighteous, blemishes and all, is more real, more meaningful and frankly, more interesting. One-dimensional characters or situations are not good in fiction, but one-dimensional perspectives are not limited to fiction. Non-fiction writing carries with it a responsibility to be accurate and complete. You certainly need to take a stand and make a point, but that point of view is aware of the broader story and implications.
The late radio commentator Paul Harvey made a living telling, “The Rest of the Story.” It is the untold part of any story that makes it interesting. If there is time to do that on a short radio commentary, there is certainly room to do it in a 250 page book.
I am thankful that so many writers seemingly agree with this opinion. Perfect caricatures of what it means to live the Christian life are not helpful to readers and often serve to discourage them. Only God is perfect. Authors and the rest of us are not.
Flaws repaired and failings redeemed make for great stories. Stories which are read and loved.
Have a great Thanksgiving, you deserve it.
Sue Faris Raatjes
I cringe when people elevate our “founding fathers,” assuming they all were men of God who knew best. I appreciate your thoughts on their humanity. One reason humorist Erma Bombeck was so successful is that she was “real”, not afraid to write about life w/ its flaws as well as its joys. Have a good holiday, Dan.
Great post, Dan.Yes, acknowledging flaws in real-life people and in our characters makes life so much more “real,” and relatable. When I can be honest about things I struggle with, as well as how God is working through and in me to refine them resonated with people. The same is true with the characters I write. Readers will enjoy the story more if the characters are flawed.
Interesting tidbits about Thanksgiving. I didn’t know that the South didn’t want an official “Thanksgiving” holiday.
I hope your Thanksgiving is restful and enjoyable!
Happy Thanksgiving, Dan – and everyone else, too!