While my siblings and I were at my grandparents’ house a few weeks ago, I re-discovered Say Goodnight Kevin, which included discovering Kevin’s movie reviews. I stayed up late into the night watching quite a few of his reviews. Needless to say, I loved them. My favorite was probably his review of God’s Not Dead, which you can watch here. (Pretty long, but totally worth the time because it’s HILARIOUS.)
The point of his reviews of Christian movies is to hold them up to the same standards of other films. I think this is brilliant, and something everyone should do. So often, we hold Christian movies up higher than other films and tout them as our favorites simply because they have the Christian Stamp of Approval.
His comments on the movie reflect a lot of things I’ve been thinking about Christian fiction in general. Namely, why do we say that “Christian” books/movies/music is so much better than “secular” books/movies/music? If we honestly compared the two… what would we find?
I’m not here to go through Christian books and compare them with secular books (although I could). And I’m not here to rip apart the Christian film/book industry (although I probably will step on some toes here).
I am here, however, to word-vomit some things that have been on my mind recently. Mainly the fact that most Christian authors and filmmakers don’t tell the whole truth about the world in their books and movies. (This post is going to be mainly about Christian books, not Christian movies. ‘Cuz that’s a whole ‘nother post.)
One of my biggest beefs with Christian fiction is the fact that it isn’t real. More often than not, books of the Christian persuasion tend to be more preachy (duh), paint non-Christians in a very negative and unrealistic light (I know plenty of “good” non-Christians, which apparently is an oxymoron in Christian fiction), and simplify Christianity (whatever happened to being persecuted for your faith?). They dumb down plots until they’re too simple (“Get saved and your life will instantly be better!”) or verging on sacrilegious (“I feel like God needs me to defend Him.” Ummmm… No.) Not every Christian book is like this, but the truth is… most are.
I’m not saying that I don’t read any Christian fiction or that I condone all secular books. What I read often depends on what mood I’m in. Usually when I’m in a feel-good mood, I’ll look for a Christian book or movie. They typically have a happier ending. Sometimes, if I’m in the mood for something that’ll challenge me, I’ll look for something from a less Christian worldview (because there’s nothing like learning more about how awful the world is that’ll make you want to get out there and fix it!). A lot of “secular” books that I’ve read have left me thinking and asking serious questions… sometimes more than the Christian ones. (WHICH MUST NOT BE THE CASE CAN I GET AN AMEN???)
And now we get to my rant for the day – Why I (Kinda) Hate the Christian Book Industry.
1) Everything is the SAME. FREAKING. PLOT. Everything is happy in the end. The guy always gets the girl (without kissing, though, because that’d be a violation of the purity statement he signed when he was seven), defeats the non-Christian (and thus, pure evil) bad guy, or gets those Bibles to the heathen Africans (yayyyyyyy). The characters claim that Jesus will make your life better. This is true, but it may not always be evident to non-Christians. You’ll still sin and your life will not be instantly blissful. (Which is, again, why I tend to gravitate towards secular books. They’re more real, even if some of the characters deny the existence of God.)
2) At the risk of repeating myself – and thus being boring – THEY. ARE. ALL. THE. SAME. Need I give the example of how Amish romance has literally overtaken the Christian fiction aisle in every. single. bookstore???
The world needs less Christian novels and more novels by Christians. The world is a very dark place and Christian fiction – in general – tends to ignore that. Especially in the homeschool community (myself included). We claim that Jesus is the answer to everything and if you’re a Christian your life will be perfect. The former is true; the latter is not. After you become a Christian, you’ll probably have a worse life, as far as worldly standards go. You’ll be persecuted for your faith more than any other religion, especially outside of the United States. Christian authors sometimes disregard this and portray the world their characters live in – the same world we live in – as being perfect and conflict-free (or it is by the end of the book because we authors love our happy endings). This is not the case. People commit suicide and abort babies and rape and steal and ruin others’ reputations all the time. These things happen every day. But not in the world of characters in Christian fiction.
That’s why I often pick “secular” books over Christian books – because the characters live in the real world. I’d love to read Christian books where the characters go through hard things and have actual real-life struggles. I’d love to read a Christian contemporary teen book where the main character goes through hard things that grow her faith – things like divorce and betrayal and hard relationships. And it’s sad, but I can think of very few books that have these qualities. (I can think of a few movies, though, namely To Save a Life and Unbroken.)
This is one of my desires as a writer. I’d rather write about real teens with real issues and have the sheltered homeschoolers be slightly offended than write about characters who live in a perfect world with no conflict. This is my challenge to you, if you’re a writer. As Christians, we should always be striving for something better because what we have is so much better than anything the world could have to offer. Does this show in our writing?
The world does not need another dystopian novel – Christian or otherwise. The world doesn’t need another Amish romance trilogy or another end-times series or another fantasy story with a Christian twist.
The world needs more books about real characters who go through hard things, but who find their hope in Christ alone and cling to Him as their anchor while they go through real-life struggles.