I don’t like Christian fiction.
That is, I don’t like the genre Christian fiction. There are plenty of books written by Christians that I like, such as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. I like nearly everything written by Elizabeth Berg. There are even books that are fairly explicitly Christian that I enjoy—C. S. Lewis’ fiction comes to mind. But as a category of fiction, I do not like Christian novels.
For the most part, I think the vast majority of Christian fiction is garbage. I realize this is true for lots of non-Christian fiction as well, but the difference is that I feel free to say so. For example, I can say without hesitation that I think the True Blood books are trash. I might offend someone who likes them, but it’s not the same level of horror as when I try to explain why I don’t like Left Behind or Frank Peretti. There is zero guilt attached to disliking secular fiction.
I suppose that’s one reason I despise Christian fiction. There’s a heavy layer of guilt laid on people who read the first three pages and already want to hurl the book through the nearest window. I mean, as Jesus followers, we’re supposed to read Christian books. They’re supposed to be one of the ways we show ourselves to be “in the world, but not of the world.” Right along with listening to Christian radio (do not get me started).
It’s not that I think there is anything wrong with writing from a Christian perspective. Our faith should inform what we do. But that doesn’t excuse producing junk for the sake of providing a “Christian” version of something else. Sadly, that’s what the majority of Christian fiction is. It’s not focused on providing us with an escape from reality. It’s not about creating great, believable, realistic characters in whom we see ourselves. It’s not about crafting a story in which we find themes such as bravery, loyalty, friendship, forgiveness, doing the right thing even when it’s hard, having faith in the face of fear. It’s actually about having a sanitized version of secular works already available.
And that’s what I find so distasteful. So much of what’s out there is just good books with the objectionable parts excised. Christian “romance” is largely the same plots as regular romance, but without the sex. The same is true for Christian “horror” and “fantasy.” It’s someone’s idea that if sex, violence or magic are cleaned up properly or removed, then you’re left with something acceptable for Christians to read.
That, like all other forms of inappropriate guilt laid by the church, needs to stop. What I’d like to see is far more Christian authors write the kinds of stories I mentioned above. Books that express the complexities of life, preferably without any preaching. Books that turn what we think we know on its ear. Books that are rooted in faith, but not in Christianese. Books that are genuine, not just a fictionalized version of last Sunday’s sermon.
While I wait for such a thing, I’m simply going to enjoy good books when I come across them.
What are you reading right now? Is it explicitly Christian? Fiction or non-fiction? Share it here.