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The Myopic Christian Reader

my·o·pi·a  (mp)n.

1. A visual defect in which distant objects appear blurred; nearsightedness. Also called short sight.

2. Lack of discernment or long-range perspective in thinking or planning.

It is startling how many Christians read only Christian literature. Their defense for this discipline is varied but it usually goes something like this: “The world tears us down and glorifies evil. Christians are called to be separate from the world, discerning, to renew their minds and focus on the things of God. Therefore, reading literature that glorifies God and reinforces a Christian worldview is essential for a believer.”

There’s a lot of truth to this. And some potential deception.

Prolific blogger Tim Challies recently posted some reasons Why Christians Should Read in the Mainstream. His entire post is worth reading. Here’s a snippet from the intro:

Christians read a lot of books. This is a good thing. Christians read a lot of Christian books. This is another good thing. But it’s also an easy thing, a safe thing. Though I am glad to see many Christians reading many books, I believe there is value in reading not only deeply but also widely. And this means that Christians should read more than just Christian books—we should read books that are in the cultural mainstream. (emphasis mine)

From my experience, most avid readers of Christian fiction are out of touch with the cultural mainstream. They can cite chapter of verse of the best CBA offerings, while casting a wan, if not suspicious, eye upon the NYT Bestseller list. Their literary world is more like a bunker than a bustling marketplace.

If this is true — that many believers subscribe to a “Christian only” dictum regarding cultural artifacts — there are many possible reasons for it.  I’ve come to believe that much of our reaction comes down to Challies’ second point: Cultural Engagement.

If you want to understand the people around you, why they are the way they are, what influences them, why they make the decisions they do, you will do well to read the books they read. These books explain the ideas; the people live the ideas.

Frankly, I’m not sure that “understanding the people around us” is the primary motivation for why most Christians read. In my opinion, the average Christian fiction reader chooses stories not to engage culture, but to distance themselves from it. We seek books that will bolster our worldview, not challenge it, books that will help us escape the world, rather than engage it.

James Sire, in his fantastic book Discipleship of the Mind, said this about reading mainstream literature:

The best literature makes us feel what it would be like to hold other views of the world. It helps us get inside mindsets very different from our own.

But if you think about it, this is the precise reason why defenders of a “Christian only” model resist reading widely. They want to avoid “get[ting] inside mindsets very different from [their] own.” In fact, they believe that engaging other mindsets may taint theirs.

At the heart of this “Christian only” phenomenon is a flawed view of what it means to be “in the world but not of it.” Those who read only Christian literature inevitably develop a skewed perspective, not just of the world, but of God’s desire for His children in it.

It makes me wonder whether or not what we call discernment is really myopia.

Your thoughts?

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{ 41 comments… add one }
  • Katherine Coble April 6, 2011, 5:49 AM

    I take “Go ye into all the world” pretty seriously.

    My years of growing up in a close-knit community of Christians and working in the CBA leave me convinced that those who seek to read only “Christian books” are forcing themselves to remain buried, like the talent in the parable. I understand wanting to escape into a place that seems safe and nonthreatening; I have to do that from time to time to maintain my sanity. But if I never explore other world views I can’t readily do as instructed…I can’t go into the world if I’m in constant retreat from it.

    I believe in the Trinity; in doing so I believe in the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s role in comforting and guiding me. Whenever I read ANYTHING I do so prayerfully and with the spirit. I get a lot of enlightenment about this world and the people in it. I have assumed all along that was how we were supposed to do things.

    Jesus didn’t spend all of his time hanging out in the temple, debating the rabbis. I cant see how I can justify spending all my time in a monocultural safe zone.

    • Mike Duran April 6, 2011, 6:09 AM

      “…if I never explore other world views I can’t readily do as instructed…I can’t go into the world if I’m in constant retreat from it. ”

      Thank you for bringing up the Great Commission, Katherine. It does make one wonder how, if at all, fulfilling that Commission relates to our reading. Or writing. Maybe some would say it doesn’t. While writing this post, I kept going back to the apostle Paul on Mars Hill (Acts 17) quoting from the pagan poet. That illustration has become rather overused, but I still think it is a great example of how understanding the cultural mainstream is important in the scope of things. Thanks so much for your insightful comments, Katherine!

