Making the Case for Tougher Christian Fiction

Nicole Petrino-Salter writes love stories with a passion. Devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, her family, friends, and pets, you can find her most days on her blog: where she welcomes your visit. Author of the novels Breath of LifeThe Famous One, and Hope of Glory among others yet to be seen.

by Nicole Petrino-Salter 

The argument
for and against tougher, more realistic, edgier – pick your word – fiction
plagues writers and readers of Christian Fiction. Blogs profess their opposing
positions on a regular basis. Pro cuss words. Anti cuss words. Pro more sexual
content. Anti more sexual content. And so it goes.
To give you my
position on this touchy topic I must first explain my belief that Christian
Fiction should be as versatile as God allows and instructs His writers to be.
This is the single factor a reader (or another writer) cannot determine for an
author. If a novel professes unbiblical doctrine as truth(s), it’s acceptable
to challenge it. The problem I find with what we refer to as CBA fiction is not
the novels themselves in all their various forms, styles, and themes. It’s the
reactions to books that don’t fit a certain mold.
Readers often
fail to remember not everyone shares their history. Not everyone grew up in the
same denomination. Not everyone, in fact, grew up in a church body. We all
start out as unbelievers. How far we progress in that condition makes for some
great testimonies and some fascinating stories. From Pentecostal to AME to
Anglican faith walks, from housing projects to gated communities, our life
support systems range from none at all to protective and loving. It’s
reasonable to assume the Lord selects His writers from all of these backgrounds
because to Him we’re equals. It’s unreasonable to assume writers will mirror
each other in their fiction endeavors. Styles, voices, contents – differences
should be expected. And not condemned.
A critical
point both sides of the writing aisle must remember is their words cannot save a single soul.
scenes, depictions, symbols, or didactic instructions of Christian lifestyles
included in stories don’t serve as the catalysts for the salvation of a soul
unless the Spirit of God chooses to incorporate them into the romancing of a
soul. Our writing does not determine
this miraculous series of events. And neither does the absence of these methods
navigate a reader toward the consideration of God unless He points a soul in the spiritual direction.
All of that to
say this: I came out of the world. Nothing is as important to me as my Savior
Jesus Christ. My tagline is Passionate: right or wrong, and I’m passionate
concerning all things Jesus. I don’t write for the happily-ever-after crowd
although I enjoy positive endings. I don’t read novels I consider
“fluff”. But I applaud those who write those novels I don’t
read.  I think the boundaries of
Christian Fiction need to stretch via imprints to stipulate “this” line of
fiction fare might not engage those who prefer Amish chronicles or sweet little
romances without even a hint of UST (unresolved sexual tension) because there
are many readers who are Christians who can’t consistently find the kind of
novels which present them with honest depictions of the kind of life lived
outside what some refer to as the “Christian bubble”.
No one requires
a reader enjoy a novel. Yes, it’s unfortunate when we pay only to be
disappointed by a book. And if it doesn’t meet our standards for “Christian”
content? Well, we can express our personal preferences. What we shouldn’t do is
criticize unjustly. Stating things that question the author’s Christianity, and
hence his/her integrity, by making pointed comments in public forums about
those things judged “un-Christian” by individual readers serves no good purpose
other than to be divisive. It’s okay not to like a novel and to express that
opinion respectfully, but the clamor often created in the public eye by certain
Christians about Christian novels that dare to stretch or shed the “clean and
chaste” label demonstrates so clearly the label the world attaches to us: judgmental.
Making the case
for “tougher” Christian Fiction simply means we allow liberty to those authors
who write stories we might not embrace without lambasting their method for
telling the tale or acting as their spiritual accusers. The motives and content
chosen for those stories remain between the Lord and author, not for you or me
as reader and/or writer to determine.
.    .   .
Breath of Life tells the story of embittered, wounded,
and divorced Michael Jamison, who, after a prolonged period as the casual
observer of a lovely woman, discovers his attraction to her supercedes
remaining a stranger. With a smarting ego and nothing to lose, he figures out a
non-threatening way to introduce himself and is overwhelmed with her pristine
beauty and challenged to change everything about the way he’s lived his life so