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What the Christian Fiction Industry Can Learn from the 2012 Election

What the Christian Fiction Industry Can Learn from the 2012 Election

by Mike Duran · 53 comments

It’s no secret that many evangelicals are smarting from the re-election of Barack Obama. It’s led to much hand-wringing among believers and social conservatives. Talks of secession, Obama paving the way for the antichrist, and forming a third party are all on the table. It’s also led some, like this columnist for the Daily Telegraph, to proclaim the day after our election that The Religious Right is dead.

In addition to re-electing Obama, various American states voted to legalise dope and gay marriage… Last night was a victory for secular liberal America – or, to put it another way, America’s emerging secular liberal majority. The United States is still pious by European standards, but the gap is narrowing every year. You cannot visit American bookshops without being struck by the popularity of atheist cheerleaders or agnostic self-help gurus; when I meet a young New Yorker or Californian I assume – as I would in Britain – that they don’t go to church, have liberal positions on abortion and homosexuality and generally despise the conservative religious activism that, until so recently, had the power to elect presidents.

Just how far away we are from an “emerging secular liberal majority” is debatable. But if election 2012 has revealed anything, it’s that, in America

  1. Secularism is gaining ground, and
  2. Christianity is losing ground

I understand that some will dispute this. And many Christians will resent being lumped in with the Religious Right. They’ll say, Just because Obama won does not mean Christianity lost. Point taken. However, the majority of “values voters,” the evangelical bloc typically aligned with political conservatism, see the legalization of marijuana, gay marriage, and a growing welfare class, as a clear drift away from biblical values.

The waning of Christianity and the waxing of secularism are interconnected. If Christians are the “light of the world,” then who do we have to blame for the growing darkness than ourselves? Could it be that the “emerging secular liberal majority” is the best indication of a shrinking, ineffective, conservative minority?

On the political front, cultural conservatives are now rethinking their strategy. For instance, the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal recently featured two articles (HERE and HERE) arguing that the GOP needs to reconsider its approach to hot-button issues like abortion and gay marriage. Then there’s articles like SSM, Social Conservatives, & The Future and Republicans in a Changing Country, both written by notable social conservatives and both arguing essentially for a “bigger” tent approach.

And this is where I see parallels with the Christian fiction industry.

If this election revealed anything it’s that maintaining an enthusiastic cultural niche does not a movement grow. By all accounts, Romney rallies were far bigger than Obama rallies. The “enthusiasm gap” was said to be hugely tilted towards conservatives. Many Republican pundits confidently predicted a GOP return to power, if not a landslide. All signs pointed to a big win for American / Christian values.

At least, it seemed like that inside the bubble.

In the end, conservatives are left to admit that they are growing out of touch with American voters. However right or strong their “message” is, apparently, it’s not right enough or strong enough to win over new converts.

Which is why there’s now talk of compromise.

The Christian fiction market is comprised largely of evangelical values voters. It is the mother of all niches — white middle-aged moms. In the same way that the Republican party is decidedly NOT diverse, the Christian fiction market is as monolithic as you can get. Men and minorities, and any genre other than Women’s Fiction, Amish, or Historical, are about as unusual in the Christian fiction industry as a Jewish homosexual is in the GOP.

Nevertheless, the suggestion of a “big tent” approach to Christian fiction inevitably runs aground. I mean, why try to reach a different demographic when the existing one is fat and happy?

The assumption I’m making — which admittedly might be wrong — is that inherent in the term “Christian” is outreach, discipleship, and evangelism. Making more Christians is part of our platform. But is this a value held to by Christian fiction writers and publishers? If so, then I suggest we need to consider concessions. Just as conservative voters are now faced with conceding gay marriage, amnesty, or abortion, Christian fiction authors and publishers should consider whether separating personal values from “policy,” and conceding some of our long-held taboos (see: sex, language, drinking, theological ambiguity) might not win us a broader cultural hearing.

A “big tent” approach to Christian fiction could be an important part of growing our platform.

