The Church’s Uneasy Relationship With Fiction

“No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.” Oscar Wilde

fly free in space-nasa picture of the day

Fly Free in Space-NASA picture of the day

Bruce McCandless-astronaut -Taking a walk


As many of our readers know, I, Dee, became a Christian during an episode of Star Trek which is testimony to my rather strange journey within the faith. One of the first books that I read as a Christian was the science fiction trilogy written by CS Lewis called Out of the Silent Planet. I guess you could say that I am addicted to all things science fiction (followed closely by heavily buttered popcorn which pairs well with my primary addiction.)

I love fiction. If one were to look at my Kindle, one would see some serious books, liberally interrupted by Christian sci fi, secular sci fi, medical thrillers, and legal mysteries. I have often learned more lessons from well constructed fiction then pedantic theology, although both have their place. (Critics are now convinced that they have absolute proof that I am a minion of Satan).

Let me leave you with a lesson that I learned from a rather strange sci fi called The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Link to Amazon. The listening devices, employed by SETI, pick up the most beautiful music that Earth had ever heard. Believing that such beautiful music would be produced by an incredible civilization, a group of astronauts (which included Jesuit priests to help them understand the beliefs of such people) are dispatched to the planet. Tragically, this music was sung during some of the most heinous acts that one could imagine.

This book caused me to think about those hurt by the church. The recovery of one of the priests, who has been physically assaulted in horrible ways, takes on a deeper meaning as he is accused of causing trouble on the planet. This book came to represent all of the stories, which we have discussed, that involve pedophilia, domestic abuse, and emotional abuse. 

It reminded of some Christian leaders, who superficially present a magnificent message, drawing in people who are in search of such beauty. Such men then pervert the message, spiritually abusing those who come to seeking grace and meaning. I think of those who call their people idiots or unregenerate. And we wonder why people leave the church and, even worse, leave the faith.

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This post is written by Mara. She is the author of some wonderful comments on TWW. She presents an interesting view into the world of Christian fiction. Even better, she opened my eyes to some faulty thinking on the part of some fundagelicals. Thank you, Mara!


"I gave my heart to Jesus in a small, house church when I was in high school back in 1982. One of the things I learned from them was that C.S. Lewis's "Chronicles of Narnia were demonic. They had magic and a witch in it. And don't even get them started on the spiritual worth of the "Lord of the Rings" books.

Many of you will be relieved to know that I have grown past that. I now own the LOTR Trilogy on DVD and am anticipating the next Narnia movie.

The strange thing about Christians and fiction is that suspicion and judgment towards fiction is not limited to little house churches on the fringe. A very good friend of mine recently told me that she never reads fiction, only non-fiction, as if fiction were of a lower class. Yet this friend watches movies.

Some of my writer friends have encountered Christians who stated, point-blank, that Christian fiction is an oxymoron. They explained it this way: Fiction is made up and a form of a lie, therefore it can never be Christian.

Some of my friends who write romance novels have been told that Christian romance shouldn't be written at all because no Christian woman has any business reading a romance of any form. I think the reason went along the lines of: All romance, even Christian romance, creates unreasonable expectations in women concerning the regular guys that they might actually meet or be married to. Or something like that.

But the worst thing I think I have ever heard about Christian romance was from a group of men discussing among themselves that it is just as bad for a woman to read a romance novel as it is for a man to view pornography. And they expressed that Christian romance was no different than secular.

Needless to say, parts of the church have an uneasy relationship with fiction, Christian or otherwise. And it seems, the church has an especially hard time with romance or speculative fiction, like Narnia.

The Dilemma

So what is a person to do when they love to weave together stories? They could do what I did. Pretend that they don't have that desire and bury it where no one could ever find it. Then they can hope and pray that the desire to write would just go away.

The problem with these pesky desires that they don't just go away. God gives gifts without repentance. When God makes an apple tree, it bears apples. It is a natural flow of life
through the tree. It may have winter seasons or there may be other things to prevent it from bearing apples. But its natural, healthy state is to bear apples. The same thing goes
for a writer. I wish I had learned this earlier.

One Solution

I did eventually start to let myself produce apples, I mean, let my creativity flow. I needed and encouragement and joined a group called American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) link. It used to be called American Christian Romance Writers (ACRW) back in the day. But the need to encourage all Christian writers was great. So they opened
their doors to all genres, including Suspense, Western, Women's Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, and Speculative (Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Allegory,etc.).

Now, because ACFW used to be ACRW, the number of romance writers is still higher than any other genre. Over all, women out number men by quite a bit. It was from the romance writers that I learned of their particular struggles to be accepted. Listening to these women I learned about what an incredible group they were. They were interested in writing a good story, to be sure. But it wasn't the lust- inducing stories they have been accused of. These women were concerned about the spiritual growth of their characters and the moral premise and theme of their stories. They were also very concerned about bringing glory to their God whom they loved. They wanted their stories to minister to their readers concerning God's love. I can't tell you how many times one of these beautiful ladies has rejoiced over a letter from a reader who was blessed and told how that story met the reader in her place of need. The best letters involved a conversion story.

Learning this about these Christian romance writers made me realize something. Those who criticize them are a bit like the disciples complaining about Mary pouring expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus. The accusers misjudge the ministries of these women because they don't understand the hearts of these women. But Jesus understands. And I believe He is pleased.

Getting Better

From the ACFW ladies, I learned the importance of craft. Since Christian fiction has not been respected in the past among secular writers due to being of lower quality, craft is pushed. So I got a mentor who wrote romances. Another piece of advice the ladies at ACFW gave was to write a romance novel first because there are more opportunities for publication that way than any other. Then once you get your foot in the door you can move into romantic suspense, cozy mystery, or even dragon stories as a certain Donita K. Paul managed to do. link

So I tried my hand at romance even though it definitely wasn't my favorite. I preferred speculative. But my mentor didn't understand speculative, so I learned craft by trying to write
a romance. I learned a lot about craft. But I also learned that square pegs don't fit well in round holes. And while my mentor has gone on to publish several Amish romances, I've had
to go in a different direction.

An Interesting Story

I'd like to tell you something that happened on our ACFW loop once. Someone, not from the South, asked, "Why are there so many stories set in the South?" And she's right. Southern
Christian fiction has nearly become its own genre. The number of women writers from the South both published and on our loop is huge. Also the gracious writers from the South are some of the most encouraging and giving people on the loop, never thinking twice about helping out a newbie.

Several theories were discussed. I had my own thought which I shared with the loop. Traditionally, Churches in the South are more strict concerning women speaking in church. But just because there are rules put in place to silence women, this doesn't mean that women don't have something to say. Where men have closed the door on women proclaiming the gospel message, God has opened a window in the form of Christian fiction.
I used a scripture: Psalm 68:11:

"The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host"

No one responded to me publicly. But one prominent Southern writer emailed me privately and told me that my theory sounded good to her.

Christian Fiction's Uneasy Relationship with Speculative

Speculative fiction has been the red-headed step child of Christian fiction, which is too bad, looking back at Lewis and Tolkien. It was hard for a lot of those down to earth romance
writers to understand those of us who looked to the stars or wanted to build story worlds from scratch. In fact there is a blog specifically named, "The Lost Genre Guild" here fiction had such a hard time finding a home in Christian fiction. But since then several independent publishers have risen up to meet the unique need for speculative fiction. Here and here.

Another Dilemma

Well, sometimes life just doesn't behave and things happen that prevent writers from writing. Without getting into any details, let me tell you something. My life is over busy and I cannot spend much time pursuing writing. But all is not lost. I've discovered this thing called flash fiction or micro-fiction. Shorter than a short story it is 1000 word or less and geared toward our fast paced modern world.

The thing that I really appreciate about microfiction is that I can continue to be creative and work on my craft during the busiest times of life. Then when things settle down, I can focus on the longer pieces floating around in my head. Because one thing that I've learned is that a writer needs to write. Even if it's in little snatches stolen here and there. No longer do I listen to segments of the church who question whether fiction can even be Christian. I listen to the One who called me to write.

There is a speculative micro fiction blog that I contribute to regularly. It's a fun place for the imagination to play.Here's a little youtube video about it:

In closing, I'd like to invite any and all of the readers here, who like speculative fiction, to come and visit and read the works of several different authors, some multi-published, some
not. link

And if speculative fiction is not your thing then head to this web site and locate something you prefer, mystery, suspense, thriller? You'll find it all here.

And… Just in case there is some frustrated, unfulfilled writer out there who has been burying their talent because of the Church's uneasy relationship with fiction, let me encourage you to dig it up, brush it off, and start writing. If you like speculative fiction, I know the blog owner at
Avenir Eclectia is looking for new writers.

If Avenir Eclectia and speculative fiction aren't your glass of sweet tea, then join up with ACFW. They'll point you in the right direction whether you want to write Christian fiction or
even secular link I can't emphasize enough to you, how helpful those Southern ladies really are."


Lydia's Corner: Ecclesiastes 1:1-3:22 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 Psalm 46:1-11 Proverbs 22:15


The Church’s Uneasy Relationship With Fiction — 170 Comments

  1. Thank you for this post. I’m a longtime reader of the blog and I’m a novelist. I discovered TWW (and Wade Burleson and Lewis Wells and a bunch of other people with great sites) a few years ago when I was researching a novel about spiritual abuse. It was published last year by Multnomah (Random House). I’ve moved on to writing my next two novels but I keep reading TWW because I continue to be very interested in the topics discussed here.

    I can relate to so much of Mara’s post and Dee’s introduction to it. Although I don’t write spec fiction or read much of it, “Perelandra” by Lewis was one of those life-changing books for me when I was a teenager. I think fantasy and science fiction have the power to convey huge spiritual truths because they’re free of some of the boundaries imposed by the real world. (By the way, Christian author C.S. Lakin has some awesome posts about this stuff on her blog. And she has written some great spec fiction.)

    I’ve run into many people who believe fiction is a lie. Do they think Jesus was lying when he told his parables?! (I actually worked that fiction-is-a-lie fallacy into the plot of my first novel and had a lot of fun with it.) Fortunately, I’ve also run into a lot more people who see the imagination as one of God’s most wonderful gifts, and fiction as just one more way to convey truth and/or entertainment. (It’s so freeing to realize that entertainment in itself is not evil.)

    Mara, I’ve also wondered about the preponderance of Christian fiction set in the South. I’m not a southerner but I live in the South and my novels (so far) are set in Georgia and Alabama. I like your theory that fiction allows women to speak up where they might otherwise be forbidden. I really think there’s something to that. When I wanted to sound the alarm about spiritual abuse in the homeschool community, fiction gave me a way to bring up the issues in a gentler way than if I’d just started mouthing off about it. Okay, maybe fiction is just my way of mouthing off. 🙂

    I could go on about this all day, but I’ll shut up now. Thank you for the great post!


  2. Meg! I was just thinking of recommending your book here and then saw your comment. For the other TWW readers, my review of When Sparrows Fall is here:

    Other book reviews in my Gender & Authority series are:

    Submission Is Not Silence by Elisabeth Julin:

    Quivering Daughters by Hilary McFarland:

  3. Meg also has an article on the importance of fairy tales. You can find the link in the review of When Sparrows Fall which I linked in my last comment. You go girl!

  4. I have read and re-read THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH; last book of the C.S. Lewis trilogy with its great focus on evil and academic political correctness. It’s timeless.
    Finally I have on my Kindle 17 Georgette Heyer (16 August 1902 – 4 July 1974) novels. She was the master of the English Regency romance genre. As far as I know I remain firmly heterosexual despite my love for Georgette Heyer.

