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Critiquing Critics Of Christian Fiction, Part 1

You’ve likely heard this: “Christians novels aren’t edgy enough. They don’t show what the world is really like. They make everything cleaned-up and black-and-white.” But perhaps we critics should give thought to these questions.

Subtitle: What do “it’s not [insert term] enough” critics mean?

Stop me if you’ve ever heard any of this: Christians novels aren’t edgy enough. They don’t show what the world is really like. Instead we get cleaned-up, black-and-white versions of reality limited to two dimensions or less. Also, conversion scenes are clichéd.

I’ve heard these criticisms. I’ve voiced some of these criticisms here on Speculative Faith. But here I’d like to ask: what do some of these complaints really mean?

Last week Becky Miller answered some critics by showing actual excerpts from several recent Christian novels. I also loved her clarification in a later comment: “Some people might think I’m playing both sides of the fence. I think I’m being realistic — Christian fiction has grown, and changed and improved, but it needs to grow and change and improve.”

Amen. Now I’ll join my friend and co-blogger by remembering that among the first Christian fiction novels I read were many that showed scenes of horrid violence, with decidedly non-believe-in-Jesus-and-all-of-your-life-gets-better themes, a grotesque mutated baby resulting from childbirth, hideous plagues that kill millions of people, military strikes, assassinations, profound faith struggles, supernatural miracles and even some Edgy™ doctrinal views.

And all of that is from the Left Behind series, by two older Christian authors (Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins), from deep inside the Evangelical Industrial Complex, and all dating before the year 2003 — before Christian fiction publishing began to shift somewhat.

With that in mind, here are some questions for Christian fiction critics:

Even book 9 of the Left Behind series, Desecration (2001), included blasphemy, blood and gore, military attacks, fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles. These are at least some kinds of Edgy™.

1. When we say “Christian fiction isn’t edgy,” what do we mean?

Many novels are demonstrably Edgy™, certainly when it comes to violence and suffering in the world. Even the Left Behind series shows this (though it gets laughed at for its length of all things).

2. Do we perhaps mean that not enough Christian fiction is Edgy™?

If so, what then is the acceptable market quotient of Edginess? Maybe we should we somehow get rid of all those Amish Angst novels? (You are welcome to try — then you’re sure to experience some suffering.) I’m not trying to be facetious here; that’s what the answer to There’s Not Enough Edginess would thus become: all those other people ought to want better kinds of books.

I’ve had to remind myself that it’s readers who drive sales for those non-edgy Amish Angst novels. Yes, readers and publishers have a symbiotic relationship. But if we want better Christian books, I’d start with challenging readers to broaden and deepen their preferences. That requires heart-level work. Complaining about the publishers is a surface treatment.

3. By claiming “Christian novels aren’t edgy,” do we mean they’re not edgy in our favorite way?

If so, perhaps critics should clarify that better. We might concede that many Christian novels aren’t so squeamish about showing violence (which, after all, the Bible does, and often in detail, and which unlike other sins doesn’t necessarily tempt readers to commit violence themselves). Then we might say, “But there still aren’t enough novels about X.”

As a lead blogger for Speculative Faith, I certainly agree Christians need more novels with speculation. Such genres point to God and His old truths in new ways, and give us a much improved vision of living in this world in light of the next. After all, the prophesied New Heavens and New Earth (Rev. 21) will be a fantasy universe, where we’ll dwell for eternity!

But complaining because people don’t comprehend why visionary fiction best fulfills this longing won’t help much if people don’t have that longing in the first place. Again we come to that same deeper problem of the heart, which I’ll address in part 2.

Sub-complaint: “There’s not enough sex in Christian fiction.” Sigh. I must admit this one results in my nearly audible eye-rolls — and mainly because whenever I’ve read this objection it’s rarely been articulated well. (Maybe someone can do a better job in response to this?) But when I read a derivative of that line, I wonder: what is it you’re really asking for? Maybe more recognition that sexual sin is rampant in the world and even Christians struggle with it? If so, I’d agree, though likely for different reasons: writers must show in all kinds of art that people are far worse, and Christ is even more amazing, than we too often imagine.

