Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why Christian Fiction Needs More Violence

Recently I've heard a lot of critics of 'The Hunger Games' say that both the books and the movie are 'too violent'. Sadly, even Christians have jumped on that bandwagon.

Christian fiction has a rep of being the opposite of violent. Bland romances in Amish or Prairie settings with nothing to do with the real world.

But should Christian fiction be like that? The Bible is violent--- from the murder of Abel to the wars in the book of Revelation (which is really all about the Eucharist, but still...). History is violent--- Masada, World War III, I mean II.... Mythology is violent--- remember that proto-god who ate all his children? Even peaceful anti-war protests often turn violent.

Violence is necessary to good fiction because fiction is about conflict. And it's hard to have serious conflict if there is no actual or threatened violence. Would we have been mesmerized by the Harry Potter series if Lord Voldemort had been threatening to lower Harry's grades rather than threatening to kill Harry?

The need for violence in fiction is an evidence of Man's fallen nature, as taught in the Christian apostolic tradition (which includes the Bible). Because there is so much violence around us, conflicts without a hint of violence possible strike us as bland, trivial. We don't buy mystery novels where the mystery involves finding a lost Latin missal in time for next Sunday's Latin Mass--- since the prospect of someone going to Latin Mass without their own missal and having to use the Latin Mass booklet provided doesn't thrill us the way the threat of murder does.

This does not mean that every Christian science fiction or fantasy series has to include a character-bloodbath like the ones at the end of Harry Potter or Left Behind, or the recent one in the BBC TV series Being Human. Character bloodbaths are harder for the Christian reader/author because most of us are firmly part of the culture of life and want every human life respected from conception until natural death. Which makes us worry about staging a massive character bloodbath, or even worry about reading one.

I think it's no mystery why the Left Behind apocalyptic fiction series broke out of the Christian fiction ghetto and onto secular best-seller lists. The Left Behind series is not only Christian fiction, but it's centered on a theological belief--- the Rapture theory--- that the majority of the world's Christians believe is invalid. One would think it would not only repel secular readers but most Christians. But it sold, because it was set in a world where the main characters were under threat of death all the time as the Antichrist, Nikolai Carpathia, took power. In fact, several of the important Christian characters did die before the final battle. And this is what made the conflict in the story real and compelling to the reader.

Christian science fiction and fantasy, like Pagan science fiction and fantasy, or secular science fiction and fantasy, have to reflect the real world. Perhaps our worlds will have elves with enchanted spears or semi-Roman emperors with laser swords instead of Crips and Bloods with guns. But there has to be violence--- or at least the implied threat of violence--- to show that the conflict in the story matters.


Amanda Borenstadt said...

You're right.
My novel, Syzygy, (not classified as "Christian fiction," though several characters are Catholic)has a bloodshed and swearing too! :)

I wanted it to be a good story, have grit, interesting characters in real danger. And I wanted the spiritual aspect too.

They just had a workshop on writing a fight scene at the Catholic Writers Conference Online. So, maybe now some Catholic writers will add more blood to their stories. We can only hope! :)

Nissa Annakindt said...

Personally I thing 'Syzygy' counts as Christian fiction whether it is classified as that or not.

My math is: Christian author (including Catholics and LDS) + some element of Christian worldview = Christian fiction.

In Evangelical/CBA Christian fiction I'm sure the problem has been with the standards of the publishers. Now that self-publishing and small presses are more accessible, I think that will change.

Vicki V. Lucas said...

I agree. There's a huge difference between most Christian books and secular books. As you said, most Christian books are "bland". I think the question isn't so much if we should have violence, but it's more of a question of how that violence relates to the story and our lives. For example, Francine Rivers series "The Mark of the Lion". It's time for Christian authors to step up and write a story that grips us non-bland readers!


Vicki V. Lucas said...

I love the term "bland" when discussing most of the current Christian fiction out there. While I understand that there is a place for that type of fiction, I quit reading most Christian fiction because it's just not interesting to me. It's great to see, through the self-publishing and other venues, some Christian authors using a bit more spice! That's my goal in writing novels.

Vicki V. Lucas

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