Monday, September 21, 2009

No Compromise. Period.

Can I revisit this topic one more time, just because it is still so relevant to the marketing of Christian literature? A Christian magazine recently wrote on facebook, "Fiction written by Christians or Christian fiction should cross over into the mass market to reach readers they never would have if the books were only geared to the religious market." Christian authors have the responsibility to write about the message of hope, and grace and forgiveness and the awesome price paid at the cross. They should put a face to the reality of God. If you concentrate on writing and marketing for a crossover audience, you will edit out the most sacred details of his existence in each of us.

That doesn't mean that certain books won't cross over naturally. (The Left Behind Series is proof of that.) Or that authors can't be creative in clothing Christian truths. However, the quote above is from a review of the book Thirsty by Tracey Bateman

Here are some of the editorial reviews:
“Thirsty does exactly what a novel like this should do. It grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. But it does more than that, deftly delivering truth and beauty in a way that transcends the genre.” –Sigmund Brouwer, author of Broken Angel

“Thirsty is one of those rare treats that not only delves deep into generational issues and addictive behaviors, but also keeps the pages turning. Tracey Bateman writes with a sensitive ear to dialogue and family dynamics, bringing a human, and ultimately redemptive, angle to the vampire story. Well done!” –Eric Wilson, author of Haunt of Jackals, Field of Blood, and NY Times bestselling Fireproof

“Deep, cutting, an intoxicating blend of human and supernatural, of characters scarred by the past, drained by life. This is the book I’ve waited for.” –Tosca Lee, author of Christy Award Finalist Demon: A Memoir

“Thirsty is more than a run-of-the-mill vampire story. I loved the way Tracey Bateman incorporated the struggle against alcoholism into the theme. Great writing and a compelling read!” –Colleen Coble, author of Lonestar Secrets and the Rock Harbor series

Frank Paretti was the master of writing about spiritual battles and in exposing the unseen forces that wage war on the Christian. It was more than just good verses evil with good winning. It was a wake up call to what is real and not just sensationalism, which is where I tend to draw the line. Are books about vampires sensationalism? If there aren't spiritual vampires, does this violate an unspoken code regarding a line Christian writers and publishers shouldn't cross? Thirsty boasts of the message of redemption. I still wonder if placing redemption on a vampire can be regarded as Christian.

This post is not a rant against Thirsty. I merely mention it as an example and hope it will cause you to think about what that line should represent and where it should be. I am strongly opinionated when it comes to not compromising the good of God by placing an evil mask on him. I am even more opinionated when it comes to upholding the word "Christian". Don't use the genre Christian fiction to classify a book that barely mentions Christ because you hope for a cross over audience. Don't use a Christian publisher thinking the Christian audience is an easier sell.

If you claim to have a Christian fiction or non-fiction book to offer the reader, it should:

*Mention Christ before the last chapter
*Show at least one character struggling with their Christian walk
*Show how God's goodness can be displayed in our lives through the example of your characters.

This is a basic list. I could go further and say your characters should be able to relate to all readers, no matter where their walk is in the Lord. Your characters should recognize Gods goodness several times in order to demonstrate to the reader how God works through people. But I won't go that deep. I'll keep it simple for today.

Does Thirsty or other Christian vampire books mention Christ at all, let alone before the last chapter? Are the characters struggling with their personal relationship with God-not day to day details but with God himself? Do these vampire books demonstrate Gods goodness? Every author should ask these questions when writing their "Christian" novel.

Through Christian fiction we have a fascinating opportunity to show, not tell, of God's goodness. A well written novel will let readers live vicariously through the characters and perhaps thump the page every now and then in recognition of themselves. The reader wants to identify with the character, and then see how that person works through and resolves their spiritual struggle. If you have the gift of writing, don't waste it on subject matters that won't bring change in others. Use your talent as an extension of the gospel and allow it to go into all the world and bring change.

Anything less is, well, compromising.

UPDATE: I have agreed to read and review the book Thirsty. I will share what insight I receive in my review.