What militates against such concessions is the same attitude that preceded the 2012 election. Just as political conservatives were beholden to “principle” and duped by “the numbers,” mightn’t the Christian fiction industry be? We have our fair share of principled, “thou-shalt-nots’” in the platform. (Thou shalt not say “damn” or insinuate God doesn’t come through.) And indeed, there’s plenty of numbers to tout. On most fronts, Inspirational Fiction seems to be doing well. The base is enthusiastic and the “polling numbers” show certain titles continue to sell. But is this our end game?

Are Christian fiction authors and publishers just about keeping the base happy, or expanding the base?

Supposedly, there was an “enthusiasm gap” in the last election. Republicans were far more “energized” than Democrats. Problem is, it didn’t matter. Because there weren’t enough Republicans. Likewise, I fear the Christian fiction world has been lulled to sleep by our internal polling. The echo chamber of Fox news isn’t that much different than the myopic fervency of the average Christian fiction fan. Our  endless stream of five-star blather does wonders inside the bubble.

And as long as we don’t leave the bubble, we’ll do just fine.

All that to say, enthusiasm in the camp and favorable numbers are  not the same as getting our message out. And unless we’re actually getting our message out, winning converts, keeping our pulse on culture, and making tactical concessions, just like the Republican party, we’ll inevitably see our ranks dwindling.

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

guy stewart November 18, 2012 at 8:10 PM

It was this discussion that brought me to this website — in fact, my initial question was “Why do we need Christian Speculative Fiction?” It sparked a lively discussion and marked me as a fan of both your non-fiction essays and your fiction. I will CONTINUE to read here and read your books, but I thnk that perhaps the discussion is moot now? The Christian publishing industry (except for a few niche publishers like Marcher Lord and Charisma Media) continues to eschew us and shows no sign of changing that stance.

We’ll just have to keep writing and wait to see. But it puts to my mind the words of CS Lewis: “We do not need more little books about Christianity. What we need is more books about other subject written by Christians with their Christianity latent.” (GOD IN THE DOCK, “Christian Apologetics” 1970 Eerdmans)

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D.M. Dutcher November 19, 2012 at 7:30 AM

If I remember right though, Lewis was writing about general audience science, philosophy, and other non-fiction texts. He was saying that rather than use these things as a direct witness for Christ, that more could be accomplished if whenever someone opened up the best textbook on the market, they would find it was always written by a Christian. Fiction is different.

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Katherine Coble November 19, 2012 at 9:20 AM

How?

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D.M. Dutcher November 19, 2012 at 10:13 AM

You can write a good quantum mechanics (or auto mechanics) textbook as a Christian without ever mentioning God or putting your personal beliefs into it. That’s because textbooks prize objectivity, neutrality, and accurate summation of trends and research. Fiction though is far more subjective and personal, and you can’t really keep your beliefs as latent without people wondering why you are avoiding them.

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guy stewart November 19, 2012 at 6:48 PM

I’m gonna have to disagree on this one. I can name a number of science fiction and fantasy writers who are Christians, whose faith is present in their writing and it is NOT “christian fiction”.

Strictly opinion, but I think it IS possible.

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Jon Mast November 19, 2012 at 7:42 PM

A friend just alerted me to a passage in a David Weber book that has a four-page section on a baptism, including laying out a pretty solid theology of baptism. However, it’s in book 12 of the Honor Harrington series. He’d read the entire thing, and other than some broad moral statements that are common to military fiction, there was nothing to indicate a Christian background (so I’m told — I’ve not read it). So, yes, Christians can write “just plain fiction” and still hold true to their faiths — though their faith might leak out eventually!

Another good example is Peter Prellwitz. He writes science fiction, and he happens to be Christian. His faith comes out in the books, but it’s more that a character or two are Christian — NOT that he’s trying to “give a message” any more than simply telling a story.

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D.M. Dutcher November 19, 2012 at 8:56 PM

You are disagreeing on an entirely different thing. My point is that you cannot have faith latent in fiction on Lewisian terms and it work. When he wrote fiction, it wasn’t latent, but when he or Tolkien did their non-fiction on Medieval literature or linguistics, they did so. Christian writers will almost always have their faith in their fiction writing, because God haunts us and we can’t let Him go and fiction is intensely personal and reflects ourselves rather than a subject.

This isn’t about whether or not a book should be in the secular or christian marketplace. It’s just impossible for storytellers to write a story closeted, and hope to “win worship” by people discovering they are Christians.