  • Morgan Busse April 6, 2011, 6:03 AM

    Interesting. Discernment for me means that I understand what I’m reading (or watching, or playing). I’m not ignorant to the message the author/screenwriter/gamewriter is trying to send. But that doesn’t stop me. In fact, as you pointed out, it helps me see what other people believe out there.

    On the other hand, there are just some things I don’t want lodged into my brain: mainly erotica, excessive swearing, or extreme violence. That’s where I draw the line for myself.

  • Jay April 6, 2011, 6:09 AM

    Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael were captured and brought into Babylon, given overtly pagan names, and were taught about and ruled Babylonian society — and some modern Christians are scared of reading the word “fuck” in a story. Do some of us still lack confidence in God’s power and sovereignty that we think that the “unclean” things still have their hooks?

    If anything, reading Christians absolutely need to read outside the ghetto. For young Christians, the “Christian only” rule is fine for a season, but we need to be progressing toward eating meat instead of surviving on milk alone. I think this is true for any genre of book — not just fiction.

    • Mike Duran April 6, 2011, 6:32 AM

      “…we need to be progressing toward eating meat instead of surviving on milk alone.”

      Jay, the Bible verses you refer to (Hebrews 5 and 6) are hugely important to this issue. The writer assumes that Christians should advance to more complex modes of thinking and being. Milk — that which is less complex and more digestible — is necessary “for a season.” The problem is when Christians, who should be moving on to “meat,” remain on the “milk.” While I don’t believe all Christians who read only Christian lit are guilty of spiritual stasis, I believe that many are. Appreciate your comments (despite the F-bomb!).

      • Jay April 6, 2011, 6:55 AM

        I quoted an f-bombed sentence in a comment for a Christianish blog a few years ago. Someone responded that they hope I don’t talk to my children like that. I said of course not, but that writer might.

  • Nicole April 6, 2011, 6:50 AM

    Mike, I would agree with part of your post, not all. For any Christians who sequester themselves in order not to be “tainted” by the world, they’ve missed the message. For those of us who experienced the world in many of its decadent ways or for those returning from their prodigal escapades, I don’t advise indulging various things of the world until they’re seen for what they truly are.

    Cultural relevance is a smokescreen for playing nice with sin. I’m not equating all cultural interplay with sin here, but I’m saying some Christians don’t get where to draw the line in their engagements. There’s a lot of justification goin’ on out there for things, attitudes, practices which are clearly not of God.

    I think it’s an individual choice made from sometimes myopic and non-discerning points of view. There can be certain prejudices and unbiblical reasons behind these choices, no doubt.

    Books, film, music–all powerful mediums to express worldviews. All requiring discernment and making choices. Some choices work great for some Christians and not so much for others. The statement “Those who read only Christian literature inevitably develop a skewed perspective, not just of the world, but of God’s desire for His children in it.” is a rather bold blanket statement that can’t be validated in reality.

    • Mike Duran April 6, 2011, 6:51 PM

      “The statement ‘Those who read only Christian literature inevitably develop a skewed perspective, not just of the world, but of God’s desire for His children in it.’ is a rather bold blanket statement that can’t be validated in reality.”

      I’d stand by that statement, Nicole. In the context of this post I would be referring to Christians who read only Christian literature as a means of retreat and disengagement from the world.

  • Eric April 6, 2011, 7:26 AM

    You mention Mars Hill above. Interestingly, Paul quoted from the exact same pagan poet again while writing to Titus (1:12-13). Clearly (1) Paul had more than a nodding acquaintance with the works of Epimenides, and thus (2) Not only does reading non-Christian literature have apostolic sanction, a quotation from non-Christian literature actually became part of the Christian Bible.

    So, the answer to the question “Should we avoid books that may contain a non-Christian worldview” is “Only if we want to try to be holier than St. Paul and purer than the Bible!”

    In a supremely ironic twist, Epimenides’ hymn to Zeus has even been made into a praise and worship chorus. “In him we live (clap, clap) and move (clap, clap) and have our being…” (An entertaining article about that here: link)

    There are also some rather stern things to be said to people whose conception of the Christian faith is that it is so weak it could not possibly survive the mere knowledge of the way other people see the world, but I’m already feeling a bit dour this morning so I’ll demur.

