Why Does Christian Fiction Suck?

If the Bible is the Greatest Love story ever told, why do Christians suck so much at telling it.

Let me lay my cards on the table. If you’ve read this blog before and haven’t figured it out by now, I am a Christian. I grew up watching Superbook, Veggie Tales, The Flying House, and that Stories from the Bible made by Hanna-Barbara.

I’ve read The Red Tent, and The Shack, I’ve seen God’s Not Dead, I’ve even seen a musical about Ester, that desperately wants her to be Cinderella. These books and movies are all awful. I want to know: why?

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Handle’s ‘Messiah’ and Dantie’s Inferno are all great works of art. Some of the greatest art, music and works of literature in history were created by Christians.

So why do modern Christians creators suck so bad?

I think there are three main reasons: We shy away from important issues, We’re more concerned with painting ourselves as the good guys than we are about telling a story, and we are more concerned with emotional validation than growing in wisdom and faith.

We shy away from important issues. We like to live in a safe little bubble, we fear offending our more conservative brothers and sisters in Christ, so we don’t talk about hard issues. That makes things boring. We have nothing to talk about, yet we won’t shut up!

We have caricatures instead of characters to make our points instead of actually exploring ideas. I think God’s Not Dead is the worst example of this. The plot is about a college philosophy professor who didn’t want to take a bunch of class time debating if God was real. So rather than say “This is not a theology class we’re not talking about that” he wants the students to agree to Neichie’s famous quote that “God is dead.” and one Christian student objects.

To be fair, I don’t doubt some asshole professor with a ton of tenure would really do that. In the real world, the christian student could complain to the Dean and that would be that. In the film all non-Christians are evil people! The happy ending is always that someone gets saved and then God takes away all their problems because we want God to be Santa Claus.

Side note: I can not be the only one who wanted this movie to be about the Muslim girl who converted to Christianity- which happens before the movie even begins by the way- What’s her story?! How did she become Christian? Did she reject Islam and start searching out other faiths, or did she just talk to a christian and have her faith challenged over time? Before she converted did she have inaccurate preconceptions about what Christians believed? Why does her family shun her? Did she know they would shun her? What about the other members of her Muslim community, did they shun her too? I want characters, plots and story arcs. is that asking so much?

We are more concerned about emotion than telling a story. Admittedly I am a robot, and these things calls emotions are strange and foreign to me, but most Christian fiction revolves around emotion rather than logical story progression. That’s why The Shack bothered me so much. It’s pure emotional schlock.

Even ignoring the shaky theology sprinkled here and there, The Shack is stupid when it comes to story progression. The story of a grieving father coming to terms with his daughter’s tragic death, is all emotion with zero plot logic. The daughter dies because she has to die, not because it in anyway fits the story.

The young girl’s death is so shoe-horned into the plot, I couldn’t take it seriously as a tragic story development. I was expecting a character to come out and say “Hope you find your missing kid. Oh, by the way, there’s a serial killer in the area.”

I honestly kept expecting that one of the families they where camping with would be reviled to have kidnapped the daughter Ted Bundy style. This was supposed to be tense and dramatic plot twist, but I was laughing my butt off. I thought The Lovely Bones over did the emotional schlock toward the end, but that looks like Jane Erye next to The Shack.

Christian Fiction is more concerned with emotional validation then growing in wisdom and faith. We understand emotions, but faith and wisdom are scary terms. Yes, God actually expects us to dedicate our lives too Him, and He makes no promises that our lives will be pretty and perfect.

This is the biggest problem for me. Joel Olstien and his snake oil salesmen ilk tell people that God will give you things if you are good enough. They tell you pretty soundly lies about how God just wants you to be happy and prosperous, because deep down, we want God to be like Santa Clause, giving us the things we think we ‘deserve.’ We are the kid in the shopping cart whinnying for a new toy.

Yes, I do believe that all things work for God’s glory. but note that it’s God’s glory and not human comfort. Were the early Christians happy and prosperous when they were being burned alive as human torches in Nero’s gardens?! Maybe they weren’t good enough Christians.

Even the Christian martyrs had a role to play in God’s glory, I don’t know what that role was, and neither do you. Some things are beyond our understanding. That’s called “faith.”

What’s so sad is that plenty of non-Christians can understand this:

We desperately want to limit God. We want him to be Santa Claus. We want “8 simple steps for salvation” rather than face the truth: Trusting God is scary!

We want rules, we want a God we can predict and control because then we can deny that we really need God in our lives. We don’t want a relationship with Him. We want a transaction. God doesn’t play by those games. He is the master of the universe and His is in charge.

I think the main reason that christian fiction sucks is because of the cowardice of modern Christianity. We avoid things that make us uncomfortable.

Deep down, we don’t want to to serve a glorious God, we want a tame god to serve us. Hosea 11:10 describes God roaring like a lion. Not meowing like a kitten. I think C. S. Lewis said it best in the Chronicles of Narnia “He’s not a tame Lion, but he is very good.”

6 Comments

  1. I am so sharing this. ❤

    I agree and disagree at the same time. Yes, a lot of Christian fiction seems … well gooshie. But I have seen a couple of books that maybe were not quite so gooshie. I recommend my friend Jane Lebak's work. (janelebak.com) I love her Father Jay stories.

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  2. A couple of my friends from a Christian SF group passed along some recommendations.
    A couple of them suggested the works of Lars Walker. John Wright was also mentioned.
    Dave Freer’s Joy Cometh with the morning was compared to Miss Marple.
    Tom Ashwell’s Halo Effect.

    I don’t know if any of these would be your flavor, or even what you are looking for, but I thought I’d pass them along.

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  3. You’re obviously not reading the right books.

    Let’s start you off right with a “vampire romance” that uses Thomas Aquinas, microbiology, and theology to reshape the mythology. Then it throws in Vatican ninjas, shape shifters, throwing Stars of David, and getting into fistfights with demons.
    Love at First Bite: https://amzn.to/2VGbSK0

    Then we have an Urban Fantasy / Horror series about a wonder worker who has to fight the forces of darkness — starting with a possessed serial killer, a death cult, a supernatural bounty on his head… and THEN things get nasty.
    Saint Tommy, NYPD: https://amzn.to/2UWVKqA

    And, to round it out, we have a Christian thriller series: the Pius Trilogy. It’s five books when you include a nonfiction book, and the anthology.
    One international conspiracy that reaches back decades, a team of badasses from around the world, and a gunfight on the Spanish steps. And that’s just the first book.
    https://amzn.to/2TvSQ72

    Then you can go to the rest of Silver Empire Press and buy almost any book at random.

    Enjoy.

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  4. As a fellow librarian who follows Christ, I’ve been frustrated time and again by the majority of Christian fiction. You nailed it, they are too safe. Translation boring. The two-dimensional characters and simplistic plot lines with no connection to reality push me further away from Christian fiction rather than draw me in. Perhaps, that’s what contemporary readers want, shallow, goody-goody characters and happy, Hallmark endings. To be fair, there are often nuggets of spiritual inspiration and profound take aways if I am patient enough to wade through the rest. I will look into Wyldkat’s suggestions and appreciate any other books people might recommend. While her romance writer style might not appeal to everyone, I have enjoyed a number of Francine Rivers’ books as they wrestle with faith and she can tell a good tale.

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  5. I used to read a lot of the elder Thoene’s novels but even they suffer from character tropes. Perhaps the problem is who’s publishing not what is being written. If they will only publish schlock because they aren’t christian and therefore are motivated by money not fiction with integrity then you get what you get. I just go back to books like Little Women (NOT the abridged version which removes the Christian messages – who knew!) which teach as well as entertain.

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