Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Concerning Trend in Christian Fiction



I recently had an old friend (we grew up together and went to the same college) who is also a Christian fiction reader and mom contact me about a concern she had about a trend she was seeing in Christian fiction. I encouraged her to put her thoughts down into a guest blog post, because I think her concerns are valid, as a Christ-follower and a mom and a consumer.


Here's what she wrote:


I read a lot of Christian fiction. Lately, there has been a recurring theme that bothers me. There is a Christian hero/heroine and a non Christian hero/heroine. The Christian character is drawn to the non Christian and willingly starts dating and falling in love. Usually the non Christian becomes a Christian but that isn't the problem. The problem is a theme that goes against God's Word. 

I Corinthians 6:14 says, "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"

Since this is true, why are writers using this theme? Why are they writing as if this is not a problem? Rarely do the characters struggle with dating or not dating non Christians. I have daughters who read these books. I don't want them to think this is right. I also know that the fairy tale endings in the books are not true in real life. Whenever we go against God's Word there is heartbreak and consequences. (Just take as an example my aunt who knowingly dated, married and lived with her non Christian husband for over 40 years.)

Are Christians and non Christians drawn to each other in real life? Yes they are. So could writers use that situation to show the struggle that Christians have in that area, what God says and what happens when we go against that? They could possibly even have some kind of double story, one with the ending of how the characters life goes when they obey God in this area and what happens when they don't. 

Another thought is that the main characters are struggling with this and some supporting characters show the consequences of this, or the joys of obeying, and help the main characters make the right decisions. Or, light bulb idea, use a different theme for conflict and tension.

Thank you writers for all the good material out there. I love to read and I love to have good material for my girls to read. Keep it up
!


I have to agree. I have never encouraged 'evangelistic dating,' and I have seen the difficult and sometimes devastating results of a Christian knowingly and willingly marrying a non-believer. Our church has more than a few "Church Widows" who attend without their husbands, who are placed in the unenviable position of trying to raise children in the faith, only to have them drift away in middle school and high school when the non-church-going parent says the kids don't need any more church. 

My friend didn't list any titles or authors who were writing this theme, and I'm not going to either. What I am going to do is challenge my writer-friends to consider carefully the impact their words and plots have on readers, especially young readers. And I'm going to challenge readers to use their best judgment when picking up even titles published by Christian authors. Use Scripture as your guide, and if a situation comes up in one of the books that concerns you, use it as a teaching moment for your daughters and sons. Use it as a talking point with your friends. 

What trends or concerns do YOU have regarding Christian fiction?

21 comments:

  1. Thank you for bringing up this topic. I hadn't really considered this as a growing trend, but the more I think about it, the more I agree. I will keep this in mind as I continue to write.

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    1. I hadn't thought about it either, though I know when I read a book that has this particular plot it concerns me.

      It was a cautionary tale for me, too, to consider as I plot and write.

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  2. Grace Livingston Hill used this theme in everyone of her books. I cut my Christian fiction teeth on her books and it was always poor girl/rich guy, Christian/non-Christian or vice versa. I loved her books and still do, even though they are "old fashioned".
    I married my husband thinking he was a Christian, he was not. He was raised Methodist and went through confirmation classes and thought he was "ok". It took the death of his two month old grandson to realize this. God literally came to him while he was praying and he gave his heart to him right then. Being scientically minded, going on faith alone was very difficult for him. I truly believe God brought us together and loaned us two wonderful kids to raise.

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    1. I'm so glad your husband came to true faith in Christ, though I am so sorry that it took a tragedy to get him to that point.

      Sadly, not everyone's story ends like yours, with a husband coming to faith.

      I read several GLH books, and it often seemed to me that either the hero was a new christian when he met the heroine, or she refused to become involved with him romantically until/unless he surrendered his life to Christ. It's been so long since I read GLH widely (I have a couple of favorites that I read from time to time.)

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  3. I've noticed that a lot in CF too (wouldn't call it a trend ... yet), and it always perplexes me when unequal dating isn't an issue with the Christian character. If authors choose to have a Christian date a non-Christian, that should be part of the novel's conflict, but too often it's not even addressed.

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    1. Agreed! I'm so glad my friend brought it up! It would make for great conflict in a story, but if it isn't addressed at all, it's tacit agreement with the practice!

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  4. That didn't used to be allowed in Christian Fiction. It was one of the rules. I've done a few with the saved character attracted to the unsaved character. But they fought against the attraction and I made it clear they knew they were playing with fire. They didn't date until the unsaved character chose salvation. To me, that's the way it should be.
    I read one where a character said she believed in God and everything, but didn't make it a big deal. I kept waiting for her to get saved, but she didn't and ended up marrying a preacher? I burned that one and crossed the author off my list.

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    1. Playing with fire describes it well, doesn't it? I cannot imagine the agony of loving and marrying someone who doesn't know Jesus and love Him.

