I have a book coming out in December in which the main character is a preacher, and at the beginning of the story he lies.
What he really does is withhold some information because he doesn't want to hurt someone he cares for. His hope is that if he solves the problem quickly enough, telling this person won't be necessary.
Now, you can probably guess that since this happens at the beginning of the story, things don't go the way my preacher character intended, and his decision leads to a bit of a mess.
So here's a question: Does this setup, and the fact the character who stumbles is a preacher, exclude this book from the genre of Christian fiction?
Would it surprise you if I told you that this book was rejected by one publisher of Christian fiction for that exact reason?
I guess everyone has their own opinions on this, and further into this article I'll share mine, but to begin with, I think it's important to consider what qualifies a book as Christian fiction. There's a lot of debate.
Some feel that the primary purpose of Christian fiction should be to provide "safe" stories for Christian readers. What does "safe" mean? From posts on this subject, and readers' reviews, what I've come to understand is that when a Christian says they want a story to be safe, they generally mean that a story marked as Christian fiction should not introduce any language, imagery or situations that might cause the reader's mind to drift into unsavory territory. Now you've probably already guessed that this is highly subjective. What I consider "safe", someone else may find offensive, and vice-versa.
What I fear has happened, though, is that publishers of Christian fiction have become so afraid of offending anyone, that they've limited stories to such narrow guidelines that the realism that is Christianity has been lost. The characters in the books don't have the struggles and temptations that we, as Christians, face on a daily basis. At most, they may have had them in the past, but overcame them before the story began.
Do you ever wonder how they overcame them?
I did. And that's what motivated me to pick up my very first Inspirational novel some years ago. When I read the blurb, I thought the character might be someone I could relate to, and since the character's struggle was similar to my own, perhaps the book might provide some insight.
Now, I know you may be thinking, "Shawna! It's fiction! What were you expecting?"
Well, fiction is written by people. People have their own set of experiences. My hope was that the author used her personal insight, gained from her own experiences or observations, to create a character with a real struggle who found a real solution. But that's not what I found. What I found was the issue I wanted to read about disappeared before the story began.
Before I continue, I want to make it clear that it's not my intention to denigrate such a book. The set of expectations I had were clearly not compatible with what the book was intended for. It was written to be "safe". And I'm certain that many others' expectations were met when they read that book. It was very clean, so to speak. And I would certainly classify it as a Christian book.
So that brings me back to my story that releases in December, and... my November release, and my book that came out in May; and quite frankly every book that I intend to write. These stories deal -- and will deal -- with a variety of controversial issues experienced by my Christian characters, and in some instances my characters fall to the temptation before them. Are these books Christian for including such things?
Well, I certainly hope so. Because what these things reflect is my life, and I am a Christian. These things reflect the lives of other Christians around me. Writing openly about real life, in all of its ugliness, lets others know that they aren't alone in their struggles, and no one is beyond God's greatest gift; the gift of Grace.
It's important for Christians to keep their thoughts pure, and that's why I applaud authors of "safe" Christian fiction. But it's equally important to use our talent to share the glory that is God's Grace, offered to us through the sacrifice of His only Son.
What is more Christian than that?