Christian Fiction Devourers discussion

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message 1: by B.C. (new)

B.C. Tweedt | 3 comments I've wrestled with this question for years. What do you think is a requirement for a "Christian" book? Does it need a certain number of references to God/Jesus/Bible? Must it OMIT certain language use/violence/sin? Does the ending need to be a payoff for Christ-like behavior?

As a disclaimer, I am the author of the middle-grade Greyson Gray Series, which wades in these issues. There is some violence, some mild language (think public junior high), and the endings are not always clean-cut rewards for good behavior. On the other hand, the main character is gradually confronted with the truths of the gospel, his own sin, and the Bible as the series progresses. By Book 4, he is still not convinced. This was on purpose. My vision is to see him make a decision later in the series so that readers can learn vicariously and naturally. I want secular readers to read it rather than being limited to those who search "Christian" sections.

What do you think?


message 2: by Bess (last edited Apr 11, 2016 02:39PM) (new)

Bess | 19 comments While I'm not Christian, I do lean towards "Christian" novels. One of the main things I use to define the book as Christian, whether or not it is in that classification at a store, is the cleanliness of the read. I don't care for vulgar language or crude humor. I believe if you want to point someone to G-d you don't have to beat them to death with scriptures either. I lean towards books where the main characters are struggling and they find G-d along the way. Or I love reading about those who have always had strong beliefs and then something devastating happens and they have to redefine their beliefs. Like working out what you actually believe in living color. It becomes your personal beliefs...not someone else's. I understand this day in age, unclean language is everywhere; from our movies to television, even books and music now! I am really drawn to books with action; if that means violence, then fine. I have read some Biblical fiction that had more gore than some of the pirate novels I've read. I love the reality of the stories. While I don't care for gore-fests, I do like reading some suspense, action and adventure. There are times when graphic violence is necessary to display the story in the time period for which it was designed. Of course, in my opinion, that would make the books for an older child/person.

On your book, if I were interested in the synopsis, I would immediately toss it to the side for "mild" language. I don't like reading it, period. No offense to you. I have stopped books midway, and never finished them due to "mild" to "vulgar" language. I can't speak for the Christian community, but in my understanding, that is not okay. I love the idea that you want non-Christians to read the books and come to the conclusion of Yeshua in the end. That is completely commendable. If it were me, I'd lose the language and the rest should be golden. Remember, there are non-believers who don't use that language either. It is not just the "church."

Blessings on you & yours!! Shalom!


message 3: by B.C. (new)

B.C. Tweedt | 3 comments Thanks for your thoughts. It's good to hear your perspective! I have one question. You mentioned that "there are times when graphic violence is necessary to display the story in the time period for which it was designed". Couldn't you say that "mild language" may display this current time period to readers? If you've been in a public school recently, you'd understand that there is worse than "mild" language used all the time. While I agree it would be odd to have an action story without some violence, I also feel it would be odd to have characters to always say "oh, sugar!". I'm curious why language is so different from violence in your opinion. And I'm sincerely asking, because you're not alone in that opinion! Language pushes buttons, even in my case where the words are "frickin'", "balls", and in a few cases, "hell".


message 4: by Hannah (new)

Hannah (bookwormhannah) | 2263 comments As Peter denied Christ, he did so the third time with "great oaths". Sin is frankly spoken of throughout the Bible, as well as tales of violent nature, but a curse is never spelled out. We don't know the exact profanity used by Peter.

I hate the thought true profanity on books because anyone who reads the book aloud is allowing the words to pass their lips. It is the only sin outside a movie in which the reader exactly performs it as written; you don't sleep with someone just because you read about it in a book. But if the curse is spelled out, a reader (for example, an audiobook narrator) is actually recreating the actual speech.

No, your characters definitely should not say "oh, sugar" unless they actually would do so in real life. But why not say "he swore" or "he cursed" in the same fashion that I hope you say "they were having an affair" instead of spelling out a make-out session? How many people really even notice the absence of profanity unless to compliment it? There are lots and lots of secular parents in my city that would love for their kids to have clean books to read...ones that address real issues with a balanced mind and yet without bringing profanity into their homes. Same thing with violence, really. Stating it happened, showing a few details to tell how...it's when you start telling it like Games of Thrones does, reveling in the bloodiness of it, that people really object. They want to understand the scene without being brought there to smell the decay, really.


message 5: by Carissa (new)

Carissa (sparklingangel84) While I think omitting language is important to Christian fiction, do not omit sin because if you omit sin you omit the ramifications of that sin. There doesn't need to be in-depth detail, but sin and consequences is a part of life and it needs to be in Christian fiction. If it happens through violence, so be it. If it happens through poor decision making, so be it. But Christian fiction needs to be real in the honesty of sin's affect in our lives. And a Christian author, more than anyone else, needs to realize that not every problem is wrapped up tidily with a pretty bow. Real life isn't like that so why should our fiction be any different? Just my two cents.


message 6: by Hannah (new)

Hannah (bookwormhannah) | 2263 comments So...what makes it Christian? Publishers disagree, but my definition, and that of many of my friends, is 1) something that presents the Gospel in an evangelistic way or 2) something that shows Christian people acting on their beliefs. If it's just a moral story meant to open their minds to God, I'd market it as general fiction, but still keep it clean. The minute you introduce profanity or needless violence, you narrow your audience. I'm a bookseller and know how often people come in looking for stuff that's real without being smutty or gratuitous.

If it's marketed as Christian, then it also means that Christians should be able to pick it up without fear of offense, so it does need to be clean. Also, though, keep in mind that a clear Gospel message in the book should be disclosed in the genre tags. So, basically...if you're putting the Bible in there, don't spell out the language. Both camps will be offended if you do.

And, yes, I am quite aware of the junior high potty-mouths. But "realistic" and "offensive" are two sides of the same tightrope, and it is indeed the rare author that can slip in even one or two curses and not fall off their high moral ground instantly.

