What’s wrong with Christian fiction?
Some would say “nothing”. Some people really like what’s available. Fine. All I ask is that you understand that this is how I feel and that it’s okay for us to be on different pages about this. I’m glad Christian fiction is touching some lives and meeting some needs.
And before I go further, let me make one thing clear: If you have published Christian fiction, I am not attacking you. I am not saying you didn’t do your best or that you didn’t write what God wants you to write. I’m not the judge of you.
There are some amazing works of art and powerful stories out there, and I am not denying that. I have dear, talented author friends who write “Christian fiction” and I am 100% behind them.
I’m talking in broad strokes and overall patterns, and I am only going to deal with one aspect of a complex topic in this post. I am not bashing any one genre, publishing house, editor, agent or author.
I am looking at the Christian fiction on the bookstore shelves, and sharing something I see. Something we can do differently. Something I think we can do better.
Much of Christian fiction lacks Beauty
People react to Beauty.
People are touched by Beauty.
You don’t have to read a single word of the Bible to feel a sense of awe before a spectacular mountain scene or when faced with the streaks brilliant color in the night sky from the Northern Lights.
You don’t have to know what Jesus taught in order to be touched when you see an act of kindness or outraged when you see an act of cruelty.
You only have to be human. Because an appreciation for this kind of beauty is built into the human heart.
There is a void waiting to be filled by fiction written by Christians.
This void requires fiction that contains Beauty
without preaching a sermon.
That contains Light
without speaking His name.
Fiction that prepares hearts for an encounter with Him.
Fiction that prompts an unspoken yearning
for the One who forgives even the worst in us.
Fiction that gives us hope
that even the most broken of hearts
can be made new.
Much of Christian fiction lacks Truth
People react to Truth.
People are touched by Truth.
There have been a number of excellent discussions lately on the blogs I frequent regarding what’s missing in Christian fiction. People are floundering to define it.
They point to the things that have been stripped out of Christian fiction: swear words, sex scenes, gory violence, real life issues.
They point to the things that have been added to Christian fiction: scriptures, conversion scenes, uncomplicated happy endings.
When our fiction does not accurately reflect the world as the reader understands it, it cannot reach them. [tweetthis url=”http://clicktotweet.com/1K12t”]
When Jesus used parables, He used stories that every person could relate to: a woman losing a coin, a landowner going on vacation and leaving his estate in the hands of his servants, a farmer sowing seeds. And somehow His stories of everyday occurrences transcended their everyday meanings and became profound spiritual messages for “those with ears to hear”.
Christian fiction is too often our fantasy of “life as we would like it to be” or “life as we want you to think it could be with Jesus.” And it doesn’t ring true. [tweetthis url=”http://clicktotweet.com/ts1TJ”]
Why do I eschew the Christian bookstore and yearn for “better Christian fiction”?
Because I see True Beauty happening all around me, and I want it captured in a meaningful way that might touch the hearts of those with ears to hear.
Because I have a trusting heart that isn’t afraid of His infinite mystery and doesn’t feel satisfied by reducing Him to some small, manageable answer.
The world needs better from us.
The Beautiful One deserves better from us.
God bless those who have come before. May the books already written by “Christian fiction” authors continue to find its way into hands and hearts and do the work You have anointed it to do, for centuries to come.
As times change, and continue changing, new wine will need new wineskins. God bless those who are carrying and bringing forth the new wine.
May we never stop singing a new song.
May we never stop looking to You, Father, for what new thing You’re doing now.
May we never be so satisfied with past achievements that we do not press ahead for what comes next.
May we look to no one for validation for what we are doing except to You — the One to whom we will answer for eternity.
May we always humbly listen for Your voice in the words of Your children.
May we forgive even as we have been forgiven, and learn to truly love as You love.
Do you know of some other great discussions of this topic happening online? Post a link in the comments!
Kathy L · at
It’s really awesome that you posted this! This makes me think of Christian comics and Christian cartoons, and this is something I thought about a long while ago and have forgotten since then.
For a while, I wanted to be an animator just so I could make Christian cartoons that would affect kids the way that many non-Christian cartoons (Cartoons doesn’t feel like the right word. Animated TV shows?) had affected me. Like, I wanted to make a series with actual long-term plots and with character development and with morals, but not the kind that are just handed to you at the end of an episode.
Haha, I’m trying to word this in a way that doesn’t sound critical of existing Christian animated series, because I don’t want to sound like I don’t appreciate the hard word that goes into that. I don’t want to sound judgemental or like I’m saying that all of that is not good enough. But it could definitely be better.
sparksofember · at
Did you ever see the McKee & Me series? It’s wasn’t very long (and mostly live-action) but when I was a teen, we loved watching them for the character development and story lines.
Teddi · at
Wasn’t it “McGee & Me”? I think I’ve seen a few episodes. It was more creative and “cutting edge” than most of the other Christian TV of that time, as I recall.
The guy that created that series, Bill Meyers, was the keynote speaker at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference a couple of years ago. Pretty neat to hear how the series came about.
sparksofember · at
You’re probably right. I’m getting it mixed up with my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. lol