08 September 2012

Why Is Christian Literature So Bad?

Every once and a while I read something total out of my normal fare. A recent example was "Anything but Normal" by Melody Carlson (2010), which is a consciously Christian fiction (I believe they call it "inspirational") take on a teen "issues" novel.

Imagine a version of the movie "Juno" (to which its characters refer disparagingly) where all of the characters sound like something out of a "Left Behind" novels of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (a consciously Christian science fiction series about the Biblical Apocalypse of Revelations actually happening), and you have this book.

Apparently, there is a market for it. Carlson's biography claims that she has written more than a hundred novels.

Both Carlson's book and the Left Behind series, like most of the fiction and music in the inspirational Christian fiction genre (although there are some emerging bright lights in the white Christian music scene a few decades after it really took off), are simply dreadful.

It could be, I'm not close enough to the Evangelical Christian world personally to know, that these books are dreadful simply because people in real life who are part of the culture really do think and act the way that the people in the fictional accounts do, and I don't get them.  I've seen people act like that in isolation, but it has always come across to me as false.  It seems so two dimensional, driven by empty mantras, shallow, emotionally stunted, and brain dead. 

It could also be that this is simply a genre convention in inspirational literature. There is a rich tradition of secular Southern and Appalachian fiction with real human beings in it, so I suspect it is mostly the latter, a conscious attempt to be didactic and follow Christian doctrine, verisimilitude be damned.  Then again, the quality secular fiction tends to be about less pious individuals.

But, when you do encounter someone who really does to the outside world seem to act that way, you wonder.  People buy this stuff, so maybe they relate to it.  I sincerely hope that isn't true.  That would undermine my faith in humanity a little.  But it is hard to know.

1 comment:

ManGod said...

The problem with these types of books is their purpose is not subtle. It's in your face. True believers will ignore a poorly crafted story and mundane characters if it reinforces to them that their belief is the correct one. The rest of us want to read a good tale without having the agenda shoved down our throats.