  • Tim George April 6, 2011, 7:55 AM

    Mike, I like the way you tend to play the devil’s advocate so perhaps you will appreciate me being a bit of a devil’s advocate to the devil’s advocate.

    Personally I haven’t done a scientific poll of enough Christians to know why they all do or do not read general fiction. But I will offer my anecdotal guesses based on my own reading pilgrimage. The truth is, most Christians aren’t nearly so shielded from the “real” world as their reading habits might indicate. Here is just one example of a lady in our church who won’t even read Christian suspense much less general market. Is she a shielded person? Not hardly. She works for the local sheriff’s office and spends 10 hours a days with some really despicable people. Her duties involve coming into continual contact with abusers and pedophiles. So why does she read Buggies and Bonnets (trust me I don’t)? Her reason is simple, she unapologetically reads to escape. If anything, she reads what she does to try and bring some much-needed balance into her world so stained by evil.

    My point is this: there is no categorical reason some people refuse to read anything but Christian fiction. Some choose that path for the very reasons you have offered. Others have very different agendas. Some don’t even have agenda. They just know what they like to read and so that is what they read.

    • Mike Duran April 6, 2011, 9:43 AM

      This is a great point, Tim, and one I’ll totally concede. However, even the Christian reader in your example is reading Christian fiction for a specific reason… one that is shared by many other Christian readers. So I think there are fairly limited “categorical reasons” why a person would choose to read only Christian books. BTW, Tim, you play a great devil’s advocate.

      • Tim George April 6, 2011, 10:01 AM

        I do my best 😀

        My example is not different than most people who read general market fiction. They read to escape. A few live up to their talk about intellectual pursuit but, under the skin, people who read any kind of fiction do so to escape to a place other than where they are. The trick is to make them think about some things in a new or challenging way while still enjoying the ride.

        • Mike Duran April 6, 2011, 11:34 AM

          Tim, I don’t agree that Christians and non-christians read for basically the same reasons. Believers tend to bring an entirely different set of expectations with them.

          • Tim George April 6, 2011, 11:41 AM

            So how would you contrast the expectations of unbelievers and believers when it comes to stories?

            • Mike Duran April 6, 2011, 7:00 PM

              Christians not only use their worldview as a means to discern the Truth of the tale — something I’m not sure unbelievers consciously do– but Christians expect certain things to show up and not show up in their stories… or why else would those stories be called “Christian”? Once again, the secular reader has no such content expectation.

              I would turn the tables on you by asking, “What’s the difference between Christian escapism and secular escapism?” The answer to that would be my retort to your initial objection: There ARE “categorical reasons” why some people refuse to read anything but Christian fiction.

  • Jill April 6, 2011, 10:18 AM

    Do you actually know anybody like this? I can’t say that I do. It seems like a black and white perspective of people. If I want to get into black and whites, I would say that the world is composed of those who read and those who don’t. I have a friend who snootily tells me she’s too busy to read anything but the Bible. The truth is she doesn’t enjoy reading. Of course there are those who truly are very busy, and simply limit what they read because of a lack of time. I suspect they will be highly selective, picking their favorite types of book, whether it be mystery, romance, or offerings from the CBA.

    I’m sure there are people like the ones you describe. I just wonder where they are–surely they aren’t a majority of Christian readers. In fact, I know they aren’t. It’s difficult for Christians to separate themselves from worldly media, even if they want to. Most don’t. We may hear about the loud ones, the ones crying out against the latest evil (Harry Potter or what have you). But they’re loud, and that’s all.

    Oh, and one last point. I would hope you’re not advocating that Christians should violate their consciences in any way. I read anything and everything and then stop to consider whether I might be filling my mind with utter trash.

    • Mike Duran April 6, 2011, 10:57 AM

      “Do you actually know anybody like this?” Oh yes! Many people. As for me suggesting that Christians violate their conscience to read widely, I hope you’d know I’m not. But as I’ve suggested elsewhere, Christians can sometimes become “professional” at being offended. Violated consciences often have as much to do with Christians not growing up, as staying pure.

    • Katherine Coble April 6, 2011, 11:21 AM

      I would have thought he was making this up to prove a point that didn’t need proving.

      Except that I know ::pauses to count:: 34 people like this. I’ve known them all my life through church and school and then I married a man whose family is like this too. (TruFactecdote: my husband never ate Pizza Hut until he was 19 and away at college. Pizza Hut sold beer, you see.)

