Thursday, August 7, 2014

What makes it Christian fiction?

I just read a beautiful book about the ministry of Jesus. It's definitely fiction. It's definitely Biblical. But I'm wondering how many of my friends might disagree about its being Christian fiction. It tell the story of Jesus through the eyes of his cat--a character I'd agree can't be found in the Bible. And this cat offers a view of Jesus that might conflict with some popular images. This Jesus laughs. He welcomes sinners. He chooses love over law. And he speaks to non-believers (and a cat) in words they'll understand. He's even open to the concept of God the Mother (though, strictly speaking, so is the Bible). Strictly speaking, this Jesus and this story are both thoroughly Biblical and wonderfully Christian... and highly recommended. And the cat is great! So enjoy The Gospel According to Yeshua’s Cat, by C. L. Francisco, and drink some perfectly-balanced full-flavored 3-star coffee as you read.

By contrast, Operation Dark Angel: The Rise of Nicolaitanes, by Pam Funke, is very self-consciously Christian fiction, with complete scenes devoted to the conversion of a few well-chosen non-believers, while others, who only think they believe, find themselves following the "other" voice. Operation Dark Angel is a weighty tome, in length and in content, and it's only the beginning of an end-times story built on an even more Amerivangelical worldview than most. Not recommended for readers who don't share the world-view, this is one to read with several strong dark cups of 5-star dark intense coffee.

So what makes either or both of these Christian fiction? I guess I might venture to call a book Christian if it's written for Christians, and non-Christian if it specifically opposes Christianity. But what if it only opposes some forms of Christianity? Could I call it denominational then? And if it's faith-neutral perhaps it's secular, though, of course, if those are my definitions, then lots of secular fiction is seriously Christian-friendly. Perhaps I'll need another category for that. Or perhaps I'll just read books and enjoy them all without trying to fit them into fictional boxes, Christian or otherwise. So here are some more.

iDoubt: When Faith Falters, by C. P. Fagan, isn't fiction at all, but I'm including it because, again, it's definitely Christian. The author depicts the doubts that assail us well, and deals convincingly and kindly with them, reminding readers that doubt is a part of faith. But why should evolution be a part of doubt? The science of evolution is no more fictional than the truth of Christian belief, and many Christians, myself included, hold that evolution supports rather than threatens the validity of Genesis. Enjoy this one with a lively, easy-drinking 2-star coffee, but skip the evolution bit if you're a scientist.

If I'm including books that aren't strictly fiction in this post, I guess I should let myself include some that aren't not strictly Christian too. The Pandas and their Chopsticks, by Demi, is a truly gorgeous picture book for children, with delightful two-page fables, each with a nicely drawn lesson to be learned. It's a book that should appeal to people of all faiths and none, but I'm including it here for its wise lessons and values for kids. Enjoy with some more bright lively easy-drinking 2-star coffee.

Then there's Wyndano’s Cloak, by A. R. Silverberry, a beautiful fantasy tale for children and older readers, which also teaches wise lessons in guilt, punishment and forgiveness. This one's not a Christian book either, and some Christians might object to its use of magic. But it's a wonderful story, blending fantasy worlds with Victorian workhouse, magic, mystery and more, and it carries a great message that Christians might surely aspire to. Enjoy this well-balanced blend with a well-balanced 3-star coffee.

Since I'm venturing into science fiction now, I should really include Staying Human, by Adam Bolander, a fascinating young adult novella set in a futuristic world where people are being transformed into animals by a strange virus. It's possible to halt the transformation and "stay human" but there's that human (fallen) instinct to reject the different (and the slightly transformed), making this novella a fascinating exploration of what being human really means--certainly a worthwhile question for readers of any faith. Enjoy its elegant conclusion with an elegant complex cup of 4-star coffee.

And I'll end with Lab Rats from Planet Earth, by Ronnie Ray Jenkins, which offers an entirely different view of the future and what being human means; a non-Christian short story to be read with a dark, intense 5-star cup of coffee.

1 comment:

Ruth Cox said...

I would love to read that Yeshua's Cat book! And I am in full agreement of reading for pleasure, and knowledge, without tossing a book into a category.