Wednesday, August 11, 2010

If I Ate These Words

I would die of Poison.

So maybe that's a little extreme, but there are two words, when said together, that make me cringe. Writer's Block? No. Writer's cramp? no... "Chritistian Fiction." I'm not joking. I have huge issues with the words Christian Fiction. Before you get mad at me, let me explain. I was raised both at home and at church to have a "spirit of excellence" (Dan. 6:3). Granted, my mom never called it that, but the principle was still there. Calling a book Christian Fiction is like asking it to be cheesy or poorly written. But, hey, as long as it has a "powerful" conversion at the end, then we don't care if there are grammatical errors every two pages. I'm not saying all Christian Fiction is lame, but, if you go to a christian bookstore, good books are hard to find. In fact, the only really good books I found in a christian bookstore were either Fantasy, Sci-Fi, or Francine Rivers. My favorite book could be characterized as Christian Fantasy... or is it Sci-Fi? Either way, it's not even in print anymore!

If you look at all these "Christian" books, you'll notice something: Most of them can't be found in a normal bookstore. What can you find at five locations near you (me)? those Fantasy, Scifi, and Francine Rivers books. Because they are actually good, and people like them. They are memorable, and non-Christians love them! (Also interesting is how many Christians reject the idea of Christian fantasy, and Francine Rivers because of how descriptive she is, yet those are the books that are taking the 'secular market' by storm!)

In my last post I interviewed Heidi Wright. What I didn't post was a conversation we had in later emails about her books in the Christian market. She told me "
...my books arent 'Christian' in the sense like [some other authors]. My Christian worldview comes through and I incorporate koine Greek, but that's about it." I wanted to give her a big hug, but she lives several hours away. Her books may not be Christian, but because they are written by a Christian, it comes through. It's not blatant, but it's there. The books are clean, the characters follow an unspoken moral code, there is a strong distinction between right and wrong.

As a Christian, your writing shouldn't have to be forced into a box that preaches Christianity on every page. The bad guy doesn't have to be converted and turn good; he can actually die! Really! Just like a Christian businessman doesn't announce to everyone he's a Christian, yet still practices honesty and work ethic. He doesn't make sure his clients are all Christian. He doesn't advertise as "A Christian Company." In & Out doesn't open stores inside churches. A writer who is Christian should be able to maintain their testimony without making it painfully obvious. "What about C.S. Lewis?" Lewis didn't publish in the Christian market, neither did Tolkien. "But I'm witnessing!" How many Non-Christians do you know that go to the Christian section of Borders for a good book? I don't know any.

A last example, is one you will all lecture me on. Since, after all, Christians should read Christian books. You may not know this name, but Orson Scott Card is a leading Sci-Fi novelist of today. His Ender books are phenomenal (personal favorite: Ender's Shadow). He's not an Atheist like so many people are inclined to believe. He is Mormon. A very devout Mormon actually. Just like secular authors who are Christians, his belief system shows through in his work. For the first half of the first book I read, I couldn't decide if he was Christian or not. When I found out he was Mormon, that made sense. He didn't have a Mormon hero, but his personal beliefs were laced tastefully through his book. Would an atheist catch it? Without a religious background, probably not. He writes some amazing books, but I didn't have to go to a "Mormon Bookstore" to find them. Why should I have to go to a Christian bookstore to find Christian fiction?

"A Spirit of Excellence" is about being the best. Not in a super cheesy, or self-centered way. We are supposed to give our all and strive to be excellent. So if, as writers, our work is done with that spirit of excellence, we don't have to force our beliefs in, and it should be good enough to stand against to a secular book and hold it's own. Most Christian books can't do that. Once the preaching is gone, there's not much story left. You should not have to sacrifice quality because you're trying to force feed the reader some all important moral. A mother bird drops the food into the baby's mouth, she doesn't jam it down their throat. Food is good, Christian values are great, but good things forced on someone lead to gagging (in case you missed the metaphor there).

Anyways, that's my three cents :-) There's a lot to be said on the difference between a Christian book and a book written by a Christian. Which one do you write?

4 comments:

  1. i love this! this is so true and a very good, i think it's something we christian struggle with a lot, i know i do more so when it comes to music but its true with books, other than a certain series (that didn't even preach or force feed) i have never selected books from a christian bookstore/section
    great point and i wholeheartedly agree

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  2. Thanks Kaitie! It's so hard when you want to support Christian writers, but would rather not read their books...

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  3. Great post, and oh how true it is! I find myself reading Christian non-fiction rather than fiction. It just happens to be the way it goes. As far as writing, I think as long as our values and principles are not cast aside, then a balance can be struck and the writings will be appealing without being "preachy". =) A good example of this (although it's a non-fiction work) is Principle Centered Living by Rev. Dr. Sheldon E. Williams. Although it's a book that includes biblical verses, the author at the outset states this is a book for people of all faiths, beliefs, etc. It's all about making decisions based on our personal ethics, and it rings true no matter who is reading it.

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  4. This is a superb post! I completely agree :)

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