If, however, you really mean that a Christian novel needs to follow characters, married or otherwise, into the bedroom, back seat or whatever, and hurl readers’ minds into exactly who kisses what where and what clothing item gets taken off in what order — that’s where I may just go all “Pharisaical” on your butt (or rear end in some Christian publishing-speak). How exactly would all that vivid description help? We have quite enough porn in the world, thank you very much; let us not toss more in and pretend it’s Art or even Edgy™.

Violence and (I would argue) even Bad Words don’t bring temptations to sin nearly as much as repeating descriptions or images of sexual encounters. So my suggestion: yes, let us not pretend that sexual sin isn’t widespread in the world or even in the minds of many struggling Christians. But let’s not make it worse by indulging in the details. That doesn’t honor God.

Finally, over-description may be a cheap trick anyway. Many of the best storytellers — The Dark Knight and Inception director Christopher Nolan comes to mind —  are geniuses at not showing everything and thus heightening the impact of what has just happened out of frame.

Sub-complaint: “Christian fiction is too preachy.” For this I’d want clarity, because there’s a wrong and right kind of preachiness. I’d like to know we mean the same thing.

But more about that will be in next week’s column. For now, if/when you critique Christian novels, are you careful to say what you mean and what you think would improve them? And how might critics address Christian readers’ heart problems that lead to actual lame fiction?

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Kaci Hill
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But more about that will be in next week’s column. For now, if/when you critique Christian novels, are you careful to say what you mean and what you think would improve them? And how might critics address Christian readers’ heart problems that lead to actual lame fiction?

There’s a running list of words that no longer have meaning. “Edgy” is among them. I’d probably add “preachy” to the list, too. (Maybe one day I’ll post the whole list.)

Heart problems are an individual matter, and I’m not sure they’re mine to address.

Left Behind gets picked on for being the series that wouldn’t end, having “Jesus quoting himself” (in Glorious Appearing, which I never read), characters that do unrealistic things (I’m going to say the word “Chloe” and nothing else), and disagreeing with someone else’s version of Revelation. Personally, I read up to whichever is the one right before Glorious Appearing and simply decided neither main character could survive and was done with it.

Really, the Blood of Heaven (Bill Meyers) trilogy was much better. And shorter.

Plus, I think as a whole, “end times books” have fallen out of favor. People liked things like Children of Men (which, btw, was not my flavor) and I Am Legend because they didn’t follow the script.

And Left Behind just didn’t make for a great movie.

Oh, and I don’t remember the mutated baby. Huh?

On Amish fiction: I just don’t get the claim “everybody reads it.” Even my friends who love chick flicks don’t read “Amish.” They might read a contemporary chicklit or a ‘women’s fiction’ (whatever that is), but I’d be hard pressed to say they’d read what qualifies as Amish. So I think that whole argument is a cop-out answer. Most people who don’t like the speculative genre enjoy contemporary settings. The additional historical elements are secondary. It doesn’t bother me the subgenre exists. It bothers me the claim that “everybody reads that” or “older women read it” when my grandmother (a Christian) reads Kellerman and Ludlum. (Yes, Stephen, the same one who doesn’t like fantasy.)

Write Amish if that’s really what you like to write, but don’t try to convince me that’s what little old church ladies read or that’s all “good Christian people” like because they “might be offended” elsewise. Not when they’re watching Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne.

That said, I can’t make someone like fantasy anymore than someone else could make me like romance. Sure, occasionally something proves exceptional and I’ll like it. But it’s never going to be a genre I pick up on my own. I can’t expect otherwise from the general readership.

On preachiness: I’m still convinced the art’s in the telling. I read a set of vampire books that’s heavily and shamelessly steeped in Hinduism, to the point that the rebirth cycle is a critical plot device and story element, and, honestly, the Hinduism was one of the key ingredients that kept me reading. Star Wars, Batman Begins, The Last Samurai….you get the point.

Amy Rose Davis
Guest

I think sometimes it seems I’m just following Kaci around going “what she said.” This is her Time Zone advantage, I hope.

