Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thursentary: You Might Be Reading Christian Fiction If... (Part II)

Surprise! Working on this at school has enabled me to deliver part two of last week's list of cliches—but I am not being as snarky in the introduction because, a, I'm not feeling it, and b, you probably already know this is going to be sarcastic and having none of it. Also, it was the last day of school and I feel free.

And, because I am being sincere until the purple text below, there are a few things I feel I should mention, before I continue:

a) I think it's totally okay if you like reading Christian fiction.
b) I think Christian fiction has its own merits as a genre and as an art form.
c) I think those things about pretty much every genre, and although I've tried to write tons of things justifying these posts, I have concluded that I don't need to. These things are what I've noticed, and what I think. In the great words of Homer Simpson, "It's funny because it's true."

via Polyvore

You (still) might be reading Christian fiction if...

…Christians do not doubt God.

(If you’re a doubter you’re like Thomas and Jesus will make you leave the ring of fellowship.)

…church is where perfect people with mildly unfortunate circumstances go to pray for one another in circles on fold up chairs.

(We can certainly pray for that peculiar outsider, but only once, and don’t let him in. It looks like he slept under a bridge.)

…praying solves everything.

(What? God would never call us to take any action that might put us in danger.)

…life is automatically better when you’re a Christian.

(Pretty sure God sent his only Son so we could PAR-TAY!)

…the “Jesus came to earth and died for you” speech shows up for all the conversions.

(The target audience seems to have a terrible memory when it comes to that speech—after all, they’ve been Christians their whole lives.)

…at least one person has to convert, or return to God.

(Otherwise God looks plain lazy.)

via Travel♥Quotes

…names like C.S. Lewis are thrown out at every opportunity.

(He was perfect and makes our religion more valid so we should worship him, too.)

…Creation theory has to be defended.

(Because the church has never been wrong about science before.)

…God’s existence must also be defended.

(That guy is helpless without our convicting arguments.)

…all controversial issues are not handled as plot points but as sermons.

(Speaking of people with agendas.)

...religious controversy is ignored and we only pick fights we know we can win.

(Let’s stick Catholics in the corner with opinions about baptism and female preachers and move on.)

…people randomly have the Bible memorized to suit the story’s needs.

(You don’t have to understand it, you just have to know it.)

via LDS Memes

…the only memorized verses come from Psalms, or Proverbs, the Gospels, or something Paul wrote.

(How much of the Bible do we really need, after all?)

…all quoted verses use the King James Version.

(That’s what English sounded like when Jesus spoke it, you know.)

…you will never question your own morality or the truth of anything religious.

(Every time you wonder, Satan is up by ten points.)

…by the end, everyone who is available is in a secure waiting-until-marriage relationship and all hand-holding occurs under parental supervision.

(Good news: we solved the over-sexualization of women by simply objectifying them!)

…God comes through at the very end of the book because it’s not like he would leave you hanging for years and years in real life, would he?

(Click to read your typical two-hour miracle story.)

…everyone is a Christian at the end of the book or movie.

(Mission accomplished.)

via someecards

There you have it; the complete list. I do not believe I've read any Christfic that hasn't had something from one of these lists... And that is why I treat all these books like I would a plague: with intense curiosity, but still keeping my distance.

What are some of your least favorite cliches in Christian fiction?


  1. This is gold, Heather. Christian fiction needs more complexity if I am to enjoy it. And the memes are great! I don't think Christian books are necessarily bad, but there are certainly a LOT of tropes and prejudice

    1. Absolutely. I don't think they're bad either, but after a while it seems that you're just reading the same story over and over again. :P Definitely a lot needed to improve the genre.

  2. OH MY GOODNESS THE LAST PICTURE! I'm laughing so hard at the Martin Luther joke. That just struck me really funny and I don't know why.

    I loved this little series! You should expand it to other genres!

    1. XD I don't know why, either. But I actually am Lutheran so I would probably enjoy it a lot more.

      I may just do that! We shall see.

  3. Really the most useful and wonderful article about the christian fiction. I have been keep on laughing on seeing the last picture.

    1. Glad you thought so. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. This was so great! You made me laugh the whole way through. Are you going to do more genres?

    1. Maybe! It depends. Thanks for laughing, Opal!

  5. I agree--Christian fiction could definitely use some sprucing up. As Dorothy L. Sayers said (very poorly paraphrased), if you try to write a book that preaches to people, you end up with a poor sermon and a poor book. I have read some "Christian fiction" lately--it's not published by a Christian publisher, but it deals with Christian issues (it's a series). Surprisingly, people aren't converted by the end, people wrestle with genuine doubts, and that's okay. It feels natural. (The series is by Steven James and it starts with THE PAWN, but if you're at all squeamish about violent dismemberments and such, it might not be your cup of tea.) Anyway, thanks for sharing!