Note: this doesn't apply to vulgarities. I don't like reading them and may make a note about it in a review, but "crude" is very different from "profane".


message 7: by Robert (new)

Robert Goluba (RobertJGoluba) | 1 comments Good question B.C. I once heard a pastor say there is no Christian music, only Christian lyrics and I think that also applies to books. Therefore, I think it has to do with what you say, how you say it and what you want the reader to take away from your writing.
I agree with many of the previous posters that it should promote the Gospel, have some evangelistic elements and contain characters that understand the grace we have received although they may not always live it (sin).
As a fellow author of Christian Fiction that wants to reach both believers and non-believers, I struggled with describing characters in the world we live in without offending many of the Christian readers I want to read my book. After several edits, I realized I could describe scenes in that gray area with a lot less detail but "keep it real" in order to strike the desired balance for a Christian book.


message 8: by (Liene) (last edited Apr 12, 2016 06:48AM) (new)

(Liene) (lieniitte) | 54 comments To be very honest, I often feel that a lot of fiction that is marked as Christian fiction is simply clean fiction where sometimes the main character happens to open a Bible a few times or happens to pray and ask God for help when in trouble. And I wouldn't count that as Christian fiction. Those would be clean romance novels or other kinds of clean fiction with a bit of God mixed in.

Of course, there are many books that have great gospel messages, messages about faith.

I think to be a Christian book, the Christian aspect of it can't be just a minor plot line somewhere in it. And I don't think all Christian fiction has to be very clean as in no violence or anything. Violent things happen in life and God often uses the brutal reality of life, that is caused by sin, to bring us closer to Him. Our weakness to overcome sin on our own is why we need Him! And how can that be portrayed in a book unless things are told as they are? I think there's a difference between Christian fiction and Clean Christian fiction. And of course, there's also Clean fiction that's not even very Christian at all.

I think there should be sub genres noted, at least then I'd know what to expect. I almost always take off a star, sometimes more, simply because I am very disappointed in the lack of faith and God in a book that is marked as Christian. They're not bad books, not bad at all. But I start reading them expecting more Christian in it than just a couple of mentions of God or Jesus. If marked as Clean Fiction, I would probably give those books better ratings than I do when they're marked as Christian Fiction.

My favorite author is Francine Rivers. And her books deal with very tough issues. But what makes me love them so much is that those books are ABOUT God. They're not stories about people that mention God, they're stories about God told THROUGH people.

I also realize that not every book can do that, not every author can, but I love when Christian fiction is truly about God and the truths of God's Word are the actual plot points in the book and the story is told through the characters, about the truths of God and who HE is. The Bible is also a book about God. It is told through many people, but even then it's not about those people.
Francine Rivers isn't the only one who write such stories, but every book I've read by her is like that. I love Christian fiction where I read the book and it really makes me think about God's Word and want to spend more time with God, a book that pushes me to grow in faith. That's what I call a Christian fiction book.

I too am writing a middle grade Christian fiction series. Only on book 1 right now, but I have at least 3 books planned out! The story is an adventure where five kids ages 12-14 find themselves in situations where they have no other choice but to trust God and they learn that His way, no matter what it is, is the best way and they will all grow in faith throughout the series, learning about friendship, honesty, forgiveness, all sorts of things and, mainly, learning to live a life with Jesus at the wheel. Each kid is also from a different kind of Christian or not Christian background.

Anyway, I just think there should be more classifications than just Christian and non Christian fiction. I have nothing against the books that are clean reads mentioning God in a few places, I only wish that books had a bit different classification, so we know what to expect, since I actually really love the books that others think are too preachy. I also don't mind when a book might be offensive to some. The Bible is quite offensive too, it tells the truth and you have to deal with it. Jesus never beat around the bush in order to not offend anyone, He just said things as they are.I'd rather have a story be real and maybe open readers' eyes, even if it does offend some. it's not the writers fault if readers are offended by truth.


Hunter (Totally NOT a communist ☭) (codenameagentmcmuffin) | 160 comments To me, a book classified as a Christian book must contain the characters either helping someone find Christ, or they themselves either finding Christ or renewing their faith as the central plot of the story.

Characters can be Christian without the book being Christian, if the book is about secular problems. The same with Churches-just because they appear doesn't mean the book is a Christian book. After all, Churches have been used for events other than Sunday worship.


message 10: by Kerstin (last edited Apr 18, 2016 07:38AM) (new)

Kerstin | 28 comments I agree with much being said before. But there are some other things to consider as well:

'Christian Fiction' is a protestant niche market with publishers such as Bethany being very successful at it. The genre is dominated by feel-good stories with a Christian content, free of explicit sexual content or profanities, and the underlying theologies run pretty much the gambit of Protestantism, some more heavy-handed than others.

What you will not find are realistic stories from a catholic/apostolic perspective. You're chances of finding hens teeth on your front stoop are decidedly higher. With 70 million Catholics in the US alone this underscores the niche market.

In this context you will also find when protestant theologies are a bit heavy handed, there is not only barely veiled gratuitous derision toward Catholicism, but also toward mainstream Protestantism in general.

These are my observations on the genre itself with its strengths and limitations.


message 11: by Carissa (new)

Carissa (sparklingangel84) Kerstin wrote: "I agree with much being said before. But there are some other things to consider as well:

'Christian Fiction' is a protestant niche market with publishers such as Bethany being very successful at..."


Sadly, Kerstin, I must agree with you. A friend of mine who doesn't read a lot of Christian fiction read Luther and Katharina and was very disappointed at all the negativity thrown at Catholics. For her, balance would have helped, as it is, the book only served to solidify a disappointment in the bias of Christian fiction against other faiths. I doubt I'll get her to try another Christian novel again, but I also can't blame her for her frustration with the genre.


message 12: by Rebecca (whenallotherlightsgoout) (last edited Apr 18, 2016 12:11PM) (new)

Rebecca (whenallotherlightsgoout) Kerstin wrote: "I agree with much being said before. But there are some other things to consider as well:

'Christian Fiction' is a protestant niche market with publishers such as Bethany being very successful at..."


Completely agree! I used to devour Christian fiction, and still enjoy it on occasion. I'm finding that generally I gravitate towards "clean" stories rather than "Christian" for this exact reason. This, however, is a personal preference.


message 13: by Janine (new)

Janine Mendenhall | 24 comments This is a very fascinating discussion! Again, I would expect nothing less of a great group of YA readers. (Teacher-speak for you're awesome.)

I tend to take a broad perspective on Christian fiction. Whether it's crime thriller or historical romance, I want to see a Christian worldview/Biblical perspective in the work.

On a side note, I'm very interested in Carissa's offering of Luther and Katharina, though her friend was disappointed. In fact, I'd love to dig in and research the Catholic/Protestant debate Luther started. It's my understanding he was a Catholic priest (or monk, I'm not Catholic so forgive incorrect terminology), and he was protesting corruption in the Catholic Church, not Catholic teachings in general.

Thanks again for a great discussion.


message 14: by Janine (new)

Janine Mendenhall | 24 comments Lieniitte wrote: "To be very honest, I often feel that a lot of fiction that is marked as Christian fiction is simply clean fiction where sometimes the main character happens to open a Bible a few times or happens t..."

Profound and beautiful! "They're not stories about people that mention God, they're stories about God told THROUGH people." Thank you for this statement, Lieniitte. I can only hope to live up to it as I begin my writing career. Blessings, Janine


message 15: by Janine (new)

Janine Mendenhall | 24 comments Janine wrote: "This is a very fascinating discussion! Again, I would expect nothing less of a great group of YA readers. (Teacher-speak for you're awesome.)

I tend to take a broad perspective on Christian ficti..."


Oh my! Please forgive me. I'm new and was confused. The opening of my statement was in regards to me joining a YA Christian readers group, hence the "teacher-speak" comment. BUT, you are my usual awesome Christian Fiction Devourers group of adult readers. (Boy, am I a newbie mess with tech issues.) Thanks for your patience. I'm so lame. :( Sorry.


message 16: by Karin (last edited Apr 18, 2016 01:11PM) (new)

Karin | 124 comments Great question. I think that if it's Christian it's pro-Christ. Please note that I have a B.Th. and am both a strong believer in God knowing that Jesus is the only way to the Father, and a Biblical scholar, so my reading tastes might be different (I love the variety we have in the Body of Christ!!!!) I'm also a married parent with three kids, ages nearly 16 to nearly 21.

I do prefer to avoid profanity, graphic sex, etc., but does that mean it needs to be squeaky clean? Take a look at the Bible, in my opinion the rule of faith and practise for Christians. What's in it? In among the truth of God's Word, we find murder, adultery, polygamy, incest, war, theft, betrayal, lies, infanticide, patricide, rape and many other grievous sins. For the most part, it is not graphic, although it's hard not to picture some of the events, such as those in Judges 19. That said, I hate reading about adultery in novels, but sometimes it can be found in good, Christian novels.

So while many Christian novels have a Christian worldview from the start, some might not start there but end up there, almost like a fictional testimony.

So I do believe that a truly Christian book can include some of this if the point leads to accepting Christ. Don't many Christians come from unbelieving backgrounds? Haven't some Christians come from so-called Christian homes where evil has been habitually practiced by some who are lifelong hypocrits? Should we hide from real life, or should we love people and be willing to help them where they are? What did Jesus do? He went among sinners. We see the apostles do this in the book of Acts.

What I don't like, and this is just my opinion since I have friends who find them a lovely reading break, are very simplified, glossed over, fluffy Christian novels where the problems are only on the surface, as if all of life were that easy. Staying faithful is a lifelong challenge that requires us to dig deep and to rely on God, but to imply that there aren't moments of deep doubt means that someone has never had to really take a stand when things have become very tough. You see that often when kids who grow up in sheltered Christian lives get talked out of their faith by some of the more liberal professors both within and outside of Christian colleges (yes, that happens; I've met people who stopped believing during their time in Christian college).

As for y/a novels; when are you planning to have teens be introduced to some of the more challenging topics? That I think is individual; too much too soon can be dangerous, but not enough soon enough is also dangerous. Remember the memoir Christy, where that lovely Christian girl was never taught the facts of life and was seduced by a minister who had no business being a minister. Now we have Christy awards, book awards for Christian writers, including fiction.


message 17: by B.C. (new)

B.C. Tweedt | 3 comments Karin wrote: "Great question. I think that if it's Christian it's pro-Christ. Please note that I have a B.Th. and am both a strong believer in God knowing that Jesus is the only way to the Father, and a Biblical..."

I agree completely! I especially liked your point on a character's walk through the book being a "testimony". I love the fact that many of my readers may be reading an authentic, true-to-life testimony of a flawed character they have come to love and respect.


message 18: by Teri-K (last edited Apr 18, 2016 01:42PM) (new)

Teri-K | 60 comments ARGH! Lost my reply, have to retype, so it won't be as coherent. :)

I'm one of those who sees a big difference between "clean" and "Christian". And I believe there's a need for both types of books. I've met plenty of non-Christians who read the clean ones just because they are clean. And giving people entertainment that doesn't pollute their minds with sin is a good thing. But just as not swearing and not having sex doesn't make you a Christian, it doesn't make a book Christian, either.

I don't automatically exclude any sex or profanity from a Christian book, though I believe you'd need to be very careful. As cited above, Christy discusses the sexual seduction of a girl and also a married woman. But there were no sex scenes in the book, and the negative effects on the women involved are clearly shown, as is God's grace and redemptive power. In the same way, you can have a character swear by saying, "He walked off cursing", but not force readers to read it.

I don't require a Christian book to discuss the plan of salvation or have any other benchmark like that. And no matter what else is in there, the books where the "Christian" characters think and act like everyone else and only say one prayer and attend church aren't Christian to my mind. They're secular with a Christian veneer. I read them sometimes but they don't satisfy.

For me to consider a book Christian it has to have a Christian worldview. God's truths have to be true in the book world. Just as God has to be a reality in our lives He has to be a reality in the book. As someone else said, one book can't show everything, but I want to see Christian books show the way the world really is. That means Christians aren't perfect and don't have all the answers and everything doesn't go their way. But as Christians we should be different from non-Christians in some ways. We should think and act differently, and sometimes grapple with questions of faith and behavior. This is what I want to see in Christian books and I love it when I find it.


message 19: by Karin (last edited Apr 18, 2016 02:24PM) (new)

Karin | 124 comments Teri-k wrote: "And no matter what else is in there, the books where the "Christian" characters think and act like everyone else and only say one prayer and attend church aren't Christian to my mind. They're secular with a Christian veneer. I read them sometimes but they don't satisfy..."

So true!!!!!!

For me to consider a book Christian it has to have a Christian worldview. God's truths have to be true in the book world. Just as God has to be a reality in our lives He has to be a reality in the book. As someone else said, one book can't show everything, but I want to see Christian books show the way the world really is. That means Christians aren't perfect and don't have all the answers and everything doesn't go their way. But as Christians we should be different from non-Christians in some ways. We should think and act differently, and sometimes grapple with questions of faith and behavior. This is what I want to see in Christian books and I love it when I find it.

Great point. But sometimes Christians can falter then get back again, which I also can see in a Christian novel. Sometimes people fail to renew their minds (our action is to renew, God's action is to transform us as we do that; Greek grammar supports this--our action is renewing, or putting on the thoughts God intends us to have from His Word, and the transforming is in passive voice, because it's God doing the action). There are plenty of examples in Acts and the epistles of this happening (eg when Paul calls Peter on the carpet and corrects Peter's wrong thinking). During those times, they are either not thinking like a Christian or are twisting things to excuse wrong behaviour. I know pastors who have had men and women in their churches come to them and tell them God is telling them to have an affair with someone other than their spouse, for example. Sometimes they do respond to the correction the pastors give.

Which is why I will read a Christian novel with a faltering walk, but if the goal isn't that that person comes back to fellowship, then I don't call it Christian.

An example of a book that is NOT Christian, even though in the end of the book the parents are in church together is Matters of Faith despite the title.


message 20: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 28 comments Rivka Ray wrote: "I used to devour Christian fiction, and still enjoy it on occasion. I'm finding that generally I gravitate towards "clean" stories rather than "Christian" for this exact reason."

I am not the only one! :)

Just like any genre, one has to find the better authors among all the fluff and/or awful. I'll read a Julie Klassen or Laura Frantz any day.


message 21: by Nancy (new)

Nancy (gr-nancy-a) | 228 comments I want to share this with my monthly book club; we primarily read Christian fiction.
This is a fascinating discussion!


message 22: by Teri-K (new)

Teri-K | 60 comments Karin wrote: "Teri-k wrote: "And no matter what else is in there, the books where the "Christian" characters think and act like everyone else and only say one prayer and attend church aren't Christian to my mind..."

Oh, I absolutely agree that people can falter in their Christian lives, in real life and in Christian fiction, and I still consider them Christian. I know i have in my own life. It's the book characters who never even try to be different, to let their faith influence their lives, that frustrate me. They all act exactly like non-Christians in every way and no one is any different except for one prayer or Bible verse somewhere. I just don't see that as reflecting actual Christianity. :)


message 23: by Jane (new)

Jane (JaneGreyRomance) | 1 comments What a great discussion! This has been on my mind for some time now. I like Christian Fiction, but there seems to be two types - the artificially "Christian" flavored book and the real deal. In the "Christian" books the Christianity is added in as an after thought. It's just about as satisfying as artificial chocolate.

In the real deal, you experience something other than the story -- the story is merely the vehicle through which the experience takes place. With a real Christian book, you learn something about yourself, you draw closer to God, you're inspired.

And I agree that this doesn't necessarily mean that the story is squeaky clean. Christian Fiction should be real (not gratuitous or graphic) but people do sin. And a Christian novel should have characters who deal with that and learn from mistakes and grow in their faith. We know that the best characters are dynamic, not static.


message 24: by Cynthia (last edited Apr 18, 2016 09:15PM) (new)

Cynthia Yoder | 1 comments This is a really helpful thread! I have read "Christian" stories and "clean" stories that might have Christians in them. And there is definitely a difference in the author's intention--to tell a story w/ the intention of putting forth a Christian message or witness; or to tell a story for the sake of the story.

However, then there's that blurry middle. If someone is stopping to pray, you might think as a reader: this is a Christian "witness". Even if there is only one scene like that. The author thought to add that to the mix. It could have easily been taken out.

I'm an author, and my work is along the "clean" end of the spectrum. But I also have a deep spirituality that I hope to convey in my work. It's not traditional, no. But it definitely stems from deep Christian roots, and Christians often appear in my books. So what do you call that? It's not secular, and it's not traditional Christian literature.

It's in that blurry middle....I've chosen to call it Christian. But truthfully, there should be another category for what we are talking about here!


message 25: by Charity (new)

Charity (charitysplace) | 4 comments What defines a Christian novel?

I don't know.

"Les Miserables" is one of the most powerful novels ever written, a profound exploration of faith vs. legalism, a symbolic journey wrapped up in literal packaging... written by a deeply flawed man. Because it illuminates truths, is it a Christian novel?

"Anna Karenina" is, among many other things, an exploration of social evils and false morality, a spinning descent of sin leading to emotional devastation... written, again, by a deeply flawed man, who was attacking genuine love vs. false piety. Because it illuminates truths, is it a Christian novel?

To define what is, and what is not, a Christian novel comes down to what YOU believe a Christian novel SHOULD BE. It will rely on your experiences WITH "Christian novels."

The Home in Mitford Books are not published or marketed as Christian fiction, yet have many profound elements and truths of Christianity in them. Does being a secular published novel make it a non-Christian novel?

Novels cannot "be" anything. Novels are not conscious. They are what they are, because their writer is who they are.

Whether you decide to write "Christian Fiction" or not depends on the audience you are aiming for. Do you want Christian readers or non-Christian readers? Is your aim an evangelistic tool or artistic expression?

