Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I am Mad and Here's the Reason Why

Do not read this post if you don't like controversy.

As I browsed a Bible bookstore today, I was shocked, confused, and appalled. What is going on with so-called Christian publishing? The first book I picked up was the story of a teenager who overcame Everest-high odds to make her dream come true; the next was a biography of a famous coach who’d mentored many young men; the third was a tribute to a great athlete.

In only one of the three was the Bible even mentioned, and that was from a list given to the coach from his father. The acknowledgments pages in another went on forever, but nowhere did the author give any thanks to God.

This is scary, people.

I’m not naming names, but major Christian houses published these books, and they are nothing more than inspiring stories of good people. They do not promote the Kingdom of God or try to reach sinners with the Gospel, or call Christians to a higher walk with the Lord.

People die and go to hell every second. We have the answers to keep them out of there and give them abundant, eternal life, and we'd rather spend our money publishing stories of girls sailing boats and golfers who were polite?

There are millions of excellent writers trying to break into Christian publishing. They have written noteworthy accounts of God’s grace and miracle-working power to save, heal, and deliver, and the top Christian houses are offering us fine little stories with a Christian label slapped on them. What is wrong with this picture?

Are we afraid of the controversial Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are we worried that literature that gives God glory and calls us to deep commitment will offend someone, or worse yet, won’t sell a million copies? Yes, I know they are businesses and have to pay their bills. So did Jesus. But I don’t see Him watering down His message so the offerings would be bigger.

Have you noticed this in your Bible bookstore? What are your thoughts?


  1. I'm going to be the first to bite!

    Now, keep in mind, this is just me thinking out loud. Or wait. This isn't "out loud". This is just me...thinking while typing.

    Moving on.

    I'm not sure how I feel about nonfiction. Because I write fiction, I don't give much thought about what should or shouldn't be published in nonfiction. I'm letting that roll over in mind before I commit to one side or the other.

    But for fiction, this is something I've thought a whole lot about. Tim Downs gave a whole speech on this very subject (what constitutes Christian fiction?) at the ACFW conference last year.

    Should Christian fiction include the gospel message?

    I actually wrote a post about it here: http://katieganshert.blogspot.com/2010/10/what-is-christian-fiction.html

    When I talk about pride at the end - I just want to clarify. Nothing about your post today is prideful Jeannette! Just passionate. And I love it. It's got my cogs spinning.

    As far as fiction goes, I'm okay with "hiding the egg". That won't make sense unless you read my blog post.

    There are so many non Christians who will never pick up a fictional book with heavy Christian themes. But....think how popular The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is in the secular world. There are people who don't even know that Aslan is the Christ figure. But it opens a door that would otherwise be slammed shut....it opens a door of conversation that COULD lead to the gospel message.

    So yeah....I'm torn. Should this same rule apply to nonfiction? I have to think more on this.

    I understand your disturbance though. I've noticed the same in certain churches. Watering down the truth all for the sake of being "cool" or "relevant". It disturbs me too.

  2. It's been this way a long long time--I sold books years ago this way. Christian publishing means clean--not just giving the gospel:(

  3. Katie: We're not talking hiding the egg here--we're talking no egg at all; just a pretty basket to look at with no egg inside, sold by an egg distributor.

    At least the L, W, and W makes people thirsty to know the truth. Who is Aslan? Where does his power come from?

    The books I saw could be published by anyone. They are feel good books. Which are not wrong in themselves. They just don't belong in an egg basket if they don't nourish anyone.

  4. Terri: That's fine, I have no problem with clean. Just call it clean; don't call it Christian. Christian means "following Christ." Christ is the Anointed One sent from God. He is God in the flesh. Not just a good guy who sets a fine example.

  5. Can we talk about this over coffee? Please? :) So past ready for it. I keep thinking about you, even if you don't hear from me as much right now.

    Love you.