      My widowed MIL lives with her never-married sister. Together they go through a dozen CBA romances a month. When they aren’t reading only books that come from Christianbook.com they are crocheting afghans for the local nursing home while watching reruns of Little House. That and the evening news are all the tv they watch. If they watched more, like my SIL’s family, they would use that box which bleeps out all the naughty words.

      This sort of lifestyle is very common both in the Midwest, where I’m from and in Pennsylvania, where husband is from.

      • Jill April 6, 2011, 1:10 PM

        You two must know a different set than I do. Sure, I know all kinds of Christians who have messed up ideas of right and wrong–they won’t drink or smoke, and pretend that Christ didn’t drink wine, either, but that’s where they draw the line. They watch all the TV and movies they want, read what they want, etc. Those would be the majority in every church I’ve attended. I will admit I’ve never lived in the Midwest or the East–CA, OR, NM.

        I’m a little more particular than most in how I live my life and raise my children, which means that other Christians are usually offended by my choices. But I make my choices because I’ve experienced the occult world firsthand and have lived around drug-users and all kinds of other people w/ alternative lifestyles. I know when worldly media is lying to me.

        Media is very powerful, indeed. It would be a lot better if Christians were trained to have wisdom rather than encouraged to read something they won’t be able to handle. Those people who knit afghans and watch Little House–I’m not going to make any blanket statements about them (no pun intended)–but if they are ignoring the world around them because they can’t cope with it, then recommending they read worldly books is not the answer. They need spiritual maturity long before they need anything else.

        • Mike Duran April 6, 2011, 7:09 PM

          “It would be a lot better if Christians were trained to have wisdom rather than encouraged to read something they won’t be able to handle. “

          Once again, Jill, I hope you understand I’m not suggesting that a young Christian reads something they won’t be able to handle, but that they strive to mature so that they can “handle” more. Thanks for commenting!

  • Deborah April 6, 2011, 10:27 AM

    One thing about those who limit themselves to ONLY Christian fiction. The lack of diversity in books. And then the stereotyping of those who are Person of Color characters. I’m not saying that this is always portrayed but in a good deal amount of the Christian fiction that I read (and I read a lot…last year I read 625 books and about 230 were CF) the characters are usually white and stereotypes are usually prevalent. And unfortunately most readers of only this type of fiction tend to live like this and share this viewpoint in their real life as well.

  • Mark April 6, 2011, 10:37 AM

    I used to read almost nothing but Christian fiction, mainly because the amount of fiction out there was scary and I didn’t know where to start. Now I read hardly any Christian fiction. It had more to do with tastes and getting some good recommendations than anything else. I’d love to read more Christian fiction if I had the time for it. I just don’t have enough time to read all I want while also watching the TV shows I want to watch and all the running I need to do.

    Even when I was reading nothing but Christian fiction, I was still watching TV and movies. Definitely wasn’t sheltered from the world. And I’d say those are a better reflection of the culture than books since more people see them than read. (Then again, I still don’t read many best sellers.)

    However, I am still very sheltered in my music. I listen to Christian music almost exclusively. For me, music creates a response of worship, and I found it rather disturbing to be feeling similar things from non-Christian songs, so I went back to the “ghetto.” And I won’t apologize for it, either.

  • Guy Stewart April 6, 2011, 12:02 PM

    Whoa! Touched a raw nerve, methinks. (Or should I say ANOTHER raw nerve?) Question — NOT to play devil’s advocate — IF this bothers you, then why contribute to the phenomenon? I have no doubt you’ve written and been published in venues outside the CBA/Christian Fiction Field — why did you come back to the CBA to publish your first novel?

    No criticism intended — I’m just curious…I know, I know, I was critical before, but I’ve been redeemed…;-)

    • Mike Duran April 6, 2011, 2:12 PM

      Fair question, Guy. This post is not intended as a critique of Christian fiction, but as a critique of Christian readers. I did not write my book with only Christians in mind and would be sad if only Christians read it. I don’t think it’s the Christian fiction industry that necessarily produces a “Christian only” mentality, but an outlook about the world that exists within contemporary evangelicalism.

