Once upon a time in Western Civilization, nearly all fiction published was Christian fiction. In the sense that the author of said fiction, honestly or otherwise, made a public claim to be a part of the Christian faith. Many fictional works (such as ‘Dracula’) have notable amounts of Christian content.
Things changed to the point that standing apart from Christianity became cool in some circles, and worldly and positively Christian-hostile content began to be a part of mainstream fiction.
In the US, home of so many diverse denominations, there were a number in which ‘reading novels’ became a worldly practice to avoid like dancing, the theater, tobacco and taverns. Once you were ‘saved’ you didn’t do such things.
But Christians, no matter how humble and uneducated, are more likely to be readers (because of the Bible reading thing), and some Christian publishers began to put out wholesome Christian alternatives to worldly fiction.
We tend to see this Christian fiction as coming from an Evangelical/’Fundamentalist’ denominational background, but in my collection of older Christian fiction I have at least 1 Lutheran historical novel set in the time of the Reformation (I have copies in German and English) and a couple of Catholic novels.
Nowadays Christian fiction is more of a thing, especially since the success of the Evangelical ‘Left Behind’ series. And I think it will be an even bigger thing— but not because of anything happening in the Christian fiction world.
I’ve noticed that in novels by secular publishers, hostility towards traditional Christianity is becoming more common. To the point that with one author, who started out a series with a main character who was at least a regular churchgoer, I began to wonder if that author was pressured to include an array of minor ‘born again’ and Christian pastor characters who were intolerant and hateful.
While Christians are still a numerical majority, most Christians have been accustomed to finding a Christian-bashing tone in their entertainment. I myself have been a fan of the ‘Law & Order: SVU’ television series in spite of the fact that Christian characters are portrayed so negatively.
But the problem comes when the Christian author is looking to place fiction with a secular publishing house. I think given the polarization in society at large, the same publishing world that embraced Orson Scott Card even knowing him to be a Mormon would be far less likely today to accept a brilliant Mormon, Evangelical or Catholic writer unless that writer reassured them that they had rejected any portion of their faith that the modern secular world chooses to deem ‘hateful’.
This doesn’t seem like a very economical approach, to risk alienating the Christian majority. But look at the television cable networks who make it crystal clear that if the Christian stars of a popular reality show say something that offends the gay activist minority, the network will side loudly and decisively with the gay activists. They are willing to sacrifice at least some profits for their ideology.
What this may mean though is that some writers who never thought of themselves as people who would write for the specialized Christian fiction markets may feel they have no choice but to do so if they want to be published. In some cases they will have to self-publish if their Christian fiction doesn’t meet the needs of traditional Christian publishers (most of whom are now owned by mega-large secular publishers).
The question, though, is what happens with the readers? Will those Christian readers who currently don’t read any Christian fiction continue that practice as secular fiction allows more Christian-hostile content? Or will more Christians be giving Christian fiction a try? If so, what will the influx of new readers do to the world of Christian fiction?