    1. Sayers sounds totally right in that regard! I think that's the heart of it, though—we shouldn't be writing guidebooks so much as stories about issues, and the natural parts of our lives. Violent dismemberment is right up my alley, so I think I'll check that one out! :D Thanks for the recommendation, Liz!

  6. I must admit, this had me laughing. I don't read too much Christian fiction because I've heard about all of these things and it just doesn't have much of a reputation as great, deep, impactful literature.

    There have been a whole lot of books that have fed me spiritually when I was least expecting it, like for example Crime and Punishment. It is obviously not a "Christian" novel, but it impacted me and inspired me very much. There are a lot of things us Christian authors could learn from the classics!

    1. Just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Creative Blogger Award. No pressure to keep the tag going, I just wanted to recognize a few of my favorite blogs.

      Keep writing forever,

    2. That's a good way to put it—deep, impactful literature. I think the reason many Christian fiction books turn out the way they do is because they really WANT to be deep and impactful because of Jesus, but then in sterilizing the sin, it turns out to be shallow and forgettable at the drop of a hat.

      I love books like that most! I think Sophie's World, even though it's about philosophy, made me think about my faith a lot more than any Christian fiction book I've ever read; the way it made me struggle really inspired me. I can imagine the classics are equally as useful!

      Thank you! I'll get to that tag soon. :D

  7. Yes, some Christian fiction can have these cliches-especially if it's contemporary. Luckily, most of the Christian books I've read are allegorical fantasy, which helps make the message more subtle and less cliche in my opinion. It also creates an opportunity for really complex, mind blowing plots.

    I guess what irks me the most on this list is the cliche of Christians never doubting themselves or thinking for themselves. Christians doubt themselves and their faith ALL THE TIME. Those moments of doubt are horrible, but they don't make us horrible. Also, I don't like the cliche that Christian kids can't think on their own. I'm that high school kid that is doing the strict no kisses/other things until marriage, but I came to that resolution completely by myself. I am most certainly not a robot.

    1. To be honest, I think any genre can have these cliches, although allegory and fantasy would help a lot. I'm glad that the alternate world really helps with the story world, and that you get a lot out of them!

      Yes! Exactly! There are questions that I don't think there are good answers to, and questions that I think the church is straight up wrong about, but it's so very rare that such things are addressed in fiction. I actually find doubt a useful device—if you keep at it, it can make us a lot better off than we were before. Also, I have to appreciate that, too; there are a lot of people who do exactly what they think they should do, but as long as you have personal reasons for your own decisions and you follow through with them, I say right on to your decisions. Yay for non-robot Christians!

  8. Unfortunately this is extremly accurate. I'm a Christian myself and cringe when I see these cliches pop up. Thankfully now I'm pretty sure I can spot a poorly written Christian book just by reading the synopsis. As a general rule (And i do think there are exceptions) Christians writers think that the message will outweigh poor writing. It doesn't. It makes bad writing worse. And on the whole they are being unrealistic. You don't have to hammer God's message into your story. If you're a Christian then God will work through your words whether you mention his name or not. I like an earlier comment about classics. You can find Christian themes in classical works and they hardly ever mention God! I wrote a short series about Christians and Creativity on my blog. I loved your post though, great job.

    1. Much like you say with the idea that Christian messages replace good writing, I think that Christians also have the tendency to believe that appreciating "Christian things" serves as a way to showing Christian values. But if we value bad writing, then it's not really solving anything. Classics do help, especially because they were written in a time when Christianity was more pervasive. I'd be interested in reading your post. Thanks for stopping by, Bethany!

  9. THIS IS THE BEST THING I'VE EVER READ. YESSSS. Omg, I grew up on Christian books and even without good books to compare them too, I was always super skeptical (It actually nearly turned me off reading, which is sadness). Particularly that part about everyone ending up saved with their lives perfectly sorted by the end and. oh. my. gosh. the romance? KILLS. Or when the main character is introduced as a jerk and you're like "Welp, that one's gonna get saved soon." >.>
    I avoid Christian books like the plague. LIKE THE PLAGUE I TELL YOU.
    I'm still laughing at the highlighter meme.
    This post is so good. xDXD

    1. XD I'm glad you liked it! It would have been horrible if Christian books made you stop reading altogether, but fortunately you have since seen the light! The romance and savedness and the perfection is annoying. Christian books ARE a plague, I think, and yes—Syndrome is awesome. :D I couldn't resist! Thanks for reading, Cait!

  10. Ahahaha, this is gold. I almost feel bad saying that because I've enjoyed a lot of Christian fiction, but I can't deny that a lot of this is true. I wouldn't have admitted that a year ago, but branching out into different genres has opened my eyes to the genre's faults. Particularly the preachiness. I appreciate that Christian authors want to spread the message, but I want to read fiction, not a sermon.

    1. I think what kept me from posting this for so long was that it did make me feel bad, but I really wanted to make people think. There's a lot to be desired in Christian fiction, but I'm glad that you're willing to give it a chance and remember its faults, as well. Thanks, Ally!


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