Nicole Petrino-Salter writes love stories with a passion. Devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, her family, friends, and pets, you can find her most days on her blog: hopeofglory.typepad.com where she welcomes your visit. Author of the novels Breath of Life, The Famous One, and Hope of Glory among others yet to be seen.
by Nicole Petrino-Salter
The argument for and against tougher, more realistic, edgier - pick your word - fiction plagues writers and readers of Christian Fiction. Blogs profess their opposing positions on a regular basis. Pro cuss words. Anti cuss words. Pro more sexual content. Anti more sexual content. And so it goes.
To give you my position on this touchy topic I must first explain my belief that Christian Fiction should be as versatile as God allows and instructs His writers to be. This is the single factor a reader (or another writer) cannot determine for an author. If a novel professes unbiblical doctrine as truth(s), it's acceptable to challenge it. The problem I find with what we refer to as CBA fiction is not the novels themselves in all their various forms, styles, and themes. It's the reactions to books that don't fit a certain mold.
Readers often fail to remember not everyone shares their history. Not everyone grew up in the same denomination. Not everyone, in fact, grew up in a church body. We all start out as unbelievers. How far we progress in that condition makes for some great testimonies and some fascinating stories. From Pentecostal to AME to Anglican faith walks, from housing projects to gated communities, our life support systems range from none at all to protective and loving. It's reasonable to assume the Lord selects His writers from all of these backgrounds because to Him we're equals. It's unreasonable to assume writers will mirror each other in their fiction endeavors. Styles, voices, contents - differences should be expected. And not condemned.
A critical point both sides of the writing aisle must remember is their words cannot save a single soul.
Conversion scenes, depictions, symbols, or didactic instructions of Christian lifestyles included in stories don't serve as the catalysts for the salvation of a soul unless the Spirit of God chooses to incorporate them into the romancing of a soul. Our writing does not determine this miraculous series of events. And neither does the absence of these methods navigate a reader toward the consideration of God unless He points a soul in the spiritual direction.
All of that to say this: I came out of the world. Nothing is as important to me as my Savior Jesus Christ. My tagline is Passionate: right or wrong, and I'm passionate concerning all things Jesus. I don't write for the happily-ever-after crowd although I enjoy positive endings. I don't read novels I consider "fluff". But I applaud those who write those novels I don’t read. I think the boundaries of Christian Fiction need to stretch via imprints to stipulate “this” line of fiction fare might not engage those who prefer Amish chronicles or sweet little romances without even a hint of UST (unresolved sexual tension) because there are many readers who are Christians who can't consistently find the kind of novels which present them with honest depictions of the kind of life lived outside what some refer to as the "Christian bubble".
No one requires a reader enjoy a novel. Yes, it’s unfortunate when we pay only to be disappointed by a book. And if it doesn’t meet our standards for “Christian” content? Well, we can express our personal preferences. What we shouldn’t do is criticize unjustly. Stating things that question the author’s Christianity, and hence his/her integrity, by making pointed comments in public forums about those things judged “un-Christian” by individual readers serves no good purpose other than to be divisive. It’s okay not to like a novel and to express that opinion respectfully, but the clamor often created in the public eye by certain Christians about Christian novels that dare to stretch or shed the “clean and chaste” label demonstrates so clearly the label the world attaches to us: judgmental.
Making the case for “tougher” Christian Fiction simply means we allow liberty to those authors who write stories we might not embrace without lambasting their method for telling the tale or acting as their spiritual accusers. The motives and content chosen for those stories remain between the Lord and author, not for you or me as reader and/or writer to determine.
. . .
Breath of Life tells the story of embittered, wounded, and divorced Michael Jamison, who, after a prolonged period as the casual observer of a lovely woman, discovers his attraction to her supercedes remaining a stranger. With a smarting ego and nothing to lose, he figures out a non-threatening way to introduce himself and is overwhelmed with her pristine beauty and challenged to change everything about the way he’s lived his life so far.