The Trouble with Christian Fiction

Don’t get me wrong. I am a strong advocate of Christian fiction. Most of what I write is Christian fiction. Although conservatives in my church often look down their noses in disapproval of anything with the word “fiction” associated with it, writers within my church have been writing fiction for generations. And I believe there is much to be said for fiction and its ability to cut to the meat of the matter on some subjects. “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,” wrote Albert Camus.

But with the advent of the Internet and the simplification of publishing, more and more people are writing and publishing their own work. Some of them are even writing what they consider “Christian fiction.” And therein, as they say, lies the rub.

Some of the books I have seen advertised on Amazon are Christian in name only. One book was vilified as being raw and filled with profanity. Another that I started to read–and didn’t finish–told of a spy organization that was formed to rescue Christians from persecution overseas. There was no mention of the good work they were doing, or their calling by God. There was no inspiration, only action and weak characterization. So for me, it isn’t true Christian fiction unless it has an inspirational element in it. It needs to remind people why we are Christians and what obligations and promises lie before us. I needs to provide hope through salvation by Christ.

On the other hand, I grew up with a tradition of Christian books that were inspirational, but were lacking in basic ability to tell a story. And as I browse around Amazon, I see that kind of book still exists. It’s not enough to feel you are called by God to be a writer. You have to be willing to spend hours and months and years sweating and typing until you hone your ability to tell a story into a semblance of something professional. Too many people today say to themselves: Hey, look. I wrote a book. It won’t be too long until I am rich and famous. Folks, for most of us, it doesn’t happen that way.

No, Christian writers interested in writing fiction have a double responsibility. Just like every other writer out there, we need to invest ourselves in what is necessary to hone our craft. I am talking 10,000 hours or a million words, whichever comes first. At the same time, we have a responsibility to God to represent Him in a way that is honest yet appealing, inspirational yet exciting. It’s not easy, but if it was, everyone would be doing it. Wait a minute….

I have not trouble with Christian fiction, if it is done right. Trouble is, there are far too many “writers” who haven’t learned the craft, and aren’t committed to our calling.

4 thoughts on “The Trouble with Christian Fiction

  1. Amen to that! And I’ve never understood the (conservative) church’s aversion to fiction. Jesus is our example in everything, and what teaching model did He use most frequently? The parable = fiction. I rest my case.

  2. conservatives are afraid of what will be told in fiction, not the fiction itself. You can point to the hypocrisy through fiction and it tends to sting more because they are forced to look in the mirror and compare themselves to a fictional character. When one is forced to look within themselves to find what is wrong, which is what fiction does (in all its forms, if written properly), it makes life seem harder because they can no longer point to the foibles of those around them and make themselves look better than anyone else.

    Human nature is such that we would rather point outwardly, hence the wars and conflicts we have been witnessing, than to look within our own hearts, minds and souls to find what we need to fix. Properly written fiction, no matter how cliché in form and plot (there are no new stories, just new ways of telling them), makes one look into those dark places they least desire to look for gear that they might find some weakness or impurity that they will be forced to fix within themselves.

    General science fiction is political satire. General fantasy is a thinly disguised story about the world we see every day. General fiction is LIFE uncensored. Christian fiction should be a view of the heart and mind of a Christian, but with reality as a base. Nothing destroys a book quicker than to whitewash the fact that humans do curse, they do lie, they do horrible things. A real Christian book should show a person coming to terms and changing from the old to the new. Never leave out the truth, just keep it from being central to the story. Realistically, we all fall short and do worldly things. We all have weaknesses. This should translate into Christian literature as our daily struggle.

    Never shy away from putting “worldly” character in Christian fiction. It gives a contrast. I do not write a lot of cursing into anything I write. I do not see a need. I do, however, include violence and bits of the real world. I try to show the struggles, the character of my characters, not the fantasy that everyone who believes is automatically perfect and exempt from being human.

    I hope this helps.

    1. Please feel free to copy and repeat on your blog. All I ask is that you include where you got it. Best wishes.

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