1. CE Martin says:

    For me, the best reason to have Christian fiction is so I don’t have to read things that offend my religious beliefs. I strive to make my fiction fit a Christian world view–that Christ is the son of God and was resurrected after dying for my sins. Anything that says or implies otherwise (like saying Christ had a wife and kids) doesn’t strike me as Christian. I also don’t want to see or read a bunch of fornication in my fiction. Tantalize me with a good story, not forbidden fruit.

    • Hmm. If I had a magic wand and could rid the earth of “clean” evangelical stories/songs, I would not do it. But I would rid us of the notion that we must stick only with someone’s definition of “clean.” I would also challenge the notion that–as I mentioned above–the “dirtiness” or “cleanness” originates from a story or anything else outside the human heart. That is simply contrary to biblical truth as Jesus taught.
      However, I can certainly understand wanting to avoid personal temptation. Moreover, notions about Jesus having a wife and kids are not at all Christian. But then, neither are the “clean stories are always better for you” notions. So I would like to challenge all of these notions as unbiblical and unhelpful for growth in faith.

  2. HG Ferguson says:

    Stephen, as I have howled before, you are so on point about the attitude that “this stuff is fine for kids but not adults.” Let me howl just a little bit more, so much of the anti-fantastical fiction bias in Christian circles or the relegation of it to children (but when I became an ADULT I did away with childish things!) is born out of personality and personal prejudice. I’ll go to my grave howling that. You might even hear way down deep somewhere by my tombstone inscribed with I Jn 4:1, (my “life verse”) an incessant, disquieting droning. Some people just flat-out do not LIKE or care for fantastical fiction, and that’s fine. But it’s wrong to impose that on the rest of us who do. Some say, “I just don’t like this stuff.” And that’s fine. To each his or her own. But what’s not fine is looking down one’s nose at what one doesn’t like and imposing that on everyone else. “It doesn’t appeal to me, therefore it should appeal to no one.” Which misses what these stories and genres are really all about. You are SO RIGHT about the end of all stories is to glorify God. Does “clean” fiction do that? Of course it does. But the same can be — and should be — must be — said about fantastical fiction tales written by believers in the Master of all stories, Jesus Christ. These attitudes must change. Thank you for being courageous enough to help achieve it.

  3. Stephen, another good article.

    One of my frustrations is readers and writers alike who confuse Christian fiction, of any genre, with “clean fiction.” I can guarantee, if we’re talking about following external rules, there are other cults and religions who would believe fiction should be “clean,” and their definition of the word would probably be more conservative than the average conservative Christian. Clean simply is a way to measure a moral standard and has little to say about Christianity.

    We, who believe all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, have every inclination to show people of all walks of life coming to Christ, not just those who have lived or are living morally pure lives.

    Depravity is not pretty. And the salvation of the vilest sinner is a testimony to God’s greatness. To tell that story isn’t going to be particularly “clean.”

    Christians also struggle, and telling that story isn’t pretty (see Romans 7).

    In truth, Christian fiction isn’t a devotional. Rather, the inspiration comes from the showing that fiction does, not the telling. When we read in the Bible that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, Jesus illustrates that with a story about a Samaritan who loved a stranger in a way that a priest and a Levite didn’t. It is powerful because it shows what love looks like.

    We aren’t writing inspired fiction, to be sure, but we can also show the truth God has revealed by crafting stories that are truthful in their take away. In the process, we may show the equivalent of a leprous Naaman serving an idolatrous king.


  4. Lisa says:

    Hearty “amen” to all of this. Thank you, Stephen. These conversations are so needed in order to train up the thinking of the Body of Christ on this whole issue. I imagine there will be those who will never waver from their stipulations about “clean” and “evangelism” and “message”, etc but I suspect there are a lot more who just haven’t thought that deeply about this and need to have a second look. And I agree with HG, there are those who just don’t “like” fantasy/sci-fi. Fine. Just don’t relegate us all to the backwater just because you prefer to read Amish romance. But the bottom line in the publishing industry is always money, unfortunately. So our challenge as writers and consumers of this genre is to strive to create and promote excellence, and then we’ll just have to let the chips fall where they may.

  5. Adrea says:

    Christian fiction should be inspired by following biblical accounts: no cursing, no nudity but alluding to situations. Violence, dirt, poverty should be allowed because God wrote the bible to relate to us. He’s drawn us to him and we should do the same for our readers. It’s the relationship you build that can affect change. It’s why Harry Potter is great, Narnia is so real and Tolkien has so many followers. Their fantasy worlds were relatable, the characters were real and the protagonist became like family or ourselves. It’s the Katniss Everdeens and Divergent Fours, who are broken and still overcome all odds.

    • HI Adrea! I agree with all the above except for “no cursing.” Seeing or hearing a “curse word” in a story is not the same as saying a curse word yourself, with anger or blasphemy in one’s heart. I would certainly agree that other things should be allowed, even encouraged, because fiction is a God-given means of engaging our world, and our world includes these things. Our world also includes nudity, that is true. This can be depicted in fiction (as it is depicted in the Bible, though post-Fall, I believe, always to illustrate shame). However, nudity cannot be depicted in a Christian-made visual story, because visual nudity is only possible by actual nudity–as opposed to violence or swearing or other sins, which can be acted and not actually done.

What do you think?