Regarding Amish Angst novels: Publishers buy them because they sell. Simple as that. Whether “everyone” is reading them is debatable. I don’t read them. I got over Christian romance novels in the early 90s after one too many Jeanette Oke books. But I do see the appeal. They’re clean, easy romances in a time or setting where propriety was just a given, and they’re short, quick reads. They’re probably easier to publish than a lot of other stuff. They’re bread and butter for Christian publishers in a rapidly changing publishing world (along with a lot of other Christian romance subgenres).

Regarding Christian fiction: It’s no different than any other kind of fiction. Everything in traditional publishing has become, to a degree, formulaic. Publishers know what sells, and that’s what they buy. There are just as many people complaining about formulaic, unoriginal fantasy and science fiction in non-Christian circles as there are people complaining about non-Edgy(TM) Christian fiction.

What I predict… Increasing numbers of independent authors (like me) and small indie presses will step in to meet the needs of these squeaky wheels. It will take a while for them to make a dent in the massive behemoth that is NY publishing, but it will happen. It’s already happening. And somewhere in there, I think we’ll start to see authors who write from a faith-based worldview but don’t use a ton of Christianese or even clearly Christian symbols and characters to tell their stories.

Regarding sex in books… I have mixed feelings about this. I probably go further with my sex/love scenes than most Christian writers would go, but I doubt I go any further than a PG-13 or even mild R-rated love scene. There are a lot of us who watch those things in movies that we turn around and recommend to other people.

But one thing I do think about sex scenes that has always bothered me… Christian fiction, in my experience, has presented all sex outside of marriage as bad and unfulfilling. But the truth is–for good of for ill, I have met many couples who are not believers who had fulfilling sex before they were married. I know the statistics–I know all of the facts and stuff–but I think maybe part of what we’re unwilling to admit is that there might be folks out there not living a Christian life (because they aren’t Christians) who are actually quite fulfilled–or at least feel that way. They don’t know any different, perhaps, but part of my thing is that I think it’s okay to present that side of the equation–that worldview–the one that says, “you know, I’m actually just fine, thanks. I don’t really need Jesus.” And that’s where I think a lot of Christian fiction falls flat.

I hope that makes sense. *heading for more coffee now*

Amy

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

There are just as many people complaining about formulaic, unoriginal fantasy and science fiction in non-Christian circles as there are people complaining about non-Edgy(TM) Christian fiction.

Exactly! — just as there are people who complain that The Church Isn’t [insert term] Enough. Yes, often the Church isn’t, but that does not mean every criticism leveled against the Church is valid or that Christians should fall all over themselves to try to appease every criticism. After all, some who level that charge would only be happy (though they may not know it) if the Church became not-the-Church — failing to be what Christ founded it to be. That’s of course no cause to ignore all criticism, but we should be discerning. More on this in next week’s column.

Regarding sex in books… I have mixed feelings about this. I probably go further with my sex/love scenes than most Christian writers would go, but I doubt I go any further than a PG-13 or even mild R-rated love scene. There are a lot of us who watch those things in movies that we turn around and recommend to other people.

For what it’s worth, those are a temptation to me and many other Christian men, so I avoid them. Even the brief sex scene and quasi-nudity in the recent film Star Trek gets a fast-forward (or at least leave-the-room-to-re-microwave-my-pizza). I don’t do this out of self-righteousness; I just know my own limits! (Nor do I blame the Thing for causing the sin; it’s my fault for sure, but that doesn’t mean I should just give up and get used to the Thing.)

Reading a sex scene might be different, and there was a time when even Frank Peretti’s brief introduction (in The Oath) to characters wrongly spending the night together was an absolute shock to me. I did need to grow up a little bit. Yet now I find my views have reached a bit of a stretching point.

There does become an issue of Not Offending the Weaker Brother here — still, though, I know that some Christians only think they are weaker brothers, or worse, abuse that principle to enforce nothing but legalism.

Yet I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on this, Amy. And I have more of my thoughts on your last paragraph in a below comment.