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Jon Mast November 19, 2012 at 9:05 PM

If their hope is to “win worship,” yeah, their faith shouldn’t be hidden at all. But what if the purpose is just to tell a good story?

Are you saying that if a Christian is writing, it will be obvious early on that he or she is a Christian because they can’t hide who they are? What do you mean by “Lewisian terms”? Lewis wrote his fiction with the purpose of illustrating Christian truths and introducing people to the wonder of Christianity. If our purpose is to introduce people, of course we don’t want to hide our Christianity. Must that be the purpose of all fiction, though?

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D.M. Dutcher November 19, 2012 at 10:11 PM

Guy quoted C.S. Lewis to the effect that we need more books with Christianity latent. My point is that Lewis was talking about something entirely different from fiction when he did. He’s talking about science:

“While we are on the subject of science, let me digress for a moment. I believe that any Christian that is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more than that than by any apologetic work.”

This is the context of that quote, and this is what I mean by a Lewisian approach. In this quote he’s more about writing popular books on subjects where the implication is Christian, but tbh that part is weaker, as facts don’t really have any bias. IMO it would be more about Christians stripping bias from it, and just being recognized for the quality of their thought.

As for your question, I kept thinking of this verse:

“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:45

replace good or evil with Christian, and that’s kind of how it’s like. A christian produces christian things out of a christian heart, and we can’t really suppress that. Our good things are Christian, and even our evil things are-there’s a big difference between a christian and a nihilist writing the same general story.

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guy stewart November 22, 2012 at 7:40 AM

IMHO this is a splitting of hairs. As a science teacher of 30 some years, I have taught and written science curriculum, articles and at least one book. The purpose of that book was to use science to illustrate Christian principles. There was nothing latent about my message. I didn’t want it to be latent. I wanted it to be obvious.

In my fiction — and I don’t know how much you have or haven’t written — but in my own fiction, my intent isn’t to preach; my intent isn’t to hold up the message of Christ. My intent is to tell a good story. Sometimes my characters are Christians. Sometimes they are Muslims. Sometimes they are atheists. They’re characters that need to be in the place they are at the time they are. My teen characters swear and use vulagarities (though I draw a personal line at using the “f” word and I avoid using God’s name in vain…but my characters have at times, though very rarely.)

Other characters in the story are Christians. Has this kept me from publication? In at least one case, yes (I’m sure there were one or two synagogues that banned the reading of Paul’s letters).

My point — and I must be interpreting Lewis’ words to fit my own needs — was that I don’t write to lift up the church. I write to draw unbelievers into conversation and friendship. Once I’ve got a regular relationship with them, I can share Christ as the Holy Spirit directs. I don’t expect my WRITING to bring people to Christ. Paul’s letters and the rest of Scripture is for instruction, rebuke, edification and whatever else the Spirit purposes. When I write fiction, I certainly let the Spirit guide me — but my faith is latent, in the background and I don’t THINK it’s obvious. Right or wrong, that is how Lewis’ quote speaks to me. He doesn’t have to speak to all of us the same! I am certain there are atheists who read and enjoy THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA and THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS, ignoring the Christian symbology and enjoying them as their minds make them real. As Christians however, we can ALSO read them as if we shared a similar world view in which Christ is King (or maybe that’s an incorrect way to read the books — I don’t know, I can’t ask, only read what they wrote and an interpret. Which is what I’ve done with this quote.)

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D.M. Dutcher November 22, 2012 at 3:36 PM

Well, there’s a bigger argument, from whether or not it is possible to how latent it should be. Too big for this rapidly narrowing thread though.

Gina Burgess November 18, 2012 at 9:39 PM

Mike, I see your point here… but, Christian fiction is entertainment. Fiction is not the Bible, and it is not politics. While some social psychologists and ethnographers may try to make us believe that society dictates moral codes, it is really God who is in control.

Daniel and his friends did not compromise their convictions and beliefs, and managed to gain the respect of Nebuchadnezzer who finally did become a believer. Sophira and Aquinas paid their lives for their compromise, and put the fear of God in the other believers. We Americans have things far too soft.

Romans 1 tells us exactly what will happen if we compromise. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 6:17 So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good,” says God. “Don’t link up with those who will pollute you. I want you all for myself.

