This is the first in a series of posts exploring my thoughts about what we can do better in Christian fiction. It’s a huge topic, and this is just my little tip of one corner of the iceberg. Because it helps me to think aloud here. And it helps if you think aloud here, too. So don’t hold back if you have a response!

What’s wrong with Christian fiction? Depending on my intonation, I could be saying, “What could you possibly find wrong with Christian fiction?”

If that’s where you stand, that’s okay. Let those with ears to hear and hearts to receive keep reading. I honor and respect the sincere and Godly folks who work in the Christian fiction industry. There are some amazing and profound books out there. So when you hear my critique, don’t jump to the conclusion that I’m at odds with you or the books you love. I may not be.

When I say “What’s wrong with Christian fiction?” I’m really asking:

“Why isn’t Christian fiction better? Why does the world — and many, many Christians — dismiss it as shallow or second-rate? And what can we do about it?”

What’s wrong with Christian fiction is the same thing that’s wrong with Christian films. If you have an hour, I highly recommend Barbara Nicolosi’s insightful talk on this subject. She helped me pinpoint the source of the vague dissatisfaction I’ve had with Christian storytelling.

Christian “art” (books, movies, music, etc) often dilutes, corrupts or cripples beauty and truth by emphasizing other things, tweet this, primarily:

  • An evangelistic message (“preaching”)
  • The elimination of elements considered undesirable, offensive or unsafe (“sanitizing”)

Why do we do this? I think it’s because there is a perception that if the art (book, movie, song, painting) does not overtly present some Christian concept, image or message, then it does not technically deserve the name “Christian”.

Perhaps this is correct. Perhaps anything that is filed under the label “Christian” ought to overtly illustrate Christ in some way. That’s what labels are for, yes? To describe what is contained within, so the consumer can make an informed choice and so their expectations will be met.

If I look at it that way, maybe there’s nothing wrong with “Christian fiction”. Maybe it is exactly what the label says it is.

Then why am I (and so many others) so unhappy with it?