In reviewing the genre that is “Christian Fiction.” I have discovered that what is considered Christian Fiction has gone through a morphing that based on today’s current standards might not see such great works as The Lord of the Rings, or The Chronicles of Narnia come to life if those authors were alive today. At least they might have to be indie published if they were alive today. It’s a landscape that would be unrecognizable to the man that wrote the Screwtape Letters.
My thinking comes from observing that Christian fiction or possibly more accurately CBA fiction. (Christian Booksellers Association.) Tends to look at books through the following lens. Here are five must haves that seem to dominate the books that you see on Christian shelves.
- A protagonist who is either Christian, or comes to faith as a result of their experiences in the book.
- A strand of spiritual development that has greater or equal weight to the other plot developments.
- The primary conflict in the book is resolved by spiritual, not earthly power.
- There is an bar on bad language, out-of-marriage sexual situations, the consumption of alcohol and other recreational drugs.
- Violence must be treated very carefully – they would rather it happens off-page than on.
Current books seem designed to make sure that no offense is given to its audience, nor gives rise to vicarious experiences that might lead to sinful thoughts and feelings.
This absolutely seems to be the filter that is used by most Christian publishers in determining what is published and gets space on Christian book shelves.
Using this criteria poses some severe problems for the Christian writer, both internally in terms of writing stories and glorifying God in “word and deed”, as well as externally, in the sense that there is an external pressure to conform to this standard in order to get your work seen. Note this extension could be widened to include all aspects of Christian art and entertainment.
Please note I am not condemning the desire or producing of works that fall in those guidelines. I am making an observation that such “artificial” constructs have an impact within the Christian community.
Some of the ramifications is simply the lack of some works that we would see produced. Let’s take the story the Chronicles of Narnia.
It has witchcraft in it, talking animals, no ones gets saved. God’s name is never mentioned, and it’s written by a Christian who was a known smoker and drinker.
You tell me, would the CBA publish such a book today based on the above?
Let’s take The Lord of Rings.
It has witchcraft, magic, demons, talking animals, reincarnation, religion is not even mentioned in the book at all, let alone God, no one gets saved. And is again written by a known smoking and drinking Christian.
Finally, let’s take a look at something that might throw you. How about the book of Esther.
Yep Esther. (Pssft, Esther is one of the books of the Bible by the way.)
Here’s a book that doesn’t even mention God in the whole book. Those that have studied how the canon of scripture has come to be, know that at one point, this was one of the disputed books to be acknowledged by the church, simply because of the fact that it didn’t mention anything about God in it.
Think about that. It doesn’t make one reference to God. Yet we read it. It’s in our Bible. How then is it Christian? Let that really sink in.
The point of the blog is to really think about how such a standard while seemingly good if taken too far has the potential to sift even the Bible from its ranks, which is ludicrous.
This filter has a deleterious impact on all books that particularity dwell in the realm of the fantastical, or sci-fi genres. And that’s what we need to understand. If Christians are not careful they risk missing the next Lewis’, and Tolkien. We will miss Michelangelo’s ”David’. Or we discourage the artistic and creative Christian writers out of the Christian market entirely like the experience that author Mike Duran has expressed. My concern is that like the Pharisees of old if we are not careful we will have over 600 laws that Christian artists must adhere too. Encumbering the body of Christ in an artistic bondage, God never intended when he penned through his apostles and prophets the word of God.
Before there was Amish fiction. Fantastical tales were what opened the door to the masses to be exposed to Christ in new, imaginative and profound ways. None of the above books “pass” theological mustard if you go into the stories looking to see if they pass a certain theological litmus test. Remember even Esther was questioned.
I am honored to be a part of the group of Indie authors who are writing speculative Christian Fiction. I’m glad to be among the number. I want to encourage those who are members of the body of Christ to continue to tell the stories that glorify God and write on. Continue to create the discussions that open the door to spread the gospel beyond our circles of influence, and create works of art and literature that will stand the test of time and the fruit test that Jesus himself gave.
Let’s explore what’s behind the veil.