Wednesday, 15 February 2012

How Much is Too Much in Christian Fiction?

I was browsing through the Amazon discussions, and someone asked me, as a reviewer of Christian fiction, “Is it important from the perspective of a Christian reviewer to have generally wholesome content, as well? How far does that extend? How much un-Christian behavior do you think is too much?”

My answer:

In my opinion... in real life, I expect Christians to hold to a Christian standard of behaviour. Yes, we all fail at times, but it is important to understand where we have failed, to express remorse and sorrow, and to attempt to make things right and not make the same mistake again (in Christianese, to repent and sin no more). But it would be unrealistic and unreasonable of me to hold non-Christians to those same standards.

For example, in New Zealand (where I live), prostitution is legal. It is legal to be a prostitute, to purchase the services of a prostitute, and to advertise your services as a prostitute (usually in the entertainment section, between the Garfield cartoon and the movie listings, which makes them hard to miss).

 I think the Bible is pretty clear in saying that engaging in prostitution (as the prostitute or the paying customer) is wrong, but it is not my place to judge someone for providing or using a perfectly legal service, no matter how unhealthy/undesirable I might consider it - if they are a non-Christian, because I can and should extend grace to that person. If that person claims to be a Christian, then a different standard applies. A married Christian man using prostitutes is committing adultery, and that is against God's law.

It's the same in Christian fiction.  I am more forgiving of unchristian behaviour from a non-Christian character, particularly as the plot often focuses on that character's journey towards becoming a Christian. But I don't need the details. You can tell me that he swore without telling me each word. You can have a murder or a rape scene or a sex scene without the graphic details (I'm married. I know what goes where). However, if Christian characters are sinning, there should be some remorse, some acknowledgement that this is outside God's law.

So I don't think it's so much a question of 'how much' unchristian behaviour as how it is presented, and whether there is remorse, repentance and a move to a growing understanding of or relationship with God.

I would also add that some readers of Christian fiction don't want any of this 'unwholesome' or 'edgy' behaviour in their books, and that is their right. As paying consumers, we all have a right to choose to give our money to those authors we like best.

What do you think?

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