Amy Rose Davis
Guest

Well, I will say also–I don’t market myself as a Christian writer. If I did, I’d take a much more conservative view on sex in books. I think my stories are good enough to appeal to a wide audience, and I wanted the freedom to explore questions through a lot of things that Christians might not approve of in their reading. For example, my latest novella features a religion centered around ancestor worship. I don’t believe it, and a lot of Christians would balk at that if they thought I was writing for their market. I think it would be unfair of me to market myself as a “Christian speculative fiction” author and then include things like that or mild sex scenes or cursing or whatever. I talk about it here, and I don’t hide it, really, but “Christian” isn’t really a label I seek in my writing.

Also, my views on sex in books and other entertainment could have a lot to do with my husband. That sounds really bad. I just mean it doesn’t bother him, nor does it tempt him. There are movies that he’s found distasteful, but he’s just one of those guys who simply doesn’t care about sex in entertainment. I know, he’s rare. He’s also one of the smartest Christian men I’ve ever met. And lest you think he’s just pulling the wool over my eyes or something… Nuh uh. We have very frank discussions about sex in entertainment. But then, we have very frank discussions about everything. (My love language is words. Shocking, huh?)

For me, to write for the “weakest brother” would probably mean truncating a lot of the story. And it’s really hard to know exactly what’s temptation, too. I have two relatively steamy scenes in Ravenmarked, and the one where there’s temptation that’s avoided is, to me, far more tempting than the one where the couple gives in (two different couples, BTW). Herein lies the problem with Christian romances, too. Certainly, those are “porn” for many Christian women, and yet there’s nothing in them that would even tempt most men. It’s hard to know who the weakest brother is.

Good discussion.

Amy Rose Davis
Guest

Oh, and one more thing–because you sort of touch on it in other comments. I understand the difference between tempting to sin through sex scenes and such and just presenting another religion that is so blatantly false that no Christian would be tempted by it. That’s not the issue when I talk about not wanting “Christian” in my author label. What I mean is–a lot of Christians, even spec fic readers, will object to an ancestor-based religion on its face without even looking for any underlying Christian message (such as you allude to in your discussion of Doctor Who and others).

Also… The only underlying Christian message in that novella with ancestor worship is that Jesus isn’t going to micromanage your choices, so for the love of Pete, go do something. But it’s kind of buried. 🙂

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

From Kaci:

having “Jesus quoting himself” (in Glorious Appearing, which I never read)

This is likely because the Left Behind guys, reaching one of the most fantastic prophesied events in all of Scripture, seemed suddenly afraid to go all-out. They did not want to admit that to portray this would be to show a fantasy scenario come to life. Unfortunately this tendency did not end, as discussed here:

[A novel set in a future Millennial Kingdom with Jesus ruling on Earth] calls for in-depth imagination and speculation — something Jenkins has not done. And it’s likely he could never do this anyway, given that, on the surface, such things seem insane and un-Biblical and many of the Left Behind series’ audience members would go mad. For certain people, perhaps, only a Cliffs-notes-style barebones summary of nearly exactly what the Bible says about the Millennium, no more, no less, will be accepted; and speculation beyond what Scripture has told us is forbidden. (This is partly why, in Kingdom Come, cameo appearances by saints such as Joshua and Noah result only in long, dull rehashes of anything you could have ever find out about them already in Sunday school.)

So while the Left Behind books may have been Edgy™ in some ways, this is one way in which they could have been so much better: by not feeling so constrained like this and thus actually downplay Christ’s return.

On Amish fiction: I just don’t get the claim “everybody reads it.” Even my friends who love chick flicks don’t read “Amish.” They might read a contemporary chicklit or a ‘women’s fiction’ (whatever that is), but I’d be hard pressed to say they’d read what qualifies as Amish.

Kaci, I daresay this is similar to the big-city newspaper columnist who expressed genuine shock when Reagan swept the 1984 presidential elections by carrying 49 states (if I remember the year correctly). No one I know voted for him! she cried, and there’s no reason not to think that was the exact truth.