  5. I remember when your book came out Meg. I know it’s well appreciated by the daughters of patriarchy. Fiction can such a wonderful way to give a voice to those who don’t have any.

    There are a lot of other books like that. My friend Waneta has one out. She comes from a Mennonite perspective.

    You said you could go on all day, Meg, I wish you’d say more.

  6. I also heart ( along with a lot of seminary profs apparently) Louis L’Amour. I’ve read everything he’s ever written 3 or 4 times a piece. Unluckily, Amazon wants too much money for his library at this time. I’m waiting for prices to drop.
    Louis and Georgette are my two favorite fiction authors.

  7. Not only is The Sparrow an incredible tale, adventure, and instructional work, so is its sequel, Children of God. For all of the heartache and wonderful writing in the first, the second is just as good. I recommend it highly to anyone who has finished The Sparrow. A word of advice – don’t read it immediately after. They are different stories, and need to be separate. Wait a year or so, to give the themes time to ferment in your mind. After a good period, pick up Children of God, and enjoy the story. Think again of Rakhat, of Emilio Sandoz, and all that we don’t understand in the much-bigger-than-us-and-much-bigger-than-we-can-imagine plan of the Almighty.

    If you’re looking for other Christian allegory, The Arena is also a good adventurous read, though not as theologically deep as either The Sparrow or Lewis’ Space Trilogy. In any case, just read! And, if you have the desire to, just write!

  8. Virginia, thanks for those links and for the reviews. I haven’t read Elizabeth Julin’s book but I should. I have Hillary’s. It’s a great resource for anybody with questions about the Quiverfull movement. I appreciate all the info and encouragement you have on your blog.

    Thanks for the kind words, anon1 and Mara!

    Seneca, I haven’t read Georgette Heyer but I’ve been told I must. Have you tried Josephine Tey? My brother told me about Tey. “Brat Farrar” is absolutely wonderful. (Not Regency, but quality writing and it’s just as enjoyable for men as it is for women.)

    I haven’t read any of Louis L’Amour’s, but my younger son has read just about everything the man wrote. He picks them up at yard sales and the used-book store, mostly.

    This discussion is starting to remind me of the old Faith in Fiction site that was run by Dave Long, an editor at Bethany House. The site isn’t active anymore, but Dave left up the links to the book discussions and they’re wonderful. I think it’s faithinfiction[dot]blogspot[dot]com.

  9. No Graven Image by Elisabeth Elliott is the most mind-blowing fiction I have read. It is a missionary novel that uncovers the unrealistic expectations of how God “should” work and the disillusionment that creeps in when he doesn’t. I read it over 25 years ago and should again.

    Most of the fiction books I read are for kids. Anything by Elisabeth George Speare and most of what I’ve read from Margaret Peterson Haddix are quite worth it.

  10. Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels were/are considered mainstream fiction in England, and lots of men like her work. (Yep, straight men, too.) A friend of mine who was a true fan (an Englishman) told me about how Heyer was consulted on Recency-era historical matters by some academic experts who didn’t have the expertise that she did in. re. many aspects of cultural history.

    I think her best books are wonderful light reading, not unlike Jane Austen, though with a slightly broader scope.


    About “Christian fiction”: The fact that it exists as a separate genre bothers em a lot, and has done for years. I wish there was simply “fiction” and “non-fiction,” period. That’s not to put down or discourage anyone who’s working in the field, but man – would I love to see a truly well-written book or three cross over from the genre shelves to “mainstream” fiction.

    One thing that really puzzles me: the proliferation of “Amish romances” on the “Christian fiction” lists. I mean, ??? (I live in an area that has a large Amish and Mennonite population and am not sure how books like these are viewed locally, but… I think that the writers have a highly romanticized view of farm life/work as well as of the amish as a whole.)

    [/end threadjack; no flaming intended!]

  11. Another thought: it seems as if much of the evangelical church is also very uncomfortable with the visual and performing arts as well… something I have encountered 1st-hand.

    There are organizations like Christians in the Visual Arts; no doubt there are similar groups for writers…

  12. Steve

    Thank you for writing in.I really liked The Arena! I will add to my page immediately. I have not read the sequel-Children of God and will order it for my Kindle. I love recommendations like this.

  13. Dee – I think Children of God is a better book than The Sparrow, but that’s just me…

    You know that M.D. Russell is Jewish, right? (A convert, which is a fairly rare thing.)

  14. Meg
    Welcome. I just ordered your book for my Kindle. Wow! Great reviews at Amazon. I’ll read it and review it here.

  15. I have never been involved in any evangelical christian group that had a problem with fiction or drama. is this something that is tauhgt in patriarchy? I think it is unfair to say that much of the evangelical world has a problem with the performing arts. can this be backed up by stats?

  16. Numo,
    I don’t get into Amish Romances, at all.
    I read one.
    The first of the series. I did not read the second.

    Having said that, I think one of the reasons Amish fiction is hot is because the world is screaming forward at breakneck pace and it is just too fast for some people.
    They want to go back to the good ol’ days. Different people express it different ways.

    Amish fiction keeps one foot in the present world while having old world values.

    One thing noted among Christian romance writers is that people who traditionally weren’t readers of the genre are turning to it because the morals of secular romances keep dropping through the floor.
    Little old ladies, and even a lot of young ladies aren’t interested in the chance that the secular writer pushing the boundaries of erotica when they pick up a book.
    With Christian Romance, they get a promise that certain boundaries simply won’t be crossed.
    It’s even more so with Amish Romance.
    They want to be entertained and they don’t want feel dirty at the end of it.

  17. Great topic, looking forward to seeing more discussion about the church and it’s uneasy relationship with the arts. Currently it seems many Christians view the arts as dangerous to the faith unless they are expressed it certain carefully supervised ways and even then caution and suspicion seem to be the general rule. Which is sad, just look at the complexity and variety within creation-the beautiful, whimsical, macabre, and downright weird, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface. In church I hear “have the mind of God” and I look at creation and think “then why are you trying to put artists of all kinds in such tiny boxes?” And a personal favorite, using the Philippians 4:8 “think on these things” passage to condem any number of genres. If you are going to use that passage as your trump card for why I should not read “x” then why are you reading the Bible, much of the OT in particular doesn’t begin to meet the criteria, have you read the book of Judges lately?

    And thanks for actually mentioning the romance genre in a positive light. I know speculative fiction gets a bad rap in Christian circles but I think romance gets just as much negativity press, just in a different way. Personally I suspect some of the resistance to romance novels is that it is written mostly by women for women and therefore gets slapped with the feminist and subersive label by the mostly male dominated church leadership. I’ve heard lines like “emotional porn for women”, “unrealistic expectations”, “waste of time when the women should be taking care of her family”, “feminist propaganda”, “women are the weaker vessel, they have less discernment which makes romance novels especially dangerous”, and other nonsense from the pulpit and casual conversations. I grew up in the harder core complimentarian, shading into patriachal homeschool, IFB circles, so I tend to be very sensitive to how women, particularly artistic women are treated by the church, YMMV. *steps off soap box*

  18. Numo
    I love any fiction which entertains or causes me to think, regardless of the religious affinity of the author. In fact, one of my favorite sci fi series is The Ingathering by Zenna Henderson. A friend tells me she was Mormon.

  19. anon 1
    I have heard of some issues within the IFB.I know little about this area and will do some googling about

  20. KayS, you’re right. The bias against Christian romance has been around ever since the genre came into existence. Both the genre and the bias are still going strong. Last year, a prominent Baptist blogger posted an article about the harm that supposedly comes of reading Christian romance. He got a lot of comments from Christian authors. They pretty well cleaned his clock in the logic department.

  21. However if I ever read another novel with the phrase, “heaving bosom,” I may puke.

    Promise me, Meg, you’ll forgo that phrase in all of your coming best sellers. -:)

  22. When I was in SGM I had a SGM neighbor who said something to me about the Chronicles of Narnia, which I very much enjoyed reading to all my children from the time they were old enough to understand.

    She told me she would never read those books to her children because there was a witch and ‘creatures God didn’t create.”

    This was the same women whose children told my kids that “Santa was just S-a-t-a-n rearranged.” Their mother apparently instructed them every season on the evils of Santa Claus, and since I didn’t see the harm in it, her children were sent as missionaries in an effort to win my kids to the true anti-Santa Claus holiness faith.

    I should have egged her house on Halloween dressed as Aslan. Or worse: Mr. Tumnus. Horrors!

    Hope someone gave her the gift of imagination for Christmas, although I’m sure she would return it because it was ‘unbiblical.’ 😛

  23. Actually many of the YRR are big into drama and fiction. One recently wrote a bible study on Harry Potter redeeming it for God. Piper is known for going into the secular arts, etc and pointing out the Glory of God in it. Most of the evangelical world is big into drama. Anyone remember the huge outpouring to see the Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson. Even Dobson was promoting it.

    Ever been to “sermon spice”? Or the Willow Creek association? There are tons of such groups who do nothing but churn out drama/arts, etc for Christian audiences. Many mega’s have drama teams. And many of them would be considered fundy for their stand on women, salvation, etc.

    So, I think the arguement that evangelicalism is mostly against it is very weak. The IFB is pretty small and not real influential. Seems to me this is more of a patriarchy/dominionism type of prohibition.

  24. Seneca/Meg

    You don’t need fiction to find heaving bosoms. There is Mark Driscoll’s books and sermons….

  25. Evie

    I will join you in the egging. I shall be dressed as Mrs. Beaver. Good night. You needed to get out of there. SANTA=SATAN No wonder SGM is having a crisis. They need some people with creative imaginations.

  26. Thanks for this post!

    The very first comment mentioned this, but I’m going to echo it; if fiction is lying, and therefore cannot be connected to Christianity, then I guess Jesus lied when he told the parables?

    My biggest gripe about Christian fiction is that it focuses on “correct” content almost to the exclusion of quality writing. Much of the best-written Christian fiction I’ve read doesn’t stand up to mainstream fiction. It’s not because Christians are stupid or bad writers; it’s because the industry does not push them to their full potential. It’s so worried about including all the right salvation messages, and excluding all the wrong secular messages, that there just isn’t as much energy left over to craft really superb, diamond-standard writing.

    Also, Christian fiction often feels contrived to me. Most fiction writers will tell you that stories take on a life of their own, that characters and plots often go in a direction that you didn’t plan, and you’d better let them! But Christians are afraid to let that happen, because if a plot or character goes in an unforeseen direction, it could end up bringing in elements that the publisher won’t approve of.

    I hope this doesn’t sound terribly harsh. I don’t believe that all pieces of Christian fiction are bad; it’s just very, very, very rare to find one that surpasses what would be considered “mediocre” writing by the mainstream publishers.

    A Concerned Christian Writer

  27. Wow! You’re talking my language. I haven’t really had to deal with the fiction is evil stuff here, but I’ve certainly got the message from time to time that it’s definitely inferior to “serious” books. Personally I think a well-told story is immensely serious — one of the things that helped me become a Christian was that I fell in love with Aslan at the age of 9, finding him to be much more believable and relatable than the dry stuff we were told in Sunday school. I believe I am a better preacher for reading lots of fiction, because story-telling cuts to the heart of communication, and, after all, it was good enough for Jesus!

