Today's Discussion: I was reading over at Novel Journey the other day (a great blog, by the way!) and this post caught my eye and just really really grabbed at the heart of what I think is the conflict around "preachy" Christian fiction. So I'm going to take this quote from the quote in the post, and ask you to share your thoughts about this topic.
"Too many Christians think we are supposed to use the arts to give people the answers. We’re not. We’re supposed to use the arts to lead them into a question."
What do you think? Do you think Christian fiction should provide answers or lead us to questions?
My answer: I think this is a tough question. Because reading is so very subjective. And it doesn't always come down to a book's elements or components. In a way it's like singing. You can love a song, but not like all versions of the song. The song is more than just lyrics and a melody, mere notes on a page. Even if the singer doesn't introduce variations...each recording of the song will be different depending on the singer/musician. It's partly what the singer and accompanying musicians bring to it. And it's partly how you respond to it.
In other words, I know when I like something, but I don't necessarily know why I like something. Two books can be done in a very similar way--same themes, similar premise, etc--but I respond to one more positively than the other. So what works for me in one book may not work in another book.
The most important part of a book for me is characterization. If I buy that the character is human--authentic, true-to-life, flesh-and-blood, fully developed--then I'm more open to whatever else the author has to say. If the author chooses to answer more than ask, that's fine. If I buy that character as real and actually seeking and finding, needing and wanting, all's well and good. If I don't buy the character, if it's a flat character, one that I find unbelievable or flimsy or weak then chances are I won't care what the author has to say. If a flat character is used as a means to preach then it becomes a thousand and one times more noticeable. It doesn't matter how good the message is...I just won't buy it.
I will say this...while I don't expect (or necessarily want) a full-out gospel message. If a character is seeking an answer to the question 'is there a God' or 'does God love me' then I expect the answer. If a book doesn't point you in the direction of God (and Jesus) if it's going to be that basic type of seeking then I don't know what it's doing in Christian fiction. But for other non-basic questions, then I'm fine not having all the answers. If the question is 'why is there suffering' or 'why did I lose my job' or 'why did my child die' then obviously there are no answers going to be given in a fiction book that are going to sound authentic and ring true.