Friday, September 14, 2012

Writing: "Christian fiction"

I'm currently working my way through novels by some of my favorite authors. I was a fan of John Grisham and his books before I knew that he was a practicing Christian. But since I've been writing it myself, I've reread his books with an eye to determining whether they'd qualify as "Christian fiction." I've tried to define the genre before, and I won't try again--it is what it is, and like a giraffe, I find it hard to describe but you'll know it when you see it. But to me, Christian fiction need not contain a conversation scene, a trip down the "Roman road," or an altar call. See what you think about this one.

The book I just finished is The Last Juror, published in 2004. In it, the protagonist, editor of the newspaper in a small Mississippi town, becomes friends with an elderly black lady named Miss Cassie. Early in the course of the book, Miss Cassie asks him, "Are you a Christian child?" When he says his parents "dragged him to church" every Easter, she proceeds to educate him, complete with Bible references, on what it takes to be a Christian, on the sinfulness of all mankind, and God's offer of eternal life as a gift. Later in the book, he visits various churches in the area (in order to write about them), and the reader is treated to vignettes that emphasize the love of a church in action. The ending is sad, but includes a heartfelt prayer.

Now I'm about to finish The Testament. I chose it randomly from the bookshelf and was amazed to find that a major character is a Christian missionary, a woman working deep in the jungles of Brazil. In a number of scenes, Grisham portrays God at work in her life and her influence on a not-fully-recovered alcoholic lawyer sent to find her. There's no question in my mind that Grisham probably reached thousands of non-Christians through this book.

So, there you have it. Best-selling novels by a best-selling novelist, each containing Scripture, a presentation (although indirect) of the method of and need for salvation, and a commentary on the way God can impact and change a life. That's Christian fiction in my estimation, even though the publisher is not a member of CBA. Personally, if I could write a novel that contains a message as compelling as The Last Juror or The Testament, I'd feel that I'd fulfilled my calling to write Christian fiction.

What about you? Would you call this Christian fiction? Why or why not? I'd like to know.

(cover image from


Carol Garvin said...

Oh, my! You've stepped into that quagmire! There are so many novels that balance on the fence. I think the only person who can truly answer the question as to where they should fall, is the author. Where do they intend them to fall? I also believe God can use the messages in such books, regardless of their labels.

Carol Garvin said...

P.S. I've been away for much of the summer and I've just been reading some of your back posts. I must say I really like the revised cover of STRESS TEST... there'll be no problem identifying it as a novel now! :)

Richard Mabry said...

Carol, Good to have you back. Thanks for your comments and your nice words about the new book cover.