On the Iris & Lily Facebook page a prospective reader will occasionally ask, "Is this a Christian book?"
Ask me about my own experience with sexual molestation, domestic violence, marital infidelity, divorce, estrangement from my children, addiction, and financial ruin, and I will answer you as forthrightly and honestly as I know how. And I do. My personal transparency is what gives purpose to my writing and to my story.
But ask me if Iris & Lily is a Christian book, and you render me speechless, partly because I don't even understand the question. So let's figure out what that question means and then I'll do my best to answer it.
Understanding the question
If you define a Christian book as one without swearing or sex, then no, Iris & Lily is not a Christian book. If you define a Christian book as one in which a heroine who is devoted to Jesus and to her church has a crisis of faith, faces a simple, single, difficult decision, is ushered to the answer by her faith community and probably also by some serendipitous event, then no, Iris & Lily is not a Christian book. If your idea of a Christian book is one that presents complex questions and solves human suffering with pat answers that tie up all the loose ends in a nice bow, then no, Iris & Lily does not fit the bill.
So far, I've been able to tell you a little bit about what Iris & Lily isn't. Let's talk about what it is.
IRis & Lily: A dirty book
Iris & Lily is a dirty book. Its pages are smudged with the filth of life, complete with snot and blood and the shadow side of humanity. It displays the ways in which the strong oppress the weak and it explores the ways in which the weak are imprisoned, how they respond, and how it changes them and their experience of life.
In Iris & Lily, people have sex. Sometimes both parties are consenting and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are married and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are married, but not to each other. In Iris & Lily, people use cuss words, because it's a story about people and that's what people do when they get pissed. When you threaten someone's sense of power, they don't say, "Gosh golly gee, I really wish you'd see things my way, " They say, "F*ck you, a**hole."
As one of the authors of Iris & Lily, I will tell you that I am not promoting or glorifying these behaviors; I'm just observing them and extending you an invitation to consider them. If these things offend you, then you might not enjoy reading. But if these things offend you, and if you are asking whether Iris & Lily is a Christian book because you are a Christian and will only read books that don't offend your moral sensibilities, then I have a question for you: How in the world do you manage to witness and minister to real people if you can't stand to come face-to-face with the reality of who they are and how they behave?
I won't defend the presence of story characters who represent real people doing real things. I respect your right not to read my books and to keep scrolling when one of my posts or ads shows up in your newsfeed. But I will tell you that I'm not trying to shock you or tempt you or entice you with gratuitous sex and bad language. What I am trying to do is tell a story that means something, a story that teaches us about each other and ourselves, a story that cultivates compassion and understanding, and articulates issues and truths that I hold dear and would like to share with you.
Getting to the answer
So is Iris & Lily a Christian book? It's an annoying question, but I suppose it's a valid one.
Iris & Lily is a novel series filled with stories about how innocent people transgress and fall from grace, about siblings who are in conflict, about favoritism within families and the bitterness and anger that causes, about the scourge of envy and lust, about the floods of life and how earnest people learn to stay afloat. Iris & Lily contains stories about ordinary people failing in extraordinary ways, about the pain and confusion and ramifications that creates in their lives and the lives of those they love, and about their redemption and salvation through grace and surrender.
So I guess it's my turn to ask you, "Is Iris & Lily a Christian book?"