    What I find in Australian evangelicalism is not so much a condemnation of literature as a huge indifference to it (which as a poet and wannabe fiction writer, drives me nuts) I actually believe that it’s the product of a deficient theology, which has reduced the Christian life to an intellectual construct where you have to “believe all the right constructs and opinions, but the heart and the imagination are left high and dry.

    Meanwhile, I plug away at my little creative writing projects on my own blog ..

  28. Jesus taught in parables, what today would be called preacher stories, that contain great truths in a fictional story. (Yeah, I know some literalists are hitting the ceiling, but sorry, the first sentence in this comment is the truth!) A good story is a great teaching and witnessing tool, second only to the true personal experience related one-on-one to another who has needs similar to those the teller had before they found faith.

  29. Meg, I just put When Sparrows Fall on hold at my library. I’m a wannabe fiction writer also, I’m just having a hard time carving out time for writing. I’m in a very demanding school program (court reporting) and have a child with high-functioning autism.

  30. Concerned Christian Writer: Yep, you got it. Christian publishers try very, very hard to keep the books “clean” and “Christian.” Some publishers are more flexible than others, but they have to please the Christian bookstore chains or the stores won’t carry the books. As online selling takes over, that might become less of a problem. I was pleasantly surprised when my publisher was lenient about some elements that a stricter publisher would have axed. For instance, one of the characters enjoys the occasional nip of Scotch. Because the book is about legalism and spiritual abuse, my editor knew we had to keep the booze in the story. Yes, it offended some of my readers.

    Lynne, believers’ indifference toward fiction is something I run into a lot. It drives me crazy. I cannot believe that the latest “how to be a better Christian” drivel by the latest hotshot preacher/writer will somehow be more valuable than a well-written novel.

    “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson is on my keeper shelf, Virginia. I’ve read it twice, so far. I loved it.

    Tina, these years when you don’t have time to write might be the very years that will give you the insights and the wisdom to write something phenomenal when you *do* have time to write. And thanks for checking out my book when you’re short on time already. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

  31. Lynn

    If you would ever like to do a post here, let us know. Have you ever read Mark Noll’s book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind? It deals with the abdication of Christians in areas such as the arts, education, etc. I believe the statement from this book is The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind. After reading Evie’s comment by some SGM mom who said that SANTA is just a misspelled SATAN, I proceeded to bang my head against a wall.

  32. My sister-in-law, an independent Baptist would have parroted the Satan-=-Santa line at one time in her life. She was not a part of SGM, just a plain old independent Baptist.
    I think a lot of fundamentalists have held to that kind of thinking; my auntie did too.
    I don’t think it’s a “Calvinista” position however.

  33. Seneca
    There are no bigger and badder Calvinista then the boys over at SGM. So, such a position is espoused in such churches.

  34. I’m surprised that nobody yet pointed out that Dana Carvey’s Church Lady skit from Saturday Night Live had the “S-A-N-T-A = S-A-T-A-N”, fifteen years ago or more. Hilarious.

    And ‘fiction writer’s comment here is what I would have posted, but got ninja’d first:

    “My biggest gripe about Christian fiction is that it focuses on “correct” content almost to the exclusion of quality writing. Much of the best-written Christian fiction I’ve read doesn’t stand up to mainstream fiction. It’s not because Christians are stupid or bad writers; it’s because the industry does not push them to their full potential. It’s so worried about including all the right salvation messages, and excluding all the wrong secular messages, that there just isn’t as much energy left over to craft really superb, diamond-standard writing.”

    Think about how most “Christian” books go – when there’s a major trauma, the characters always fall back on God who helps, provides, and does all the right things so that everything works out in the end. It’s always uplifiting and validates our current view of God and believer-life, rather than challenging or allowing people to fall away from the faith, which happens significantly more often than is portrayed in “Christian” fiction. If more “Christian” fiction looked like the church, we’d have a lot more: gossip, promise-breaking, pornography, alcohol, cheating on tests, cheating on taxes, children who grow up and leave the church, sex, arguments that don’t end for days, and people who just stop reading the Bible and praying because they are too tired or worn out or just plain fed up with not getting “the right answer” from God.

    I think a great “Christian” book would be one about some important man in a moderate church, maybe a Deacon or a Sunday School teacher, who is surfing the web, looking at pornography, and comes across pictures of the Pastor’s wife. What would that lead to, for him? For her? For the church? Unfortunately, we don’t get this kind of story. We get the wife who fears her husband is working too hard, so she prays harder, reads the Bible more, and eventually the husband recognizes the errors of his ways and everyone comes home happy at the end.

  35. Steve,
    When is the last time you read “Christian” Fiction.

    Mostly I planned to let the accusations go by concerning Christian fiction. But I always find it funny that people make accusations on stuff they either haven’t even read or read 10 years ago.

    Today, Christian fiction has grown and is so broad it defies the simplistic accusations that are still thrown at it today.

    Are there still the simplistic books that you talk about being written. Absolutely. Because it is a form of escapism. Because one thing fiction does, ALL fiction, is to try to make sense out of a world that makes no sense. And there is a market for what you are talking about. Make sense of it with a Christian point of view.

    But for you to say all of Christian fiction falls into this is to show that you really aren’t up to speed.

  36. While I haven’t read everything by Francine Rivers, I have enjoyed most of her books. I think my favorite was “The Scarlet Thread” because I enjoy stories that interweave the lives of two people who lived at different times.

    I also found her Lineage of Grace series to be fascinating, but I didn’t care so much for her Sons of Encouragement series. I also enjoyed how “Redeeming Love” paralleled the prophet Hosea’s story.

    All-in-all I enjoy a good fiction read. However, I admit that I don’t read a lot of “Christian” fiction books.

  37. I agree with Mara that Christian fiction has changed a lot in recent years. You can find some pretty tough issues in Christian novels: porn, domestic abuse (spiritual, psychological, physical, sexual), cults, bio-ethics, end-of-life issues, and on and on. There are good ways and bad ways to write about those subjects, in the Christian market and in the general market. (Believe me, the general market has its problems too.)

    I do wish Christian writers didn’t have to tiptoe around readers who are easily offended or readers who expect a salvation message in every book. I don’t know about you, but I don’t run into real-life salvation stories every single day, therefore I don’t see the need to work a salvation scene into my characters’ everyday lives. If it happens naturally, great; I’ll put it in. If it doesn’t happen naturally, great; I’ll leave it out.

    One of my favorite authors is J. Mark Bertrand, who writes detective stories. (“Back on Murder” and “Pattern of Wounds.”) He doesn’t preach, but he manages to make you think about eternity while you’re reading about his detective’s travails.

  38. I’m surprised that nobody yet pointed out that Dana Carvey’s Church Lady skit from Saturday Night Live had the “S-A-N-T-A = S-A-T-A-N”, fifteen years ago or more. Hilarious. — Steve Mathys

    Check the Wikipedia article on “The Church Lady” sometime. Dana Carvey based her on real-life Church Ladies he’d seen in church while growing up.

    And anyway, I’m convinced that The Church Lady is THE target audience for Christian Fiction (TM).

    I do wish Christian writers didn’t have to tiptoe around readers who are easily offended or readers who expect a salvation message in every book. — Meg Mosely

    You have touched on two tropes of why Christian Fiction is so lame:

    1) Nothing that could possibly offend the Church Ladies.

    2) The Altar-Call Ending. Including breaking the Fourth Wall to preach directly to the reader.

    When you get into Christian attempts at SF, there are four additional ironclad tropes having to do with cross-contamination from Christian Apocalyptic:

    1) No aliens. (Except for angels and especially DEMONS.)

    2) No semi-human genetic constructs. (With same exceptions as the above.)

    3) No settings more than “Twenty Minutes into the Future”. (Because Christ is Coming Soon (TM) and It’s All Gonna Burn (TM). Ergo, there IS no such thing as a Future. The usual result of this is two basic Christianese SF settings: Near-Future Persecution Dystopia or End Time Prophecy a la Left Behind knockoff.)

    4) No settings off Earth. (Because otherwise Christ won’t be able to find us for the Rapture (TM). Again, End Time Prophecy.)

  39. Thanks for this post. I happen to be both a member of the “Lost Genre Guild” and a Splashdown Books author (one of the links in the post). I’ve written on this topic more than once.

    Specifically on the “fiction is a lie” argument:

    And Resident Aliens magazine published my article on why I write Christian Fantasy that originally appeared at the end of my first published novella:

    I should note that those who believe fantasy is a lie and therefore unBiblical, when confronted with the “Jesus told parables” point, will point out that Jesus’ parables were about real events (I suppose even the Lazarus and rich man in heaven story, from Jesus’ perspective). IOW, Jesus was pointing to a merchant buying something at a market, and told the parable of the merchant willing to sell all he had to buy the pearl of great price. Whereas I as an fantasy author cannot point to a dragon in real life. So I addressed the whole “fiction is a lie” thing from a broader perspective.

    But there is some good fiction being written by Christians, both in the Christian market and in the general market. If Christians don’t influence these markets, are we just giving them over to Satan? I think that’s been some of the problems over the last one to two hundred years.

  40. HUG, you also display how out of touch you are with Christian Fiction. You do a good job at assaulting and assailing a caricature of a certain area of Christian fiction and certain types that might read or write it, but you completely miss the broader scope.

    Did you even check out the links in the article to independent publishers of speculative fiction? Did you even read the article? Or did you just make knee jerk assumptions about me and my spec friends based on past experiences with church ladies?

    I find your prejudice against me and my friends somewhat painful since I actually value your opinion and insight on so many other things including your many 1984 references.

  41. anon1 – those “drama teams” are churning out skits and plays that serve a purpose – evangelism.

    That’s a lot different than drama for its own sake, or music for its own sake, or visual art for its own sake.

    God seems to have created an awful lot of things for the sake of beauty alone. Or made many things beautiful that could have been strictly utilitarian. (Like flowers and trees.)


    Mara, apologies for offending, and I guess I am out of touch, but… it’s still difficult for me to read “Christian fiction” because of the fact that authors don’t have the freedom to write according to what they really see and think about many characters and plot lines. I hope that continues to change.

    As for “Amish romances” being a reflection of a simpler, better life – ???! I really don’t see it, except as another way to claim that there was some sort of Moral Golden Age that “the world” has left behind.

  42. Dee wrote

    If you would ever like to do a post here, let us know. Have you ever read Mark Noll’s book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind? It deals with the abdication of Christians in areas such as the arts, education, etc. I believe the statement from this book is The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.


  43. Jean Cocteau said,”Art is a lie that tells us the truth”. I have had experience with several people who had the fundamentalist Christian viewpoint that discarded all fiction from literature on the grounds that it was a lie. One was a fellow doctoral candidate in English a Boston University who had up til then been educated in strictly Seventh Day Adventist Schools and colleges. At BU, she had to go back to the master’s level and make up all the fiction she had missed involving several novel courses each semester. The eye strain forced her to wear glasses for the first time! She was very angry, not at BU for forcing her to make up the deficiency, but at the schools she attended for depriving her of such a wonderful source of art, culture, and spiritual and practical wisdom. She especially loved Dickens. Barbara

  44. Dee – I mentioned Russell’s religious beliefs only because I think that adds to the complexity of the issues she takes on – see the sequel to The Sparrow for more of that.

    Z. Henderson: yes, she was Mormon. I 1st came across one of her books about The People when I was in grade school and loved it. Still like her very much, in fact!

