Friday, January 11, 2013

Labels: "Christian Fiction" versus..."Un-Christian"?

Heart of Jesus Lookout
     Scribblers and Book Bandits,
     I want to talk about the label “Christian Fiction.” I’ve had trouble discerning what it is, exactly, or why it matters. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
     I find the label of “Christian Fiction” unhelpful. Is the novel written by Christians? Or for Christians? Should it matter if the book is written by a Christian or not? Aren’t the story and message more important?
     I think it’s simpler and much more helpful to evaluate the book’s worth based on its craft and truthfulness. Not that that’s easy, but…“Good fiction, whether or not it is identified as Christian, will provide a memorable reading experience that captures the imagination, inspires, challenges, and educates” (Hatcher).
     God is truth, yes? If literature supports truth, it supports God. So, literature, whether written by Christians or Non-Christians, can support the truth, and therefore God. If a book is filled with more falsehood than truth, it probably isn’t worth reading.  No book will ever be perfectly truthful or perfectly untruthful. It will be on a scale.
     In one of my favorite books, a character claims he believes in the same thing as Catholics. Then he says, “I just don’t believe you can find it [God or religion] in a building” (Stievater 201). Well, the Bible says going to church is important. I’m not going to argue with that. If Maggie Stievater wants to, that’s her business and I disagree. But that doesn’t make her book “bad” or “Un-Christian” (whatever that means).
     It’s a lot easier to define the goals of a Christian writer than to define “Christian Fiction”: 1) telling a good story, and 2) showing truth through it. If a book does these two things well, it will glorify God. Glorifying God is the purpose of the Christian life. If we write about sin gratuitously, or if we support lies, then our fiction won’t be worth reading.
     Of course, if a novel is written both by and for Christians, the label might be appropriate…but people who feel this way must not hold all Christian writers to this standard. Some don’t want to write books like that.
     Like me. I want to write for a Non-Christian market. *
     And either way, I think the label just limits your audience—it might scare them away. It sure scared me away for a long time. I didn’t know what to expect from a book like that. Would it be a morally-driven tale? Would it be about church kids? Would it say magic is evil? I really didn’t know. I’d never heard of most of them and I usually read whatever was popular at the time. I didn’t know any better. If the label “Christian Fiction” scared away a church kid like me, what do you think it would do to Non-Christians?
     I personally don’t think we need the label. Our values will show up in our writing.
     What do you think?

*Revising this to say: I want to write to an open audience, whether Christian or Non-Christian. I don't want to specify one and alienate the other.

Works Cited
Hatcher, Robin Lee. “What is Christian Fiction?” Originally excerpted from 10 Jan. 2013. Website. <>

Stievater, Maggie. The Scorpio Races. Broadway, NY: Scholastic Press, 2011. Print.

Photo Credit
By Istvan Kadar (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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