by Mike Duran
Okay, so Eli the Buggy Driver wouldn’t stand a chance against Count Orlok. However, in the world of Christian fiction, both may inflict their own share of damage.
According to an AP Report from this summer’s ICRS in Denver, Amish heroines and Christian vampires are expanding opposite ends of the religious publishing gamut:
The Christian book business, optimistic that a little literary escapism might be an antidote for readers in hard times, is turning to bonnets, buggies and bloodsuckers. Even as Christian publishing suffers during the recession — one study found net sales for Christian retailers were down almost 11 percent in 2008 — several publishing houses are adding or expanding their fiction lines with both the tame (Amish heroines) and boundary-pushing (Christian vampire lit). This couldn’t be more indicative of both the boundaries, and the pushing of them that’s going on in the Christian publishing industry. Amish fiction and vampire lit represent polar opposites — literally conservative and liberal bookends — of the Christian fiction spectrum.But while most Christian readers have serious reservations about the inclusion of vampires in their literary camp, I think there are just as good of reasons to worry about the upsurge of Amish heroines.
The undisputed [Christian publishing] industry leader is so-called Amish fiction – typically, romances and family sagas set in contemporary Amish communities. They’re a surprise hit with evangelical women attracted by a simpler time, curiosity about cloistered communities and admiration for the strong, traditional faith of the Amish. The success of the genre has spawned not just new Amish fiction authors but spinoff series about other cloistered communities. If you want to sell it, as one literary agent put it, put a bonnet on it.
In all fairness, I’ve never read any Amish fiction and am sure that much of it is well-written and inspirational. My problem is not with the genre itself but with the degree to which evangelical women are “attracted by a simpler time,” curious about “cloistered communities,” and admire “the strong, traditional faith of the Amish.” Talk about escapism! I’m not sure what’s worse, imagining the redemption of revenants or pining for strapping young men in suspenders to whisk one away to a world of gentle breezes and white steeples, with nary an atheist in sight.
Face it, Amish fiction can be just as escapist, unrealistic, and unhealthy as vampire fiction.
In fact, at its heart, the desire for tradition, simplicity, cloistered living, and chivalry, may be dangerously close to idolatry. Christ commissioned His followers to penetrate the world, embrace its citizens, and influence its course. Maybe it’s me, but Amish fiction seems less about engaging the world and more about escaping it. So while the “Amish reader” fears that vampire lit is embracing the darkness, the “vampire reader” fears that Amish lit is retreating into the light. But even though both worries may be legit, the Christian vampire concept is the one taking all the heat. Why is that?
Either way, I’m thinking that “Amish heroines” are just as potentially dangerous as “Christian vampires.” Besides, if the devil appears as an “angel of light” (II Cor. 11:14), there’s more chance he’s lurking under a bonnet than in a coffin.