Do you really think graphic language and some sex would draw unbelievers to Jesus? It seems like that kind thing made the children of God turn to Baal and other idols.

Engraved in His palm,
Gina

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Mike Duran November 19, 2012 at 5:29 AM

Gina, I’d flip your question and ask, “Do you really think [clean] language and [no] sex would draw unbelievers to Jesus?” I don’t. And I think the notion that it does is dangerous. As I said above, we must distinguish between principle and policy. I don’t approve of swearing and try not to do it. But to make that a “policy” for all Christian fiction limits our cultural relevance. That is, unless we just don’t care about reaching culture.

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Jon Mast November 19, 2012 at 7:44 AM

But to underline what Gina said (I think): What’s the purpose of Christian fiction? Each story has its own purpose. Some stories are meant to reach out, of course. Others are meant purely to entertain, and that’s ok! Each story has its own needs and needs to reflect those needs.

I do agree that Christian fiction should reflect reality if they’re meant to reflect reality (is that part of their purpose?). In other words, a gritty novel should be, in fact, gritty.

But what draws people to Christ is… Christ. Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. Fiction might be a way to get that message out, but that’s not the purpose of all fiction.

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Mike Duran November 19, 2012 at 5:14 PM

“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”

Yes, but coming to faith is a process that involves a lot more than simply sharing the Gospel. The heavens declare the glory of God, but do so without a single word. God also makes himself known through our conscious and instinctive sense of right and wrong. You might want to take a look at an older post of mine, Jon, entitled Christian Fiction: Box or Continuum?, in which i suggest that, just like the process of coming to faith and growing in the faith, Christian Fiction should exist along a similar scale.

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Jon Mast November 19, 2012 at 7:48 PM

I’ll agree that having fiction that also appeals to what I know as the “natural knowledge of God” — ie, what we can know about God from nature and our own conscience — would be good. Aiming some fiction at that “level” is great. It’s all about knowing your audience, right?

Which gets back to my purpose: what’s the purpose of this particular story? Is it to illustrate a shocking truth that mature Christians might forget? Is it to show how amazing Christ’s love is to someone who’s never experienced it? You’re going to get different stories — and hopefully some varied genres — from that.

I think we’re agreeing — that “Christian fiction” shouldn’t be as narrow as it appears by going into a Christian book store. Many purposes exist that Christian fiction may serve. Some will be to reach and introduce to Christ. Some won’t.

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Jessica Thomas November 19, 2012 at 6:33 AM

Hmm. I’m not sure I’d compare the current state of U.S. politics with Christian fiction. Too many potentially nasty theological implications. Like…the Republican party altering their stance just to get elected. Should Christian fiction authors alter their stance on the Bible to appeal to more people? If so, how far is too far, and at what point do we water the message down so much that the message no longer holds power thus negating all our evangelical attempts.

Altering the “platform”, to me, is not an option for Christian fiction writers. Improving writing craft, depicting God’s qualities more poignantly, being real about human frailties and sin…these are all things we can do to potentially reach a broader audience. Even so,I think the evidence is in that the world (or at least this country) is increasingly going to turn away from the “Jesus is the only way” and “Truth is absolute” messages, and there is really nothing we can do as Christian writers to alter that tide.

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Mike Duran November 19, 2012 at 7:01 AM

Jessica, what is the Christian fiction platform that we shouldn’t alter? Because right now, our “base” reflects an incredible lack of diversity.

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Jon Mast November 19, 2012 at 7:47 AM

Mike — are you saying that we should change our values, or change our genres to expand our base? Because the two are very different IMO.

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Jessica Thomas November 19, 2012 at 8:23 AM

By platform, I mean the Bible. We shouldn’t alter its message just for the sake of gaining audience. In fiction, the Bible can be represented more obviously (as with much of current Christian fiction) or with more subtlety (as with some of the “edgier” Christian fiction), but I don’t think Christian writers should be blatantly gratuitous or heretical for the sake of being hip or universally accepted.

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Mike Duran November 19, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Jessica, I agree that “We shouldn’t alter [the Bible's] message just for the sake of gaining audience.” But the Bible’s message and the “message” of the average Christian fiction novel are two different things. I honestly can’t say I agree that the Christian industry’s platform is the Bible. If it is, it’s a pretty narrow version of it.

