No Man’s Land

I’ve been thinking about allegiances and how labels though necessary, are restricting. They can also be unintentionally dishonest. For example, when it comes to my novels, I’ve been told by two different agents that my work falls into the territory of “no man’s land.” i.e. Too Christian for mainstream readers and too racy or such for Christian readers. Sure, I could conform and censor myself neatly into one land or the other, but then I’d be a dishonest writer, and what good is that? I have to write from my heart in a way that I feel is realistic and believable yet inclusive of my faith; even if the result is that my work dwells among tumbleweeds. So the past couple of years I’ve focused on short stories instead, serendipitously discovering in allegorical fiction a niche in which I can appeal to both markets without being disingenuous.

Another example. Back in January, after many years of indecision, I decided to make the switch to a plant based diet. I quickly found myself in no man’s land yet again. You see, I’m technically disqualified from being called a vegan because I still eat local honey, as well as eggs from my parents’ backyard hens, and I also don’t worry about obscure ingredients. If I’m eating in public, I’ll make concessions if I feel it’s necessary (e.g. I don’t ask restaurants what’s in the bread/buns, I might have a muffin at Tim Hortons, and when visiting others, I might have some mashed potatoes.) But I still avoid all overt dairy, cheese, and factory farm egg products, so that also disqualifies me from being called a vegetarian. Now of course, if you asked the vegans, they would say, she’s a vegetarian. But if I called myself a vegetarian, everyone would offer me milk, eggs and cheese – things like egg salad, lasagna, Mac n’ Cheese, and ice cream. Now, I could certainly join the 100% vegan club or the vegetarian club, but neither would be fully honest: qualifiers are always going to be needed. I’m currently going with “flexible vegan” since “plant-based” seems too vague, but the vegan tribe doesn’t accept that; many even despise it. Think No True Scotsman. I find myself once again in that in-between: no man’s land.

Another example. I’m a Christian who supports gay marriage. To the majority of evangelicals, this means I am no longer a “true Christian” as the position is seen as antithetical. But neither am I a fully liberal Christian. I’m pro-life and I believe in the divinity and resurrection of Christ. Basically I’m somewhere in the middle between liberal and conservative (perhaps progressive is a fitting term but it’s often seen as a synonym for liberal). I’m not conservative enough to be called conservative, and not liberal enough to be called liberal. To fit in I could indeed feign to be fully one or the other, but it just wouldn’t be the truth. To join the liberal club I would have to hide my conservative beliefs, and to join the conservative club, I would have to hide my liberal beliefs. Again, qualifiers are needed for every label.

I’m a Christian fiction writer but… I’m vegan but… I’m progressive but

All that to say, if my beliefs are so nuanced, surely yours are too. It’s easy to put people in compartments based on their various labels, but chances are we’re sorting one another in ways that are misleading, incorrect, or at the very least, inaccurate.

The only way to really get to know someone is to first avoid making assumptions and then second, converse, ask questions, and look for nuance. Nuance is found in the in-between, in no man’s land. Let’s go there and get to know one another.