Why Christian Fiction?

Full disclosure: Christian fiction fascinates me. Not because I’ve read very much of it, but because of the place that it occupies in the conservative Christian subculture. I find most of it uninteresting, and occasionally find it disgusting. Some books masquerade as “Christian,” getting wide exposure and acclaim in the Christian community while doing little more than promoting sentimentality and titilating the senses.

My prejudices aside, this is how the thought was sparked: while at Barnes and Noble today, I was struck by the size of the Christian fiction section compared to the non-fiction section. Noting this phenomenon, I curiously perused through the other religious sections (as I often do), particularly looking for traces of fiction. No Bhuddist fiction, no Muslim fiction, no Hindu fiction. Just Christian fiction. “Perhaps merely an American phenomenon,” I thought. A quick perusal of British fiction bestsellers over the last few years added evidence; no “Christian” fiction on British bestseller lists.

The more I thought about it, the more it fascinated me, especially as I looked at religious fiction around the world. I spent about 45 minutes looking at big news sites and various versions of Amazon.com. Not a lot of religious fiction around the world.

Granted that a large swath of the population in the U.S. is at least ostensibly “Christian”, and granted that fiction is more popular than non-fiction. Beyond those reasons, why is there so much Christian fiction, especially in the United States?

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  1. #1 by Natalie on September 27, 2011 - 5:21 am

    I will not say this is the answer but it is a thought I have.
    Could it be that the American culture is so blessed to have relatively free and easy access education that it no longer has the value it has in other countries where it is so limited. Reminds me of the Israelites eating so much quail they became sick of it.
    As America is a post Christian nation and now a post learner nation for the most part, the “Christians” are want for little more than using their ability to read on “marshmallow fluff fiction” rather than teaching the mind and heart to know and to know God.
    Calling this stuff Christian is far from the truth and is only called as such to lead people into thinking they are innocent in their reading as long as it is called “Christian”. A few lines about prayer or church does not Christian reading make.
    My question is, why does the one faith that has truth publish fiction?

  2. #3 by BCD on September 27, 2011 - 9:38 am

    Viz,

    What distinctively makes something “Christian?” We have Christian Music, Christian Art, Christian Fiction, etc. I guess the only thing that makes something Christian is the injection of Christ into the art in some way or the other? Does the fact that it’s written by a Christian make it Christian fiction? Can a non-Christian write Christian fiction? Those are not the questions your’e looking to have answered, though.

    I don’t know why there is so much Christian fiction. I will say, however, that in this year I’ve read the most Christian fiction I’ve ever read.

  3. #4 by Matthew Rowley on September 27, 2011 - 4:21 pm

    Christian or not, I want to read “good fiction.” All too often, Christian fiction and good fiction are not synonymous…

    The 100 Cupboards series is “good fiction” written by a Christian, from a Christian worldview, but I would never classify it as Christian fiction.

  4. #5 by Daniel on September 28, 2011 - 10:38 pm

    I wonder if Christian fiction has flourished due to a shallow corporate faith that needs stories to depict aspects of the Christian life that are non-existant in experience. Why wage war against sin when there’s a thriller to be read? The dangerous and overwhelmingly satisfying experience of following Christ is swallowed up by stories that depict fictional danger and discipleship. Thus bandwidth is spent on the pursuit of the inane and the sentiment instead of true discipleship.

    That being said, there does seem to be a place for real Christian fiction that points beyond itself to Christ. Chronicles of Narnia is the poster child for this, although I’ve heard there are other contemporary imitators and innovators in this regard.

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