Am I Being too Critical of Christian Fiction?


I’ll be honest, I can be really critical when it comes to Christian books. I have read some stupid and low quality books by Christians.

Sometimes I feel like Christian publishers expect you to read their books simply because they are Christian. The same thing happens with Christian movies. We are always being told to “send a message” to Hollywood and go to a Christian movie that is supposedly powerful, amazing, and the BEST. MOVIE. EVER.

That is very annoying. Just because a book or movie is clean and has the gospel message in it, it doesn’t mean it’s quality art. Also, just because I’m a Christian, it doesn’t mean I can’t recognize quality art.

Since I’m ranting about the low standards I perceive in the world of Christian art, here are what I consider the three deadly sins that run wild in this industry. I'm not saying all Christian books have these problems, but some of them do.

1. Christian books are idolized. Nope, not all of these books are well written. Somehow they get a lot of attention, but having things about God and Jesus in a book does not make it quality literature. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think anybody should make themselves suffer through a lame book just because it’s Christian. Being a Christian author does not excuse bad writing, and you shouldn't expect readers to put up with it just because it's about their faith.


2. Christian books are too preachy. Christian books do not need to be exclusively about Christianity in order to send a good message. It is also important to remember that a good story is far more effective than a preachy one. I’m not saying that fiction doesn’t show values and ideas that can affect us – it absolutely does. Fiction is far more effective when it is used the way it works best – showing ideas, not telling them. That’s how fiction works. The views and values presented in a book usually effect a reader slowly and subtly. Ideas are not a battering ram. They are more like a cat burglar. It is better to have a book that leaves the reader curious and wanting to know more, instead of a book that slams them over the head with a message and makes them bored and disgusted.

3. Christian books don't tell a good story. Sometimes it seems like Christian books sacrifice the plot, character development and natural-sounding dialogue in order to get a certain message across. That can be really sad, because to me, a reader, it feels like they are more interested in trying to make me learn four spiritual laws instead of telling a good story. I read fiction so I can experience a good story. I like books by Christian authors, but the main thing I like about them is the excellent storytelling. Martin Luther had the right idea when he said this about Christian creators, “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”

I have to ask myself though, am I being too critical? Maybe I’m only remembering the boring and stupid books I’ve read.

To be fair, I have read secular books that are just as bad as some Christian books – it doesn’t matter who the author is, all books have the potential to be rotten. So I guess that helps? Or not. However, I can approach a book with low expectations just because I know it’s by a Christian.
I can also judge a Christian author more harshly than a secular author, because I don’t like certain things about their writing. Even though the authors might have the same amount of ability, but different flaws in their writing. This isn't a very fair way to judge a book.

So I can judge Christian authors for the wrong reasons. It’s okay to have an opinion, of course, and it is okay to dislike a book. But it’s important to me to be critical for the right reasons. I want to evaluate books with a fair set of standards. This doesn't mean I won't be critical of Christian authors, but it does mean I'm going to try to be critical for the right reasons.


As critical as this post might sound, I really do like Christian authors. I can’t imagine what my reading life might be like without some of them. So I’m really happy we have them.

Do you read Christian fiction? Do you have any pet peeves about Christian fiction? Who are some of your favorite Christian authors?

Comments

  1. This is a really good post.

    I don't really read much Christian fiction anymore mostly for all the reasons you pointed out. The story is lacking in story and is more messagey. The story itself is usually poorly written. I hate saying that about Christian fiction. I hate saying that about any book. But it tends to be true. And I don't like how the Christian culture feels like we ought to overlook the need for good craftsmanship and read something or watch something just because it has the Christina label on it.

    But there are some Christian books I do enjoy. Sibella Giorello (I hope I spelled her name right!) writes/wrote a good mystery series with an FBI agent who has a specialty in geology. Also, Steven James' books are awesome! I'm not sure if you would call his books Christian? But he himself is a Christian. I've also heard that Ted Dekker is good and that I'd like him, but I've yet to read any of his books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I agree with you, I hate saying that a book is badly written. Some have some really great potential, but Christian fiction tends to be disappointing.

      I haven't heard of Sibella Giorello or Steven James, I should check out their books! I do like some of Ted Dekker's books, although I haven't read anything by him in a while.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
  2. No, no you are not being too critical. There is a place and time for encouraging new authors and screenwriters, but if they ever want to grow and create literature as art, they should be held to a high standard. I'm a teacher, and if I applaud the halfway decent work in my class, that level of work is all I will ever see.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I totally agree with the need to be held to a high standard! I think Christians can be too easily satisfied when it comes to fiction, and that's just leading to lower and lower standards. :(

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  3. Oh wow, you really hit the nail on the head here! I rarely buy books without looking them up on goodreads first because I'm afraid that secular fiction will be uncomfortably inappropriate and that Christian fiction will be full of preachy nonsense. But I have read some amazing books by Christian authors, and I'm always on the lookout for more! Some of my favorites (which you might already know) include Jaye L. Knight, Donita K. Paul, and Bodie and Brock Thoene (specifically the A.D. Chronicles).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have the same concern with books! It can be hard to find anything between silly Christian books, and books that have content I don't want to read about. I have read those authors, and yes, they are amazing! I should read more Brock and Bodie Thoene, since I've read only one of their series.

      Thanks for commenting!!

      Delete
  4. I think people as a whole are not being critical enough. I read broadly, and I include Christian fiction - but I also include true crime, for example. Why? Because it's the real world. I think that Christian fiction would be so much more accessible if it would discuss real life issues. I dislike the endless sex etc in books as much as the next Christian, but I also dislike being treated like a six year old when I am an adult mom reading a Christian novel!

    Sigh. I really want to write Christian fiction, but I think I'll still to "secular with a Christian at the helm"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my goodness, yes! Real life issue are so important. Not that faith isn't important, but people go through a lot more than a conversion experience in life, and stories should reflect that. I agree, Christian books need to stop talking down to audiences.

      Yay for writing!! Good choice, I believe writing a story you want to tell, not a story or style of book that people expect from Christians, and your faith will shine through one way or another!

      Delete
  5. I honestly never read any christian book, not because I'm an atheist (which I am), just because I never encountered one! Interesting discussion, by the way :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really good point! It does seem like most Christian books are limited to the Christian community, with exceptions like The Chronicles of Narnia, or LOTR.

      Thanks so much for stopping by! :)

      Delete
  6. Agh, this is so totally me. Nope I do NOT like Christian fiction. In fact, I really loathe it! :( Which is super sad but I thoroughly agree that Christian books don't have to be flogging a message across and filled with perfect characters who's only point in life is to be preachy to others. It's not good storytelling. Gah. I've kind of quit on christian books tbh. I wish the genre would get revolutionised a bit. I'm probably waaay too harsh too, but I have such high standards for books these days!! EEEK. My bad probably. xDXD

    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know how you feel! I've gone through periods of time when I haven't read ANY Christian fiction. But there are few good authors that I come back to now and again. Yes! It's just not good storytelling when a character's reason for existing is being preachy - I'm just not interested in that!

      Thanks for commenting!!

      Delete

Post a Comment

Hey, thanks for taking time to read and comment. :) Over to you!

Popular Posts