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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Characterizing The Female of the Species

As Christian writers, we often lose touch with the real state of the world in which we live. A continued observance of mine is that real sin and real life challenges are not present in Christian fiction--not in any meaningful way. Many friends no longer read Christian novels because they do not speak to today's Christian woman, nor today's Christian. They focus on a narrow sliver of the book-buying market because it's less of a risk. This leaves the rest of us craving for a heroine that has her wits about her--and demonstrates it; who isn't afraid to get a little stink on her when witnessing to a drunk; who doesn't back down from today's social issues. You don't see this in Christian novels.

It's not there.

What we get is a gaggle of sickening-sweet female characters with no more idea how do pray with a drug-addicted mom than she can fly under her own power. But she is entertaining. You, me, each of us are placed here in this period of time to minister to this generation--for such a time as this. If God wanted us living in the 1950's, He would have placed us there. We can't live blissfully unaware of how deeply sin permeates the world.

Our novels reflect an abject refusal to minister to this generation.

Our novels do not reflect child abuse, drunkenness, drug addiction, infidelity, incest, spiritual warfare, intercessory prayer or sacrificial living. They do not reflect the power of God to heal, restore, transform, and regenerate the most diseased soul. They do not reflect God as Almighty, God of the Angel Armies, Jehovah-jireh, King of kings, Lord of lords. The God that still works miracles on a daily basis. But He is portrayed as very nice.

Christian novels do reflect the overwhelming focus on the buck (rather than evangelism nor even accurate Biblical information). Here's an example: In the secular market, vampire books are all the rage. So, hey, let's write Christian vampire novels. Right. Christian and vampire, they belong in the same sentence. Not. Yet many novelists (who also claim Christianity) will convince themselves that "God gave me this story" and that somehow everyone is supposed to overlook a book steeped in satanic imagery. We're not supposed to see it for what it is: a travesty. There's nothing Christian about such books. But, they are entertaining.

How can we, as Christian writers, speak to this generation? Begin first by creating real characters. I say this specifically of females in Christian novels. I've worked with women of God who put the devil to his heels as a matter of course. Who are not afraid to perspire in prayer; not afraid to get wrap their arms around a homeless person and welcome them in the church; not afraid to get a little dirt on them. We need characters with grit, tenacity, and meat to their substance. Women who know God and how to pray. When Christian writers start crafting relevant messages to this generation, then I will start reading Christian fiction again.

Until then, I'll stick with the Bible.

It has strong women, not afraid to risk public condemnation, not afraid to lead appropriately, not afraid to stand on God's word no matter what. Ever heard of Deborah? Abigail? Phoebe? Rahab? Ruth? Mary Magdalene? Women with some meat to their character.

What else of human nature is in the Bible? Rape, incest, murder, drunkenness, greed, deceit, stealing, adultery, lying, corrupt governments, oppression of lower classes, wickedness at every level. If God set the standard to face life issues head-on, why then aren't we following suit? Why aren't we writing to our generation? Many use the pat answer that the business end of the writing world gives: no market. I'd like to make a correction to that statement: No tapped market. I'm here and I'd like to see such books, many of my friends who no longer read Christian novels feel the same way.

We're here. We're untapped. We're waiting.


Robin Shope said...

You have given us a lot to think about. I love your passion. The Christian world with their books are just starting to move in this direction recently. Hopefully over the years, we will read more passionate writings as you describe. Times are a changing.

~michelle pendergrass said...

I had no clue you were out here saying the same things I've been saying!

Thanks to Dee Stewart for retweeting the link to your blog otherwise I'd have never read this beautifully truthful post!!

Makasha Dorsey said...

I agree with your post completely. However, until CBA lightens up a little Christian authors will continue to water down their characters and the issues they face.

Zaria Garrison said...

I am a Christian writer and I write those things. However I totally agree with Makasha.

It's not that writers can't/won't write these things. It's the CBA doesn't want them to be published.

Those of who do, seek alternate publishers who do not bow down to CBA guidelines.

I invite you to read Urban Christian fictions line of books.

Jane said...

I have to say that Francine Rivers has written books that deal with some of those "life issues" and her books sell! Another writer is Jan Karon, who tackled such topics as drug addiction, drunkenness, a woman selling her children to support her addiction, abused children - just to mention a few such topics and I salute those authors who knows life isn't always saccharine sweet. Most of us either have family members who have tasted the bitter side of life, or knows someone who has, and they want to read about a Heavenly Father who sent his son to minister to such as they. Jesus told the Pharisees that he came to heal the sick, not to hang with the healthy. Paul wrote that "such were some of you, but you've been cleansed." We need to write - and read - about a God who can heal the broken, and cleanse those whose lives have been in the dumpster of life.

Cudos to you Debbi - you put it most succiently!

dupe olorunjo said...

Point taken

Janice Ellen Wright (janny226 on Twitter) said...

I came to your blog for the shoe :) but this is a fabulously interesting post. Thanks.

xiaraisathome said...

I too came here to see "the shoes" and was pleasantly surprised to find your interesting & inspiring blog site. I am looking forward to reading more. Tahnk you for posting it and for grabbing my attention spiritually. Oh, and by the way, the shoes are great :o)

moro said...

I am not kristian and I want to read your writing

A_Heart_Like_Mine said...

Good stuff, Debbi! I cringe at the milky stuff out there. And I am always disappointed to read Christian genre books without the tenacity of the Word. We shall press on!

Jackie Houchin said...

You sound like just my kind of author, Bible teacher and person. I'm looking up your books now...

Deb Willbethin said...

Wooo Hooo! Preach it, sister! Thank you for your courage. It's a rare gift. As a counselor to women who were sexually abused as children & women who have had abortions--I have seen evil & its sequelae. And I have seen the glorious redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Not in Christian novels, of course, just in real life.
I'm going to look for your stuff. Mysteries are my favorite read. Thanks, again! Deb

mari mayborn said...

I am a Christian woman who has gravitated toward biographies about women who have endured real difficulties in life. Women have the potential to show amazing compassion and strength in the most desperate situations. I love the thrill of reading about them. I also love seeing God's redemption of this gritty world and, like you, have searched in Christian fiction and found it a little thin in this area.

I recently read Mary DeMuth's Daisy Chain and Slow Burn. Not thin on the tough issues of life by any means!

Nikole Hahn said...

I like books with grit and with a good message like Sigmund Brouwer, "Out of the Shadows." Though I have to say I am disappointed in his book, "Broken Angel." I think there needs to be a happy medium between cba guidelines and the real world. I don't think we should celebrate drunkenness, but I don't think we should avoid talking about it. It's a problem. Life is messy. People make bad decisions. The real and powerful testimony is when someone leaves their life of sin by the dawning of their new relationship with Christ to lead a better life. That is a great testimony, but no one will publish anything too dark.

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