Saturday, August 01, 2009

Faith n Fiction Saturday

This week, Amy asks:

Today's Topic
Deborah often mentions the lack of diversity in Christian fiction, and I definitely think it's something we should talk about more as I observe that many Christians do not feel that Christian fiction represents their own Christian experience.

Do you think Christian fiction represents a diverse range of belief, Christian experience, skin color, and nationality? Have you ever read a book and realized you hadn't read anything quite like it in Christian fiction before? Have you ever wished an author would take a different point of view? Do you think that avid readers of Christian fiction are open to more diversity in Christian fiction? What are some stand-out examples of books that represent diversity in Christian fiction?


As a Catholic Christian who reads Christian fiction, I'd say that I've seen very few examples of Christian fiction that favorably show any Christian experience beyond modern evangelical Protestantism, (unless the books are about the Amish) probably because that is who invented, promoted and read the genre. In the world, most Christians are Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican, all of whom have liturgies that are big on ritual and prayers, yet that is not what is shown in Christian fiction. Historically, in the US, until recently, being a Protestant Christian generally meant being Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian or Lutheran, all of whom baptize babies. Mary Connealy's recent novel, Montana Rose stood out to me because they baptized a baby.

I've seen this question discussed from a Catholic point of view on some websites. On the one hand, I've read that about 40% of the readers of Christan fiction identify themselves as Catholic. While I can't speak for all of them, I know I read it because the stories share my moral values, if not my specific beliefs. They don't glorify out-of-wedlock sex, divorce, or cruelty. They are generally quick easy reads.

I've also read that Catholic publishers will generally not consider fiction. I don't know the reasoning behind this. I know that some publishers of Christian fiction are publishing arms of some Protestant churches; of course I would expect such books to reflect the beliefs of that church. However, I also know that some publishers of Christian fiction (like Waterbrook) are owned by major publishers (Waterbrook is part of Random House). I don't know if their standards would allow a book that promotes Catholicism or not.

Some great writers like Flannery O'Connor were Catholic and from what I've read, you can find Catholic themes like sacramentality, conversion, and redemption in their writing, but they aren't as overt as in Christian fiction. I tried reading one Flannery O'Connor book and couldn't get through it. Andrew Greeley is a Catholic priest who writes mainstream fiction. His books are good reminders of why churches have confessionals. His characters sin, even the good ones. Some of his books have sex scenes as explicit as the average trashy romance novel. I've read a couple of Catholic novels that were written with the Christian fiction approach of overt themes and promoting a Catholic belief and way of life. Unfortunately they weren't the best books I've ever read. (See my reviews of Emily's Hope and Passport: A Novel).

I'm expecting Lisa Sampson's The Passion of Mary Margaret to show up in the mail any day now; I'm looking forward to reading it. Lisa writes Christian fiction. She was raised Catholic, left the Church and has now returned. The Passion of Mary Margaret is about a woman who wants to be a nun, feels God calling her to marry instead, and who eventually ends up as a nun. I've seen a lot of good reviews of the book, but none from people identifying themselves as Catholic and looking at the book from a Catholic perspective. Stay tuned, I plan to do so.

Stop by Amy's blog and see what other folks have to say about this.


  1. When I read Amy's post, I was thinking about racial diversity. The different flavors of Christianity didn't even cross my mind. I've read several Amish books and a book about black churches, so I guess I assumed that the Catholic books were out there somewhere.

    "The Passion of Mary Margaret" is on my TBR list, too. The plot intrigued me because it sounded fresh; I never made the connection that it seemed different because I haven't run across many Catholic books in the Christian fiction genre. Thanks for your insight.

  2. I never thought about the fact that Catholics aren't represented. I have a book recommendation in my post

  3. no, it is not the Golden Age of Catholic fiction at the moment..

    I will be interested to see what you think of 'The Passion of Mary Margaret'


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