What about novels that cannot have happy endings? What about historical novels with no easy answers? Because the real person did not 'come to Jesus,' does that make their story less valuable or the book telling it not a "Christian" book?

I think Christians who are authors should wrestle with deep questions and not be afraid to admit there are no easy answers, and in real life, people do not always 'come to Jesus.'


message 26: by Kathy (new)

Kathy (katbadger) | 3 comments Rivka Ray wrote: "Kerstin wrote: "I agree with much being said before. But there are some other things to consider as well:

'Christian Fiction' is a protestant niche market with publishers such as Bethany being ve..."


I agree that true Christian fiction should be respectful and loving toward all people, the way Jesus treated others. That's the way I write my books, which I consider to be "faithful fiction."


message 27: by Simon (new)

Simon Driscoll | -17 comments This is an eye-opening discussion for me. It has made me question whether I should be marketing my series as Christian Fiction at all. If Christian Fiction is normally seen as a Protestants only club, then I'm in the wrong category. I have already been rejected by one Christian eBook mailing list because I refused to denounce the LDS Church.
My series has several Catholic characters, including the Pope, as well as Mormon religious leaders, and a slew of minor characters from every Christian religion. If I refuse to be anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon in my books, will this offend those who typically read Christian Fiction?


message 28: by Charity (new)

Charity (charitysplace) | 4 comments If I refuse to be anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon in my books, will this offend those who typically read Christian Fiction?

It will offend some, but not all.

From what I see on bookstore shelves, it APPEARS that Protestant publishers are reluctant to branch outside of Protestant beliefs in their fiction (even though they, strangely, still print Amish fiction, despite Amish being a Protestant cult), but I have yet to test this hypothesis.

Is it that no one submits any other kind of fiction to them, or is it that they reject anything that is not Protestant?


message 29: by Karin (new)

Karin | 124 comments Charity wrote: "What defines a Christian novel?

I don't know.

"Les Miserables" is one of the most powerful novels ever written, a profound exploration of faith vs. legalism, a symbolic journey wrapped up in literal packaging... written by a deeply flawed man. Because it illuminates truths, is it a Christian novel?
"


This is a great point. I love the Christian virtues found in some of the characters and like the novel for many reasons, but don't call it Christian. Les Mierables is first and foremost a political and philosophical novel, but naturally there are wonderful Christian type elements in it. But Hugo did NOT draw up that fabulous priest for reasons of promoting Christianity. This book was addressing several political themes, and the idea of classes. Three political themes he addressed were:

1. the need for social progress France including improvement of its treatment of the poor,
2. the abolishment of the death penalty
3. the fight for prison reform.

But Hugo wasn't a Christian author with a Christian worldview.


message 30: by Karin (last edited Apr 19, 2016 12:13PM) (new)

Karin | 124 comments Kathy wrote: "I agree that true Christian fiction should be respectful and loving toward all people, the way Jesus treated others. That's the way I write my books, which I consider to be "faithful fiction."

I think we need to love all people, but by this I mean for EVERYONE, Christian and not Christian, to love the person and hate the evil that sin is. In our postmodern times there is a tendency to be forced to deny that there is truth. A helpful Christian nonfiction read on this is The Death of Truth. It does not say there is no truth, but examines postmodernism, modernism, etc and what it implies in our day and time. Neither postmodernism nor modernism arise from scripture, but they can affect how Christians interpret the Bible, even though neither should change the message God has for us.

Jesus confronted hypocrisy and criticized the Pharisees for worshiping the Devil. He loved all who were called of every group, but he did not accept other religions as correct; in fact he clearly stated that the only way to the Father. There are no other ways there if we take the Bible as truth for our Christian walk. I can't think of one single example of him respecting someone else's faith in any other religion as okay.

Isaiah 5:20 (KJV)

20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Isaiah 5:20New International Version (NIV)

20 Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.
New International Version (NIV)

You can look up this verse in any version you like, of course!


message 31: by Karin (last edited Apr 19, 2016 12:19PM) (new)

Karin | 124 comments Charity wrote: "If I refuse to be anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon in my books, will this offend those who typically read Christian Fiction?

It will offend some, but not all.

From what I see on bookstore shelves, ..."


There are fiction books that are more Anglican (which is NOT protestant--very much like Episcopalian. The Church of England should never be called protestant; I grew up Anglican in Canada, and not only did we not call ourselves protestant, but also it did not split from the Catholic Church as protestants--protestants were pro-witness, etc, and stemmed from Luther, et al rather than just a king trying to get a divorce, and so involved different changes in doctrine) and Roman Catholic, but I'm not sure where you find them. I don't know about the Orthodox Churches, but there may be those as well. I just can't think of any off of the top of my head, but I know they are out there. Jan Karon has one that is Episcopalian--the Mitford novels, and they are very representative of how that group operates. My mother's Anglican church in Canada is not only ecumenical but also involved with interfaith things, and there are a couple of British authors (perhaps more than one) with ones that are very much Anglican Christian novels, such as Susan Howatch.


message 32: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 28 comments Simon wrote: "This is an eye-opening discussion for me. It has made me question whether I should be marketing my series as Christian Fiction at all. If Christian Fiction is normally seen as a Protestants only cl..."

No. I, for one, very much welcome it.

I think the reason why the genre is primarily protestant in character today is because it started here. There is no reason why we, the purchasing public, shouldn't demand more.

What I would like to see much more of, is that the different denominations are all portrayed accurately for today or in their historical context. Some churches are liturgical others aren't. Some recite the Apostles' and Nicean Creeds, others don't. Some have catechisms and books of prayer, others don't. If we are to understand the protagonists fully, then lets explain which traditions shaped them. Instead, with the (usually forgettable) books of the genre, we get this intractable and murky "you are old school and wrong and I'll show you how to be a "real" Christian."
Then in the historical fiction sub-genre you have these really silly stories where for instance 21st century non-denominationalism is juxtaposed into the Middle-Ages when everybody was catholic. UGH! Is all I can say. These are no longer historical, but fantasy.
This, in a nutshell, is my pet peeve with the genre.