  45. Mara–and Dee!–thanks for this interesting post.

    Even as a traditionally published author, I’ve often felt like an “out-there” writer whose proposals were set aside because of their speculative fiction content. Now, however, I’m pleased to report that more CBA publishers are seriously considering speculative fiction. My most recent proposal for a Biblical Fantasy series actually went to committee at three different publishers and received bids from two of those publishers. (Yes, I signed with one!)

    The market IS becoming more open to speculative fiction. My advice to all writers is, to do your research, write a quality story with solid, real characters, and don’t give up. Never stop learning and submitting those proposals. The publishing arena is wider than ever!

    As for the fiction critics…. What R. L. Copple said. *Cheers for Lost Genre Guild!*

  46. I find myself in agreement with numo, HUG, and others who see that in order for literature to be Christian (or fit for Christian consumption), it has to be forced through a grid of ideological purity. I think that this model is barely 40 yrs. old and was first advanced by Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, and other fundamentalists who found clever and business savy methods to bring their wares into the young & hip mainstream.

    Evil can always be bad, but good can never be good enough on its own merits unless it passes through an evangelical filtration system.

  47. Yeah, I suppose that if you were to look at Christianity as a ‘grid’ then you would come up with this.
    I’m also surprised by the assumption that all the creative people who are writing from a Christian world view are limiting themselves to some 40 year old model put forth by Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye.
    (Surprised because many of them look to their favorites as being Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Lewis, Tolkien, etc and never mention LaHaye.)

    Guess it’s safe to say that, not only do portions of the Church have an uneasy relationship with fiction (christian or otherwise) But those who consider themselves savvy on what’s creative vs what isn’t have a distinct mistrust toward the Christian writer.

    Guess this is good to know.

  48. I’m delighted to see this conversation spring up here. A variety of likes from the Christian market:

    Harry Kraus is a solid suspense writer with truly human stories where things don’t always turn out “perfect.”

    P.A. Baines’s “Alpha Redemption” (Splashdown Books) is literary sci-fi. It kept me up till 4 am and made me cry. Very beautiful, gritty and unusual story. Proof that we’re seeing digital production and sales models create some real freedom for innovative writers.

    Francine Rivers’s “The Atonement Child” changed my life and convinced me of the power and need for storytelling from a Christian worldview (not necessarily requiring overt conversion, etc. but expressing a God-attuned sensibility).

    Meredith Efken–“Lucky Baby” is fabulous contemp/literary storytelling about a post-fundamentalist woman married to an atheist. The main character is so scarred by her parents’ superstitious approach to religion that she believes she can never be a good parent. And no, the atheist doesn’t get converted. His atheism turns out to be key to the story’s resolution.

    Over at Marcher Lord Press (the other sci-fi/fantasy publisher Mara mentioned), Kirk Outerbridge’s books use cybernetics to examine moral questions in a way that shakes a person up some–a *good* uncomfortable way. And award-winning author Marc Schooley is a wild blend of literary with supernatural thriller.

    I’m not a romance reader, so not exactly the core Christian fiction demographic…but that means I can attest that there’s plenty out there to fly in the face of Headless Unicorn Guy’s trope concerns. Best place to find it, though, is online. Not in a bookstore that’s under huge economic pressure to cede most of its shelf space to gift shop items.


  49. I remember taking two little Golden books to friend’s children once. I didn’t know (this was in 86 or ’87) that being Christian had become an industry of it’s own with it’s own rules etc. She set the books aside, not showing them to the kids, and politely thanked me for bringing a gift for her kids then explained that her husband would have to approve them! They couldn’t have most books because they were “stories” and the children might then think that the Bible was simply “stories.” That was almost too much for me!

    I’m a Christian and I do read my Bible, but the Bible is really tough going for a reluctant reader. I think that is often the real reason for the worries about fiction–that a child will enjoy literature and reject the Bible….

  50. Wow! I cannot believe what awesome new folks (not to mention the outstanding old folks) who are joining in on the discussion. For all of you author types, please feel free to tell us about your books. In fact, I could see doing a post about your books, etc! Also, please feel free to think about doing a post about your books and your experiences as an author in this market. I feel like a whole new world has opened up for us!

    Deb trained in English at Duke. I, however, believed that I was an awful writer based on my one experience with English composition in college. i went onto be a nursing major, never giving another thought to writing. I looked at a blog as a good way to get our thoughts about faith out into the marketplace of ideas, being very willing to take the hits that might come from venturing forth. It is days like this, when I read the comments from such intelligent writers that makes the risk totally worth it. Your comments have given me much to smile about in the last couple of days. Thank you very, very much.

    I am going to take all of the book suggestions and put them on the new page we have created. Reading has been such a source of joy to me in my life. i have always admired authors of fiction, amazed how difficult it must be to imagine a whole new world and write about it. Thank you for taking the time to comment here. You have made our day!

  51. Quite the contrary Mara, I have no mistrust of Anne Rice whatsoever. In fact I am decidedly taken with her “Christ the Lord” series [Out of Egypt & The Road to Cana].

    Her “Songs of the Seraphim” books [Angel Time & Of Love and Evil] are equally good. They have everything. The supernatural, the age old conflict twixt good & evil, and the feminine canvas of love & romance all woven and painted with deft skill.

    We all gravitate toward those we see ourselves in, yes? Ms. Rice had this to say in some recent face book entries. I share her sentiments:

    “…For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else…”

  52. Mara – I’m a lifelong reader, and have often been pointed out by others as that person who has her nose in a book. 😉

    Please bear with me, OK? I come from a different place than you do, I think, if only because of my Lutheran background and the things I pursued in college and grad school (studio art, art history). Everybody thought I should major in English, but it didn’t seem right to me – making one of my greatest pleasures into something compulsory? No way!

    So… I read very little that was on “required” lists, but spent a lot of time searching out English and American lit (fiction and poetry) and fiction from other countries. I am a closet sci-fi and fantasy fan and like good mysteries – never have been fond of romances, though I’ve had occasion to sell a lot of them! (Used to work as a bookstore clerk, for two major chains as well as for a couple of specialized independent stores that, sadly, are no more.)

    Everyone has their own tastes… and my taste has never run toward reading books that I know have to be written to a certain formula, even when it’s not as strict as the Harlequin Romance template.

    Am wondering if you have read anything by Flannery O’Connor? She can be difficult, but boy, does she hit the nail on the head! (She was a devout Catholic, and her Christianity definitely shows in her writing…) In the “Christian” category (but also mainstream), I think Barbara Brown Taylor, Lauren Winner and Anne Lamott have written some outstanding essays and memoirs. (B. Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church is a favorite of mine; also Winner’s Girl Meets God.)

    I really don’t want to sound like I’m hanging with the snobby “literary” crowd, especially since I *love* light reading and think reading should be fun as well as challenging! And there *are* some good books out there that I think would be well-received by a lot of folks who normally don’t venture outside the “Christian fiction” category. An example: Alexander McCall Smith. His No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series and his 44 Scotland Street series are among my favorite books… His humor is gentle and also thoughtful (kind of like a Scottish Garrison Keillor), and his characters are, for the most part, nothing if not moral. (Those who aren’t end up in some interesting situations…)

    I guess one thing I would love to do is to exchange further thoughts on books, as well as recommendations. It’s a big world out here, and there’s plenty worth reading!

    all the best,

  53. I’m excited about all the new folks too.
    It’s good to see them come and give their opinion and in some instances, talk about their work.
    This new friendship between TWW and fiction is looking pretty good.

    Oh, and in defense of HUG. I may have given him a hard time, but I completely respect him and actually have thought for some time, that HUG has the mind of a writer. I’m not wishing that he would be a Christian Writer, or anything like that, because I don’t wish upon him the terrible nightmare of being surrounded by a gaggle of church ladies. But he definitely has the mind of a writer, being able to see things others don’t see and being able to piece together things others miss.

  54. Also… gotta agree with Anne Rice’s comment (as quoted by Muff) and general sentiments on American Christianity… I’m most definitely Christian, but am deeply frustrated with organized religion, megachurches (although there’s only one in my neck of the literal woods, and it’s tiny compared to the real megas).

    It seems to me that people who want to sell things (publishers and record labels) set up very specific criteria for the things they want to sell, and the people they thing will buy them – marketing strategies. Very specialized, in many cases – and “Christian” publishing houses and record labels are no different than their “secular” counterparts in that respect.

    So, there’s a niche market, and a lot of writers are OK with working within that niche/genre – much like mystery writers go for the mystery-reading audience, no?

    It would be really, really nice, though, to see the genre lines dissolve (even a little bit!) so that talented writers on *all* sides of things have a chance to reach readers who would enjoy their work.

    That means that eventually, some of you folks in the “Christian fiction” field might test the waters outside there, if you see what I’m saying…

    Hope that makes sense; I should really sit down and try to write a better reply than this one, which is admittedly scattershot!

  55. I love hearing your recommendations, AND where you come from, numo.

    As you say, there is a lot worth reading out there.

  56. I don’t read Christian fiction myself, but I’m glad to hear there are many good works out there that are far from generic or formulaic.

    I recently rented a movie presented by Thomas Kinkaid entitled, “Christmas Lodge.”

    Two things:
    1. I was certain I would not like the movie, which I didn’t.
    2. I was certain the movie would be formulaic & predictable, which it was, precisely like Thomas Kinkaid’s artwork.

    What seriously bugs me about a lot of these types of stories is the way in which marriage & family is absolutized & then represented as the Christian ideal.

    Like what you find in Mormonism, and similarly in groups like SGM, ‘family values’ becomes a central theme and is passed off as the christian ideal. Problem is the family is temporal, and not all believers are called to be married and to form families. Jesus made it very clear that discipleship was to take precedence over family loyalities:

    If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

    Just as I expected, this was the main theme of “Christmas Lodge,” a ‘heartwarming’ tale of a family committed to each other and to the restoration of a place that contained so much family history. And of course, God was there to bless and provide for this nice family because restoring the Lodge was such a godly thing to do.

    Oh, and the girl and the guy end up together in the end. Who knew!

    It’s this kind of ‘christian’ fiction that we can do without!

    (My apologies to fans of Thomas Kinkaid and his artwork.)

  57. also… am a bit outside the loop these days, as I haven’t done bookstore work in a good while. So I don’t find out about many things until well after they’ve hit the shelves in stores and libraries.

    As for Flannery O’Connor: brace yourselves. She’s not “light reading” by any means. There are times that I’ve felt like a glass of ice-cold water has been thrown in my face while I was reading her work, and she is not someone whose work I can (or will) pick up on a whim. But she was outrageously gifted… and died very young, of lupus. (Note: if she gets you down, run and get a copy of her correspondence – can’t remember the title just now, but those letters are pretty amazing, not least for her sense of humor – as well as wonder – while struggling with disabling illness. And she had pet chickens, which is a big plus in my book!)

  58. Evie: absolutely “yes” on the idealization of marriage and the nuclear family. It drives me nuts! (As do the Frank Perrettis of this world – have seen too many people take those books as literal truth.)

    Mara – I spent 30 years in charismatic-fundyland, too, and was ultimately kicked out. (Kinda like Amish “shunning”; I lost all of my friends and support system.)

    At the end of the day, I would love to see people reading stuff that challenges their sense of who they are and what they believe – as well as why they believe it. We need the Flannery O’Connors of this world, rare though they are.

  59. Numo, I love Flannery O’Connor, Barbara Brown Taylor and Anne Lamott. I’ve read one book by Anne Rice and really enjoyed it.

