Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Are We STILL Arguing?
At times it feels like an argument without a viable solution. I understand where both sides are coming from, but I'm not sure everyone is ever going to meet in the middle.On the one hand, there are lots of folks who feel that in order for a work of fiction to be labeled 'Christian' it must be squeaky clean. These readers want to know that if they pick up a book marked 'Christian' it will be safe for them to read without offense. Okay ... I get that. The dilemma arises when we try to define what constitutes 'offensive' material. Different people have different levels of tolerance for things like sexual content, profanity and the like. I know people who consider the words 'shut up' as swearing. (Seriously - I know people like this ... and if you're one of them I apologize in advance.) I had one woman explain to me that she couldn't read my book PLAY IT AGAIN because it contained the word 'hell'. That is certainly her prerogative.
For myself, I don't mind a bit of mild swearing (like 'hell' and 'damn') if it is used to make the dialog more authentic. I don't go over the top and use anything worse than that, but I will read a book that contains more profanity if its a good story and these words add to the characterization. Interestingly enough, my fourth book WIND OVER MARSHDALE which has been contracted by Astraea Press and due to come out this fall, needed some changing because Astraea does not allow any form of swearing including 'hell' and 'damn' - and they are not even a Christian publisher. Naturally, I complied.
However, if books deemed 'edgy' do not label themselves as 'Christian', some readers may feel duped when they read the book. I had one reader comment that my book MY MOTHER THE MAN-EATER was too religious for her taste. (Even though in the back cover blurb it references the fact that the heroine finds fulfillment in 'the arms of God'.) Everyone gets saved at the end, and she felt this was unrealistic. For my part, I know that this isn't so. My own family is a case in point, where all five siblings became Christians as adults.
It's a case of 'you're damned if you do and damned if you don't'. (Oops! Did that offend someone? Somehow 'darned if you do ...' doesn't have quite the same ring to it ...) Labeling our books 'Christian' is limiting because many people who might otherwise read and enjoy them will not pick up a book marked 'Christian'. Not labeling them means those who do want to read good redemptive stories might not find them. It's why I think there is room for the Christian market to expand its tent pegs to include an 'edgy' component. If books are labeled as such, those that are afraid of seeing controversial content can avoid the book, while others who enjoy a bit of spice (like me) can still find books that have some moral quality.
What I don't appreciate is when one camp or the other insinuates that they have an exclusive line to God's heart / will / blessing. It's like claiming that only one denomination constitutes true believers and the rest have it all wrong. (You know what that equals - a cult.) Personally I think we've all got it wrong to some degree, because the body of Christ is, after all, made up of human beings. We're fallible and until we get to heaven there's bound to be something askew with our earthly attempts at godliness.
In any case, I think there should be room for all. Christian fiction, like Christians themselves, is broad enough to encompass all types. It doesn't mean everyone has to read or even like everything. (I do not like Amish romances, for instance.) That doesn't mean all Amish romances should be banned. Obviously a whole lot of people like them, so who am I to argue? Similarly, certain folks need to take off their self made halos and allow a broader spectrum of Christian fiction to exist, without recrimination.
I invite your feedback. Seriously. I've got my helmet on and everything. :)