Friday, May 11, 2012

DEFINITIVELY Defining Christian Fiction

From time to time Christian fiction bloggers like to tackle the question: What is Christian Fiction? The debates goes on over whether there needs to be a salvation message, whether Mormon, Catholic, Lutheran and other non-Evangelical works can ever count as Christian.... But if the goal is defining Christian fiction rather than defining the sort of Christian fiction your local Evangelical book-and-gift shop might sell, I contend that the definition is not that difficult.

If you go to college and take a class on women's literature, you will read books written by women. If you take one on African-American literature, you will read books written by African-Americans. If you take a course on Gay and Lesbian literature, the books you will read have Gay and/or Lesbian authors. Latino literature, Latino authors, Jewish literature, Jewish authors, Asian literature, Asian authors, and so on down the line.

So: Christian fiction is fiction written by Christians. That's easy enough--- and it's something those outside the Christian community can figure out without a net.

Except for the bit 'what is a Christian?' My proposed definition is that a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ. Specifically one that is following Jesus Christ right now, not one that went to Sunday School 13 times at age seven and hasn't been near a church, Bible or rosary since.

Since there are, sadly, atheist Marxists who claim to know about some Marxist revolutionary Jesus, we need to say a bit about the Jesus we Christians follow. He is the Jesus spoken of in the proto-creed of 1 Cor. 15:3-5: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures, and that he was see of Cephas, and of the twelve." (KJV translation)

So, yes, this broadens Christian fiction to include the majority of those who call themselves followers of Jesus, including Catholics, Lutherans, Mormons, liberal Christians, and excluding only those who believe in some other Jesus, such as the Marxist atheist Jesus, and the non-resurrected mere-human Jesus who was just a good morals teacher.

This does not mean that all of this broadly-defined Christian fiction will be welcome at every Evangelical publishing house. By the same token, there are books by women which will never be found at a women's book store because of lack of feminist content. Publishers and booksellers are free to develop their own, narrower categories. Readers of Christian fiction will also have their own selection criteria.

Where the definition matters is for things like lists of Christian fiction in certain genres, or things like the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour. When we are using the broad definition of Christian fiction, we use the word 'Christian'. If what we really mean is Evangelical fiction or Catholic fiction or LDS (Mormon) fiction, we should indicate that plainly.

So that is my definitive definition of Christian fiction. What do you think about it?

1 comment:

Lisa Nicholas said...

Pretty good definition, but if I were using this term, I would mean something a little more pointed -- not simply fiction written by someone who happens to be Christian, but fiction that is somehow illuminated by a Christian understanding of the world and our place in it (even, or especially, when lacking specific Christian references).

"Self evident," do you say? Actually, I don't think so. There are plenty of writers-who-are-Christians who write tales (usually "genre fiction") that are indistinguishable from similar ones penned by non-believing authors -- without ever letting a Christian worldview creep in. Not in the choices and motivations of their characters, not in the way human experience is described or treated, or any other way. I'm sure most do this unthinkingly -- our culture has so conditioned us to think that all things religious are "merely" private and personal and have no place in works intended for a general audience.

I think this is a problem. Maybe we don't have to preach to the world, but we should at least let our readers glimpse a view of life that is lit from within by a divine presence. That's what I want to do, anyway.

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