Interview: Meg Moseley, Author of When Sparrows Fall

Oh, what a busy month we have here! It is my delight to mention that SciendaQ (the armchair adventurer’s magazine) will be available in just a few weeks on February 1.

The full interview with Meg Moseley will be available in the magazine. And now, to our blog-length version.

Meg Moseley is the author of When Sparrows Fall, the story of a young widow whose legalistic pastor co-opts the spiritual headship of her household after her husband’s death.

A Californian transplanted to Georgia, Meg took the scenic route to her lifelong goal of being a novelist. She has been a candle-maker in a tourist town, an administrative assistant at a college, a homeschool mom, and a newspaper columnist. Her debut novel, When Sparrows Fall, was published in 2011 by Multnomah Books, which will also publish her second novel in September of 2012.

Meg’s favorite spot for plotting new stories is on the back of her husband’s motorcycle as he takes her on rides in the mountains of Georgia, Tennessee, or the Carolinas.

Cathi-Lyn Dyck: What prompted you to write a story about hidden abuse within Christianity?

Meg Moseley: Having been part of the Christian homeschool community for over twenty years, I rubbed shoulders with all kinds of homeschoolers. Most of these families were quite wholesome and sane, and they pursued educational excellence in an atmosphere of freedom. Unfortunately, I also encountered extremists who promoted various strange teachings and practices that reached far beyond the realm of home education.

As I did more research, I ran into a boatload of disturbing information, including online documentation of abuse within some well-known homeschooling circles. I kept seeing more bad fruit in real life, too, and I believed I had to speak up somehow. Because I’m a novelist, fiction was my natural choice.

CLD: I met you because of the Schatz case, a child murder which occurred in 2010. The parents followed a particular parenting method advocated among homeschooling circles. Tell me about the role that fiction can have in humanizing “otherness”–in this case the otherness of those who are isolated.

MM: Good fiction is unbeatable in its ability to help us understand cultures that would otherwise remain foreign to us. When a novelist pulls me into his characters’ minds, I see their hurts, their hopes and dreams, their biggest fears. No matter what nationality or religion these characters claim, I can identify with their humanness, especially if the author knows their culture well and writes about it with both honesty and compassion.

CLD: An ongoing theme in your book is the need to have a tidy, perfect life–to the extent that sin is covered up and never mentioned. We get a glimpse of this in the opening, and then it develops throughout. With cases like Tina Anderson’s sexual abuse resonating through the conservative evangelical community, do you think that the Christian community is become more or less open to dialogue on destructive theologies and resultant abuses? Or are we becoming desensitized as the media picks these things up and uses them for political footballs?

MM: I think it depends on which part of the Christian community we’re talking about. Some Christians are forever turned inward, focused on the latest Bible study craze or nitpicking the finer points of their own denomination’s theology. Others do keep up with current events like Tina Anderson’s case and the tragedies related to the controversial book called To Train Up a Child. I’m glad this information is readily accessible to anyone with an internet connection, because it shines a bright light on outrageous behavior that should have no place in Christendom.

We can’t ignore injustice and abuse, and we certainly shouldn’t complain when secular authorities step in to protect the innocent and punish the wrongdoers. We need to understand the beliefs behind the abuse, too. If we can understand what creates a climate where abuse thrives, we’re one step closer to preventing more damage.

CLD: Does it help or hinder to have a back-and-forth going in the public forum over whether a given religion is good, evil, or shades of in-between, do you think? We see the same thing happening with Islam. To some extent, last year’s European terrorism was picked up and used to paint fundamentalist Christianity into an extremist corner as well. In your opinion, what does this do for or against the ongoing development of faith-based culture?

MM: The public forum has become huge, thanks to the internet, and it gives us unprecedented opportunities for conversation with people of other faiths. It also puts our faith under attack sometimes, like when public opinion lets one Norwegian terrorist give an entire swath of Christianity a bad name.

It’s natural for discussion to spring up around tragedies like child murders or acts of terrorism. Discussion helps us process the existence of such evil. Discussion also gives us a chance to say: “That is absolutely not what Jesus would have done; a murderer is not a legitimate representative of our faith.” That could lead to further conversation about genuine Christianity and how it differs from other faiths. I think we should be able to participate in these discussions without fear but with compassion and respect for our fellow humans.

When Sparrows Fall is available from Amazon through the Scienda Store page (besides supporting Meg, your purchase puts a tip in the jar for this blog).

Visit MegMoseley.com for full online purchase options and more information about Meg and her writing.

Read the full interview in SciendaQ Spring 2012, releasing February 1st in e-reader format.