Friday, November 13, 2009

Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday: Do you "warn" people about Christian Fiction?

Hello! If this is your first time participating in Faith'n'Fiction Saturday please read the introductory post.

Today's Question

Do you recommend or lend your Christian fiction books to people who don't share your faith? If you do, do you tell them in advance that the book is Christian fiction? Why do you or don't you tell them?

My Answer

It wasn't until I started reading online reviews that I realized there were some people who would get upset if they read a book with Christian themes. So much so, that they would trash the book in their reviews. I have a strong affection for Christian fiction and a kind of family feel towards can't knock it unless you're also a fan of it. ;)

Since then, I have a sort of informal policy to let someone know if a book is Christian fiction. Does this turn some people away? Yes, but I'd rather they not read the book and trash it unfairly. Truthfully, I like to know if books contain certain elements in advance as well. If I want this courtesy, I can understand why others would, too! I know some people may see Christian fiction as being lesser or not as good as other kinds of fiction. I think that's a battle that every single book that gets classified in a genre battles. It's unfortunate, but at the end of the day, it's the reader who censors themselves this way that's missing out on great books. I guess I never see information as being negative, I think it's important to arm people with information so they can make their own choices.

Your Turn

Do tell your thoughts! Also if you aren't a Christian feel free to weigh in about whether or not you want to know in advance and why!


Literary Feline said...

If the novel has strong Christian overtones, I would like to know about it upfront, since I am not always eager to read books that may be (it really depends). If, however, it is more subtle or really not noticeable, than I don't mind going into the book not knowing. I have read a couple of books without knowing they were labeled as Christian Fiction and was surprised to find out they in fact were. Knowing that did not change my opinion of the books at all after the fact (if I like a book, I like it), but I wonder if knowing ahead of time might have kept me from reading it in the first place. I hope not, but there's always that possibility.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

My opinion in similar to Literary Feline. I like to know before if a book is Christian, and how so. I was raised as a Christian and even though now my believes have slightly change (which is a whole other question!), I am still comfortable with reading about Christian characters. But, I like to know before and I don't like a book where it's too obvious either; I don't want to be preached at. And that last point is true for non Christian fiction, too.

imbookingit said...

I'm not a practicing Christian, and I don't have a particular interest in Christian fiction.

That said, I'm under the impression that there are two types of Christian Fiction out there: Books where Christianity is the point of the book, or a primary theme; and those where Christianity informs the choices the characters make, and what kind of details the author chooses to include, but is not a primary part of the story.

I'm not interested in the first sort of book, but I'd love recommendations for the second. For the first, I think a review would be incomplete without mentioning it; for the second, I think it is optional.

I'd prefer a mention if:

The book is "preachy", or if conversion is an aim.

If the characters behave outside the mainstream. I read a book where the characters stopped to pray before taking any action at all. I found that annoying. On the other hand, mention of saying grace before meals, bedtime prayers, or prayer in time of great stress wouldn't be an issue at all for me-- unless more time is spent on that than the plot.

Does that make sense?

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

If it's not evangelical then I have no problem with it. If it's well written and has a good storyline and well drawn characters then sign me up. I read a lot of books that have religious families in them or are examinations of religious faith. I even don't mind overzealous evangelizing characters within a context of the book. But if it's two dimensional characters with no shades of gray, boring plot, poorly written and all the non-christian characters are caricatures of evil and are punished at the end, I get really annoyed. But then maybe that's just a bad book, Christian or not. I hate those.

And I need more than a category. I want titles.

ladystorm said...

My post was pretty much like yours, so I agree that I don't like giving my out to those I know don't like Christian novels because I don't want them trashing them.

Deborah said...

actually i didn't put this in my post, but i know there are some bloggers who don't like to mention that there is gratuitous language or sex scenes in a book when they write a review, yet they want a warning that book is Christian. i think that it has to go both ways. some people don't want to read curse words and sex scenes in a book and would like to be warned if there is. some people don't want to read about Christian or other faiths in their book and would like to be warned.

it's a two way street.

caitieflum said...