    One thing I’d like to point out is that Christian publishing is a weird mix of art, ministry, and business. Like it or not, that’s the way it is. When I wrote my debut novel, I wanted to focus on the art (which means doing the best writing I can do) and the ministry (which in this case, meant writing something that might help people who’ve experienced spiritual abuse) but I also had to keep business (the market) in mind. And because romance sells, yes, there’s a romantic thread in the story. (An unconventional one, mind you. Most romances do *not* feature a homeschooling mother of six. Thank goodness!)

    I brought that up just to point out that it gets complicated, this Christian-writer business. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had these discussions with friends, published and unpublished, who are thoroughly frustrated with the status quo. I believe things are changing, but they change slowly.

  60. “What seriously bugs me about a lot of these types of stories is the way in which marriage & family is absolutized & then represented as the Christian ideal.”

    Yep. There is so much more to Christianity. As per numo, I feel very strongly about fiction that challenges our thinking. I went from atheism to dealing with the fundamentalist culture–a culture that was pretty darn hard on my husband’s family–to the literary culture, and it’s the latter that’s saved my sanity and my sense of who I’m supposed to be in this life.

    As I scan general-market publishing websites, follow agent blogs, etc., I see the same preoccupation with love and happiness across American fiction–only the moral compass is different. Harking back to my previous comment, I realize nearly all the writers I’ve listed have something in common, and that’s a connection to an international perspective. I don’t know if it necessarily deepens the writer, but I can’t see how it would fail to help.

    Meg, by the way, is a wonderful friend, and I’m delighted to see other supporters of her work hangin’ out here. I’d forgotten about Jack and the scotch…makes me smile.

  61. Incredible book: Leif Erickson’s, Peace Like A River.

    Numo, I think even you would like it! It real, raw and down to earth. I have read it 4x.

  62. RE: numo on Tue, Jan 03 2012 at 06:38 pm:

    “…I spent 30 years in charismatic-fundyland, too, and was ultimately kicked out. (Kinda like Amish “shunning”; I lost all of my friends and support system.)…”

    They never were your friends to begin with numo. True friends don’t give a rat’s ass what you believe, but rather what you practice.

    Flannery O’Conner huh? The mere mention of her Catholicism will have some evangelicals brandishing torches & pitchforks like it was Viktor Frankenstein’s castle. I like her stuff too.

    I’m bettin’ you’d like Dayna Dunbar’s: “The Saints and Sinners of Okay County”.

  63. Numo, Alexander McCall Smith is one of my favs. I am always waiting for the next book. I am partial to the Dalhousie series. But loved Precious Ramestowe, too!

  64. I loved “Peace Like a River” and read it a couple of times. It’s on my keeper shelf.

    Frederick Buechner’s “Godric” and “Brendan” are on my keeper shelf too, as are some of his nonfiction books. The guy is amazing.

  65. When Numo said

    “I spent 30 years in charismatic-fundyland, too, and was ultimately kicked out. (Kinda like Amish “shunning”; I lost all of my friends and support system.)”

    …I thought of what he said as it “charismatic-candyland” and I couldn’t help but think of Charlie the Unicorn and his trip to Candy Mountain.

    Candy Mountain seemed like such a land of “sweet and joy and joyness” and if Charlie disbelieved he would be “shhhunnn-ed.”

    So much for Candy Mountain, where inside the cave Charlie was expected to experience “a cheery land, a happy joy-filled perky merry land!”

    Like Numo, in the end Charlie was thrown out of Candy Mountain, left friendless & lying on the ground without his kidney!

  66. Meg wrote

    Frederick Buechner’s “Godric” and “Brendan” are on my keeper shelf too, as are some of his nonfiction books. The guy is amazing.

    Yes indeed, he *is* good.

  67. Numo, let’s call the Unicorn “Charlene” by way of comparison and I would say many of us were left with the same feeling as you after a season or two in “fundy-land” which like a candy-land ends up leaving you void of lasting substance!

    p.s. I wish I were online more and could pay closer attention to everyone’s comments because I really enjoy reading this blog and responding from time to time. Please forgive me for referring to you as a guy. My apologies for the oversight.

  68. anon1 – I like McCall Smith’s Dalhousie books, too, although it took me a while to warm up to her.

    Bertie (from 44 Scotland Street) is probably my favorite character out of any of the series.

  69. Something else I have noticed in F&SF is that the Christian authors regarded as masters by the mainstream (NOT the Christianese ghetto) all came from Western-rite LITURGICAL Church backgrounds. Not Evangelical backgrounds. Tolkien was Catholic, Lewis was High Anglican, and Cordwainer Smith (counted as a Christian SF writer by everybody except the Christians — go fig) was Episcopalian (US branch of the Anglicans).

    This has been bandied about on several blogs. Liturgical churches are rich on symbolism and physical interaction, and normally do not have the “Separation from the World” mentality you find so often among Fundagelicals. Or the Platonic Dualist division between Spiritual (Good) and Physical (Baaaaaad).

    Some six months ago, I was very bent out of shape by reading a long My Little Pony fanfic novel — “Past Sins”, a story of a “Reluctant Antichrist” by a 20-year-old college student who wrote under the name of “Penstroke”. When questioned by e-mail and in person at a brony meetup, Penstroke told me his background was Lutheran. Just from the way he wrote, I had a feeling he had some sort of liturgical church background; if you have eyes to see and ears to hear, you will see elements and echoes of the Gospel in his fanfic (and his previous MLP fic, “Creeping Darkness”, which includes a Harrowing of Hell — where a heroine literally descends into an archetype of Hell to set a captive free — and an immortal offering up her life that a dead mortal might live again).

  70. HUG, I think you’re onto something with the liturgical church background. James Lee Burke, Walker Percy, Diana Gabaldon–all Catholics and all writers of rich stories. (Although Gabaldon’s first one, Outlander, was the only one of hers I could really get into.)

  71. Hola again. Thanks for the push-back on my comments everyone! Good thoughts all around.

    I am not necessarily alleging that Christian fiction is still stuck in the 70s. I know that some (much?) Christian fiction is getting better about addressing dark issues.

    My point, though, is that those books are still not *written* as well as much mainstream fiction. The plots and characters still feel a bit contrived. Even if they are getting better about addressing bad issues, there is still so much neuroticism surrounding how the ultimate message will look, how God will be represented, etc, that there is not as much energy leftover to make sure the writing is 100% good as opposed to 85% good.

    There IS indeed good Christian fiction. But the best the Christian publishing industry has to offer does not stand up to the best that mainstream publishing has to offer. Books like Gilead, which address Christianity and *do* stand up to mainstream fiction, are (for the most part) being published in mainstream publishing houses rather than the specifically Christian houses.

    I have known people in the Christian publishing industry, and read manuscripts that are being submitted to Christian publishers, as well as recent Christian fiction. And many of them do launch into formerly forbidden territory—but still feel obligated to go back to the old tropes of the manner in which God responds to prayer, the lessons that the characters should learn, how they should feel about themselves in relation to God, etc.

    Of course I haven’t read everything, and don’t know everything. I am just responding based on what I’ve seen in the last five years.

    Concerned Christian Writer

  72. Mara, I don’t take offense at your response to me, and I did go back to read through your post to see if I misconstrued what you had written. You asked,
    “When is the last time you read “Christian” Fiction.”

    I read “They Almost Always Come Home” by Cynthia Ruchti (2010, Abingdon Press) last year. I also read quite a few of the Left Behind series (though not all), and have read Frank Peretti, Larry Burkett, Kathy Tyers, Randy Alcorn, Paul Meier, Ted Dekker and probably more in the last 10 years. All of them I would call writing in the “Christian fiction” genre. Unfortunately for them, I’ve spent more time reading fiction that is not labeled “Christian” than I have in their specific aisles of the bookstore, simply because I find, as you seem to say, the craft is lacking.

    You also wrote,
    “Today, Christian fiction has grown and is so broad it defies the simplistic accusations that are still thrown at it today.”
    While I don’t disagree that “Christian” fiction has expanded in the past few years with stories and publishers that you describe, the vast majority of work that would be described with that label will still be works over two to five years old, and therefore somewhat tame in dealing with issues and will strive to be “good” only and not “offensive” in any way.

    By all means, we should be seeking to glorify God in all that we do. But does that mean that we never, ever, EVER have a character who swears? Or never have one that turns away from God and doesn’t turn back? Or never show someone who is trying to present “the Gospel” but doesn’t do so in a coherent, simple, plain way, that the unbeliever doesn’t immediately understand and kneel to pray? Because I have seen all of these meta-models of characters in “Christian” fiction, and, unfortunately, it doesn’t match with the real world of Christians or non-Christians. Christians swear – I do. Christians have crises of faith that don’t get resolved in five chapters – but all of the Christian characters manage to get theirs completely wrapped up nicely in such a short time. [e.g. – the guy in “Fireproof” managed to make all things work – the guy in “Flywheel” managed to make all things work – the guy in “Facing the Giants” managed to make all things work]. Christians get tongue-tied – but not in novels.

    So, no, I haven’t searched out all the far reaches of the Christian publishing world recently. I could be missing out. But because of the vast measure of existing, simplistic work, it becomes hard to on my limited reading time, that also is taken up with history, politics, local news, and traditional non-Christian sci-fi – because the stories are just so damn good!

  73. About having a liturgical church background and symbolism (etc.): i think that’s very true… although the liturgical churches are fairly diverse, there’s generally a bit more room to think freely than in evangelical/charismatic circles.

  74. Err… should real “most evangelical/charismatic circles.” (Though goodness knows, the “strategic level spiritual warfare” people let their imaginations run wild, and not in a good way.

    Steve and fiction writer, very good points!

  75. Currently reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. The latter is free on Kindle and is quite imaginative, lauding poets over tidy rationalists. 🙂 And, as pertains to the discussion on liturgical churches, he was Catholic.

  76. I agree with Alexander McCall Smith recommendation. You fellow mystery addicts, don’t forget some older classics like Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Whimsey mysteries, also Agatha Christie and John Mortimer’s Rumpole of the Bailey series.

  77. The question or thoughts on the church’s uneasy relationship with fiction, I think, is not so much about reading it… It about how much time does one spend on this activety. Is this at the expence of the Christian spending time in their bible? Josh 1:8
    2 Tim 3:16. 17. And, in all of this, is a persons relationship with Christ put at jepardy? With questions ariseing from reading Fiction.. ledding them away from their relationship with Him?


  78. Albert
    Fiction fires my imagination and turns me more in the direction of God then some “How to be a Christian books.” You are commenting on a blog of a woman who became a Christian during an episode of Star Trek.

  79. What is really scary is that the Left Behind series was written on about a 6th grade level and was wildly popular. That was scary enough for me. I simply could not believe how many people loved those books~! I read most of them just to see what was going on. They were pedantic and IF there is such as thing as 7 year tribulation, all I could see is that LaHaye took a horrible thing romantisized it to the point of being ridiculous.

  80. Enjoying the conversation.

    Can’t help but feel that “christian” imposes an unreasonably narrow sieve that snuffs out any inspiration other than what generates the right look.

    I can think of a christian book i read on sexuality. In some notes section at the back the authors stated that they replaced the word “sensual” with “sensuous”, to avoid being offensive to any readers. It was a moment of deep disappointment for me. What this fussy subculture (of mine!) does to its publishing.

    I can think of a christian music cd i have. I read the leaflet, where the primary artist made some comments. He made the comment, “but i wanted the church to like it”. Can’t find the cd now to flesh this out, but in context he seemed to be saying that he knew he need to temper things, tone things down, keep it sounding a certain way in order to “please the church”. Another moment of deep disappointment.

