Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Excuse me, but can we leave the envelope right where it is?

I'm not crazy about the trend toward "edgy" Christian fiction

The opposite of edgy?

I've been a lifelong reader, supporter and proponent of Christian fiction...ever since I was a little girl and hoarded my Felicia Cartright, Danny Orliss and Joy Sparton books (and if you've been a Christian fiction reader for as long as I have, you'll recognize those names!)

And let me say right off the bat that I don't care for formulaic, pie-in-the-sky, Christians-are-perfect fiction either. I stopped reading Grace Livingston Hill books when I was in my teens (although I must say I was always intrigued at the names she gave her characters); I have no problem with realistic situations and even controversial subjects, like homosexuality and abortion.

However, I'm concerned about the current trend in Christian fiction toward "pushing the envelope." (By the way, would someone please tell me exactly what "the envelope" is, and where it needs to be pushed to?) I'm told that Christian authors are being urged to be more "edgy" and "gritty."

I don't know about you, but one of the reasons I read more Christian fiction than any other kind, is because it is clearly, obviously, DIFFERENT from mainstream fiction.

Christian fiction offers an ultimate hope--Jesus Christ--that most mainstream fiction can't offer.

In recent years, I believe Christian fiction has handled the seamier side of life with discretion and care--not shying away from the troubling and controversial issues of today's culture, but portraying them in a way that is not offensive and degrading to readers who are trying to obey Biblical injunctions to keep their minds and hearts pure.

In encouraging their authors to "push the envelope" go for "grittier" and "edgier" content--well, if that means including profanity and sexual frankness that crosses a line--I believe Christian publishers are doing their readers a great disservice. And guess what? I don't believe it's what most readers want.

One of my most admired Christian authors, BJ Hoff, blogged eloquently about this very issue the other day. Although BJ dwells more on the definition of "edgy fiction," I love this quote from her: "If your only interest in writing fiction is making eyes bug and jaws drop in CBA, if you want to push the envelope as far as it can be pushed and then go a notch farther--then you might want to ask yourself why."

Just one case in point: I was recently sent a historical Christian novel that I believe came really close to crossing a line. The main thing I remember about the book was not any Christian message at all, but the thick cloud of sexual tension that the writer relentlessly hammered at throughout the story. It was one of those plot lines in which the man and woman had gotten married out of convenience, but began to fall in love with each other. There were constant references to things like the man gazing at his wife's tempting cleavage or rounded rear-end. Frankly, I was turned off. I can read a Harlequin novel if I want that kind of thing.

Contrast that with Liz Curtis Higgs' Scottish series. She manages to portray yearning between a husband and a wife with class and grace; not skirting around the issue when it is germane to the story, but doing so with discretion and good taste.

Liz Curtis Higg's Whence Came a Prince

Not pushing that ubiquitous "envelope."

No doubt there will be an audience for the envelope-pushing fiction books. But this is one reader who is fine with that pesky envelope staying right where it is.

Couple of other things to tell you about...

The Christian Carnival is up at Eternal Revolution. This is a weekly showcase of Christian blog posts. Have you participated? It's a great way to generate a little of what La Shawn Barber calls "link love," and traffic to your blog.

Here's a handy carnival submit form that you can use if you want to submit a post next time. Deadlines are Tuesday at 11:59 PM.

"Jarhead"--good or bad?

Joe (apparently himself a former Marine) at Evangelical Outpost has posted a review of Jarhead that appears to be stirring some contrversy in his comments section.

I've asked my own exMarine, Gulf War vet brother to give me his own opinion of the movie or the book on which it's based. (Since he is in Iraq right now, I sort of doubt if he'll be seeing the movie any time soon.)

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