I am catholic, but, like other have mentioned, would like to know if a book is "preachy". I don't need a book telling me how to think or what to do (why I don't go to church often, the last time I did they preached against gay rights).

I enjoy the books by Shelley Adina because it isn't too preachy and it shows girls going through high school and having the same issues as other girls...they just happen to be Christians and struggle with right and wrong a little more.

That said, I won't put warning of language in a book because I do not think it is something that needs to be warned.

J.T. Oldfield said...

I am sort of leary of Christian Fiction. But maybe you could define what "Christian Themes" mean. I mean, if it means that characters have to accept Jesus as their personal savior in order to come out O.K., then I wouldn't like it, but if it means do unto others...then that's O.K., I think. Maybe what you should warn about is what kind of Christian theme the book has.

Beth (BBRB) said...

Frankly, I don't read Christian anything. Ever. I find the vast majority to be preachy and a blatant effort to try to convert people. That said, my friends aren't the type of people to read Christian fiction either, so they wouldn't pass it on to me. I think that people who read Christian fiction probably have friends who are into the same things so it's not really an issue to pre-warn them about the themes, but if you're passing it on to someone you don't know as well, then they certain deserve a heads up.

Violet said...

I am not a Christian but I do read Christian fiction that has light Christian themes. Sometimes what irritates me about C.F is that they try to trash other religions which I believe is totally wrong. One could praise one's religion without bad mouthing other religions.

clindsay said...

Hmmm. I am not really what most folks would consider a Christian, but I do sometimes read Christian fiction because a couple of my friends write it (usually fantasy of some sort). I never thought about that before. If I read something that is well-written, I don't think much about whether it Christian or not. I also read a lot of queer fiction that I don't think about as queer simply because it's just a good book.

As an agent, however, I like to know if your work is Christian fiction because I don't rep it, so it's good for me to know up front so I can refer you to colleagues who are Christian agents instead.

ashleyludwig said...

I'm an inspirational author, and I understand the shying away from preachiness of much Christian fiction.

Inspy works integrate faith as part of character's lives. Explore emotions, and characters are human, with frailties and fragmented lives. Through personal journey, they find themselves redeemable.

I preface any suggestion with themes that readers might find annoying... not just with Christian but any book.

Deborah said...

ok i'm not understanding why it's ok to NOT warn people about language or sex (even though movies or TVs are required to warn) but we need to have a warning that Oh NO! there are Christians in the book?

Debbie said...

I don't give Christian books to non-Christians because the Christian novels I like are probably novels they wouldn't care for.

In my reviews, I do try to point out the level of Christianity in a novel (as well as level of profanity and so on).

To me, what's the point of being a Christian (versus another faith) if all it consists of is rote actions and feelings of guilt. Christ can transform a life into one of joy, freedom, and peace, and that's why I'm a Christian.

So I find uninteresting Christian fiction where you can't distinguish the Christian characters from the non-Christians except by a bit of outward behavior.

I also am uninterested in Christian novels where the non-Christian suddenly smacks their forehead and says, "Duh! I really ought to be a Christian!" with no discernible reason except that the author thought it should be in the novel. I find this a bit insulting to everyone. Luckily, I don't run across this much anymore.

I'm also not very interested in novels that clearly were written to make a point rather than allow the reader to come to a conclusion on their own.

What I wish I found more often is Christian characters struggling with life's big questions in the context of their faith. After all, supposedly it's Christians reading these books and isn't that what the reader is most likely dealing with and thus can relate to? (Though, from the answers above, apparently it's not just Christians who read Christian fiction.)

Frankly, I find more non-Christian novels than Christian novel that have their characters facing hard problems in the context of their beliefs. I'm a bit disappointed that Christian fiction seems to shy away from this.

T. Anne said...

I recently gave a ton of books to my cousin who is not really a Christian. I didn't mention that they had a spiritual flavor. But I did emphasis which one was my favorite. SO I guess no. BUT if I give books to Christian friends, I always mention it's a CHristian book. I know they're more likely to enjoy them.

