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I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

25 October 2010

Christian Literature

When I was in high school, I would pick up the odd Christian fiction book, read for a while, decide I didn't like it, and put it back down again. And then go around feeling guilty for not liking a Christian book.

After all, I liked Christian music, Christian t-shirts, Christian posters... but the favourite thing in my life, reading, didn't have anything Christian that I liked to plug into it. For years, I wondered what was wrong with me. And I have finally found the problem:

It wasn't me; it was the books.

There; I said it. If you are still with me after the jump, phew! That was close.

I've returned to Christian fiction with adult eyes, and have attempted to read pretty much every Christian author I have heard of, and certainly the ones who have been recommended to me. I say "attempted" because I have abandoned a bunch of them halfway through as being a waste of brain cells, or I have sworn to never return to a particular author, ever, after finishing one of his/her books. 

I've spent a lot of time and mental energy wondering why Christian "literature" (oh, yeah, I put that in quotes!) is so bad. And I've come to the conclusion that it's some of the same reasons that I always hear for why there's not a lot of good Christian music: 1) The really talented people realise pretty quickly that the money lies elsewhere, 2) The purchasers of Christian stuff aren't that discerning, and therefore, 3) Bad writers can write for the Christian market and still be successful, because there are people who will buy their books.

I acknowledge that #2 may be a bit harsh. But really, I went around feeling guilty as a teen for not liking all the Janette Oke books my grandmother filled her house with. I doubt that I'm the only one who has ever been driven to read Christian material out of guilt. There probably are some people who genuinely want to read Christian-themed books, so (I guess) they take what they can get. And I'm sure there are some for whom these books are exactly what they were looking for (I'm equally sure those same people would dislike the books on my shelves). And that's why #3 hinges so closely to #2; if readers are desperate to stick to books that are about Christian characters, they will buy the mediocre stuff for lack of other options. And people who like bad writing and happen to be Christians will also buy it, think that it is brilliant, and tell me that I must read it if I like Jesus at all.

So, moving on to the ones I've managed to like. There are two Christian authors who I would read again, Lisa Samson and Beverly Lewis, and one who I would recommend to others: Francine Rivers. It's taken me a while to appreciate Ms. Rivers, actually; I didn't enjoy my first read of her book The Scarlet Thread. I read it for my senior English class; the assignment was to read a late 20th-century novel. This was April 1996, and  The Scarlet Thread had been published in January 1996. I won. :) As a 17-year-old who had led a rather sheltered life, I didn't care for the dual plot lines that included marital strife, divorce, incest, rape, gossip, untimely death, and a rocky road back to Jesus. In the world of teenaged Su, those sorts of things were unthinkable.

Thirtysomething Su knows better. While I have been (mostly) spared the pain of bad choices by myself or those closest to me, I have seen it all too clearly in the lives of others. Goodness knows I'm not the greatest friend ever, but goodness also knows that I can hold a friend with one hand and a box of Kleenex with the other (and a kid on my lap, if necessary). I hate seeing people in pain, but we live in a broken world, and Ms. Rivers can write about it so eloquently, while also showing God's healing hand in the lives of broken people. She's amazing.

I wish there were more writers like her in the Christian market. I wish there were fewer writers churning out nonsense and drivel, with wooden characters and a shaky-to-nonexistent plot. I really, really wish that people would stop recommending the rubbish to me, so I can stop pretending to appreciate the recommendation. (Sorry.)

What am I, as an aspiring writer, to do? Come back tomorrow and I'll talk about it.


Anonymous said...

Well, I'm certainly glad you found someone else who wasn't satisfied with mediocrity. You certainly aren't. I consider you a woman of excellence and would think you would expect the same of others. I'm better because I know you.
Penciler of Songs

Su said...

Awww, thanks! I admit I posted this with a bit of fear and trembling, but I can't hide from disagreement forever. :) And really, with all the talented writers in existence, surely someone can write good Christian books!

Also, I think you produce fabulous music, and I appreciate that you aren't out chasing the fame & money just because you can. :)

Felicity Grace Terry said...

A thoughtful and honest post. I must confess that its not a genre that I have ever read. Terrible of me I know but just like 'Westerns' I have so many preconceived ideas of what these books are like. Perhaps I should challenge myself to read at least one of these books, what do you think?

Su said...

Hmmm... after ranting about it, I kind of feel silly to encourage you to read them. :/ But, I wouldn't ever discourage someone from reading, either. You may have better luck than I at finding ones you like!

Lisa Samson does historical fiction/romance/Christian books that are set in Bonnie Prince Charlie-era Scotland, and which I really enjoy. And I already shared that I think Francine Rivers is good, too. But this whole genre is pretty hit-or-miss, I think, although I've heard from one of the other Crusaders that this past year has seen a lot of improvement on the Christian books that have hit the market. So, the future may be brighter for readers. :)

Sarah said...

CS Lewis, Alice Wisler, Frances Hodgson Burnett (Lost Prince), George MacDonald, George Alfred Henty. Otherwise I agree with you. Oh and Francine Rivers is the bomb.

Su said...

Yay, Sarah! I will check them out! (I knew they were out there somewhere-- and, of course, I didn't even think about CS Lewis while ranting, because he was brilliant.)

Sarah said...

It is part of my lifelong quest to find good literature. Do you subscribe to my book blog? I will be reviewing some of the books I already talked about here.

Su said...

Yep, I do. At least, I've been there & read it... I'll check & be sure I'm subscribed.