One of the most surprising questions I receive as a Christian fiction author–and from Christian readers, I might add–is “Why do you write Christian fiction?” Don’t get me wrong. It’s a valid question. But it still surprises me every time I hear it.
First, I think I should clarify something. When people hear “Christian fiction,” they often think of what I call “evangelistic fiction.” I do not write evangelistic fiction. While occasionally one of my characters will feel called to share Jesus in an overt, evangelistic way or another character will be drawn to Jesus through the words or life of one of His people, it is not the primary focus of my fiction.
And that’s because of why I write Christian fiction.
My novels are written to encourage the body of Christ–not to try to preach salvation to the saved. In fact, I work very hard to avoid preachiness in my books. Where it exists, it’s usually to illustrate a point in a character rather than ram some doctrinal point down the literary throats of my readers.
I have no theological agenda in my books.
I write only to uplift the weary, encourage the discouraged, and to “stimulate” my fellow Christians to “love and good deeds.” Some of my characters hold theological beliefs that I don’t. This often surprises my readers, but it’s true. I do this because I want to show how others come to different understandings of scripture.
I have a character whose children live a very specific conviction regarding female clothing. Even my character doesn’t hold the conviction, but she lives it as an example to the children she’s raising. Why did I do this? Because I’ve seen the attacks that people who do hold this conviction have endured by those who felt judged by it. I wanted to show that people who feel judged by others can be assuming condemnation aimed at them that isn’t.
What do I mean by that convoluted sentence?
Sometimes, when we know others hold themselves to a particular standard, we assume that they look down on us–judge us–for not holding the same standard. And guess what? In that moment, we are guilty of the very judgment we’ve accused them of. I wanted to remind believers that we’re all in this together.
Rather than feel condemned, why not encourage someone in their faith–their convictions?
When I meet someone who doesn’t eat pork, for example, I don’t flaunt my freedom to eat pork. I serve beef. I ask about their great chicken recipe. I don’t try to persuade them to reconsider their conviction in the light of my “superior” understanding of Scripture. God can convict and change (if He so chooses) through His Word and without my help.
If people want to know my opinion, they’ll ask.
Every month–sometimes weekly–I get at least one email that says, “Seeing how ABC character did 123 really challenged me. I’m in prayer and study to see what the Lord says about this–about how I need to respond to it.”
And that right there, ladies and gentlemen, is why I write. It’s why I read Christian fiction.
People are often surprised to discover that I don’t listen to much Christian music. While I love old hymns and a few Christian songs–particularly “devotional songs”–most of the music I listen to is instrumental or old secular stuff (mostly pre-60’s… decades before I was even born). But my reading material is almost exclusively Christian fiction.
Why? Because I, like most of humanity, learn best through stories. There are reasons Jesus used stories to teach His disciples. We learn well that way. Seeing how someone else–even if that person is only fictional–reacts to the curve balls life throws us helps me see what I need to do to change my own reactions when things go wrong.
Obviously, I did write one non-Christian book.
But for the most part, I fully intend to stick with my chosen genre–broad as it is. I do it because I love my brothers and sisters in Christ. I do it because of how blessed I’ve been by the writings of other Christian fiction authors. I do it because it’s my way of serving the Lord–my “spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1).
I’m curious, though. How has Christian fiction blessed you? Does it? Do you read it because it’s clean, because it’s encouraging, or because you just love to read? I love learning why others do what they do.