Monday, January 24, 2011

What Can Be Done About Christian Fiction? (Part Two)

Please read the first part of this discussion before continuing.

When discussing what can be done about Christian fiction many different issues come up. I have to admit that maybe addressing Christian fiction is futile, because the real issue is the evangelical Christian subculture.

I've started to notice something in the Christian fiction books I read. While difficult issues are brought up, the main characters are never "guilty" of what we consider to be the major sins. Christian fiction readers don't want to read books where perhaps the characters are guilty of looking at porn, causing death, being thoughtless, or sexting, for example. (these are some of issues in the the books I've recently read that come to mind) We don't want to read characters who have done these things, because we want to identify with the characters and we don't want to believe ourselves capable of what we consider ugly behavior.

The problem for a reader like myself, is that I know I'm capable of acting against what I perceive to be my values. I know sometimes that I'm thoughtless, selfish, and even cruel. So when I read books that scratch the surface of life in its difficulty but where the characters don't feel truly capable of behaving in such a way, I feel disappointed and alienated from what I'm reading.

Believing in God doesn't make a person better. Believing in Jesus doesn't mean everything in your life will turn out. It means only that you are allowed to hope in that which you believe, and to trust the one promise I believe we have--that you are never alone.

For goodness sakes, even our Biblical stories have "characters" who were so completely flawed it's meant to be a blessing to know they were chosen by God. What I don't understand about our own evangelical subculture* is the myth we perpetuate that we are somehow above the ugliest of all behavior, and the way we support bottling up the truth of who we are to save face. I don't really understand our sanitized messages and the safe God we talk about in books and songs. I fear at times these messages are far more harmful than letting real life seep in.

I mention this because I was reflecting on how I used to have these same conversations about Christian music. The Christian radio stations drove me bonkers with their "safe for the whole family" messages and their happy worship songs with troubling theological messages. I just didn't see the Christian artists I loved--Andrew Peterson, Justin McRoberts, and others to be a threat to my faith--but rather in some cases, the reason I still had it. I wondered why my story was of so little importance to those in control of the airwaves and if there were others like me. I now know there are others like me.

And now I find myself having these same conversations about Christian fiction and receiving the same message. I trust that this is not the message that anyone INTENDS to deliver, but the reason we're having these conversations is because this is the message that has been RECEIVED.

If you are interested in discussing ways Camp Two and the potential Camp Three can be reached, Deborah and I are hosting a Twitter chat today. We want to have a respectful dialogue about Christian fiction and/or faith driven publishing. I hope you'll show up and share your thoughts on what can be done. Join us on Twitter today at 1 PM EST/10 AM PST using the hashtag #CFchat. See you there.


*I recogonize this doesn't even take into account the fact that the term Christian fiction has been co-opted by evangelical Christians and there are many other Christians in the world.

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment! I appreciate hearing your thoughts.