A) completely necessary. I can’t read a story unless it has a God-centered moral.
B) a nice touch. A little sermonizing helps me root for the main couple to get their happily ever after.
C) tolerable. Don’t force the lesson down my throat and I’ll go ahead and swallow it.
D) sort of like commercials. I’ll put up with them if that’s the price of a great story, but there better be a great story.
Anyone who has spent any time browsing reviews of Christian romances has seen that readers are spread among these camps. The same book might be called uplifting by one reviewer and sanctimonious by another.
I have to admit that I lean towards the C and D answers most of the time. I find lengthy prayers or bible discussions in a work of fiction something like the crowd shots during sporting events. If I turned on the TV to watch a hockey game, for example, I prefer that the people running the cameras don’t spend too much time showing me people in the stands. I don’t mind a few seconds if a kid has broken out some horrible dance moves in the aisle. But it’s usually shots of people screaming at the camera or chatting with each other or some guy eating a hot dog. That is not entertainment.
I read fiction to be entertained.* Most novelists try to appeal to the widest audience by relying on trite messages like “Trust God” or “Be forgiving” and every time the characters start talking about that theme or throwing out bible verses to support it I feel like I’m watching the guy eating a hot dog. Can we please put the camera back on the ice? I picked up this book for a story, not a sermon.
Is anyone thinking, “Wait a minute. Don’t you write Christian fiction?”
Yes and no. I like to think that I write books with Christian characters as opposed to Christian books. This is the difference between mentioning that a character said a prayer and writing out three paragraphs of exactly what was said to God. It’s the difference between writing a scene where a character runs into someone she knows while at church and writing out the lyrics to the hymn they sing and which part of the bible was read.
I rarely try to impart any particular lesson in my books. Because at least the primary characters are Christian though, they generally make choices consistent with a faithful person. Readers can (hopefully) be entertained without finding offensive content or preachy interruptions. And if you answered A or B, you are still welcome to read my books to look for a more subtle message. Maybe I’m deeper than I let on.
* Yes, I also read nonfiction when I’m looking for spiritual development. Maybe that’s why I don’t need it included in a narrative.