      • Guy Stewart April 7, 2011, 7:56 AM

        I think that would be sad, too. I liked it a lot. But I found it stashed in the CHRISTIAN FICTION section at B&N rather than in the SF/F/H/Myst. I know you have no control over that, but clearly someone who does categorized it that way. Would it have happened if your book had come out under the NIGHTSHADE, ORBIT or ARKHAM HOUSE? Would Christians have picked it up if had been in that part of the store? Would non-Christians even FIND it in the Christian Fiction section? I don’t know…I’m just thinking out loud. (BTW — ever read David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyon’s UNCHRISTIAN? The Barna Group obliquely looks at the “evangelical phenomenon” and might shed some light on our reaction to Christian music, fiction, inspiration, TV, etc…

        • Katherine Coble April 7, 2011, 8:01 AM

          I just read the book last night (my review is up on Goodreads).

          I would’ve been mightily ticked off if I found Mike’s book shelved with mainstream fiction. While a fun read, it is clearly Christian reading.

          • Sally Apokedak April 7, 2011, 10:26 AM

            What in the world is Christian reading and why is it so offensive that it doesn’t belong with the Mormon reading, the Jewish reading, the Hindu reading, the Atheist reading, and the Humanist reading.

            Why would you be ticked to find a book with Christian characters and themes in mainstream fiction? We can’t be in the mainstream? In the marketplace? In the world?

            I’m missing something here.

            • Katherine Coble April 7, 2011, 11:02 AM

              I went into more detail at my place about the difference, but I’ll clarify here as well.

              I read A LOT. And I read a lot of books by Christians which are published in the mainstream. In those books story is first, doctrine and agenda are subtle.

              CBA books, however, seem to need to be very upfront with doctrine and agenda. In a CBA book (yes, I read these too, but not as often) the doctrine and agenda are at least tied with story–if they don’t supersede it. I am convinced that this is because publishers in the CBA know their market, and that market wants long descriptions of prayer, sermons, and Bible discussion.

              When you read a novel like Mike’s, which is a step or two above the likes of Karen Kingsbury but still is heavy with doctrine, prayer, etc, it’s good to know going into it that you’ll be getting what you’re getting.

              I’m ticked off whenever a book is mis-represented by the seller. A not-so-recent example would be the sequel to Meg Cabot’s _All American Girl_ which came out years ago. I was expecting a fun, light Young Adult read, which is how it was shelved and sold. Instead I got a longwinded treatise on why (and HOW!?!) young girls should masturbate, along with a lot of cheerleading for premarital sex. Needless to say I was appalled by the marketing.

              I read titles from members of all faiths,and to my recollection none of them are comparable to a CBA book in the detailed exposition of religion.

              • Sally Apokedak April 7, 2011, 3:03 PM

                I haven’t read Mike’s yet so I’ll refrain from commenting on it.

                But I’m confused. Where do you think the masturbation and premarital sex novels should be shelved if not in mainstream? Where should all the gay lit be shelves? Where should the green novels and the vegan novels and the anti-Christian novels be shelved? Right now they all go in one big pile. It’s only the Christian novels that get pulled aside.

                I’m not sure what you’re saying. Do you want sections in the bookstore for all these subsets?

                If you’d like some titles of books that are preachy and are not Christian, let me know. I’ll give you a list. They are all over the place.

                I’ll go over and read your blog now.

  • Sally Apokedak April 6, 2011, 1:09 PM

    I’m in favor of reading general market books. And yet, I don’t think I need to take twenty hours out of my life to read all the Twilight books to know why girls, and their mothers, in our culture are eating them up.

    When I read a general market book, it’s not for the reasons given in the Challies’ quotes above. I don’t read the books the world is reading to see what the world believes. I know what the world believes.

    I don’t even read most of the books the world loves.

    What I try to read are books by brilliant authors regardless of their religious or political beliefs. I don’t care about which book is the latest rage. If I had to immerse myself in youth culture to write YA books, I’d be stuck listening to death metal all day. And I’d commit suicide, probably. I hate that music. I doubt I’d like the “werewolf nookie” books any better.

    I don’t think I need to read books loved by teen girls who don’t even know themselves, in order to know teen girls. But I love reading authors of any faith who are discerning students of human nature. I loved Screwtape because it so clearly painted human nature.

