We’ve opened a huge topic here at Novel Matters this week, starting with Marybeth’s innocent question: Which books are on your “Keepers” list? These are the books you devoured and talked about incessantly to the annoyance of your family. Most titles offered by our readers came from the American Booksellers Association (ABA) or mainstream market, not the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) or inspirational market.
This led to Latayne’s question: Why aren’t CBA books found on “Keepers” lists more often? She bravely listed her reasons. Marybeth's and Latayne’s insights are thought-provoking. Consider going back to read both of these finely crafted blog posts.
Allow me to stir the pot a bit more by asking: Why do Christians who buy inspirational fiction prefer more formulaic storylines in an America of long ago?
I think there is a strong spiritual element to this question. Warning: I’m not a theologian. (Haven’t I said that here before?) I’m just trying to understand our market. Try this out and feel free to set me straight:
As Christians, we all live in a place of great tension. The Kingdom has come in the person of Jesus Christ. Eternity has started for us. We’re members of His family. We’re Heaven-bound and God-connected. We worship a living God, eternal and holy. We’re loved, saved, grace-doused. Hallelujah!
And yet . . .
We aren’t in Heaven yet.
Friends get cancer. Our children rebel. Husbands leave. Prayers aren’t answered the way we hope and certainly not as soon as we would like. Smut is everywhere. We’re seeing our values dissolve before our eyes. We can’t trust the schools, and some have been deeply wounded by the church (little c).
We are between what is and what will be. We live, for now, in the Land of Ought-to-Be. We have high expectations of living out our faith, but this proves challenging in its application. We desire praises and not profanities to flow from our lips; we’re desperate to be healed every time we pray, to love one another sacrificially, and to be Christ-like in the way we live, work, and play. But because we’re in the Land of Ought-to-Be, we fall far short of these expectations.
Some Christians have a lower tolerance for the dissonance of the Land of Ought-to-Be than others. Those on one end of the continuum crave a literary vacation spot where the world is on their side. They also need their faith and life-style affirmed.
On the other end of the continuum, readers are more comfortable with open-ended questions, and a view of the world that is as menacing—or more menacing—as true life.
Now that I have this working model of why some Christian readers like certain kinds of fiction, what am I to do?
I write the stories God dangles before me like a jewel in the sun, pursue excellence in form and content of my prose, and pray my audience finds me. And BTW, I enjoy a literary vacation, but the story must be well-written.
Did I even come close to understanding this phenomena? What’s your take?