(RNS) — The internet phenomenon known as fanfiction has actually been around, in one form or another, at least since the 1800s. The term refers to writings by fans of a particular work of fiction using the same themes or characters from the books they love — Jane Austen, Bram Stoker and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to start, and, more recently, unauthorized adaptations of TV shows: “Supernatural” is among the most popular inspirations. Some fanfictions become mainstream works in their own right. “Fifty Shades of Grey” was originally a “Twilight” fanfic story published online.
These re-imaginings and many more appear on FanFiction.net, one of the most popular websites where writers discuss their favorite books, video games, shows and movies. Scroll down past Harry Potter (the No. 1 category), past Sherlock Holmes at No. 27, and you’ll hit an unexpected title — the Bible.
The only religious text to have its own category on the website, the section includes about 4,100 stories that range from notes about people’s interpretation of religious teachings to stories that fill out what little the Gospels say about Mary, Jesus’ mother.
Bible fanfiction does more than give voice to theology and erotic daydreams. It has helped some users improve their relationship with their faith, find a safe space to ask questions, debate on theories and share their understanding of Scripture. Writers have started Bible forums and discussion threads on topics such as “God’s Forum” and “The Bible isn’t fiction Why is it at” for both believers and non-believers.
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Fanfic author The Righterzpen, who, like the other authors interviewed, gave only her internet handle, said most writers approach writing fanfiction for the Bible from a religious context, with Christianity being the most common faith viewpoint. “The stories that do the best, in the Bible section at least, tend to be creative writing story format; although I personally also get quite a bit of traffic on Bible studies,” she said.
Of the 10 posts that are over 100,000 words on the site, the top two belong in this category. One titled “Bible Study: END TIMES?” runs to about 160,000 words — longer than most of the novels in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
Catholic contributor Innocentia999 calls herself conservative and anti-feminist in her bio on the website, and her anti-abortion ideologies are expressed in her poem “Children for Sacrifice.” She uses the medium, according to her bio, to share her love for God and advocate for children’s rights. She has also written poems and short stories on topics like child labor and child marriage.
In an interview with RNS, she said that “Bible fanfiction, I think, can be a great way, depending on what stories you decide to post, to express one’s self and one’s passion for Jesus Christ and the Old and New Testaments. The Bible can easily be called the greatest written work ever produced in human history.”
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For other writers, the practice of writing fanfiction is less celebratory than corrective. FanFiction user Loveispatientloveiskind is a Messianic Jew. When one of her friends said that God was sexist because Jesus was a boy, she wrote “The Female Messiah,” imagining the Messiah as a woman and picturing how her struggles would have been different than those faced by Jesus.
However, the stories that get the most feedback on the site are not those that focus on philosophical questions. Instead, erotic stories featuring biblical characters and bible crossovers with other fictional storylines tend to be the most in demand.
Standing at the top of the list is “Jesus and Hitler: A Romance,” an adult historical-fiction story that dives into homosexuality and gender identity. This story received mixed responses. Fans of the story shared comments like: “This is the most beautiful thing I have ever had the honor to read;” and “The greatest relationship of all time!”
A few readers claimed to be traumatized, scared, disgusted or shocked that the story wasn’t banned. One person even said, “I’m extremely concerned about whoever wrote this — are you okay?”
Surfing through the stories, a reader can also find Jesus coupled with Satan, Judas, Elon Musk, Nicolas Cage and even Shrek.
Erotica writer Egggorll, who grew up in a Catholic household but later left the religion, said erotic religious stories were her favorite mode of writing and suggested that they help writers work out their religious upbringings.
About a story she wrote about Jesus giving in to some of his basic urges before his impending death, Egggorll said, “I wanted to create a world in which Jesus was far from the perfection that I had been told he was. It was a way for me to pretend that even though Jesus was painted as perfection for much of my childhood, he could actually be as sinful as any other person in today’s day and age.”
Not all of the oddest matches are sexual, however. A fanfic reader can simply enjoy feats of faith as meditations, know what it feels like to be cursed by a canonized Freddie Mercury or join Jesus on his adventures in Hogwarts.