Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Clarion Call for a new Christian Sub-Genre?

Real World’ Christian Fiction…

Where Faith Comes Alive and Christians Live like Real People

Five Star Excellence!

”Stop! I’m too young to hear this.”

“Faith shot her a cockeyed grin. ‘No. You’re not. It’s about time you hear about the real world instead of what you read in those books.’ ”
A Passion Denied, Pages 1947-1948 in extra large type pagination, Adobe format, eBook.

With the above quote, Julie Lessman may have defined a new sub-genre of ‘Real World’ Christian inspirational fiction. Some call this budding sub-genre ‘edgy’ Christian fiction on the assumption that the writing is right on the ‘edge’ of being rejected by traditional Christian inspirational publishers. This is certainly true of many Christian publishers but “A Passion Denied” is not edgy in terms of the ordinary use of the language.

‘Edgy’ is as ‘Edgy’ Does

How edgy can a book be if I would gladly give it to my thirteen and fourteen year old daughters in the hope that they would read and learn from the experience?

How edgy is a book that espouses abstinence before marriage and even advocates the avoidance of the ‘occasion of sin’? As my old fifth grade teacher, Sister Mary Alice, used to say, “Christians should not lead themselves into temptation.” Avoiding the occasion of sin does abstinence one better. I would love it if all teenagers would read “A Passion Denied”.

How edgy is a book that does not even use one off-color word in its many hundreds of pages?

‘Edgy’ as ‘Jargon’

I believe the term ‘edgy’ is insider jargon which makes it seem to the layman that if the book took one step further it would descend into a sea of perdition.

For me, the term ‘edgy’ means ‘Real World’ fiction – that is, as far as any fiction can be ‘real world’.

What Counts as ‘Edgy’?

What exactly is ‘edgy’ about ‘edgy’ Christian fiction?

Using “A Passion Denied” as an example, I found the below features to be ‘edgy’ when compared to the over 100 ‘non-edgy’ Christian Inspiration books I have already read.

“Edgy” Elements:

1. The characters talk about sex. Some talk a lot about sex. For example, soon to be married sisters ask their married sisters about sex. Young wives, who want to have babies, talk about sex. Wives of all ages talk about too much and too little sex. These are real world conversations.

2. The hero and heroine share a deep, passionate, kiss – however, one or both quickly becomes aware of how these aroused emotions could overpower their better judgment and lead to sin. Thus they withdraw from what they know to be the ‘occasion of sin’. This element carries a very strong moral lesson. A young man may be a firm believer in abstinence but if he is fond of petting in the backseat of his car, abstinence will be the last thing on his mind. Again, we are talking ‘real world’ here.

3. In “A Passion Denied” wives are not above using their feminine wiles and even seduction to bring their husbands to their way of thinking. Well, welcome to the real world.

4. “A Passion Denied” also avoids the almost inevitable clichés found in typical Christian fiction. In the over 100 Christian Inspirational novels that I have read so far, the answers provided for why ‘bad things happen to good people’, (as in the death of a good person), always goes: “Gods ways are not our ways,” or “all things happen for the best”, or “the loved one is now in a better place.” The above explanations express fine sentiments but they show little insight or any genuine effort at understanding the complexity of the theological problems involved. I’ve never seen an original attempt at providing a deeper explanation for these serious questions in my reading of Christian Inspirational novels until I read “A Passion Denied”.

I didn’t find any clichés in “A Passion Denied”. The moral problems which the characters experienced were treated with genuine thought. The conversations between the priest, Father Mac, and the troubled hero, John Brady, were in the category of real world, wise, counseling. The author seemed wise beyond her years. The priest’s advice was “real world” and worth reading and thinking about.

What I Found ‘Edgy’

I did think it was ‘edgy’ to have a character, the wise old woman, re-translate the word ‘submit’ to ‘respect’ in the Bible quote: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:22-24.

As a man, I like the KJV. However, this interpretation was very true to the character espousing it in the novel. Again, this is the kind of dialogue that you would expect to happen in the real world.

5. It would seem that Real World Christian fiction might render various Bible passages with meanings which not all Christians would agree.

6. “A Passion Denied” mentions actual religious affiliations! That definably is real world. In my over 100 Christian Inspirational novels, all the Christian characters were members of non-denominational churches. In the real world most Christians are actually members of denominational churches. In “A Passion Denied” there is no doubt that the south Boston, Irish families, were Catholic. In the real world of 1920’s that was what they really were.

A Strong Christian Book

For all its real world ‘edgy’ attributes, “A Passion Denied” is a strong Christian book. It demonstrates abstinence, avoids pre-marital sex, and provides a healthy and even glorious view of the manifestation of physical love between a husband and wife. Marriage is a holy sacrament and the love within that union should be blessed.

The Honesty in “A Passion Denied”

If ‘edgy’ equates to honesty, then it was this honesty that I enjoyed most in “A Passion Denied”.

About the Cover Art

On the cover of “A Passion Denied” you will find this quote:

“This Isn’t Your Mother’s Inspirational Fiction!”
By Romantic Times Book Reviews

This may be true, however, the cover art could easily be your grandmother’s cover art. No doubt the cover art is excellent, indeed, it is beautiful -- but it sends the wrong message. What in this cover art suggests that “A Passion Denied” is an ‘edgy’ Christian romance? Nothing!

If the goal is to develop a Real World ‘edgy’ Christian sub-genre, then a new look and feel will be necessary. Just think about the unique cover art that current new sub-genres display. I specifically have chick lit in mind. Chick Lit book covers ‘say’ Chick Lit loud and clear even though books come from different publishers.

There needs to be a new ‘look’ – a modern look – even when the book is an historical. Publishers would be advised to cooperate in creating the same look and feel. Perhaps there could even be a logo as in have a drawing of the earth with a cross behind it rising above the North Pole. What I suggest is making it very easy for a buyer to identify the ‘edgy’ Christian fiction when looking at books for sale.