It’s a pleasure to welcome Anne Booth to the blog today with a wonderfully thought-provoking guest-post, as part of the Across The Divide Blog Tour, to discuss religious characters in children’s books…
In my new children’s novel, Across The Divide, I have, as one of the main characters, a teenage boy who wants to do God’s will, and openly talks about praying to God to help him decide whether he should go to war or not. He believes that discerning God’s will is the most important thing in his life, and that it would be better to die than to be separated from God. He believes his religion has told him it is right to kill others if it is God’s will, and that he should be prepared to die for his beliefs.
I wanted to write about this boy because I have become very aware in these past years that there is a lot of nervousness and misunderstanding by many in today’s society about the open avowal of religious belief in general, and that in our British society, open avowal of some faiths is seen as more threatening than others.
William, my hero, is a gentle English boy trying to decide whether to fight in the First World war or become a Pacifist. His overriding concern is to do God’s will. He is being told by the British Christian establishment, including his brother-in-law who is a vicar, that Christ wants him to fight, and that it is his religious duty because it is a holy war. At the start of the story he believes this, andis confirmed in his belief when he sings the hymn ‘Jerusalem’, Blake’s words set to music by Hubert Parry, and used, much to the composer’s concern, to stir up militaristic fervour.
William has to decide what God is telling him to do, and when he hears about Christians who believe God is calling them to be Pacifists, he has a big challenge. How will he discern what God’s will is for him – how will he do what is right?
There are so many deeply religious people from all faiths living here now, yet for a British person today, particularly a Muslim, to openly say that their overriding concern is to follow God’s will, has become something many in the media would find sinister. People’s understanding of religion is too influenced by hate-filled online accounts or prejudiced newspaper reports or politicians stirring up fear. Yet it is normal for a religious person to seek to do what they believe is God’s will, and the vast majority of those deeply religious people living here from all faiths, who pray every day, interpret following God’s will as living thoughtful lives full of love and peace, lives which benefit society.
For many children in Britain today religious faith is an ordinary but vitally important part of every day life. It is part of them. If, as I believe, children should be able to see themselves in the books they read, that surely should also include children who pray, and will also help those children who are not religious, to understand their religious friends.
ACROSS THE DIVIDE by Anne Booth is out now in paperback (£6.99, Catnip Publishing)
Follow Anne Booth @Bridgeanne and Catnip @catnipbooks for more information.
You can read my review of Across The Divide here.
Huge thanks to Anne for this thought-provoking guest post, and to Laura for inviting me to take part in the Across The Divide Blog Tour. Do make sure you catch up with all the other stops on the tour.