Christian Fiction

Pushing The Boundaries Of Christian Fiction

I posted this article on The Crossover Alliance website last week, and I think it bears repeating as this is a serious issue in regards to how Christian fiction has been written and the (sometimes) unspoken rules that govern its place in the market. To be honest, this is exactly why The Crossover Alliance publishing company exists – to publish Christian content that falls outside the lines that the Christian publishing houses have established over the years.

When you’re a child, you break the rules to test the boundaries of what is or isn’t allowed. You push those boundaries little by little, sometimes with an exploratory attitude, to see where the boundary lines have been placed. This educates you in what is permitted and at what point restrictions are set to disallow you from going any further.

Most good parents explain to the child why the boundaries have been placed. You can’t play in the street because there are cars that move through it. You can’t write on the walls with permanent marker because it doesn’t come off. You can’t hit Jimmy in the face with a rock because Jimmy’s dad will come after mommy and daddy with a lawsuit if it happens again.

Depending on what boundaries are set, it also reveals the reason for the boundaries. Are the boundaries set to enforce rules and control, or is there a deeper meaning, a deeper heart to the matter? Sure, we don’t want Jimmy’s dad coming after us with a lawsuit, but isn’t one of the deeper meanings for why we tell our kid not to hit Jimmy in the face with a rock is because we don’t want him to hurt others or become a bully?

I think frequently about how Jesus rebuked the Pharisees. The Pharisees enforced rules that God set up. But while God set these rules up with a deeper meaning in mind – holiness, purity, and obedience – the Pharisees turned the rules into an itinerary of tasks to be accomplished for exclusive membership into God’s holy club. Jesus disbanded these ideals because they weren’t true to the nature of why God set these rules in place.

It reminds me much of the Christian publishing industry. There are rules set in place – some strict, some reasonable. But do we know why they are there or why we follow them? Many Christian authors simply follow them because they don’t want to be chastised by the Christian marketplace or other Christian authors. They feel like a minority because the majority has gone along with these rules for so long and have integrated them into the entire Christian fiction writing process.

No cursing.

No sex.

No violence.

No gambling.

No mentions of luck.

No divorce.

No inappropriate slang.

No aliens.

No magic.

No kidding.

The list goes on and on. Of course, common sense tells us that most of these are in place to prevent us from sinning. If I write a curse word, it’s the same as cursing. If we write about sex, it’s the same as engaging in sexual acts. If we write about gambling, we are…gambling? Wait…now that I wrote that out, I realize how ridiculous it sounds. I mean, just because I am recording an act of sin, does that mean I myself am sinning? More importantly, when I write out these things, am I causing others to sin?

Well, this is definitely something to think about.

Is the act of recording a sin, a sin itself? I mean, the Bible recorded many acts of sin. But why did the Bible do that? It’s supposed to be holy. It records acts of sin to show the need for a savior, right? Isn’t that the heart of the matter, to contrast our inability to remain pure and holy against a God who is consistently and perfectly pure and holy?

That begs the question, why would it be okay to break these rules of Christian publishing? Why would it be okay to write about sex and divorce and violence? Is it to revel in these things, or is it to reveal a deeper truth?

We all struggle with these things, with these ‘edgy’ topics. These things make up life in a broken world. So what good does it do to ignore them, to pretend they don’t exist in our ‘real’ worlds of fiction? So much of the Christian fiction publishing in major markets have one-dimensional characters who live in these strange utopias where sin doesn’t exist, and if it does, it has no real bite. It’s watered-down sin. And the struggles these poor characters endure are brushed over with a rose tint and packed neatly in a perfectly square box before being fed to the masses.

Businessman screaming in megaphone on laptop

And anyone who pushes against those boundaries, who tries to write against that grain, is systematically shut down, their voice silenced by a community of Pharisees who miss the true meaning, the real heart of Christian fiction: to reveal truth and to contrast true evil with true grace. These Pharisees are found in the Christian marketplace, which follows the strict set of rules and usually exiles those who have fiction that doesn’t adhere to the membership qualifications. But it’s also the Christian community itself which have bought the lie that this kind of content is detrimental to a Christian walk.

This kind of content is why we have a Christian walk. It’s the struggle against sin, which is why Christ died on the Cross.

Maybe it’s time to try our hand at pushing against the boundaries again. Push against them until they move closer to the heart of the matter. But how do we push against these boundaries?

By engaging in a different kind of Christian fiction.

The Crossover Alliance is here for three reasons:

1.)    To change the Christian publishing industry—drastically.

2.)    To rally around—and build a community of—authors and readers who want more from their Christian fiction

3.)    To reveal God’s truth through compelling, unhindered fiction.

No, this doesn’t mean we are pushing the boundaries just to push the boundaries. We’re pushing them to reveal to the rest of the industry, to the authors and readers, to the world, that Christian fiction can be more.


  • Anita Cooper

    Great topic, David. Mike Duran posted a similar kind of topic and the conversation among those commenting got quite intense. 😉 You might have seen it?

    My take on this is that “Christian” fiction shouldn’t be separated from the rest of “fiction”. We have the Truth and it’s our job to share it wherever we go. I understand the thought process behind the separation but it was wrong in my opinion. What non Christian is going to go into a Christian bookstore or look under Christian genres for their reading?

    Few in my opinion.

    The goal with my fiction is to “be real” without sacrificing Truth.

    If that takes a character who cusses, etc., then so be it. Not all of my stories will be “happy endings” because quite honestly if we make the wrong choice right here on this side of eternity…well, you know.

    BTW, glad to see a publishing company fulfilling this need. Our God is a BIGGER God than the one Christian bookstores are peddlin’…just sayin’ 😉

  • fencingwithink

    This is the kind of thing I love. I, too, want to push the boundaries of Christian fiction, not just to be a jerk, but to open the doors long closed by the–as you said–Pharisees.
    Anything I can do to help?

    • David N. Alderman

      We’d love your help, Mike. Just sharing the content the Crossover puts out and spreading the word that there’s a publishing company specializing in outside-the-box Christian fiction would do wonders.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *