Blogging and watching baseball here at the home compound. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I’d like to write sometime about my sudden infatuation with baseball and why I think it’s the most literary of the four major sports, but I still can’t my head around that whole issue yet so on to something else. Since it’s Sunday that seems like a good day to write about something else that’s been on my mind. Christian fiction, specifically Christian novels, and why you’ll never see me writing one.
A week or so ago on Facebook I posted a status update about my thoughts on the Christian film industry that got a neat discussion going in the comments. You can read that exchange here, but it got me thinking about Christian novels. I’ve never been a big fan of them mostly because they’ve been confined to the two genres of inspirational romance and apocalyptic thriller, neither of which I have any interest in.
As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve come to the realization that Christian fiction isn’t merely an insulated industry preaching to the choir that has no interest to me, it is actually harmful to the perception of Christianity in society. Many of the issues I have with these Christian films like Left Behind and Courageous are the same issues I have with Christian novels. They ignore the basics of a good story like strong, well-developed characters, good dialogue, and challenging narratives and focus almost entirely on preaching and converting the non-believers. If God truly is the giver of all talent and we are his ambassadors in this world, why is it acceptable to put out such inferior swill?
The obvious answer would be to put my money where my mouth is and try to change the industry. That’s all well and good except that I don’t think the industry has any interest in changing. It’s one of the fastest growing segment of fiction and readers of this type of fiction have shown time again they have no desire to read outside of the two standard genres I previously mentioned.
The biggest problem though is my style and writing philosophy is at odds with the bulk of Christians beliefs about what entertainment should be. I am a very critical and self-reflective writer and have no problem addressing this in my fiction using characters who are flawed and honest versions of my own struggles. But in general the bulk of evangelical Christians, to whom these books are aimes, have no interest in seeing flawed Christian characters or characters struggling with their faith. They like to see fantasy versions of themselves who have all of the same beliefs and use those beliefs to have great adventures while thumping every character they come into contact with lame proselytizing monologues. Sorry, but that ain’t me.
Oddly enough, this same Christian publishing industry has a great history of publishing non-fiction with wonderful voices and critical examinations of faith and society. Classics like CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz are everything that Christian fiction is not and I’m not sure why there is such a disconnect. It seems a little ironic though that the genre geared toward entertainment has more preaching and less entertainment value than the genre geared toward instruction and critical thinking.
I’ve managed to move on from early thoughts of guilt for wasting my talents in the secular marketplace, but I’d still like to find a way to work though my thoughts on all of this in a fictional manner. I suspect I have a better chance of doing that through film than prose but for now I have too many stories about gamblers, strippers, and bounty hunters I want to write. Hmmm, sounds a lot like the old testament doesn’t it?