I’ve been a fan of audible books for a while now, and recently signed up for another year’s worth of books on audible.com. (Current “listens” include The Hobbit – J.R.R.Tolkien, The King’s Cross – Tim Keller and another one I’ll mention in a moment).
But this past summer I also discovered Christianaudio.com, and ergo, I also discovered Christian fiction. Yeah, yeah, I know – I’m late to the party. Mind you, some years ago I had read the first of the Left Behind series (aptly titled, Left Behind), but it apparently didn’t capture my attention because I stopped there. But this past July I took advantage of a free book from Christian audio (they offer one every month) and downloaded The Sword by Bryan M. Litfin.
I was gloriously transported to the world of Chiveis, and lived there for the next couple of months as I also downloaded the other two of Litfin’s trilogy, The Gift and The Kingdom.
The Chiveis trilogy is the story of the earth some 400 years into the future, where the world as we know it has been destroyed by plague and nuclear war, and those left are thrown back into medieval times, a world of swords and horses and parchment. The hero and heroine, Teofil and Anastasia, live in the mighty Kingdom of Chiveis, where the ruins of our civilization are all around, but the Bible and thus Christianity have been lost.
What a story! And it was more than fiction, because when Teo and Ana find a Bible (only the Old Testament – the New Testament has rotted away in the copy they discover) we get to come along discovering God’s word afresh.
And now I confess: lurking in the back of my mind had been a bit of snobbery regarding Christian fiction, so I appreciated what Randy Alcorn, a Christian fiction writer himself, had say about this in an article in World magazine this past year:
Recently, at a party, a Christian leader raved about various novels. When asked about a particular Christian novelist, he replied, “I never read Christian fiction. It’s predictable, sugar-coated, preachy, and poorly written!”
“Can you give some examples?” I asked.
He couldn’t. Not one. He’d last read Christian fiction 20-some years ago. I politely suggested that since he never reads it, his opinion might not be up-to-date and well-informed.
I’ve encountered the same stereotypical comments countless times, often from people repeating what they’ve heard. I read secular fiction, but also enjoy novels with a Christian worldview. I’m part of an online group of 263 Christ-following novelists that started in 1999 with 15 of us. I’ve witnessed firsthand these writers’ dedication to improving their craft. Some of their work, in my opinion, is breathtakingly good.
Amen. And I apologize for my own earlier foolishness, Randy. I stand corrected.
It’s funny that as I write this, Diane and I have started listening to The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy on our drive back from her sister’s place in Colorado. I imagine I got it for its rave listener reviews, but I don’t know if we will continue. Pat Conroy is an amazing writer, to be sure, but two hours into the read, we have descended into an abyss, and I’m not sure I want to keep exploring this dark world.
Mind you, I would never say that all novels must have happy endings (the real world does not). However, aside from pain and death, as followers of Christ, we know there is also a reality called resurrection. There is the glorious word redemption. And there is a beautiful concept called grace. Should I be surprised that Christian writers can represent these truths better than any others?