Having said all this, there are also some wonderful stories being written where the faith component is a natural part of the protagonists and informs and shapes them as they live through the given conflict. I wouldn't be here otherwise.


message 33: by Karin (last edited Apr 19, 2016 01:10PM) (new)

Karin | 124 comments Kerstin wrote: "Then in the historical fiction sub-genre you have these really silly stories where for instance 21st century non-denominationalism is juxtaposed into the Middle-Ages when everybody was catholic. UGH! Is all I can say. These are no longer historical, but fantasy.
This, in a nutshell, is my pet peeve with the genre. "


Both correct and not.

1. Yes, they add today's nondenominationalism and postmodernism, both of which are is inaccurate, although the middle ages were before Puritans and also before the Victorians so not necessarily as "prudish" and proper as we tend to think but

2. Something you are not likely to know, since Christian history is not frequently well-taught, there has never been a time when all Christians have been Catholic. Not only has the Orthodox church been around about as long (and even then not all Christians made it into those two groups), but there have ALWAYS been offshoots, including non-liturgical ones, even if many were erased from history by the Catholics (history is written by victors). For the longest existing Christian group that predates the protestangs and stems from the middle ages and perhaps even longer, the Waldensians who survived many Catholic purges due to their safe locations in the alps. But wouldn't it be great to have historical Christian fiction that got that right? I even know someone whose family followed that denomination historically, although he's now nondenominational. But even nondenominational groups vary greatly in theology and outlook.

The history of Christianity is far messier than most know, and, to be honest, it can shake many people's faiths to study it closely. Since I spent seven years rejecting Christianity from ages 15-22 where I read and studied many different things, I came back in from a position where I already understood enough about people to accept that they are never all going to agree and to base my faith on God rather than theologians. That said, I certainly don't ignore them and have learned a great deal from them.

I don't expect Christian novels to agree 100 percent with how my church or the churches we often visit which aren't quite the same teach the Bible, but I do expect them to be pro-Christ, see Christ as the saviour and the only way to the Father, etc. If not, then to me they are watered down from the gospel because I take the Bible as my only rule of faith and practice. But if novels get too specific about theology and denominations, it's difficult for publishers to sell them, and by and large Christian publishers have certain requirements before the will publish Christian fiction.


message 34: by (Liene) (last edited Apr 19, 2016 02:08PM) (new)

(Liene) (lieniitte) | 54 comments Bit of a long post here.

So, reading some comments. When it comes to publishing houses and the kinds of denominational fiction they publish, I believe any business has the right to do what it is they believe in and to stand up for what they believe in. I don't mean to offend, and I know there are people who disagree.

But just like the cases you see popping up now where someone refuses to sell a cake to same gender couples for a wedding, because they don't believe that is what the Bible teaches to do, that's their right to stand up for their beliefs. Just as a publishing house has the right to not publish books that they don't think follow the principles of the Bible, if that's what they choose.
This is why you won't see secular publishing houses publishing Christian books. Sure, you have divisions of secular publishers that do, but they're under a separate name. Like Thomas Nelson under Harper Collins.
God should be first in any Christian's life and so a Christian should do what they feel pleases God and not what pleases people. If that means a Christian publishing company won't publish a book that they don't think is Biblical, then that's their right, because God is a higher authority to us than other people are.
I say this about any company, be they protestant based or anything else, any company has the right to stand up for what they believe in.
But this is why protestant based companies usually publish only those kinds of books, they're simply doing what it is they believe in, just as anyone has the right to do.

Personally, I won't be offended by books that don't agree with my own beliefs about the Bible. But I won't read books that are marked as Christian, yet I know are completely against what God's Word says. And if a book is marked as Christian and I read it and it goes against God's Word, I will rate it lower. I won't base it on the denomination of the author or characters, but I'll base it on the content and what it says about Jesus and the Bible.

I do agree with Karin, I hold the Bible as my measure for what is right and what isn't. Not theologians or other people or any denomination, but the Bible that is God's Word. I grew up in a baptist church, have been part of non denominational churches, charismatic, lutheran, all kinds. Have tried going different places but in the end I realized it doesn't matter what the denomination of a church is. It's the Bible that matters and God. Jesus. The one and only way to the Father is through the Son.

One thing one pastor said really stuck with me and I like to use it as an example. There are closed hand topics and open hand topics. The ones in the closed hand are not up for debate. Jesus is God, He lived a perfect life and took our sin with Him on the cross and was resurrected, beating sin once and for all. He is alive and following Him, having that sin taken away by Jesus is the only way to get to the Father.
Other topics, such as the age of the earth, different traditions that different denominations hold to, all kinds of stuff like that, are open hand topics. Sure, God knows that actual right way of things, but these things aren't those that make you a Christian or not a Christian. It's Jesus who does that. And there are many topics the Bible is crystal clear on, and others that people seem to be able to debate over all day.

While I don't hold to the beliefs of all denominations and some beliefs I think are not Biblical at all, I think every denomination has people who are truly followers of Christ and also people who are wolves in sheep's clothing. Those who Jesus will say He never knew. In the end, it's not about the traditions you hold to but about what's in your heart, if Jesus is truly the leader of your life.


message 35: by Simon (new)

Simon Driscoll | -17 comments Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this thread. It is encouraging and empowering to get the perspective of multiple people. What I have gathered from your words is that I will always have some opposition in publishing my End Times series under the Christian Fiction genre, but that doesn't mean it's the wrong label.

I fully expect people to disagree with the things I say/claim in those books, because their purpose is to get people to think about the topic and turn to God for answers. The only people I will offend by including prophecies from almost every religion are those who are close-minded and therefore could not benefit from my writings anyway.

I realized after I was rejected because of my faith that A. No one in my books converts from one faith to another. B. There are people in Europe who have lost their homes and loved ones because of their faith and my own suffering pales in comparison with their trials. I must walk the path God has set me on and never expect it to be easy.


message 36: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 28 comments Karin wrote: "Kerstin wrote: "Then in the historical fiction sub-genre you have these really silly stories where for instance 21st century non-denominationalism is juxtaposed into the Middle-Ages when everybody ..."