    I loved the Anne books because Montgomery saw into the minds and hearts of her characters. When I read the Anne books, I learned about human nature. Teen culture will change from year to year—my teen culture is quite different from my daughter’s. But what remains the same is human nature. My children love sin for the same reason I loved sin. My children long to be loved and to feel significant the same way I longed to be loved and to feel significant.

    So I want to read books that open up human nature to me, not books that are loved by lots of people. If I spent twenty hours on the Twilight books I’m not convinced I’d learn anything at all about human nature beyond what I already know: A lot of us are silly and we like silly books that appeal to our desire to be worshiped by a dangerous bad boy. heh heh

    • Katherine Coble April 6, 2011, 1:16 PM

      Sally,

      In my quest to read so I know the world I, too, have passed right on by Twilight, Eat Pray Love, and other things I don’t care to spend valuable, precious, limited time on.

      I did TRY to read Twilight in order to please a friend. I only made it to chapter 6. It’s poorly written, inconsistent and female-pornographic. (That’s when the emotional longing is ratcheted up, as emotional longing is to women what actual intercourse is to men.)

      I think, as someone above mentioned, that discernment is key. I’m merely against the idea of locking one’s brain into any one type of book, whether that is Christian Only, Non-fiction only, etc.

    • David James April 6, 2011, 6:24 PM

      Sally, I agree with you that we don’t have to read every current “hot” item to have to write in any given market. After all, what’s hot today probably isn’t going to be hot the next day because something else is always around the corner to take it’s place. Keeping up can be horrendous, and keep us away from our own writing. That being said, I do think if one is going to write in a certain genre, they should already be a fan of that genre and be one that reads fairly regularly there anyway.

      By the way, I saw where you said about having to listen to death metal just to write YA, and I can assure you that this is not the only music out there that such a target audience listens to. But if you were to want to get the same “vibe” for the kind that does listen to just that music without the “rot” that would invade your being from the lyrics, I could recommend a few of the numerous “life metal” bands to you if you would ever care to look at them. For a few decades now they have been making major headway into the kingdom of darkness sharing the light of Christ.

  • Sally Apokedak April 6, 2011, 2:45 PM

    I actually got through Twilight (forced myself because my son and daughter were reading it and virtually all the girls at youth group loved those books), but couldn’t go on to the next book. I agree that the book was full of sexual tension, and terrible attitudes toward being consumed with a dangerous being to the point of willing to die just so you could be with him. I couldn’t figure out why so many Christian women thought the books were wonderful because there was no sex.

  • David James April 6, 2011, 6:12 PM

    I cannot understand the writer that has Faith in Jesus and wants to “write for Him” to “reach out” to “the lost”, yet they won’t engage the culture around them that “the lost” lives and breathes in. They are more than happy to wear their WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets, yet they seldom DWJD (Do What Jesus Did) and hang around the sinners and relate to them in a completely unjudging fashion.

    To me, it’s like a person that has only tasted vanilla trying to describe chocolate to a chocoholic and contrasting it with vanilla in order to win them over to vanilla. It’s no wonder they don’t reach their “target” audience if they have never “been there” their own selves. Sometimes you need to taste the chocolate in order to relate. I’m not advocating sin here, just using another analogy to back up the “being in the world but not of it” aspect.

    Thanks again Mike for another intriguing topic of discussion. 🙂

  • Tony April 6, 2011, 8:13 PM

    I guess I just don’t take fiction that seriously. I read it for entertainment (both secular and Christian), not to be enlightened. Not to learn about the culture. I learn plenty about the culture every day. I’m not sure — unless maybe you’re Amish — that it’s possible to distance yourself too much from the culture.

    I do, however, think that it’s possible to become over-saturated in the culture. I think this is what is destroying the Christian community. We’re so obsessed with getting in the minds of the world, we begin to become part of it, even if we don’t recognize it. The thing is, we don’t need to understand the world to save it. The world will be saved by something totally different from itself. A light doesn’t need to understand the darkness to make it brighter, it just needs to exist. By simply following God’s guidelines (none of which include reading a certain type of fiction): being kind, helpful, loving, truthful, pure of heart, etc, we can do a lot.

    Yes, I am certain that the reason Christians are losing ground (if we are), isn’t because we don’t understand the culture. The reason we’re losing ground is because we’re losing touch with OUR culture, with Godly culture. Hypocrisy is what is turning people away.

