There’s something I’ve noticed through years of reading, and it’s something Michelle has picked up on, too. Christian fiction, ninety percent of the time, just isn’t as good as secular fiction. It isn’t as well-written, the characters aren’t as fleshed-out, the plots are more clichéd… in fact, generally speaking, it’s pretty lame.
Now lately, I am glad to notice that there are more good Christian books being written. Bryan Davis, Jill Williamson, Wayne Batson, Davis Bunn… but Christian fiction is still sadly lacking in elements that make a book memorable, exciting, touching, and well worth the time you took to read it. More often than not, when I read a Christian book, I’m a bit disappointed.
There are a few reasons why I think this is. One, Christian novels tend to be preachy. Now, I’m a born-again Christian of no denomination other than I Believe What the Bible Says, but do I appreciate having it shoved openly in my face in a very un-subtle and frankly quite annoying way? Nah. And I know for a fact that non-Christians dislike it even more.
Two, Christian writing also tends to fall short of the general quality I’m used to. The plot isn’t as good or well-thought out, the allegory is the same thing re-hashed over and over again (I’ve been guilty of this too), they’re clichéd and the characters could have come out of a cloning operation for all I know. (Again, this isn’t true for *every* Christian book, but it is for a good amount of the ones I’ve come across).
It feels like Christian authors are trying too hard, and sacrificing a possibly wonderful story for the sake of putting a Bible verse every other sentence, and I’ve come to a conclusion. We don’t need more ‘Christian authors.’ What we need are more authors who are Christians. We need books full of faith and hope and light and good versus evil and strong spiritual messages. We don’t need more Amish Fiction Book #19358734, we don’t need more Non-Christian-With-An-Abused-Past-Falls-In-Love-And-Is-Suddenly-Reborn (though as anybody will tell you, most of my stories are redemption tales), we don’t need another preachy Holier-than-thou.
Characters have to be real. They have to be flawed, we have to relate to them or else we won’t feel connected to them, or fall with them, or grow with them. They can’t be ‘Perfect Christians.’ Those so-called ‘Bible People’ were messed up – why should we try and make our characters better than the ‘man after God’s own heart’ who was an adulterous murderer? It’s hypocritical, it’s pushy, and if I’m going to be honest, I can’t stand characters like that.
What we need are books that can stand on their own without having to pour literal translations of the Gospel over the whole thing. We need books that are Christian by virtue of their content, by sheer being of what they are. We need books with morals and values that Christians uphold, but that any person would see were things to look up to.
Jesus didn’t shove the Gospel down people’s throats. He illustrated heavenly truths with earthly realities, with stories, with miracles. A book should do what Jesus did.
This is my stance, and this is what I try to write. I’m not perfect, my writing will continue to get better and better over the years. I’m still a fledgling, after all, but I hope my books draw people in rather than turning them away.