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Ryan November 19, 2012 at 10:24 AM

Although I am not totally familiar with the Christian industry’s version of the Bible’s message, the way is supposed to be a bit of a narrow gate according to Matthew 7:13 – “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

While there can be valuable messages that can help lead someone to Christ in writing containing vulgar language & other touchy topics, I do have some perhaps naive assumptions when I pull a book from the ‘Christian Fiction’ section. One such assumption is that the book will be suitable for my pre-teen daughter to read. Again, while there may be value in reaching an adult who has already experienced some of what the world has to offer, such material may not be appropriate/desired for kids.

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D.M. Dutcher November 19, 2012 at 10:36 AM

But it shouldn’t be. Why should adult fiction need to be okay for preteens? That’s what kids and YA fiction is for.

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Ryan November 19, 2012 at 10:42 AM

But we aren’t talking about “Adult Fiction” – it is “Christian Fiction” and I believe my daughter to be “Christian”…

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D.M. Dutcher November 19, 2012 at 11:33 AM

Well Christian fiction is split up into genres, and Christian Kids or YA fiction is what is written for preteens and is appropriate for them. Fiction targeted to adults should be for adults, dealing with mature themes; otherwise it leads to infantile books. That doesn’t mean they need to be explicit, but look at the difference between C.S. Lewis’s “That Hideous Strength” and his “Narnia” books for an example.

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Patrick Todoroff November 19, 2012 at 6:48 AM

wow. Like a mosquito at a nude beach, I’m not sure where to begin.

I sure as hell hope Christianity isn’t the same as being a Republican. Christianity is a spiritual, an eternal position, not a temporary political label. It’s an epic fail of perspective and proportion to bring faith down to that level.

Put aside for a moment the fact that a craft person – Christian or otherwise – is called to create quality work that is true to itself. Writing that is well-wrought is nearer to God than pious trash.

To assert that faith in fiction is marred by edgy content is a delusion of the highest order. Real life is far uglier than anything we can scribble down, yet God redeems people out of it. Despite it. Because of it. The notion that the presentation must be safe and sanitized before it can be effective is laughable. God coming as a man to our broken world to meet us at our wretched point of sin is exactly what Christianity is.

I submit that specific genres, specific markets, and specific mediums have their own inherent requirements. It would be ham-fisted and false to impose the requisites of one onto another. A novel isn’t a sermon. Neither is a painting, a sculpture, a symphony. They’re different animals altogether. You have to assess each one’s purpose, capabilities and goals.

I include what might be considered ‘edgy’ content out of a recognition and respect for the type of story I’m writing and the intended audience. As clumsy as my results as, I’m aiming for consistent not contrived material. I construct my stories, but I’m not out to manipulate my readers. Stealing from John Stott, we must cater to people’s integrity and not pander to their arrogance.

Of course I want to see others come to faith. Of course I strive to walk carefully and prayerfully before God in all my conduct. My writing has an implicit Christian worldview because that’s what I am. However, my writing isn’t for believers who want sanitized entertainment in the same way my glass work isn’t for people who like want butterfly suncatchers.

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Mike Duran November 19, 2012 at 7:18 AM

Great comment, Patrick! While I agree that “Christianity isn’t the same as being a Republican,” evangelical values voters, who typically vote Republican, are also the base / target market of the Christian fiction industry. This is the primary parallel I’m trying to highlight here.

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Patrick Todoroff November 19, 2012 at 10:08 AM

I get you. Now. My apologies – I caught “Christian/Republican” “edgy/sanitized”, etc, etc, and saw red.
I’ll go sit in Time Out now. My patience with the debate is wearing thin.

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Mike Duran November 19, 2012 at 10:14 AM

Hey, I haven’t written about the CF debate for a while and was itching to lob a few grenades. ;-)

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D.M. Dutcher November 19, 2012 at 7:49 AM

I think the analogy is getting in the way some. I wrote over on the Crossover Alliance that there’s a spectrum of edgy (and normal, for that) Christian fiction. On one end is Evangelical, which you embody in this post, and the other is Edifying, which the current Christian market is, to an extreme, self-censoring form.