  6. Rhonda: But of course! Pick a day and place. I'll be there.

  7. Wow! Great post, Jeanette! Love your title, so cleverly changed from the song, "I'm so happy, and here's the reason why." You make a good point! Can't say that I've visited the Christian bookstores in awhile as I download most books to my Kindle. But if that's what's out there, I'm in agreement with you! Jesus' message of salvation is what's needed today, not stories about good things that people have done. It's all about Him - the focus shouldn't be on us! God bless!

  8. A very timely conversation, Jen. I've muttered a few times that I wish the CBA had a labelling code so someone browsing the shelves could easily identify the intent of a book's content. I like to know what I'm buying.

    Just because a book is sold in a Christian bookstore nowadays doesn't mean it's sweet Christian fiction. When we look at the popularity of authors such as Brandilyn Collins, Linda Hall, and James Scott Bell, whose novels include suspense, murder and mystery, there is obviously a market for these kind of stories among Christian readers -- stories of the world's hard everyday life written from a Christian worldview.

    While I agree there is a great need for books sharing the message of Christ's salvation, fiction that is written by Christians but aimed at wider mainstream audiences has value, too. Maybe the problem isn't so much in the expectation of what Christian novelists [should] write as in what Christian bookstores [should] sell. In the post Katie mentions there's a comment about whether as writers we are "a Christian who writes fiction or a Christian fiction writer." There's a clear distinction and I believe there is room for both in today's market.

    But I also believe the cover blurbs should be clear about the content. Don't call it Christian if there is no reference to the Christian faith, but *do* say it's "Christian Suspense" or whatever, if faith place a part in the story. I've heard just as much criticism of books that mislead buyers by hiding their Christian theme.

    Oh, now see how you've got me on my soapbox, Jen! It's definitely a controversial subject and I'll have to come back later and see what others have to say on it.

    Carol Garvin

  9. I think there is a place for overt Christian and just inspiring stories. Hopefully, they will "be inspired" to go further and find God. :O)

  10. Oh, Miss Jeannette, I completely feel your pain. Much of Christian publishing seems to define itself not by a presentation of Christ as Savior and Lord, but by presenting "nice" and "clean" stories about "good" people who live "conservative" and "traditional" lives. *sigh*

    Unfortunately, I think that kind of thinking comes right from the philosophy that guides many churches, where folks who don't fit the "nice" and "clean" and "good" and "presentable" labels often aren't welcomed in our church services. Or, if welcomed, we immediately want to fix their outsides while their insides remain dead and separated from God.

    As several people have pointed out before, the Bible itself would never survive the stringent requirements of current Christian publishers. Way too dark, too edgy, too confrontational, too controversial.

  11. Just popping on over to read the comments. Interesting stuff.

    Good point about the basket having no eggs at all. But I wonder...did you read the book? Do you know for sure the egg's not somewhere there?

    I really like what Jeremy Hickman said on a Facebook. I worry more about the books that do talk about Jesus - but they make him out to be some dude who cares about Americans getting rich or some other ludicrous thing.

  12. Carol: I am not talking about Christian fiction; the books I saw were all non-fiction, "feel-good" books that could be found in any secular bookstore. Not that I don't read secular books; I do. And I frequent B & N and Borders and Amazon.com. I just want Christian when I go to a Christian store.

  13. Niki: I agree with you about Jesus welcoming sinners, not expecting them to clean up before they come to Him. But Jesus never told stories for the sake of entertainment alone--He made solid points, directing people to God.

  14. Jeanette, Is it the Christian book stores' struggle to stay in business at all that is causing this to happen? I understand and a agree with your basic thesis, but I do think that the other side are those books that picture Jesus as the "good guy" ... You have hit a nerve my dear. And that's good I think. Blessings Clella

  15. Hello Friend,

    It really makes sense to me what your talking about here, I'm not seeing it as you just stating "your opinion."

    I can only speak for myself and I'm seeing something deeper than your opinion. For me, it feels like your frustration is "Not" selfishly motivated, it comes out of your passion for the Lord, and seeing Him, His Name used to sell something, when He's not the primary focus or the authors intent is not to lead anyone to Christ, or if already saved, to grow in their relationship.