    To quote Manning: “The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

    Bottom line — ignoring my philisophical views on the rest of it — people should read fiction for the same reasons they watch movies: To be entertained, and to escape the troubles of the world. To unwind. If secular fiction just depresses them, it seems counterproductive to read it.

  • Carradee April 7, 2011, 11:28 AM

    I used to listen to Christian music exclusively. Then I discovered that some secular bands didn’t blaspheme or anything, and even had a sound that I couldn’t find in Christian music but loved. (Within Temptation is symphonic rock/metal; think orchestra + rock.)

    I crept out from there, tried more, and realized how… similar all the mainstream Christian music sounded. I’ve only found 1 Christian symphonic metal band, and it’s fantastic, but it only has 2 albums in English.

    I’ve noticed the same sense of “sameness” with Christian fiction, even as a speculative fiction fan. Christian spec fic isn’t all that common, these days, and I’ve not read much of it, because it often contains theological implications that I really hope the author didn’t intend. The only living Christian spec fic author I can think of who I consistently enjoy is Kathy Tyers.

    • Carradee April 7, 2011, 11:36 AM

      Your book’s made it on my “check it out” list, though. ^_^

    • David James April 7, 2011, 1:46 PM

      You should go to RadRockers for music then.
      http://www.radrockers.com
      Plenty of variations in music there from around the world as well as in the U.S.A., and all Christian too. 😉

      • Carradee April 7, 2011, 2:50 PM

        Thanks. Checking ’em out. They actually don’t have some of the main hard-to-find Christian bands I listen to (Karnataka, HB, Ballydowse), but I think my brother’s looking for that Virgin Black CD. I’ll pass the info on to him. 🙂

        And I’ll be looking into some of those bands on there.

  • Nan April 12, 2011, 4:35 PM

    “We seek books that will bolster our worldview, not challenge it, books that will help us escape the world, rather than engage it.”

    IMO, primarily speaking of non-fiction, I think Christians would do well to read more books that challenge their faith. Too many simply follow what they have been told or taught and never bother to explore other viewpoints and/or perspectives.

    As Dennis Waitley once commented, “You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.”

  • Michelle Sutton May 31, 2011, 1:06 PM

    Great article. This is one of the reasons I *gasp* had my kids in public school and now they go to a state University where there are few to no Christians. The real world isn’t all Christian, but when I’d read mostly Christian books I started to see things like they were tamer than they really were, like you said above. Over the past few years I’ve broadened my base of book reviews to include secular authors and publishers and have made some great friends in the process. I do point out which books that I read are not Christian books so that people who are sensitive won’t freak out on me after reading a recommended book thinking it would be sanitized. I do that for the reader who is considering buying the book, not for me. I love anyone who writes a story with guts enough to tell it like it is. Those books tend to make my favorites list and because they aren’t always Christian fiction, I’ve now changed the title to fiction favorites so that all genres can be included. 🙂 I try to vary what I read so it’s not all the same. If a book gives me a powerful emotional experience or has guts, it gets high marks from me regardless of who the publisher is. But there was a time when I read too many secular books and it messed up my thinking when it came to writing. So I had to back off for awhile. For example, the world thinks having sex with a man you think you love but aren’t committed to is a great idea (usually) and while I may portray that as exciting at first in a story (I’ve written a few of those,) I also show how what seemed sweet turns to gravel in your mouth when you stray from what you know is pleasing to God (like your commitment to your spouse or for waiting for marriage.) I show how doing the wrong thing is a thrill at first, but how it causes emotional distress when you realize how far off track you eventually get in your faith as a result. That’s what distinguishes the Christian from the secular. I never say adultery is wonderful or a great experience. Exciting at first…yes, but in the end NOT worth taking the risk for. A secular book wouldn’t say that at its core. The heart of any story is what I believe God wants readers to see, not the details that make the story come to life for the reader. That reality is what reaches a reader’s heart. I couldn’t tell you how many women have contacted me after reading my story about adultery saying that they were glad to read a book that was realistic in that they could see themselves in the character and her decisions. Because of this, they found it healing. This same book scares the bejeebers out of the people in the holy camp (to reference another post.) Just sayin’.

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