People here are seizing on the danger to the Evangelist, neatly shown in the current dilemma of the Republican party: the jettisoning of aspects of the faith in order to be more palatable to a wider amount of people. But the Christian fiction market is so at the other extreme that it can be argued it’s even failing to edify many people; the Edifier’s problem is in always saying safe, comforting things and pandering to a small amount of people. Making sure the squeaky wheels get all the oil.

The Republicans can’t really take the advice to expand, but the Christian fiction market is farther inward than they are. They can expand without compromising the message itself just by not being so drastically self-censoring.

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Jill November 19, 2012 at 8:50 AM

I’m not sure why it’s Christian to be big government/anti-liberty/pro-war. As a long-time never-member of the Republican party, I can tell you the above is why I’m not Republican and did not vote for Romney (and really? the Repubs want to start a 3rd party? Aren’t they aware that we already have 3rd and 4th and 5th and 6th political parties?). To equate the Christian fiction industry to politics and liberty, I’d say the Christian publishing industry has every right to publish what they want and publish for whatever market they want. Liberty doesn’t confine itself to issues–it isn’t about any group’s rights. It’s about the individual’s right to smoke or grow or sell pot, and the individual’s right to be a homosexual and still be in possession of the same civil liberties as everybody else, and the individual business’s rights to make their own marketing decisions. If a business fails to meet customer demands, then it has the liberty to change or broaden its marketing plan. Under liberty, you have the right to start your own diversified publishing company, and if you’re a brilliant businessman, then you’ll be successful. Or, I suppose, under liberty, you could peddle your marketing plan (or wares) to the existing businesses and hope they bite.

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Katherine Coble November 19, 2012 at 8:54 AM

I guess you were more level headed than I.

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Mike Duran November 19, 2012 at 9:49 AM

Of course the Christian Fiction industry has the liberty to publish what they want. As I have the liberty to point out their narrow, un-diverse base, and the possible un-christianness of their worldview.

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Jill November 19, 2012 at 11:31 AM

Exactly. That’s why I didn’t tell you to stfu (aside from the fact that I consider you a friend, and that would have been rude :)). When people begin talking about a diversity or a lack thereof, it inevitably runs to discussions of group rights rather than individual rights. The Republican Party is way off course if it thinks a lack of diversity is its primary issue. And to equate that lack of diversity to the Christian fiction industry, which has found a way to target-market (specified market, rather than diversified market) in order to make money, seems to be missing the point. Christian publishing=free market. They’re in business to make money.

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Katherine Coble November 19, 2012 at 8:53 AM

Holy. Cats.

I swear to Bast I have no idea what to say first, or if I should even say anything at all.

First, just because your guy didn’t win doesn’t mean that Christianity is losing ground.

CHRISTIANITY AND EVANGELICAL RIGHT WING POLITICS ARE NOT THE EXACT SAME THING, FOR CRYING OUT FELINES!!!

A lot of “Evangelical Values Voters” voted for Obama (check out the “Republicans For Obama” page on Facebook, for instance), voted libertarian or stayed home. There ARE “Evangelical ValueS Voters” who consider issues in addition to Abortion On Demand when voting.

You say:
“Just as political conservatives were beholden to “principle” and duped by “the numbers,” ”

I’d like to make it clear right now, in case it wasn’t clear already, that EVERYONE I KNOW VOTED ON PRINCIPLE. Some of them voted for Romney. More of them voted for Obama, Johnson or a write-in.

How dare you. How.dare.you imply that only those who saw things your way, who went for your guy, are the ones who are the Good Churchy Christians while the rest of us are under the thrall of demon secularism!!!???

I don’t even know what kind of point you’re trying to make about Christian Fiction unless it’s that it doesn’t appeal to a mass market because it is to sociocentric to take the beliefs and feelings of those outside its narrow demographic into respectful account.

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Jessica Thomas November 19, 2012 at 9:32 AM

You just made me laugh out loud again. Holy cats…

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Mike Duran November 19, 2012 at 9:43 AM

Katherine, as I responded to Patrick, I don’t automatically equate Christianity w/ Republicanism either. However, the evangelical vote is more often associated w/ Republicans. As for voting on principle, I haven’t implied, nor do I believe, others don’t vote on principle. If you’ll follow some of the links you’ll see that that discussion (principle v. policy) is a big talking point among Repubs after the election. The point of this post is about the potential myopia both groups exhibit.

