Saturday, May 2, 2009

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday - 5.2.09

This is my first time to participate in this weekly meme, hosted by Amy at her fabulous blog, My Friend Amy. I have just recently had a similar conversation with a good friend of mine regarding Christian Fiction - and so I thought a response to Amy's question was in order:
Christian fiction is generally known for being clean and non-offensive, but lately there's been a lot of chatter about edgy Christian fiction and the need for Christian fiction to be more realistic. Christian fiction has certainly changed and contains a lot more edge than it used to. This makes some readers uncomfortable and I was wondering what you line is? What would push the envelope too far for a Christian fiction novel for you? Language? Sex? Violence? Main characters who never believe in Jesus?
If you came across something that offended you in a Christian fiction book, how would you handle it?
I am so very conflicted on the subject of Christian Fiction - and Christian music. Honestly - I am not a real fan of either one. Ok - I said it. BUT.....I feel like a heathen after having voiced that opinion. Then the guilt sets in. Then the doubt sets is a horrible downward spiral for me.

The reason I am not a fan of Christian music is that I think it is stuck in the 1980s. It is great for upper elementary students - those who have graduated from the Bible Songs like, Jesus Loves Me and Be Careful Little Eyes. The contemporary music has a beat - and the lyrics are poetic. However, once our students enter junior high they quickly realize that this "contemporary" music is not at all "modern" and they soon prefer the secular radio to the wholesome music of faith. I personally think the Christian music industry needs to do some major revamping to reach our youth.

BUT...this post is not about music - it is about books. Christian Fiction to be more exact. I thoroughly enjoy Christian non-fiction - most notably the Spiritual Living category (CS Lewis, Max Lucado, and Joyce Meyer are at the top of my list), but after reading only a couple of fictional works, I decided to read no more. The primary reason, I think, is that the books I read had no meat to them. They were very simple and seemed quite formulaic. The characters were predictable - almost stock characters. The themes were one dimensional (redemptive love and the need for Christ). Ok -- the guilt is starting to set in. BUT MOLLY -- these themes are important! These themes are the very essence of our Christian faith!

Yes, they are -- and they need to be expressed because they bring hope to a hopeless world. BUT....we can express those themes in a subtle way. We can have dynamic characters with depth. We can, and should, have realistic settings that through description - dialogue - and action we can be drawn into the story and in a way that causes us to use our minds to discover for ourselves right from wrong; good from evil; succombing to temptation that eventually leads to repentence and ultimate forgiveness.

I have just recently been introduced to Ted Dekker (who says that adults can't learn from children. My book club students raved about this author --- and because he was "Christian" I hesitated that he would be worth studying. I was wrong!) I have only read Black so far - but I have several of his works on my TBR pile. The author draws the reader into the book almost immediately with high action and suspense. The characters are fully developed over the entire novel. The Christian themes are evident - but in such a way that a secular audience is not offended. And...isn't that a point? Shouldn't Christian fiction be an effective witnessing tool? If the reader is ready to receive the profound truth found in the book -- how wonderful that a life can be dramatically impacted by fiction! If the reader is not ready to read such truth, then they have enjoyed a great book. I personally do not like the genre "Christian fiction" as I think it is too limiting. I think it should simply be titled "fiction" and it happens to be written by a Christian author. But that is probably the topic for another post.

How far is too far? I personally do not mind mild profanity when I read a book. I think if used appropriately, it lends credibility to the character. However, I do not think the f-bomb has to be used or other more "hard core" cussing. I think hells and damns are enough to get the point across. I think that the author should always search for "le mot juste" and use the cuss words sparingly. There are many ways to show the reader emotion without the use of foul language.

Sex scenes? Violence? Well, I have a problem with the graphic details in all fictional literature. I think it is the author's job to present a credible story, but the reader should be actively involved as well. Scenes that are quite explicit leave nothing to the reader's imagination - and that is the joy I find in reading a good book. Bring me to the point of sexual intercourse - but don't give me a play-by-play account of it.


  1. I agree with you about this: "I personally do not like the genre "Christian fiction" as I think it is too limiting. I think it should simply be titled "fiction" and it happens to be written by a Christian author."

    This is a big part of why I'm reading the books on the Image Journal Top 100 list.

  2. I agree with a bit of what you are saying, but I have read a lot of secular books with the same problem because the author writes the same sort of book so it gets repeatitive and boring, but I like most Christian Fiction, but I also like some I guess it just depends on your reading style.

  3. Welcome to Faith 'n Fiction Molly. :) I like your blog very much. I also appreciated your thoughts on this subject - we share a great deal of opinions on it, both in literature and music. I second Wordlily's endorsement of your thinking the "Christian Fiction" genre category is limiting. In fact, you'd probably like my books, cuz I purposefully do not write within tht genre BECAUSE of its limitations and the fact that the WORD is only reaching the choir and not those who need it most - the secular readership. So I am a Christian author who writes secular fiction with underlying (not bible-thumping preachy) Christian spiritual messages to them.

    Sheesh - gettin' windy here - almost wrote a whole post! Hey - I'm a writer. :)

  4. I'm against any profanity in a Christian fiction. I do believe that "swearing is a lazy man's way of being emphatic."

    I named a book that I feel went over the line.

  5. Me again. Forgot to leave my answer permalink on Free Spirit. Here ya go, everybody-

  6. Yup! Couldn't have said it better Molly.
    I stopped reading this genre a few years ago for the same reasons. I have felt the Christian fiction books I have read (with the exception of a few) were so badly written that they were painful to read. One series, The Yada Yada Prayer Group, was the last attempt I made to read of this genre and I just could not finish the first book. It was so preachy and poorly constructed that it was embarrassing. I almost never abandon a book midway through, but that one I did.

    I wish it was different and I also have felt guilty about feeling this way, but try not to dwell on it too much! ;)

    As far as the music goes--amen on that too. We are a strong Christian family but listen to very little Christian music and I can tell you that my teens do not listen to hardly any. Thankfully, because of their music lessons and classes, they like Jazz and some classical. I know they have other stuff on their M3p players though.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post.

  7. oh your post made me sad!! I try so hard to share that it's not all like this and feel sometimes like I get nowhere!!

    To say all Christian fiction or music is like this, would be the same as saying all Vampire love stories are like Twilight. There is excellent stuff, it's just a matter of finding it.

    Have you read Lisa Samson? Or have you listened to Andrew Peterson? Both of them are true artists in the Christian fiction, Christian music categories.

  8. Glad you like Ted Dekker. I am a fan of edgy CF and prefer stories about people dealing with real life as they walk through their journeys.

  9. I don't like christian fiction either. I have recently recieved a couple to review and its hard to do this when this is not your favorite genre. The stories for the most part are silly and like you said have very little meat to them. Great answers Molly. =)

  10. I agree, I'm not a big fan of what I'd call "sappy" Christian fiction. I don't think it is an effective tool for reaching the lost because they can spot a counterfeit in a split second. Biblical truths are not one dimensional and thin, therefore, fiction that is written as such is not really an accurate telling of the gospel.

  11. I've loved reading everyone's opinions! I find them so interesting. As for Christian music, I don't know what you're looking for, but Air 1 has "alternative" Christian music. Maybe check them out online and stream them for a while to see if there's anything you like.

    I think I really like Christian fiction because it's my escape from reality. I don't want something that's simplistic, but if it's so heavy that I feel weary after I've read it, it wasn't for me. I absolutely love C.S. Lewis.

    I also find it interesting that people don't mind swearing in Christian fiction. I don't recall any books I've read that has any.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!



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