The key words: no one I know. The folks buying Amish Angst books are, I’m sure, not younger women, the kinds of women with whom you would best be acquainted, perhaps. Instead they’re older … and that kind of bothers me. You’d think older women would want to read more-awesome stuff. But then the Amish Angst fiction craze has always bothered me. Recently I Tweeted the satirical question: in 30 years, will we be reading cleaned-up, sentimentalized versions of life in the Phelps Cult (also known as “Westboro Baptist Church”) in a book series called The Westboro Saga — such as The Clan, The Signs, The Protest, The Supreme Court Ruling? I think not.

Yes, surely the Amish are not nearly as fierce and disgusting as Phelps’ doctrinal abominations, but both pervert the Gospel and substitute reclusive fear-based living, as if by getting rid of Things we can minimize sin’s influence in our lives. Romance genres I can live with. Sentimentalizing deceptions: I have issues with that.

But of course someone might be able to enjoy an Amish novel and be aware of the false beliefs. I know strong Christians who enjoy Twilight, despite the obsessive-relationships themes; they know how to discern and “filter” them out.

There’s certainly Biblical precedence for this practice (e.g., Daniel 1, Acts 17).

I read a set of vampire books that’s heavily and shamelessly steeped in Hinduism, to the point that the rebirth cycle is a critical plot device and story element, and, honestly, the Hinduism was one of the key ingredients that kept me reading.

This is why I can enjoy Star Trek, Doctor Who (of course) and most recently, Avatar: The Last Airbender (the animated series, not last year’s movie “adaptation”). They are such well-done programs, despite the humanistic or mystic beliefs. However, they work because the best parts of the myths are based on Christianity.

Kaci Hill
Member

The key words: no one I know. The folks buying Amish Angst books are, I’m sure, not younger women, the kinds of women with whom you would best be acquainted, perhaps. Instead they’re older … and that kind of bothers me. You’d think older women would want to read more-awesome stuff.

I’m one of those weird girls who’s more accustomed to being around people older than me. The only exception was a critique group I was in (briefly) in which the group consisted of almost all women’s fiction & “inspirational” (whatever that is), a chick lit, and maybe an Amish, though she didn’t call it that. A prairie romance, actually. Myself and one lady who wrote suspense were the exceptions. I think I was also younger by about 15 years than most of the group.

Of course, if we’re going to be really honest, my tastes run more along books/movies that normally have a guy audience in mind.

As far as older women not liking the “more awesome” stuff – while I concede my perspective is a mite skewed and that it’s really weird for the older audience to read the other, you might be onto something with the unicorn that is the “golden days” idea. One generation fixates on the societal norms, the other fixates on the ‘romantic’ notions of it. Both are grounded in pseudo-reality in opposite directions.

But of course someone might be able to enjoy an Amish novel and be aware of the false beliefs. I know strong Christians who enjoy Twilight, despite the obsessive-relationships themes; they know how to discern and “filter” them out.

Well, too, that’s also a time period with its own faults, and most of them we see as glaringly obvious. As far as Twilight goes…I’m still not reading Breaking Dawn.

This is why I can enjoy Star Trek, Doctor Who (of course) and most recently, Avatar: The Last Airbender (the animated series, not last year’s movie “adaptation”). They are such well-done programs, despite the humanistic or mystic beliefs. However, they work because the best parts of the myths are based on Christianity.”

I like seeing things from different perspectives, too. I really should throw Chinua Achebe in there: he’s incredibly character (and by this, I mean the community) driven, but he pulls you outside your own frame of reference.

Zach Bartels
Member

“Nearly audible eyerolls” is the best combination of words I’ve encountered thus far today.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

(Clunk … clunk … CLUNK.)

I know we’ve all done this. 😀

Galadriel
Guest

Amish Angst–what one author I know calls “bonnet books”–are (to my knowledge) a primarily Christian-subgenre (are there secular Amish novels?), and they do make up a sizable percentage of publishing because that’s what sells. While they do have their advantages, I just feel some publishers think that’s the only the that sells, to the determent of other excellent fiction.