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Katherine Coble November 19, 2012 at 11:16 AM

I know it’s a big talking point, and I know you included it here so that you could “lob a few grenades”. But you are causing collateral damage, whether you acknowledge it or not.

You say ” I haven’t implied…others don’t vote on principle”

But you say straight up:

“However, the majority of “values voters,” the evangelical bloc typically aligned with political conservatism, see the legalization of marijuana, gay marriage, and a growing welfare class, as a clear drift away from biblical values.”

1. By calling the Evangelical Bloc “values voters” that by omission declares all who vote for other platforms are _not_ “values voters”.

2. I happen to believe VERY STRONGLY that the legalisation of marijuana, gay marriage and a growing welfare class are an underscoring of Biblical Values. I believe that we are called to help the sick and marijuana is a drug that does that very well. I believe that we are called to feed the hungry and while I don’t agree with welfare as the means to do that I cannot deny that it DOES feed hungry people until something better comes along. As for Gay Marriage I happen to believe that all people are created equal and deserve equal rights under the state. That is a reflection of my belief that God treasures all of us, died for all of us, loves all of us and that no one of us has the right to marginalise another because of a disagreement about lifestyle.

Each of those points is a reflection of my values and is why I voted the way I did.

You–and many other conservatives–are making the grave mistake that if the politics aren’t conservative the faith is not there. Yet time and again I have people coming to me as a longtime Mennonite, espousing the Mennonite point of view that Christianity and Politics are separate things. So many commentators have talked about how the Culture War has cost Christianity, and so many Christians are retreating from that nonsensical frontline of Merry Christmas /Marry Straight and heading back into their witness, which is our calling from Christ.

Like it or not, this post underscores the position that Conservative Values=Christianity and Liberal Values=Secularism and Libertarians=Crackpots.

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Jill November 19, 2012 at 11:35 AM

Oh, yeah, I’m a crackpot, and don’t you forget it.

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Mike Duran November 19, 2012 at 5:23 PM

The 2012 Values Voters Summit” is a perfect representative slice of what I’m referring to as “values voters.” They’re largely 1.) Evangelical, 2.) Republican, and 3.) Socially conservative. Once again, I haven’t implied and don’t believe that others don’t vote on principle.

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DD November 20, 2012 at 6:43 PM

Libertarians and their non-interference of government principles are an extension of conservatism. Obviously, some take it further than conservatives would. However, some well-known libertarians, like John Stossel and Glenn Beck, generally vote Republican. Further evidence that labels like “Republican” and “Democrat” aren’t always that useful.

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jed November 19, 2012 at 1:12 PM

In which C.S. Lewis sheds some light on “Christian Parties” and describes (3) of his christian brothers: Philarchus, Stativus, and Sparticus.

http://web.mit.edu/bcf/www/BSJ97/cslewis.html

Written in 1941, it sounds eerily similar to the back-and-forth which has become the status quo in the threads on Mike’s blog.

Can you (anyone) identify yourself in Lewis’ descriptions?

http://web.mit.edu/bcf/www/BSJ97/cslewis.html

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Katherine Coble November 19, 2012 at 2:59 PM

Of course we can, Joel.

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Ryan November 19, 2012 at 9:01 AM

What exactly is “Christian Fiction” defined as? In some sense the term is a bit of an oxymoron isn’t it? I don’t mean to criticize or say the genre has no value, rather, I am just curious as to how you define the genre itself. Being clear on the definition and goal of what you are trying to do is, in my mind at least, key to answering the question on what it should and should not contain.

If the goal is purely to entertain and appeal to the largest audience possible, then dropping the ‘Christian’ portion off the name is probably the best bet. Labeling something as ‘Christian’ probably will turn more people off than the lack of vulgar language or other negative mainstream elements ever will.

Personally, I think that there is definitely a place and value for writing that weaves together a story that reenforces Christian values. Writing about someone who is initially a non-believer who engages in some non-Christian language and activities, but finds the path to Jesus and repents of his sin would fit in my personal definition of ‘Christian Fiction’. Bending (or ignoring) the teachings of the Bible by saying these things are ‘ok’ and conforming to what the masses apparently want would definitely fit into the run-of-the-mill ‘Fiction’ genre.

