So Tired of the SAME Arguments

Rant warning! 😉

Here we go again. Someone inside the Christian publishing industry, in this case novelist Eric Wilson, is upset with Christian fiction. The issues seem to be the following:

  • content that doesn’t deal with such things as doubts, depression, sexual and financial issues, addiction, and disease
  • placement of Christian fiction in a Christian section
  • influence and parameters have narrowed
  • moneychangers are stepping in and the Spirit is moving out
  • viewed as a “safe” alternative instead of a vibrant, world-changing entity
  • not as “raw” as the Bible

Besides the fact that most of these criticisms are OLD, they also aren’t true. Perhaps they once described Christian fiction. Not any more.

Although Eric says he has reviewed and endorsed hundreds of novels in the last decade, I wonder if he’s read them. I haven’t read hundreds, but I’ve read books with sex outside of marriage, adultery, attempted rape, babies out of wedlock, slavery, drug use, a Wiccan character, a failed seminary student, a depressed and worried Church volunteer, dealing with Alzheimer disease, death of a child, an autistic character, creation scientist working in secular lab, cloning, and more. Raw. Real life.

Rather than “narrowing the parameters,” in the last decade, publishers have clearly expanded them. Granted, because of the economy—and the digital revolution—publishers are understandably cautious and unwilling to take abnormal risks right now. But I don’t see this hiccup as representative of a long term pattern that will reverse the previous nine years of change.

Which brings up the “moneychangers” issue. Last week, Mike Duran addressed the charge of greed among publishers in his article “Should ‘Profit’ Be the Bottom Line for Christian Publishers?” For whatever reason, we seem to have the idea that the book business should operate like a ministry rather than a business. Why? Perhaps because of the Christian content in our books. But the last I checked, many of the Christian imprints are owned by secular companies, so the idea of “ministry” is a foreign concept to the parent responsible for oversight.

I know many Christian editors and others in the firing lines who do look at their work as a calling, as do many novelists. However, we are still involved in a business where enough money needs to be made to keep paying employees and pass along a profit to the investors. Just like every other business.

As to placement of Christian fiction in Christian sections of book stores, or in Christian stores, we’re talking about something out of the control of the book sellers AND something that some of those working in the industry have tried (are trying?) to change. This complaint is going to the wrong people. Write a letter to the Barnes & Noble book buyers instead.

As to the “safe” alternative, instead of vibrant, world-changing entities, why can’t we have both? Why do “raw” books have to drag readers into the gutter to get a point across? Is a book more artistic because it deals with the seamy in a seamy way?

I’ve read some beautifully written fiction, some thought-provoking stories that have PG writing. Why must we conclude that R-rated work is better?

And this final idea, that the Bible is more raw and real than our fiction. No. The Bible gives narrative summary. It never takes the reader into Rahab’s bedroom and shows her selling her body. It tells us she was a prostitute. We know what that means, so the Bible doesn’t need to paint the scene.

One final point that came out in comments to Mike Duran’s post on this issue over at Novel Journey—something new, at last. Eric apparently is looking for support as he leaves Christian publishing and looks to find a general market house.

I’m not quite sure what kind of support he has in mind, but I do think we can come along side writers no matter where they are being published—small press, general market, Christian houses, self-published. We should be praying for each other, mentoring, encouraging, consoling, admonishing, promoting, endorsing, reviewing—whatever is needed, as we are able.

The Christian life is not a solo flight. We are in this together. Maybe it’s worth regurgitating the well-digested topics of yesteryear just to reach that final point.

Published in: on July 26, 2010 at 6:02 pm  Comments (82)  
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