I’ve long been a vocal complainer about how Christian publishers distribute free material on the Kindle. Like Samhain and a few other erotica publishing houses, the Christian publishers excel at giving out free books without disclosing those novels’ actual genre. The idea, I suppose, is that you will get to the end of the plucky heroine’s quest for love and realise that you, yourself, have been on a Quest For Jesus and here He is to save you. Hallelujah that you accidentally stumbled upon The Bride Of Rambledown Creek!
Because, you see, Jesus is just alright with me and of course He’d be just alright with you, too. But you’re too stupid to realise it. Thankfully we have been able to convert you by the religious equivalent of sneaking up behind you with a chloroform-soaked rag.
Over at Mike Duran’s, the thinking among Christian authors is somewhat different. THEY are offended that the chloroformed Kindle population gives them negative reviews.
Many Christians rightly note an anti-christian bias behind these one-star reviews. One website carried this notation about a Christian fiction novel: “Product warning–Christian content.” … All that to say, it is NOT the labeling of the book that is the problem, but the reviewer’s dislike for its particular religious worldview.
I’m a Christian. I dislike Christian fiction, as do most of the Christians I meet. That being said, I have a fondness for the general worldview of grace freely given, God loving mankind unto the point of sacrifice, death being conquered by love and truth. I’m not upset that a book would include that worldview.
I’m upset that they’d include it but then try to put one over on people. Because the Lie is not part of the Truth of Christ. Over and over again, it seems, we Christians are adopting this new and frightening position of the End justifying the Means. So what if there aren’t REALLY truckloads of dead babies in Pepsi? As long as we get Pepsi boycotted and folks learn the truth about stem-cell research, what’s a little bit of exaggeration?
And so WHAT if I don’t tell people that The Bride Of Rambledown Creek ends with a forty-five-page sermon on women submitting to men because Jesus loves them? After all, isn’t the point to bring people to Jesus? A few little lies of omission ought to be no big deal.
There is another argument that says all books advance a worldview. This, of course, is true. And I’ve panned more than a few non-Christian books (paging Marion Zimmer Bradley) for being more sermon and less story. But then Mike Duran asks
So is it deceptive to not label a Christian book “Christian”? I suppose it can be. But why is it that Christians are the only ones held to this standard?
Everyone else is dishonest, so why do we get called on our dishonesty?
Leaving aside my irritation at the general “he hit me first” argument, I think that it’s fair to say that while secular novels are written from a wide variety of secular POVs, they don’t as a general rule attempt to present their worldview as superior nor do they overtly attempt to persuade the reader to change his or her mind about deep personal life choices. Most Christian novels, however, do aspire to such lofty heights. Mike and other Christian novelists claim to be writing for Seekers, hoping that their novels will somehow land in the hands of unbelievers and be so powerfully convincing that those unbelievers would come to Christ. It’s a scenario that has become increasingly unlikely as Christian fiction publishers strive to create a top-selling niche market.
Christians buy Christian books. That’s why Christian books get published. That’s why the publishers will sink millions of dollars into them. Non-Christians do not as a general rule* read books that are written for that space for much the same reason that I don’t read books written in French. It’s a language I don’t speak.
If someone gave me a free book with the first half in English and the second half in French, I think I’d give it a negative review. I want a story that starts and finishes in my language.
But most of all, I don’t want to be lied to.
*For the record, my new Coble’s Law bans any mention of Lord Of The Rings or C.S. Lewis’ fantasy and science fiction as proof contrary to this statement. Goody for you. You can point to 11 books out of thousands. 11 books that were published in the secular marketplace.