Margot said...

In my experience, considerate behavior requires telling someone the parts of a book that may or may not offend. So, in telling someone about a book, I do point out strong or vulgar language, sexual content, violence, paranormal or horror content, and strong religious biases, Christian or otherwise. It's what I want to receive in return.

I consider myself a strong Christian and I enjoy well-written Christian fiction. Unfortunately, I haven't found many. I find Debbie's comment above to be spot-on. Christian publishers need to give us good, strong Christian characters and plots that mirror real life and it's struggles. I'd buy them and recommend them.

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

I know that this is true, that there are probably excellent Christian fiction books out there that I am missing out on, but (to be frank) I do have a prejudice against them! Which I realize, as an avid reader, is silly and inexcusable. So I ask you for recommendations! Please?

laineymic said...

I am a Christian and I read a lot of what is categorized as Christian fiction - although I don't recommend every Christian fiction novel I read. Sometimes I don't even finish what I am reading just because it wasn't as engaging as I had hoped, or, as in a couple of cases, the dialogue was just not realistic or natural. However, when I do recommend Christian fiction, I am prone to let it be known that the book does have a faith-based theme. By the same token, I would also point out if a book contained strong or vulgar language, scenes containing graphic physical violence or sex, etc., and would hope to have the same courtesy extended to me.

I think if you know the person to whom you are recommending a book, you probably know what he or she may find distasteful and you really ought to point out if the book contains anything like that as a courtesy.

So, to Lu @ Regular Rumination, if you like historical fiction and don't mind trying out a book with a faith-based theme, I would like to suggest Francine Rivers' A Voice in the Wind. The author must have done a lot of research on ancient Rome and the time of the gladiators because her descriptions are so vivid, you almost feel like you have been transported back in time. The characters are complex, well drawn, and interesting - and the plot just moves right along. I never felt it drag. I'm not going to lie - it is a nice, fat book - about 500 pages - but, still, I read it pretty quickly...mainly because I couldn't put it down. There is some violence and death in the book - these scenes are mainly in the arena and the war scenes at the beginning of the novel and do not make up the majority of the story, but I thought I really ought to point that out. Some of the characters are very promiscuous - but there are no graphic sex scenes. It's been a while since I read it and I am certainly no pro at book reviewing, so you might want to go on over to or something and seach A Voice in the Wind and read a better review of it before you decide.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I was gone out of town all day today and missed out on the Faith In Fiction post. Looking at this now, I am really engaged in the discussion going on here.... there are a lot of great points...

I do recommend really good Christian Fiction reads to my secular friends as well as my Christian friends. I cant think of a time I have "fair warned" either of them that it is a Christian book. I do point out if a book has strong sexual content, violence, or language as those are things I find offensive and would like be sure others are aware of what they are getting into before they decide to read a book I have reviewed.... I just cant remember ever letting people know in advance that a book is a Christian Fiction although I do tag them as such so those looking for Christian books reviews can find them.

Terresa said...

I agree with you, that "it's the reader who censors themselves this way that's missing out on great books." While I'm Christian, I don't read Christian fiction, although I did as a teenager. I think limiting ourselves to be genre-specific readers limits our minds, too.

Good, thought-provoking post!

David A. Bedford said...

I have just published a YA novel, Angela 1: Starting Over. The book is imbued with Christian values but has no preachiness whatsover. For anyone interested in that kind of read, please check my link above and click on my name. Thanks!
David A. Bedford

Tracy said...

If I were loaning a book to a non-Christian friend I would let it be known that the book has faith-based themes and make sure they're OK with that. For the same reasons someone else mentioned. Some without Christian faith don't want to read books of that genre....just like I don't want to read books with lots of swearing and explicit material and I would like to be warned if someone were trying to loan me a book like that.

That being said, most of my friends are Christians and I don't have to pre-warn. My biggest issues is more likely to be whether the loanee will appreciate the genre (eg. suspense, mystery, romance etc)

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