Your parallel between the political parties and Christianity is very interesting and seems to ring all too true at this point in time. The political parties are definitely in ‘compromise’ mode with each trying to appeal to the largest segment on the various issues. Soon the party lines will be indistinguishable – at least as far as Biblical principals are concerned. My hope is ‘Christian Fiction’ will not follow the same path and rather maintain a level of integrity and uncompromising morals that a genre bearing that title should have.

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Mike Duran November 19, 2012 at 9:59 AM

Ryan, I would define Christian Fiction different than it’s currently represented. If the absence of language, sex, drinking, moral ambiguity, etc. is what makes our stories “Christian,” then I think we’re really missing the mark.

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Patrick Todoroff November 19, 2012 at 10:12 AM

amen.

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Fred Warren November 19, 2012 at 11:29 AM

“It is the mother of all niches — white middle-aged moms…why try to reach a different demographic when the existing one is fat and happy?”

You’re a braver man than I am, Gunga Din.

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Mike Duran November 19, 2012 at 5:25 PM

Well, when you put them together like that it doesn’t sound very nice, does it.

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Joel Q November 19, 2012 at 3:47 PM

Romney was the Republican version of John Kerry, the wrong candidate in a winnable election. It was only a 4% difference.

If you continue with the stated comparison, and that 4%, I’d say Christian Spec Fiction is going to be OK. I’d hope that writers become better writers and story tellers as they continue to present these kinds of stories. I’m sure e-books will have a postive impact on the future of CSF. It is niche, but if a few books can hit some Top Ten and other lists, this will help the other writers and genre. (Just as I’d guess Fifty Shades has opened up erotic genre to some folks.)
As far as what should or should not be in CSF… I look at D Koontz , he has a limited amount of gore, sex, language, etc. in his mainstream horror/fantasy/whatever novels. If done well, you don’t need that in there. Then again, the Bible is filled with that stuff, it’s just not glorified.

JQ

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DD November 20, 2012 at 6:29 PM

There’s a lot that could be unpacked here, but I’ll focus on this: Long ago, Christian publishers realized there was huge potential in the niche Christian fiction market. This was largely driven by Christians looking for an alternative to secular fiction (not that all Christians read only Christian fiction, but some do). Not all Christian authors write for a particular market, so are their books’ potential being under-realized? Sure, as long as the publishers fail to see that those books have a wider niche than one demographic. Nor does appealing to that wider market necessarily mean the insertion of items that Christians rather not have in their books. The novels of two of Christianity’s most famed writers – Lewis and Tolkien – are not full of sex or obscenities. Nor are they published by Christian publishers and are usually not found in the Christian fiction section.

So this is not about changing the values put into books by Christian writers, it’s about changing the current narrow definition of Christian fiction. Sure, stories about Amish and those that are full of Bible quotations (not that there is anything wrong with these) won’t play well outside of the niche, but not all Christian authors write about those things. Many simply allow their worldview inform their storytelling, which doesn’t necessitate conformance to any particular model. To them, they are simply writing fiction for everyone. This is not any different from other authors of other beliefs. The difference is that their books aren’t cataloged by their religion.

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Bryon Quertermous November 21, 2012 at 6:41 AM

This is such a great post. I think a lot of the people focusing on just adding sex and cursing are missing the bigger point. What’s missing more than anything in most of the Christian fiction out there is quality. So much focus is placed on getting the message through that things like character development, dialogue, and plotting are ignored and most Christian readers don’t seem to mind.

There is also a serious lack of genuine curiosity and examination of faith in most Christian fiction. All of the Christians I’ve known in real life have questioned there faith seriously at some point in their life and many have turned away from God for a time, but try to address this realistically in a Christian novel and you’ll be shot down as a heretic. One of the biggest problems with evangelical Christianity these days is an increasing isolation from the real world. They all send their kids to Christian schools, and read Christian books, and watch Christian movies, and vote for whoever their pastor tells them to and then sit back and judge the rest of the world and wonder why their cultural influence is diminishing.

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