“It’s too bad,” says my wife, “that whenever you see the label ‘Christian’ attached to anything, it means an imitation of something in the popular culture with some Christian stuff just tacked on to it.” Hence “Christian rock”, “Christian rap,” etc. But what about “Christian fiction”?
Is this just regular fiction that’s not quite as good as the secular stuff, but which has a special market because it’s labeled “Christian”? There are special best-seller lists for “Christian fiction”– but when do the top books on those lists wind up on the real best-seller lists?
Just skimming over some of those “Christian” lists, I see what appear to be a lot of goopy love stories, tons of ’em, with sprinklings of fantasy, adventure, science fiction, and whatnot. It made me wonder, “Is this the best we can do?”
Don’t get me wrong. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the best fantasy anybody ever wrote, and their work was “Christian” down to the ground–because they were Christians! And if you like mysteries, there’s Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton, Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters, and Father Dowling by Robert McInerney. The lead characters in these books could not be themselves without being thoroughly, deeply Christian. These also happen to be crackerjack, award-winning mysteries.
We are probably better off without the label “Christian” on our books, and maybe even better off without “Christian fiction” best-seller lists. The label sort of says, “A substitute for the real thing, so you, the Christian reader, can read this stuff without feeling like a sinner.” All of the writers mentioned in the previous paragraph did just fine without the label or the lists.
Do we not believe that Christianity, that God’s word, is the truth? And should not the truth inform everything we write, even our most imaginative fiction?
If “Christian fiction” is perceived as inferior to the regular stuff, shouldn’t Christian writers be working overtime to do away with that perception? And how do you do away with it? By writing fiction that can compete successfully with the secular stuff, overtake it, and pass it.
In case you hadn’t noticed, our popular culture is desperately in need of Christian influence.