    For myself, if I'm going to read something I just have to stick with Christian non-fiction, and ask myself "will it be edifying, honor Christ, put my focus on Him?" I'm VERY easily distracted, and so anything that can fill my mind with more of Jesus, will be for my own good.

    I read some of the others comments, and I could relate about things in regard to how some churches, and some Christians are feeling as if the "Truth, The Word of God" does not hold the same power as it always has, and sadly this is why we are seeing a lot of pastors trying to "make Jesus cool, instead of focusing on His holiness." ~ statement from a friend.

    It's going to be a very difficult thing to be bold for Christ as time goes on, because even fellow Christians are disagreeing on the "Truth" and how it should be preached, or I guess these days more like marketed. Sadly, there seems to be a trend to make church a source of entertainment with a somewhat diluted truth, in hopes of drawing people in. But where is the line drawn?

    I loved your boldness, passion, and your love for Jesus.

    "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." ~ JOHN 12:32

    God Bless you,

  16. Oh Jeanette, I adore your controversial self. :-)

    There is a publisher that I pretty much don't read books from anymore because they were clean and boring. Look, I'll be honest: If I read a Christian book, I like to see Jesus in it. If I read a non-Christian book, I'm fine with cuss words or whatever because it's non-Christian.
    I'm not cool with Christian books that have NO Christ in them. The egg thingy was interesting but I'm not sure I agree with it. (you know, the whole light under a basket thing, or salt you can't taste).
    I also find it a little arrogant to assume CBA must fill the "clean" slot. There's the assumption that ABA doesn't publish "clean" which really isn't true. Christian's (and this is just my controversial opinion) don't have the upperhand on Goodness like they seem to think they do. I read Christian fiction for more reasons than just wanting a clean read...*sigh* Like you said, this is controversial. I don't have a problem with motivating, uplifting stories but why call them Christian? Not sure...It is true that the ten commandments and Judaism/Christianity have a had a wonderful effect on Western culture but does that make books without Jesus Christian? Ack. This all makes my head spin.

  17. Thank you all so much for your thoughts. I treasure this kind of interchange of ideas, for we need to cement WHY we believe what we believe.

    Part of this issue is a personal one. I've been sweating and praying to get my overtly Christian books published for over two years now. Up until now, I thought I was competing with only Christian authors who were better writers than I, or had a wider platform. Now I find that I'm competing with ALL authors for those few CBA slots.

    I have nothing against clean secular writing--I contribute myself to a humor blog, An Army of Ermas. For those articles, I write secular humor. But it's not billed as a Christian site.

  18. I'm back to add another thought. After reading everyone's comments it seems like most aren't objecting to the existence of "clean" books without Christian content, but to Christian bookstores selling books that don't fit the Christian genre. Clella's point may be a valid one, that the stores are expanding into the cleaner edge of the secular market to stay afloat financially. Whatever the case, this may be an argument to take up with the CBA and bookstores. After all, why call yourselves a Christian bookstore if customers can't count on your inventory being focused on Christ?

  19. Don't you think this watered down effect is everywhere in all areas.....I think many are afraid of giving the straight gospel as it might "offend" someone....or like you said lower sales......

    Jesus said don't be luke warm.....but sadly to say many calling themselves Christians are luke warm.....

  20. Within the wall of my Christian book store I've seen a few odd books. I do have a different opinion of what Christian fiction should be for believers and to minister to none believers, but I'd perfer my bookstore to weed that out for me. =) XOXO

  21. I linked to this post in my own post today! Much thinking going on! http://www.nikiturner.net/2011/06/is-christian-fiction-for-christians.html#disqus_thread

  22. Hi Jen -

    I've noticed the trend of certain Christian authors to let a true spiritual thread go in favor of supernatural doings that could border on the occult. I won't read their books anymore.


  23. Niki: Why thank you, dear! I'm honored. I'll pop by to see what your peeps have to say...

  24. Hi Jen,
    There are also a lot of Christian books that are very poorly written.

    I would love a list of a few of your top favorites.



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