Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Christian Fiction Should Be

I was thinking about Christian Fantasy the other day and I asked myself what I think we should see in Christian Fantasy. As I thought about the question, I realized the answer goes back to what we should expect to see in Christian Fiction as a whole, not just Christian Fantasy. The only definition of Christian Fiction that I know of is that Christian Fiction is fiction with a Christian worldview. That leaves the genre wide open, since practically anything could be considered a Christian Worldview.

Fiction always has and always will be much more than entertaining stories. People who tell these stories intend to get a message across to the listeners, or in this case, the readers. Jesus used fictional stories to convey his message to the people who followed him. Many of the fairytales we learned as children had a hidden meaning that went far deeper than just the fun story. Isn’t Little Red Riding Hood just a scary story intended to warn children of the dangers of talking to strangers? Doesn’t Cinderella tell children that if they do what is right they will succeed?
Since fiction is intended to encourage certain types of behavior, Christian Fiction should encourage behavior that is consistent with the way the Bible instructs us to act. That brings up a question. Is Cinderella Christian Fiction? The theme of Little Red Riding Hood is a little too generic to be considered Christian, but the theme of Cinderella has a Christian feel to it. The Bible tells us that the Lord rewards righteousness. The story of Cinderella tells us the very same thing. Perhaps we could consider Cinderella an early example of Christian Fantasy or maybe our definition of Christian Fiction is a little too broad.

Perhaps we should define Christian Fiction as fiction with themes that encourage Christians to act in accordance to the word of God. The two key words here are Christians and encourage. First, Christian Fiction is aimed at a Christian audience. While I know that many authors feel that the salvation message should be obligatory in Christian novels, but Christian authors can write with the assumption that most of their readers have accepted Christ. If that is our assumption, we must then ask what message Christians need to hear through our work.

To encourage may be the more important of the two keywords. We all need heroes, people we can look to and say, “I want to be like that.” We can talk about bad behavior and the problems it causes and people will realize they are doing something wrong, but what we want to do is to give people a reason that they want to behave in the right way. In a well written story, a reader wants to slip off into the world of the story and experience the events. When the hero of the story succeeds by doing the right thing, the reader begins to feel that he can be a part of the story by doing the same thing.

Let’s bring it down to a real Christian theme. We could choose anything, but let’s choose tithing, since that is a theme you won’t see often in novels. We could go a couple of routes. We could have a story in which a character doesn’t tithe and through the course of the story sees the error of his ways and begins to tithe. On the other hand, we could have a story in which the character gives more than a tithe, but events in his life make it difficult. While he considers reducing his offering, he keeps on giving and things work out well in the end. Which character would you want to mimic?

So, to answer my question, I would like to see Christian Fiction be stories about characters who overcome adversity that threatens their Christian walk rather than moving toward a better Christian walk because their lifestyle is creating adversity. I know that is vague, but I hope you understand for now and maybe I will discuss it more later.