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  5. I had not seen this as an increasing trend either. I am much more concerned about the growing use of very descriptive intimate passages in Christian fiction. This is something I am not happy to see increasing and it is.

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    1. Wanda, we have to be so careful, don't we? Both as writers what we're creating and as readers, what we put into our minds. Please pray for authors and publishing houses that what we're delivering to the reader is God-honoring.

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  6. What I see missing in Christian fiction (romance, particularly) is a conspicuous relationship with Jesus. I really want to see someone who loves the Lord, prays, praises and faithfully shares that love. Trust me, I like to see romance and I don't mind little acts of intimacy (holding hands, kissing,) but I also like to see an apparent love for God. I find that many books show the characters faith by going to church, professing their faith and mention praying. Maybe I am a minority, but I want to see that heady love for Jesus like what is generally shared between the H/h in most books. I want to see the male or female fall in love with each other because that devotion to God is too big of an attraction. Two books I have read this year that demonstrated that fairly well were Victoria Bylin's "Until I Found You" and Tammy L. Gray's "Mercy's Fight." I don't read much historical fiction, so I can't speak for that genre, but I find contemporary fiction lacking in that way. It doesn't stop me from reading and enjoying Christian fiction as a whole. I have many favorite books that lack the above. It is just an observation that I wouldn't mind seeing more of.

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    1. trosado,I remember reading Marylu Tyndall's first pirate novel The Redemption, and being so thrilled that there was a scene of a miraculous rescue, something that could only be attributed to God, and it came as a result of the heroine's fervent prayer for rescue.

      It's not often done in fiction any longer, this Deus Ex Machina, or God in the Machine...because skeptical readers thing it's too convenient, I guess.

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    2. I agree. Every book doesn't have to have someone get saved, but it would be nice if the main characters are already Christians and living out their daily relationship with the Lord like we do. There are strong, faithful Christians out there who aren't just grandmas. Lots of young people, younger adults, and middle agers are trying their best to be Christians and doing it. I would love to read books where the hero and heroine are already strong Christians just living their lives for God.

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  7. I have read all the previous comments and understand where each one is coming from. I have a slightly different take on this. I fully agree on the matter of "evangelistic dating". However, I am not quite as concerned if every Christian novel does not include the plan of salvation in the story. Let me clarify. I very much appreciate the books that include the Gospel message. For me, Christian fiction can simply be good, clean, wholesome entertainment. I am reading a book right now that is supposedly Christian fiction that has curse words in it. I plan to write a review when I finish and will comment about that. The author states in the front of the book that she doesn't use those words but the nature of the story demands it. The book is about a social/political issue that needs to be considered from a Christian perspective. The author seems to be going in that direction but I have a serious problem with books classified as Christian when the language is offensive. An author can get the message across without that. Getting back to my earlier point, though, I have read lots of books that maybe only briefly alluded to God or prayer without delving deeply into that subject. Some Christian authors write to entertain and some write to share their faith through story. I think there's a place for both.

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    1. I would agree with you, Edward, that not every book that is Christian fiction needs to have a conversion scene, a sermon, or lay out the plan of salvation. I think the concern voiced was more about Christian characters knowingly and willingly falling in love with non-believers without guilt, conflict, or seemingly any consequences.

      I also agree with you about the swearing. It's unnecessary. There are plenty of creative ways to indicate that a character has said a bad word without using the word.

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  8. Excellent article, Erica. Your friend is right, but I don't necessarily think this is a new trend. In real life, when a Christian dates a non-believer, it almost always ends in heartache, not in the fairy tale portrayed in novels. I'd like to see more books where purity and virtue were valued more.

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    1. You're right, so much heartache. I think most authors of Christian fiction get it right, it's the exceptions that we remember, though.

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  9. It doesn't always work out in real life as nicely as it does in books. My brother felt he could "save" the non-saved girls he dated. Crashed and burn on all of them. Sure, there are exceptions and wonderful miracles done in some of these situations in the world, but God wouldn't put a verse in the Bible he didn't mean. We do need to take care about it and I like what you have written here. We also have a few women/men who come to church without spouses because they aren't believers. I cannot imagine the hardship that causes. I pray for them!

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    1. Thank you, Susan! You're so right. God doesn't put anything into Scripture that we should not take heed of.

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  10. Thanks for bring this up, I haven't thought about this until now. It's so true that in writing you can change the characters situations, but in real life that's just not possible. I've unfortunately lived through this with the guy who I thought I was going to marry, he was raised in church, but his lifestyle said otherwise. There were plenty of warning signs that I should've seen , but for some reason didn't. He absolutely blindsided me and both of our families about 9 months ago with some things that he wasn't being honest with anyone about. Looking back now, even though it hurt so much I'm so glad I don't have to deal with that anymore.

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    1. Oh, Abby, I'm so sorry that you had to go through that, but I'm glad you didn't find yourself married to that young man. But it hurts, and there's no denying that.

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