    These and other things I’ve observed, it all makes me wonder where in christianland is true & honest inspiration in art to be found these days? I have a hard time believing it exists. The culture it too fussy to even begin to allow its free and full expression. In any case, I’ve stopped looking for it there.

    What a TRAGEDY. I mean, GOD — there is every reason for artistic expression to be dunamis-exposive-powered in the creative realm of people who know God (whatever that might mean — curtailing artistic inspiration is certainly not what it means).

  81. I think sometimes people become “Christian” writers or musicians because they really want to be just regular (secular) writer or musicians but just feel too guilty. They feel the need to shackle their imaginations within the confines of Christian orthodoxy. The problem is that often (not always…listen to King’s X, they ROCK!) this does not allow their imaginations to go where they should in order to be great. So, you get banal, tame, and lame results. Again, not always, but often.

    I think Christians should feel free to write and sing whatever they like. They have Christ and the Holy Spirit…they will be their guides. They will let the person know when it’s okay and when they’ve gone too far. Most of the time, the limit is extremely generous indeed. God gives more latitude in our creativity than we trust Him for. I write a lot of music, and I used to re-write my lyrics because they “needed” to be more Christian. Problem was, re-written, the lyrics sucked. So, I finally came to my senses and let the words stand. The music is much, much better. Is it secular? Yes. But secular is NOT a four letter word. Secular is not going to call down the wrath of God upon our heads in tornado of molten fury. If that was the case, we’d all be Amish preachers.

    Why do people feel the need to be a “Christian” writer? (Of course, I understand that some are actually called for this). Why not just be a writer. Why do you feel guity writing about zombies? Or vampires? Or wizards? Or aliens? Or middle-aged cougars with a vendetta? Why do you feel guilty about not mentioning God at all and just letting your fiction be FICTION. It’s FICTION! It’s fake! Do we take “don’t cause your brother to stumble” too far? Do we mis-apply this scripture in the name of legalism like we do with so many other verses? What if your deodorant offends your brother? Your love of curry? Do you stop eating indian food and switch to Old Spice?

    I think people are free to be themselves; to sing and write about what they want. Again, those with Christ will not malign His name in their art. It’s not in their nature. There is nothing wrong with writing secular fiction, or singing secular music, or writing secular movies. I think that our lives, our interests, are much more okay with God than we realize. We have too little faith in God and ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Why! we can’t let them read what they want! We can’t let them write about wizards or fairies! And the music…my goodness, if it’s not Bob Kauflin or Mark Altrogge then it’s just a free for all, I tell you! It’ll be an orgy Happy Meal on top of a Debauchery Big Mac!!”

    You know what? I just don’t think so.

  82. I was thinking…as an example. Imagine you die, and in Heaven you look to your left and you see Stephen King. And in the midst of your surprise you manage to sputter out, “ did you get here?” And he turns to you and shrugs and says, “I believed in Jesus.”

    (Now, I’m not saying Stephen King is a Christian…I don’t know. I’m just saying that while you sit around afraid to go after your dreams because some Calvinista has told you all of your ideas and interests and motivations are “shot through with sin” and that “you have more in common with Adolph Hitler than Jesus”, there are people out there who are living their wonderfully successful lives in the freedom of Christ. And you will see them in Heaven, and though you may be shocked to see them there, there they will be nonetheless.)

  83. “No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.”. Imagine how ugly how fast for the astronaut in the photo, floating amidst the glorious beauties of space, had he found himself unable to return to Challenger for a “Safe Trip Home”.
    As I mentioned a few weeks ago, “Out of the Silent Planet”, about the astronaut Ransom, was the first “Christian” book, fiction or non, I read as a Christian.
    Anyone read “The Man Who Was Thursday” by Chesterton?

  84. Just fyi, Stephen King is Methodist and his book on writing is commonly recommended on the ACFW loop.
    Also, Anne Rice has been discussed and the consensus was not completely negative as I think some of the accusers here would assume.
    Also, “The Shack” was a huge point of discussion. Many good points were made including how the Christian Houses wouldn’t touch it and the man had to self publish. There were also some of the same-o-same-o stupid things said that were said by ignorant Christian leaders who don’t have a clue about art, literature, and the healing process of the deeply wounded soul.
    The loop is huge spanning Catholics, every form of Protestantism including Mennonite and most likely including some Calvinistas. But to assume the Calvanistas have some sort of monopoly on in Christian fiction is, again, to completely, and I mean COMPLETELY, miss the point.
    You simply cannot make such assumptions. They are not based on facts or any sort of knowledge.

    STEVE MATHYS, I’m glad you aren’t offended at my words and know that I’m not offended at yours. Now that I’ve heard a bit of you background, I take your criticism more seriously. And I appreciate it being about the substance of what is in Christian Fiction, not assumptions of where there writers are coming from.

    Question for Steve (and anyone else who wants to jump in), what did YOU think of “The Shack”?
    I never read it, so I can’t go point by point. But I was very interested in how it was received, not received, and judged by different ones.

  85. Argo,
    As for feeling guilty, it allies to readers/listeners as well. Right now I’m listening to my second-favorite musicians (1st favorite being “Christian” musician Michael Card. I sometimes feel guilty they’re not overtly “Christian”. Yet they sing a whole bunch of scriptural quotes and allusions, kind of the reverse of “crossover”.
    Re your second comment, earlier today I was talking with someone whose friend is making a movie about the Antichrist getting saved. I thought… Well, I once denied Christ and the Father, and he saved me… I once speculated “What if Hitler repented upon his death-sofa, and at the judgement-seat many refused to be “taken in” to heaven if the fuehrer were there? maybe a topic for next Christian novel.

  86. Mara,
    My pastor said a few negative things about The Shack. If not for that I likely would never have heard of it, I’m so far behind the times.

  87. I’m not a fan of so-called “Christian” fiction anymore than I am a fan of Christian “worship” music. I mean, how many times can one redo “I can only imagine”? Or write about some lilly white never-been-kissed-virginal-barely18 maiden who’s never even thought about sex or thought to even look down there –who goes out to the midwest to marry some small-town cute white dude who is looking for a wife all alone on the range whom she doesn’t know AT ALL but will have sex with in a few days, a baby in 09 months, all told in teh most purest and non-sexual of ways possible?

    Honestly, I’d just rather keep singing hymns or listening to my jazz. Or read “Pillars of the Earth” and read about some real “church” folk who were obviously very real but very sinful–much like real life. And much like the fake peopel in the pews today.


  88. …besides, why pay for lofty stories about these cutesy Jane Austen-esque archetypes when you can meet a bunch at your local pro-courtship/ male-dominant/ female-submissive church? Far more entertaining in real life although equally pathetic and unreal.

  89. RE: elastigirl on Wed, Jan 04 2012 at 11:44 am:

    PREACH IT SISTER! You are not alone. And yes, regarding human sexuality, Evangelical Christianity uses another and equally confining sieve, confining in the sense that there can be no grey areas, only a stark moonscape of black & white.

  90. Mara,
    Not sure if you were speaking to me; if you were, I never made any such assumption about Calvinistas having a monopoly over Christian fiction. Not sure how you arrived at that conclusion from my post. Not that you did…if you didn’t. 🙂

    I’m relying on my own personal experience, as a musician and a former SGM member. Trust me…there’s a LOT of guilt in that group. Everything you do or want to do is called into question. It becomes second nature; subconscious. To finally realize that you don’t HAVE to feel guilty about everything you like that isn’t “Christian” (e.g. SMG), is so utterly freeing. That’s mainly the point I am making.

  91. Frankly, I don’t have much experience with Christain fiction; it’s just never appealed to me. I have listened to Christian music, and despise almost all of it…not the content mind you, it just doesn’t interest me musically. For fiction reading, I have too many secular interests and just don’t feel like reading Christian stuff. I DO however like NON-fiction Christian literature–for instance, THIS awesome blog.

  92. Argo & No Longer Reformed,

    I’m with ya on the music thing. I’ll play Gerswhin’s “An American in Paris” over Christian contempo anyday. And that’s just one example.

  93. Oops! Sorry George. Don’t roll over too hard, it’ll never happen again. Honest Injun!! ===> (Gershwin)

  94. MuffPotter,
    You are much more sophisticated than me. I was talking about Bob Dylan and Rage Against the Machine, to name just a couple. So…I’m like, dipping my toes into APOSTATE with the Calvinista crowd. Believe, as an SGMer, I was in the closet for years. 🙂

    Although, for those of you who don’t think Rage Against the Machine can be Christian, there’s a lyric on one album I listen to that always reminds me of this blog: “You’ll never silence the voice…of the voiceless!” Of course, he screams it in an awesome way.

  95. Argo–

    I like Bob, but I always need the disc jacket so I can read the lyrics because who knows what he’s saying! hahahaha

    And Rage Against the Machine has a few good ones here and there. I do like them. But I used to listen to Marilyn Manson… so urm….

    On Tuesdays at work, we have 80s Rock Tuesday. Purple Haze, Journey, Foreigner and more… Mondays are Motown Mondays… Yes, I am the DJ, BTW. And in the mornings it’s Satie, Chopin, Bach double violin concertos or Ray LaMontagne.

    I’m very ecclectic ; )

  96. Argo,

    I’m a Dylan fan from waaaaaaayyyyyy back. My all time fave song of his is “The Chimes of Freedom”. The tune was covered by The Byrds way back in the day and has earned kudos from Dylan himself.

    Good lyrics are good lyrics whether they’re from Rage Against the Machine or Toplady (Rock of Ages). Point being? Good is good and does not have to be forced through an evangelical sieve to made gooder.

  97. Yeah, NLR, Argo, Muff – agreed totally on the “let’s censor it” attitude toward human sexuality (and much else).

    I cannot listen to “Christian music.” It bores me and I wish there were some new ideas. Now, I do like the work of quite a few musicians and composers who were/are Christian, but the contemporary ones work outside the “Christian music” box for very good reasons, mostly having to do with being able to make the music they want without any compromises. (Including obscurely poetic lyrics, the use of some profanity, *content*, etc. etc. – or because they are primarily instrumental musicians who work in challenging fields – jazz and classical, for two – where the bar is set a LOT higher than it is in the “Christian music” industry.)

    I’m a musician and got through many years of (mostly) bad music by playing it – that was infinitely more fun than having to be out in the congregation singing the stuff!

  98. When I read, listen to, or look at art that seems to me to be unfettered and allowed to soar and seemingly write itself with as little interference from the artist (or editors/publishers) as possible, I find beauty, invigoration, and truth. I am all the better for having experienced it. I understand myself better, life better, my husband and family better, people in general better, and even God better.

    I remember hearing a christian comment once on the “evil” of rock music, and he commented on Joni Mitchell who said once that in writing music, at times it just seems to write itself. This freaked this christian out, who had nothing but grave warnings for all concerning Joni Mitchell’s music. If he only knew that’s simply the creative process in high gear. I figured he must not have very many creative bones in his body. Or if he did, he was too terrified of the creative process to ever let them flourish.


    Sorry if it seems I’m straying from the “fiction” topic. But all of this applies to the creation of and reading of fiction.

  99. Duke Ellington said that there are only two kinds of music: good music and bad music.

    I think he was very, very right!

  100. Or if he did, he was too terrified of the creative process to ever let them flourish.

    I think this is true of many people – not just Christians from certain backgrounds, either.

  101. elasticgirl: “Sorry if it seems I’m straying from the “fiction” topic. But all of this applies to the creation of and reading of fiction.”