I agree. Church history is quite comprehensive and sometimes complicated.
In general, we have 2 main groups:

1) The catholic (= universal) churches that trace their founding to one of the Apostles (apostolic succession), the main centers of which were/are in Rome, Byzantium (Constantinople/Istanbul), Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria. With their respective sub-groups there are 23, i.e., Roman Catholic, Greek & Russian Orthodox, Coptic, Ruthenians, Maronite, Melkite, Armenian, Chaldean, etc.

2)The break-away groups from the main theology of the catholic churches, such as the protestant churches (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, et.al.), and individual groups such as Waldensians, Nestorians, etc.


message 37: by Karin (last edited Apr 20, 2016 10:21AM) (new)

Karin | 124 comments Kerstin wrote: "Karin wrote: "Kerstin wrote: "Then in the historical fiction sub-genre you have these really silly stories where for instance 21st century non-denominationalism is juxtaposed into the Middle-Ages w..."

The two largest groups are Roman Catholic and Orthodox; there has never been a time when all accepted on pontiff or even a pontiff at all and both could be called breakaways from the first century church. All denominations are technically a break off from the Bible since all started with quarrels, additions and re-interpretations. This is why I say it can shake the faith of those whose faith relues only on the teachings of people past or present. Now we see through a glass darkly

Roman Catholic

Breakaways--too many to count, and not all fit into the same box. You have Very Close to Catholic, such as Anglican

You have breakaways prior to the Reformation, some of which continue

You have liturgical breakaways that hold onto more Roman Catholic things

You have nonliturgical breakaways that hold onto fewer and some who hold onto none

Breakaways that hold onto nothing added by the church fathers, but go back to the Bible only

Breakaways that have turned God into a corporal being, such as Mormons who believe that both God the father and Jesus are separate corporal beings (I got that from a Mormon , so if she told me wrong and someone here follows the Mormon faith, please correct me).



Orthodox (never part of Roman Catholic church, since they didn't accept a Roman pontiff; there has never been a time when everyone accepted that)

Under Orthodox you have many breakaways with variations such as Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox and so on. I'm not sure where the Indian church, which dates from virtually right away via one of the 12 fits into those. There are probably breakaways from the Orthodox group that don't follow Orthodox theology, but I don't know much about them.

I have visited so many churches, seen so many doctrinal things that many aren't even aware of.

Finally, there are groups we know virtually nothing about who later converted from earlier forms of Christianity neither Orthodox nor Roman Catholic to Islam, often by the sword, but some willingly. There is a reason why Islam doesn't just say that Jesus isn't God, but go further to say he isn't God's son, either.

Now we see through a glass darkly!!!


message 38: by Kerstin (new)

Kerstin | 28 comments Lieniitte wrote: "Bit of a long post here.

So, reading some comments. When it comes to publishing houses and the kinds of denominational fiction they publish, I believe any business has the right to do what it is ..."


I agree that businesses have their right to their own business models, including publishers. If they are successful at it, who am I to argue? Whether or not I agree with some or all of the product is a separate question. I have read and will continue to read Christian Fiction. And I think it also needs to be put in perspective that we are dealing with entertainment fiction here -- at least it is for me. So I don't expect to get into heavy-duty apologetics such as 'double predestination', 'justification by faith alone', two sacraments vs. seven sacraments, etc. There are other venues for that.


message 39: by Karin (new)

Karin | 124 comments Kerstin wrote: ". And I think it also needs to be put in perspective that we are dealing with entertainment fiction here -- at least it is for me. So I don't expect to get into heavy-duty apologetics such as 'double predestination', 'justification by faith alone', two sacraments vs. seven sacraments, etc. There are other venues for that.

Agreed!!!!!


message 40: by Anne (new)

Anne (abcdefg88piano) | 14 comments I think the rise of the Christian market was an Evangelical response to the widespread cultural rebellion of the sixties. Christians wanted to distance themselves from the moral degradation that for the first time in decades or even centuries became widely accepted as the norm. In my opinion, Christian publishers saw a market for evangelical Christians who wanted to enjoy current books without the worldly elements that had become prevalent in mainstream publishing.


message 41: by (Liene) (last edited Apr 21, 2016 08:14AM) (new)

(Liene) (lieniitte) | 54 comments At first I figured this discussion was about how much of God has to be in a book for it to be Christian, as in, does the focus of the book have to be on God or can it be a side thought. Didn't even occur to me to think about what a real Christian is in answer to the original question. Seems like this has turned into a different topic than originally asked. But I guess there are different ways you could answer this question. That original thought is what I wrote about in message number 8 above.

Kerstin wrote: And I think it also needs to be put in perspective that we are dealing with entertainment fiction here -- at least it is for me. So I don't expect to get into heavy-duty apologetics such as 'double predestination', 'justification by faith alone', two sacraments vs. seven sacraments, etc. There are other venues for that.

I agree with that. I'm sorry if it came across as if I was wanting to get into all that, but I honestly don't even have any official opinions on any of those things you mentioned. I don't get into theology discussions or argue my points for all that. I just read the Bible for what it says. I don't even really know what apologetics means.

Since this is a discussion on what people consider to be a Christian book, I was commenting that that is what I would consider to be a Christian book, one that follows what the Bible says and that is what the closed topics are about: Jesus. And so if a book is to be considered a Christian book in my mind, it can't teach the opposite. There are faiths I know teach other things and if I know a Christian fiction book teaches something other than what I see in God's Word, I won't read it.

I agree that we are talking about entertainment fiction, yet even so I wouldn't read any kind of Christian books that I feel are lying to me or representing something I don't see in the Bible. Even if it was just for entertainment. I also wouldn't go to a church that taught that there are more ways to God than Jesus alone, even if it was entertaining. Secular fiction is a different topic, since that's not marketed as Christian. But that's how I figure if a book is Christian. As well as all the things I posted in message 8.


message 42: by Beth, Head Librarian (new)

Beth | 2418 comments Mod
Lieniitte wrote: "At first I figured this discussion was about how much of God has to be in a book for it to be Christian, as in, does the focus of the book have to be on God or can it be a side thought. Didn't even..."

