Friday, April 16, 2010

Faith'n'Fiction Saturday

Faith'n'Fiction Saturday is a weekly discussion of faith and fiction. Some weeks are more faith, others more fiction, but the best combine both. If you want to respond, just leave a comment or write a post on your own blog and leave a link in comments.

My understanding of God is something that constantly changes. (just to be clear I don't think God changes, just the way I understand Him and the Bible) Therefore, I am always interested in seeing different theological perspectives represented in Christian fiction. I have noticed, however, that a lot of Christian fiction steers clear from strong theology and tends to focus on a few issues of Christian practice. For example, sexual purity and fidelity, honesty, and trusting that God will provide through difficult circumstances. What sometimes happens as a result is that we take away a message or values (and everything in life conveys values) that focus on these things or suggest they are most important.

I think Christian fiction has a unique opportunity to introduce new ideas or other ways of thinking about God but because it's also a business it often ends up traveling a very safe inoffensive path, i.e. not even mentioning a church denomination the characters are involved with. What this approach communicates to me is that most Christians want to read books with characters that reflect themselves. So I understand that Christian fiction is meant for Christians but as has sort of become my mantra around these parts, there are many different kinds of Christians. Because of this, I think Christian fiction tends to be more about consumerism rather than art that will challenge and transform.

This is becoming a major problem for me, because I find myself wanting to read Christian fiction less and less. I am becoming more and more reluctant to try new authors, as I am so often disappointed and also because I am so hungry in my reading...I want to read literature that challenges me as a person. I want to read fiction that expands my world instead of keeping it small.

Every once in awhile I'll read a book that hints at some potential awesome storyline but doesn't develop it. One recent example is Songbird Under a German Moon in which the hero would feel some stirrings of guilt over the situation the Germans were in but would brush it aside. I'd love to read a Christian fiction that really explores the many complexities of war and doesn't necessarily champion America. Not because I don't love my country, but because we aren't blameless and owning our sins is good and healthy. (funny enough, that's a concept I first learned in Christian fiction. yay Yada Yada!)

Of course, maybe I'm asking too much. Another book I reviewed this week I felt the characters were quite one dimensional and their story arcs very predictable. But several commented and said they thought they were very well fleshed out, flawed, and realistic.

I feel like this attitude is coming across on my blog as well, and I feel like I must stress it's not that I feel there isn't a place for nice safe Christian fiction...I do. It's just that it's rather impossible for me to determine what Christian fiction I might like and I no longer know if I'm willing to spend my precious reading time, which is becoming more scarce, on risks to see if the newest author might break the mold. And this has turned into a huge long confessional. But I feel like I want to be honest with all of you since I've become more and more vocal about my discontent.

But back to theology. I've noticed that Christian readers tend to not want to read books that are labelled Christian fiction that support a theology different from their own. And I'm certainly guilty of this as well. So today's question is really about what your theological deal breakers are. What ideas about God do you see presented in Christian fiction bother you?

The following are things that bug me:
*Christians killing people and being okay with it. I believe all life is sacred and I believe in nonviolence. I think if a Christian has to take the life of another person, it should be a serious event. Of course, this isn't just unique to Christians. In reality, I think taking a life is a pretty big deal for a lot of people.
*The idea that people who aren't evangelical Christians aren't really Christians.
*The idea that being a Christian is about going to Heaven.
*The perpetuation of stereotypes about people marginalized by society: people of color, with disabilities, the GLBT community, or of other faiths.
*Also any strong political bent bugs me. Probably because I'm an independent. :)

What ideas bug you that you see in Christian fiction or what have you seen that conflicts with your own understanding of God?


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