    Not a problem. Really more what I was thinking about. The creative process.

  102. As for Dylan, I’m so unhip when they talk about Dylan I think they’re talking about Dylan Thomas, whoever he was. But he reminds me of 2 things– maybe someone should write a novel about a musician who converts in order to please his girlfriend and then unconverts again. Also, that you don’t have to be able to sing a lick to be a successful singer… So back on the Christian fiction subject, I suppose one of the fathers of christian fiction was George MacDonald, who in many ways was unable to write. His “untranslated” novels are nearly unreadable and he constantly digresses into sermonizing. And yet— highest praise from C S Lewis…and one of my favorites, as well.

  103. As for Christian music, Sara Groves is quite original and out of the box with her lyrics. Just got her Invisible Empires CD from my husband for Christmas and have several others too.

    A little:

    Scientists in Japan are building a robot to take your job
    Doctors in France are growing a heart that will save your mom
    Eyes wide open, and your jaw on the floor
    We see science fiction ain’t fiction no more

    There’s a meeting of minds slowly designing our future days
    Back at the office they’re running some copies from the DNA
    We rob from Peter to extend Paul’s life
    Cause dying ain’t no way to die

    Who’s gonna stay here and think about it
    Who’s gonna stay, who’s gonna stay
    Who’s gonna stay here and think about it
    Who’s gonna stay
    Everybody’s left the room
    There’s no one here to talk it through
    Now stay, stay, stay

  104. Or write about some lilly white never-been-kissed-virginal-barely-18 maiden who’s never even thought about sex or thought to even look down there – who goes out to the midwest to marry some small-town cute white dude who is looking for a wife all alone on the range whom she doesn’t know AT ALL but will have sex with in a few days, a baby in 09 months, all told in teh most purest and non-sexual of ways possible? — NLR

    i.e. Christian Prairie Romance, right according to formula. Usually set around the 1850s or so, kind of “Just like Little House on the Prairie, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!” I have always wondered how long their Pious Polly Purebread heroines would last if they ever got dropped into this little place up in the Black Hills of the Dakotas: “WELCOME TO F’IN’ DEADWOOD!”

  105. And for the oft-cited denunciation of fiction as “lies”, the Father Brown mystery “The Dagger with Wings” by Chesterton hinges on the distinction between “false fact and true fiction”.

  106. As for not-officially-Christian music, here’s a sort of modern Gaelic Hymn, with translation.
    Thairis Air A Ghleann
    Beyond the Valley

    I looked behind me
    Without rancour without pity
    To where my footprints were scattered
    On their journey through the dust
    From the beginning to an end of time
    And to the bright everlasting days
    Beyond the valley
    We will praise
    The love and the grace
    That gave us our existence
    So lowly beneath a sun
    As it poured out its light
    On alien stars
    You came down
    To a barren wilderness
    And you raised the shadow from the valley
    Gratitude and shame
    The measure in each hand
    We will proclaim your name in voice
    On Gods way

  107. Why not just be a writer. Why do you feel guity writing about zombies? Or vampires? Or wizards? Or aliens? Or middle-aged cougars with a vendetta? Why do you feel guilty about not mentioning God at all and just letting your fiction be FICTION. — Argo

    Or a chain-smoking goth-ferret bad girl in a space-opera universe?
    Or sword-and-sorcery in Mesoamerican or Old Persian settings without an elf or dwarf in sight?
    Or colorful cartoon ponies in a magical land?

    (Regarding the last, there is a massive onging explosion of creativity — not just fiction, but art, comics, music, and videos — around the latest incarnation of My Little Pony. I have never seen the like before, not even in Star Trek & Star Wars fandoms. Remember my mentioning of “Past Sins” by “Penstroke”? In his own words, he wrote it to Redeem a major villain/Antichrist figure (Nightmare Moon, the Dark Lord of the first two episodes) — by having her “born again” as a filly and live and grow without the Darkness of the Nightmare. So many Christians denounce everybody else to Hell while this 20-year-old college student writes 175,000 words to Redeem that universe’s Antichrist.)

  108. Before I ventured to denigrate Little House or Pious Polly (at least they never had any pretension otherwise), I’d call in a napalm srike on Deadwood.

    Their imposition of an endless stream of 20th/21st cent. profanity on a town in the Old West works about as well as the idiots who hired metal heads to do the score for a period piece set in pre-revolutionary France.

    The difference in talent between the makers of Deadwood and say the Coen Bros. remake of “True Grit” is that the former have none.

  109. NLR…you ARE eclectic! That’s an awesome music line up, I must say.

    Elastagirl…I LOVE Joni Mitchel. Geeeenius. “I wish I had a river I could skate away on…” Her lyrics are second only to Bod Dylan’s in my opinion. Then comes Rage Against the Machine 🙂 (I can be eclectic too!):-)

    Headless…that’s my point. Why can’t Christian’s write about that stuff? We of all people should be free to write what interests us. Of all people, God wants to see His children happy. I firmly believe this in my heart. I do not fear that freedom in Christ means an orgy of sin. I trust my brothers and sisters; their hearts. They love the Lord, they are adults, and they are free to be themselves. God LOVES you! He wants you to enjoy the imagination He gave you!

    Muff Potter…just bought Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. Shelter from the Storm and Simple Twist of Fate make me cry they are so beautiful.

  110. Shelter from the Storm and Simple Twist of Fate make me cry they are so beautiful.

    Agreed, Argo. Two of his best – and while I’ve loved Dylan’s music since I was a kid, he’s had his ups and downs (in terms of quality) like anybody else.

    btw, Cassandra Wilson’s version of “Shelter from the Storm” is – I think – wonderful. (It’s on this disc, which *should* still be in print in the US – not sure why I could only locate an import.)

    The Runrig is good, too!

    Does anyone besides me like Bruce Cockburn’s music?

  111. Appalled – glad to hear it. 😉 He really *is* good, and has always been wary of the “Christian musician” label.

  112. Joni Mitchell fan here too! In my opinion, “Ladies of the Canyon” is the best in her repertoire. And to the other Stephen King fans here:

    I liked the way Mr. King fleshed out the character of Mother Abigail. Mother Abigail’s unshakeable faith in the living Jesus was never lampooned or made into a crass caricature. Mr. King treated her with respect and warmth, especially when he regaled us with her younger years and how she played guitar and sang “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” at her church.

  113. Eagle
    I am currently in the process of purchasing tickets to see Wicked when it comes to Durham, NC in May.Love the music! I also let my kids read Harry Potter and go out for Halloween. I also read 4 of the Potter books and have seen 3 of the movies and plan to see all of them.

    I find the view of Satan rather amusing in the Christian population. Some actually believe that a person dressed in red, carrying a pitchfork represents the evil one. The evil one is far more attractive, savvy and entices people in all sorts of ways. Lewis portrays evil quite well in the Chronicles of Narnia. The evil one is portrayed as a beautiful, yet icy witch who entices the children with candy.No red pitchforked little guy here.

  114. Just listened to Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song”. Powerful experience. The words are thought provoking, but it’s the seemingly raw heart and soul of his voice (and what seems to be all of himself that goes into it) and the music… very moving.

    I had been very worn out, depressed from the efforts of christmas duties. But that piece of music has completey revived me. Brought tears to my eyes concerning God himself, my feelings for my family…

    Art will do this. No “christian” stamp required.

    (I feel christian art tries too hard. Tries too hard to be… ministerial, perhaps? [to justify itself?] the experience for the audience can have a sense of effort to it — like the engine of a car being revved because it’s not catching and running on its own, like going through the motions of some sort — instead of freely being and running in a life of its own. Like having sex with a sex playbook in one’s mind as you go through the motions, instead of allowing it to happen and allowing it to take on its own exhilarating life.)

    I’m not going to apologize for my metaphors — i’m trying to find the most accurate way to illustrate what i have to say.

  115. One of the things I did appreciate about Mars Hill when I was there was that if I wanted to talk to a pastor friend of mine about the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie I didn’t have to wonder 1) whether he and his wife had seen it (they had) and 2) whether or not they thought a Christian somehow shouldn’t watch it (they own four seasons). At least in the Mars Hill camp of the young, restless Reformed domain if you dig Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead virtually nobody is going to complain. Of course that’s why the MacArthur team has been complaining about Mars Hill for years.

    Eagle, Russian classical guitar music, all the way.

    As for speculative fiction, anyone else hear evangelicals lamenting Andrew Stanton’s WALL-E being too “green” despite Stanton’s Christianity Today interview?

  116. WTH

    All of the churches of which I was a member, with the exception of my most recent former church, were very open to all kinds of fiction, including movies. In fact, years ago, when The Matrix first came out, I was asked to review it by a Christian leaders because he thought it explored many themes of modern society. I ended up having some people over to view it.

    I have made it a point to see and read “Christian” designated “unChristian books. In fact, I read the Shack and liked it. Of course, if one were to apply strict “theological exegesis” to it, there were a few problems but not enough to warrant the brouhaha over it. It always makes me shake my head when Christians get on a particular issue, like The Shack, and spend precious little time worrying about how to deal with pedophiles and those wounded by them (as one example).

    Discerning readers can see all sorts of lessons in The Shack. Think about the abuse issue that was part of this book. Very rarely has anyone brought that up. And, if one reads about the life of the author, one might actually get a glimpse of some underlying themes. Today, with google, one can find out background so easily. In fact, I just read a review of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which I am going to quote in an upcoming post.

    Imagination-many in the Christian world see the world through wooden literalism and misses the beauty in allegory.

  117. Eagle

    You are amazing! There is a book lurking in your soul along with some vestiges of the Spirit. Agnostic? I’m not so sure. Maybe a bit of prophet in there.

  118. Eagle,

    i love your suggestion – I love the music from Evita, esp. Don’t Cry for Me Argentina. I love to sing it when nobody is around – God did not grace me with silver vocal chords. I will add all of these suggestions to our new page, but it may take me a few days. I am criminally behind.

  119. Honestly, as a Fantasy enthusiast I think the more common issue than fiction in general is, specifically, the idea of magic in fiction. But that’s a topic that would probably take ages to discuss anyway.

  120. Stephen

    CS Lewis always had magic in his fiction. In fact, he referred to the Deep Magic which spoke a universe into being.

  121. Dee – ah, but that is the Deeper Magic from before the dawn of time.

    the White Witch knew about the Deep Magic, but not the Deeper magic.

    [Dee – apologies for geeking out!] ;)]

  122. Dee (again) – you’ve been very fortunate in belonging to churches where nobody was trying to censor your reading (etc.). In short: you were allowed the freedom to think, which so many churches in certain evangelical/charismatic circles try to take away… (Though I have to admit that even when I was in the roughest – for me – churches re. censorship and restrictions on thinking, I still kept reading a lot of books – and authors – who were not on the unofficial Doctrinally Approved list.)

  123. You know, numo, I think one of the things that won me over to fiction and seeing how powerful fiction can be (in telling stories that we already know but they have become worn out by all the telling) is the “Deeper Magic Still”.

    Coming at a powerful story from a different angle can so revitalize it for us, it makes us see the newness and freshness of the original story better.

  124. Mara – I’ve always loved fiction, but I think much of the best fiction out there has more than a little to do with the Deeper Magic, whether the authors realize it or not.

    I guess you’re talking about what C.S. Lewis also referred to as “true myth”?

