In the Shadows . . .


Presenting a modicum of protest to the limitations presented in some Christian fiction to make it palatable to what is often referred to as the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association;, I consistently assess the logic of these limitations. I concur with the methodology which has built a successful business by establishing a particular demographic and continuously aiming to satisfy it. No one can argue with this success.

Where some of us can introduce a case for expanding that demographic by reducing some of the imposed limitations, it seems the professional fear factor lies in the possibility of alienating the original readers within that demographic. And the fear is not unfounded. Whenever a publishing house attempts to take a few liberties with certain elements in the stories they produce, the outcry is enormous. And rabid. With threats and accusations, the “offended” state their cases, write their hurtful or scathing reviews, and nearly call down curses from on high.

What I have learned in the few posts I’ve presented here is that, outside of those who have agreed with some of what I’ve said, there are far more “closet” agreements hiding in the shadows. Private emails convince me that I’m not a lone wolf out here spouting contrary rhetoric just for the sake of being difficult and disagreeable. My conviction in what I deliberate here arises from a position of concern for those readers who love the Lord Jesus Christ but don’t come into the world of literature from a squeaky clean environment where the language and experiences fit snugly into the “chaste and pure” practices of a few. This doesn’t mean they don’t yearn for ever-increasing holiness. It means the journey is often ugly as well as profound. It means perspective and contrast often necessitate a harsher reality to arrive at the lovely destination. Understanding the depths of humanity without graphic renditions can still pose stark and unseemly word pictures. Careful creation of these portrayals makes readers squrim without making them angry. At least it should.

Readers: know your limitations. Know your genres. If you’re uncomfortable with murder mysteries, best not engage in a Steven James novel. If you’re squeamish about gore, probably not a good idea to pick up a Mike Dellosso horror story or even a Robert Liparulo thriller. All three of these authors are devoted Christian men, but they don’t typically write for the Amish audience. Common sense dictates what kinds of novels individuals should read. And if you, as a reader, dare to step outside your safe vault of favored storylines and happen to come across a book that “offends” you, it’s not the fault of the author or the publisher.

And then there is the blood pressure spiking of the sexual arena. Even though the eyes and ears are assaulted in every medium by carnal information, depictions, and graphics, Christian fiction mostly hides from what I call The Last Frontier of Christian Fiction. Where perhaps perspective and contrast is needed most, only the surface attraction is skimmed. There are novels about sexual abuse but rarely the inside-out of what drives real romance, both good and bad. Somehow it’s “offensive”.

All this to say: I know writers and readers like me are out there in large numbers – even if they’re afraid to come out of the shadows. The powers that be who operate Christian fiction publishing houses and the gatekeepers themselves don’t want to enlist the wrath of their staid demographic and facilitate change. It’s certainly their right to maintain the status quo because it has worked well for them.

But . . . it could work better. 

Nicole Petrino-Salter writes love stories with a passion. You can visit her at