Literaturelady
Guest

I agree with your points–these common degrogatory terms are vague. But surely we writers and reviewers agree that some books DO fall short of good writing. We can all agree that some characters are cliche or dorky, that some plots are weak, and that some metaphors are awkward and clunky.
Aside from this, I think it’s a matter of personal preference. I reviewed a fiction story that contains Biblical reasons why “poor quality of life” is a warped viewpoint, and that advocates a strong father-son relationship. These aspects of the story are marvelous–but the words and actions of the mother struck me as being a tad goody-goody and sickly sweet. (I’d share an excerpt, but I really don’t want to pick on the author since he bravely addresses a heated topic.) I looked up a few online reviews of this story and found that one blogger thought the mother was a great example of strong, beautiful femininity.
So, it’s just preference, I guess. However, reviewers DO need to be clear and to mention when their quips with a story are personal dislikes. 🙂

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

From Amy Rose Davis‘s comment above:

But one thing I do think about sex scenes that has always bothered me… Christian fiction, in my experience, has presented all sex outside of marriage as bad and unfulfilling. But the truth is–for good of for ill, I have met many couples who are not believers who had fulfilling sex before they were married.

Yes, and that’s why Christians who merely state “you won’t be happy unless you avoid sin” commit what the kids these days might call an Uber-Fail. Oddly enough, Jesus never argues that way, and Paul adds on to the real reasons to fight for purity and avoid sexual garbage: not just because it’s more fulfilling, but because this is how Christ loves His Church and why the mystery of marriage was ever meant in the first place (Ephesians 5). To shack up with someone is to spit in the eye of marriage’s Creator, and to miss out on repeating that amazing story of marriage (though forgiveness is certainly available for all of us who’ve sinned in this way!).

I know the statistics–I know all of the facts and stuff–but I think maybe part of what we’re unwilling to admit is that there might be folks out there not living a Christian life (because they aren’t Christians) who are actually quite fulfilled–or at least feel that way. They don’t know any different, perhaps, but part of my thing is that I think it’s okay to present that side of the equation–that worldview–the one that says, “you know, I’m actually just fine, thanks. I don’t really need Jesus.” And that’s where I think a lot of Christian fiction falls flat.

And where a lot of Christian teaching and evangelism falls flat. It’s a cheap Gospel: saying only that “Jesus will fulfill you and help you follow your dreams” instead of the far better “God is incredible, the ‘all-satisfying Object,’ but your sins will keep you from Him — therefore your sin has to go, and Jesus died in place of His people to make that a reality.” Christians have missed out on this far greater story because they keep emphasizing possible Gospel fruits instead of Gospel roots, which yields bad “inspirational” books and movies (as also argued in last week’s column What’s the difference in ‘inspirational’ stories?).

One of the best demonstrations of this problem was a skit actually done on a “Way of the Master” evangelism TV show (yes, Christian TV, but this was a flare of brilliance). Kirk Cameron (of course) is dressed up in wealthy-man duds, lying out by the pool in the sunshine, when he’s cold-called by a Christian evangelist.

The evangelist naively asks if the call recipient is having a happy and fulfilled life.

Absolutely! Kirk’s character exclaims. Couldn’t be better.

Suddenly the evangelist is a bit uncertain. He asks about Kirk’s marriage.

I’ve got a great marriage, a loving and beautiful wife, and happy kids.

Oh well, the evangelist says, scrambling, surely you have financial problems — or health problems — maybe you’re experiencing addiction or loneliness …

Not at all! Kirk’s prosperous character proclaims. I have everything I need: I’m successful, not hooked on alcohol, and have lots of friends.

And with that, the phone evangelist’s address-felt-needs assumptions and whole script for witnessing fall completely apart and he’s left with nothing to say.

With people like that, this type of evangelism falls flat on its face. And those who are paying attention indeed see the ridiculousness of it: if Christianity is only sold as a means to meet people’s Felt Needs, it does nothing to meet a person’s real need — the need for relationship with one’s Creator and forgiveness from the sickening sin that’s in the way. Someone who’s given the felt-needs “Jesus will help you fulfill your dreams” Gospel may stumble across the real one in the process or later; but why should we take the chance by not preaching the real Gospel, about people’s real problems?