  125. Numo
    You are awesome. It was the Deeper magic-thanks for the correction. I, too, am a geek in this area.

  126. Numo
    That’s why I like you. You do not blindly obey “authority.” I, too, have been know to read things that other Christians said I shouldn’t. I think I did it to see what they were so afraid of.

  127. I think I did it to see what they were so afraid of.

    Usually, it’s nothing a la the Harry Potter books. (Which really struck a chord for me, the last 2 books in particular.)

  128. Honestly, as a Fantasy enthusiast I think the more common issue than fiction in general is, specifically, the idea of magic in fiction. But that’s a topic that would probably take ages to discuss anyway. — Stephen C

    As someone who’s belonged to a couple Christian writers’ lists, there are three subjects that periodically flare up into flamewars that go round and round, sputter out, and never get resolved:

    1) Magic in fantasy fiction.

    2) Cussing in fiction.

    3) S-E-X — how much to show or imply?

  129. One of the things I did appreciate about Mars Hill when I was there was that if I wanted to talk to a pastor friend of mine about the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie I didn’t have to wonder 1) whether he and his wife had seen it (they had) and 2) whether or not they thought a Christian somehow shouldn’t watch it (they own four seasons). — WTH


  130. “And I ain’t talking about digestion.”
    “Meatwad, No!”

    Okay, I admit that post is just for HUG.

  131. I’m brand-new to this blog (saw a link to it on FB), and when I noticed the Christian fiction thread, I had to jump in. After four moderately successful novels commercially published by the CBA, I walked away from it. Not from Jesus, and not from writing. I just went from “Christian writing” to being a “Christian who writes”; there’s a difference

    The reasons are numerous, and unless somebody really wants to know them, I won’t bore you. Suffice it to say my first general market novel, a science fiction work, will be out next month, and my agent is actively marketing the first of my new suspense series to some New York houses.

    So we’ll see. And I’m glad to be here.

  132. elastigirl, HUG now has an even clearer picture of just what a cartoon nerd I am. 🙂 We obviously got well past the point where other people can figure out what we’re talking about.

    per dee’s earlier comment about “unChristian” Christian books, I think a lot of Christians get hung up on fiction having to have doctrinally correct points at all points. The reality is that Jesus’ parables had one primary point and if you got that it was not necessary to extrapolate nine spiritual principles fromtthe tiniest details of the parable. The oil and wine in the parable of the Samaritan aren’t the Spirit and the Word, for instance, but some patristic authors went there. People who shredded The Shack for doctrinal points A, B, and C would have to take into account that if the real goal of the book was discussing X, Y, and Z then pillorying a novel for A is not assessing the book by the terms the book sets forth. I wouldn’t rip on T. S. Eliot for failing to write a sonnet any more than I would shred John Donne for not writing The Wasteland.

  133. WTH – exactly. It’s as if it’s not OK to write anything that’s not didactic. (I shiver whenever I think of some “Christian” interpretations of Tolkien’s books, which isn’t often.) Fiction for the sake of telling stories seems to be viewed as frivolous, or wrong, or some combination of the two.

    Oil and wine (Good Samaritan): yeah… [sigh]. An antiseptic and something to soothe pain and promote wound healing.

  134. John Robinson,

    So glad you have joined us. Welcome!

    Since you’re an established writer, perhaps you’d consider writing a guest post explaining the difference between “Christian writing” and being a “Christian who writes”.

    I’d love to read your upcoming book. What is the title?

  135. Yes, John Robinson, I’m so glad you chimed in.

    I’ve seen both. People like you who went from writing ‘Christian’ to secular and those that wrote secular crossing over to Christian.

    The reasons are many for all sides and I do not consider one to be right and the other to be wrong. Both life and writing are journeys and no two journeys are exactly the same, ever.

    And I would like to hear your story. Just as some Christians need to write for Christian markets, so also the secular market needs Christians in it, and I don’t mean in it to write Christian stories disguised and stealth. I just mean to write good stories.

    Congratulations on your up coming works!
    May your books do well.

  136. I’m glad to see the discussion continuing, and I’m especially glad to see John Robinson here. John, you might not remember me, but we were both part of a small, short-lived writers’ loop called “Cafe Barcelone” a few years ago. We were always discussing the same three points mentioned above by HUG (magic, cussing, and sex) but I don’t think we got anywhere. Anyway, congratulations on being published in the general market. I’m very happy for you.

  137. John Robinison
    Please feel free to post all of the books that you have written and their names. Tell us what they are about. And, I love sci fi so I can’t wait to hear about your book.
    Tolkien, one of my personal favorites, did not write as an expressly Christian author. he was Catholic (or at least I am pretty sure he was). His themes of good and evil, along with good men struggling with evil, shine out in his work.
    Welcome to the blog,btw.

  138. Thanks for the kind welcome, folks! This is a little lengthy, so please bear with me.

    Of my four CBA novels, the first three were a series, although each can be read as a stand-alone. Joe Box, a brand-new Christian, Vietnam vet, and private investigator with a dark and vicious past, was a kick to write, but God almighty, was it hard finding a house that would take them. All three are out of print now, but last year I put them up on Kindle for ninety-nine cents a pop. The titles are Until the Last Dog Dies, When Skylarks Fall, and To Skin a Cat.

    The fourth novel, Heading Home, is an apocalypse-with-a-twist work, and isn’t part of that series.

    Full synopses and the first chapters of each can be found on my website (click my name).

    As I said, I’m now writing for the general market, with a stand-alone SF novel, The Radiance, being the first, and out next month from Musa Publishing (e-book). Here’s the setup for that:

    An extraterrestrial force of unknown origin is causing the minds of every living creature to begin expanding at an astounding rate. No one knows when it will stop … or if it *can* be stopped.

    The Radiance concerns the effects of this unseen force, focusing the story on two estranged brothers: industrialist Cale Walker, one of the richest men in the world, and his younger sibling Travis, a struggling farmer and former Army Special Operations combat officer. Behind the scenes Cale assembles a task force he dubs the Radiant Project, a select assembly who are tasked with finding a way to combat the phenomenon. The tycoon then recruits Travis for this crew to give his “everyman” take on things. Reluctantly he agrees, but as the effect intensifies, the erstwhile Ranger stumbles across its true origin, the discovery of which will lead to a radical rethinking of everything he thought he knew.

    Finally, as I said upthread, my agent is pitching the first of my new Cameron Bane suspense series to the general market. Here’s the setup:

    A former Army Ranger exacts a chilling revenge against the shadowy government agents whose disastrous intelligence error resulted in the loss of his entire command in Iraq. Using their hush money against them, he now takes on hopeless tasks for helpless people, engaging in rough adventures that just skirt the edge of the law.

    For free.

    Pitfall concerns Cameron Bane’s latest mission, finding industrialist Jacob Cohen’s missing teenage daughter Sarah and bringing her safely home. But for Cameron, nothing ever goes quite as planned. In searching for the girl he will encounter a new and unimaginable corruption hiding beneath a shining corporate façade.

    And it is here he will also come face to face with a living nightmare, a swift and ruthless killer known only by a macabre appellation: Boneless Chuck. Every dark trick Cameron learned in dealing death to the deserving will be brought to bear as he battles to fulfill his promise to Sarah’s father. But the right person is on the job. Because sometimes it takes a man who’s spent quality time in the realms of the damned … to send someone else there. So strap down and hang on.

    Cameron Bane has just been dropped into hell.

  139. John Robinson
    Wow. I wish your sci fi book was true. There is some need to expand minds in certain Christian circles! 🙂

    I will purchase the book when it is available. Could you let the readers no when it comes out?

  140. Wenatcheetheh…

    Ah! So, there’s a cipher in “I think a lot of Christians get hung up on fiction having to have doctrinally correct points at all points…” for the decryption of


    “And I ain’t talking about digestion.”
    “Meatwad, No!”

  141. Note to all Authors

    Please feel free to tell us about your books and when or how they are available.

  142. Dee, thanks for the invitation to share info about our books. I appreciate it.

    I write contemporary women’s fiction for Multnomah Books. My first book came out last year and is available in paperback or e-book. Sources: B&N, Books-a-Million, Amazon, Christian bookstores, CBD, etc. Books 2 and 3 will be published in August 2012 and August 2013, respectively.

    My first novel, “When Sparrows Fall,” is the story of a widow whose legalistic pastor co-opts the spiritual headship of her household after her husband’s death. The first chapter is available on my website. (Click my name above.)

    (And John R., really I wasn’t trying to copy your “Skylarks” title. I always called my story “Sparrow” but I was overruled.)

    We’re debating titles for Book 2 right now: A woman tries to find her father, a troubled soul who inexplicably walked away from his life over a decade earlier. She wants to bring him home and provide the help he needs, but the reasons behind his disappearance will stir up a world of trouble.

    Book 3 (tentatively called “Gone South”) is about two sisters from Detroit who are thrilled to buy a house built by their ancestors in Alabama. The locals give them the cold shoulder, though. Having been rejected, the sisters are extra compassionate toward a prodigal whose family has locked her out. They soon regret taking her in, but they can’t bear to kick her out.

    So, that’s what I’ve got cooking. Thanks, Dee.

  143. Sure, Meg, I remember you! Ah, Cafe Barcelona … those were the days.

    And Dee, I’m honored you asked me to help out with a guest post; whenever works for you is fine.

    I did want to tell you I’m leaving tomorrow with my company on a trade mission to Saudi Arabia (we do medical staffing work here and overseas), but I’ll be back here in the States on the 20th.

    Just let me know. And thanks again.

  144. @ John—Cameron Bane sounds awesome! You said this was a great blog post and you were right! For anyone who doesn’t know me, I’m Tim, I’m 17, I write. I haven’t been published yet, but my mom has. She’s really good, but I’ll catch up.

    Hey, if it’s okay, since you mentioned talking about Christian books, let me tell you about my mom’s book because what’s happened with it goes with the discussion. Also, I’m having a few problems with some of these things. Maybe you guys have some advice.

    Okay, Mom’s book is “The Calling of Mike Malone.” Here’s a review and blog a nice lady did about it recently:

    This guy, Mike Malone, thinks his dad died when he was 7. Except when he turns 21 he finds out his dad isn’t dead and he’s not even human. He’s the fallen angel Ahiel. Ahiel is nuts. The thing is, he loves Mike, even though Mike rebels against him, and Ahiel can’t come to grips with the fact that God loves him, despite his own rebellion. He has other things going on, but the guys sense of his own sin just shreds him. He wants to take over Lucifer’s spot and use Mike as his anti-Christ. Mike says, No. Dad steals his girlfriend and is going to kill her if he doesn’t change his mind. All kinds of action takes place, zombies getting their heads cut off, sword fights, dragons, inter-dimensional travel and it teaches just how much one person means to God. Yeah, I’m proud of my mom.

    And get this: she got a letter from a fan in Indonesia. The girl said her mom practiced some kind of craft where she “summoned angels.” But these angels always scared the girl. So she took what she learned in the novel and cast them out in the name of Jesus Christ after getting born again herself. I thought that was way cool!

    Sounds like a Christian novel, right? No! Because Mike Malone, a 21 year old guy, raised in Chicago, swears a couple of times. It’s even before he gets born again. So the CBA folks didn’t want it. My mom found a secular company.

    Then I found out the CBA was started by a Baptist organization and uses standards specifically targeted toward that group. Fine. But then why isn’t it called the Baptist Booksellers Association? I think they act like they speak for all Christians…and they don’t. Maybe a lot of confusion would go away if they just named themselves more accurately. Am I wrong?