As the burgeoning world of evangelical fiction grows more diverse, tensions are emerging over authors who are “crossing over” from the Christian to the secular markets.
The conflict is similar to the situation in the contemporary Christian music industry, where artists who seek to reach beyond the evangelical niche are accused of compromising their message. Charisma magazine (March) reports that Christian fiction has come a long way from plots about “the beautiful pioneer woman who falls in love with the widowed pastor. Characters in a sampling of Christian fiction published during the last year experienced contemporary problems: the death of parents or children, alcoholism, depression, schizophrenia, divorce, losses associated with Sept. 11, homosexuality, cancer and drug use.”
The Christian fiction genre has particularly expanded in recent years to include subcategories that range from medical and legal thrillers to comedies. The Christys, an annual Christian fiction award, started in 2000 with 82 entries from 13 publishers has now grown to 137 entries from 26 publishers.
Christian fiction is now regularly published by such prominent secular houses as Penguin, Harper-Collins and Warner Books. With new authors signing on to big publishers, the lines are blurring between genres, leading many to wonder what makes a novel Christian in the first place, writes Natalie Nichols Gillespie. Some authors resent Christian publishers’ most of which are members of the Christian Booksellers Association) ban on off-color language and sex scenes and having their books shelved in the religion section away from other fiction and are seeking out secular publishers.
Some writers have been blackballed from the CBA publishers for their heterodox views, but other authors feel more censorship in portraying Christian themes in their fiction from secular publishers.
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