Sure, not every novel/artistic endeavor should do that in full — but Christians can show this better, even in pieces, in the more-epic and realistic stories we tell.

Amy Rose Davis
Guest

Exactly.

I have a very close friend who was not a believer. We had a lot of long talks about faith, religion, blah blah blah. Her thing was, “I have money, I’m happily married, my kids are healthy–why would I need Jesus?” Plus, she’s an engineer, so she wanted proof–evidence. To all of you who say apologetics don’t work? PPpffffffttttt!!!! She NEEDED to see some evidence. It took years of discussion before she finally admitted that the evidence was comprehensive enough that she could buy it, and she finally came to a place where she was willing to admit that what she needed was forgiveness from sin, not personal fulfillment.

By the same token, I know a buttload (that’s an exact measurement) of professing Christians who AREN’T fulfilled in any meaningful way. Sure, they’re forgiven, but the flit from one relationship, job, hobby, etc. like rabid butterflies. Honestly, if I were a non-believer looking at those people when they tell me “Jesus is the only answer,” I’d laugh and walk away.

“Jesus” isn’t the only answer, by the way. I hate when Christians say that. We even have it in our songs. I say, “Is Jesus the answer to ‘what’s for dinner?’ Because, ick. Is he the answer to ‘what’s the square root of 25?’ Nope.” The redemptive power of Christ’s blood is the only solution to our sin problem, but “Jesus” is the answer little kids give when they think they know what they’re supposed to say. Anyway, that’s a rabbit trail, but it’s one that bugs me and has implication for evangelism. And by extension, I think it should influence us as writers.

We’ve also defined relationship poorly, I think. “Relationship” refers to God’s adoption of us as sons and daughters once we accept Christ’s offer of redemption. But in our evangelical efforts, we suggest that relationship is more like what you have with your BFF. That’s inaccurate. We’ve confused “relationship” and “fellowship,” and there will be no perfect fellowship with God until we’re in heaven. We’re leaving out an important detail in our evangelism.

Anyway, also a rabbit trail… Thanks for the well-considered response. You always make me think. 🙂

Kaci Hill
Member

We’ve also defined relationship poorly, I think. “Relationship” refers to God’s adoption of us as sons and daughters once we accept Christ’s offer of redemption. But in our evangelical efforts, we suggest that relationship is more like what you have with your BFF. That’s inaccurate. We’ve confused “relationship” and “fellowship,” and there will be no perfect fellowship with God until we’re in heaven. We’re leaving out an important detail in our evangelism.

And now I’m going to go mull on that for a bit.

But I think for the most part most people don’t even know what friendship is anymore.

Thursday Knight
Guest

I say, “Is Jesus the answer to ‘what’s for dinner?’ Because, ick.”

I’m going to guess you don’t take to transssubstantiation? 😀

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

Thanks for the link to my post, Stephen. I’m glad that discussion and response fueled your thinking.

From discussions with some who advocate edgy Christian fiction, though they may no longer use that term, it seems to me the issue isn’t so much the topics as it is the execution. Since this isn’t my position, I don’t know if I can fairly articulate it, but I think it’s the idea that not only will some be tempted by moral sin but they will fall and stay fallen. I think it’s a bit of a “not every story ends happily” attitude.

And Stephen, since I’m always onto the anti-Christian fiction gang for not having read any (or much) Christian fiction recently, I have to ask you, When was the last time you read Amish fiction? :-p

Becky

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Alas, Becky, I haven’t read a lick of it (have you?), though I’ve often thought of doing this. Maybe if there’s one available that doesn’t have an Angsty Amish woman on the front looking like a mid-1990s model, with the makeup (?!) but also with a bonnet, I’d check into that one. Is there such a book available?

Or if I simply want to cheat, I could use certain cliched cultural-fundamentalist metaphors relating to only studying correct currency so I can spot the counterfeits, or now having to swim in the sewer to know what it’s filled with, etc.

Kaci Hill
Member

Hehe. I think the last I read was…when I was in single digits.