Lienitte, I'm with you! :) I'm not really knowledgeable about a lot of the denominational, sect, theology things mentioned here, nor do I personally feel it's relevant to how I make the call for myself as a reader. I tend to be straight-forward about it. I believe that Jesus is the son of God and the Bible is God's Word, plus or minus nothing. I don't say this to offend anyone, but just to clear up that that's the scope that I look through. If I'm reading Christian fiction, and I feel it goes against those things, it will definitely raise some flags and put a bad taste in my mouth.

I do appreciate realism in my fiction, so I'm not opposed to nitty gritty, true-to-life stories, as long as in the end they are edifying and don't point away from Christ. The Bible is one of the most nitty gritty books you can read, after all. :)

Of course, descriptions, even if harsh or gritty, don't have to be unnecessarily descriptive. And I have read books where, though they are definitely Christian and have strong message, I feel that certain scenes or things that happened to the character were purely just for shock, rather than organically flowing out of the story.

Just some thoughts. Definitely not the most eloquent, but there you go. :)


message 43: by Olivia (new)

Olivia (olivia_r) | 99 comments Beth wrote: "Lieniitte wrote: "At first I figured this discussion was about how much of God has to be in a book for it to be Christian, as in, does the focus of the book have to be on God or can it be a side th..."

You summed it up perfectly, Beth!! Enough so that I don't think I need to bother to say more :)


message 44: by Karin (new)

Karin | 124 comments Yes, modern Christian fiction did arise for those reasons. I know I've read classics that are Christian but can't think of them.

At any rate, the first question was answered, and there's always lots to learn in these discussions from hearing what different people think and some of the tangents.


message 45: by Beth, Head Librarian (new)

Beth | 2418 comments Mod
That's true, Karin. It's certainly an interesting question to ponder...Classic fiction usually has a strong moral element, a lot of times based in faith in God or at least a higher power. Jane Eyre has a lot of things to say about faith, for example, and even scripture is quoted.

At some point, there was a shift I suppose, in what was just considered proper, so perhaps that had everything to do with there being a vacuum that needed to be filled with books that readers could be sure wouldn't have anything questionable.

Obviously over a long period of time...and with words that my tired brain isn't able to come up with at the moment. :D


message 46: by Diana (new)

Diana Maryon | 20 comments After many months reading and commenting in this group, I have concluded that relaxation/entertainment is what most readers are looking for. And that's quite legitimate, for people who work hard in other ways, in the home or outside it. It becomes unhealthy when it diverts from real duties, or encourages the reader to escape permanently from real and basic questions. And much of this material is not going to make any impact on outsiders to the Faith.

I wish that there could be more discussion of what would make such an impact, believing as I do that all truly great fiction is a powerful lever to open the mind. In other words it would be good if we thought more carefully about getting books not just to read but to lend.

My book, fictionalised autobiography O Love How Deep , doesn't obviously fill the bill for many such relaxation/entertainment-minded readers. But it could actually be useful to many. I am a simple SOUL with a complicated MIND. That's what many more unbelievers actually are than you might think, and they are not reached by the writing of simple-MINDED people, as though life in this world were simple. So some discerning readers have bought it for their unbelieving friends, put it into public libraries etc.


message 47: by Loraine, CFD Momma (new)

Loraine (librarydiva) | 4088 comments Mod
Beth wrote: "Lieniitte wrote: "At first I figured this discussion was about how much of God has to be in a book for it to be Christian, as in, does the focus of the book have to be on God or can it be a side th..."

Well said Beth. Some of you referred to books written many years ago before the genre of Christian Fiction came into being. Most books published before the 1960's were full of moral values and Christian ethics even if they didn't specifically mention God or Christ. The reason for this is that we lived in a world where the vast majority of people attended church and values were at the forefront of society. In the 1960's, culture began to change, church attendance began dropping, and societal mores began changing. This, in turn, caused a change in the type of books that were published to appeal to a generation who perceived things from a different perspective. But there was a cry from those who still believed in the values and faith of the early years for clean, faith-filled books. This led to the emergence of the genre of Christian Fiction.


message 48: by Charity (new)

Charity (charitysplace) | 4 comments While I agree that church attendance put on a facade of morality that seeped into the fiction, it did not actually do much for the morals of the masses. For example, the Victorians were "prudish" but that was only superficial -- there was just as much immorality going on behind the scenes; they merely put on a moral public face. Immorality was fine, so long as there was no public scandal.

So yes, the books were cleaner to be "appropriate" in that period (not all of them!) but the older generations having more values is something of a cultural myth. Many people did have morals, and did have faith -- but just as many attended church on weekends and lived deceptive, sinful, indulgent lives the rest of the week.

Charles Dickens wrote many thought provoking books full of idealistic moral values -- while being unfaithful to his wife. This puzzled me at first, until I heard a quote recently -- you can believe in something and fail to live up to it. How true.


message 49: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Morena | 1 comments Kerstin wrote: "I agree with much being said before. But there are some other things to consider as well:

'Christian Fiction' is a protestant niche market with publishers such as Bethany being very successful at..."


Kerstin - You may want to try books by A.J.Cronin. More in the Catholic mode you mention. Happy reading, Tony


message 50: by Karin (new)

Karin | 124 comments Interesting. Lately I have been noticing with some surprise just how secular many classics are, particularly from the nineteeth century. Some of the most famous authors never married but had common law arrangements, etc. George Eliot, Wilke Collins, Oscar Wilde, to name a few.

Even though I enjoy the novel and there are good moral lessons, there is no mention of God other than in either a greeting or signing off of a letter (I think there's one of those) or even church in Pride and Prejudice. I don't know much about Jane Austen. But there was the scandal of Lydia and Mr. Wickham.


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