The Christian Modifier

*A note before you read this. After doing an audit of my blog in 2022, I have decided to leave content that speaks to the Christian I was at the time this was written. I no longer identify as Christian (and haven’t for a very long time.) I chose to leave these posts because it is who I was then and it is important to me to be honest and true with every iteration and evolution of self that I experience. I may decide to add comments to the end of posts like this as well

I haven’t had many deep, introspective thoughts in quite some time. (Does this mean I’m getting better?)

Something’s been brewing though. I’d like to give it a shot, ease back into things.

This thought is about the word “Christian” as a modifier.

Christian writer
Christian music
Christian books
Christian artist
Christian horror (Egads! What’s that?!)

Modifier= A word, phrase, or clause that limits or qualifies the sense of another word or word group.

And so it has come to pass that I’ve figured out why I don’t like it as a modifier. It limits. Limits imply rules. Rules imply a maker of rules–and here’s where I have problems. I can handle, say, speed limits. Seat belt laws. Things that, for all intent and purpose, are for the common good of society.

But where does that fit in when we’re talking about this idea of “Christian fiction?” Heather Goodman said,

In an interview I posted yesterday (or was it the day before?), we decided that what people mean by “Christian novel” is it’s written by Christians, marketed by Christians, and bought by Christians, which means it may or may not have anything to do with the themes or theology in the book below a surface level.”

Heather also added that she didn’t like labels and surprised me by posting a Willie Nelson quote and video. ”

“Labels were invented to sell the music. You had to know what to call it to sell it. So they called the blues the blues, and the jazz the jazz, and the bluegrass, gospel. But some music encompasses it all. So what do you call that? And that’s pretty much what I like to play.”–Willie Nelson

They’re saying the same thing. My take: labels exist for people who need rules. People who want to be kept. Kept what? I don’t know. For people who read “Christian” fiction, maybe they need to be kept safe. At least their version of safe. Because it can’t fully reconcile itself to Jesus.

Christian radio stations around here tout themselves as “family friendly” and “safe for the whole family.”

Since when is Jesus safe?

Strongtower. Yes. But, safe?

And check it out. Head on over to Blue Letter Bible and search the terms Jesus safe.

Sorry! The search criteria that you entered, Jesus safe, does not yield any results…

I wonder, then. How are authors limiting their fiction by subjecting themselves to modifiers that are inadequate? And yes, I’m fully aware that some people are comfortable within limitations. And some people are meant to break free.

Which are you?

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5 thoughts on “The Christian Modifier”

  1. I prefer to just be a Christian that happens to write good stories. Don’t care if someone calls it Christian fiction or not.
    I think the word as a modifier is useless, and as a matter of fact, think people sometimes equate that modifier with the word crappy (not saying that’s fair, just think sometimes it’s true).
    I don’t think people went around telling Jesus He told great Christian parables. He just told stories that held the interest of his listeners. Don’t remember Him saying anything about making sure everything is safe, either. Feel pretty sure the prodigal son’s story wasn’t really safe. Egads! Prostitution and wild living?? Jesus told a story like that??

  2. I don’t read Christian fiction for safety reasons. I read it because I want the truthful perspective when the ugly things are realistically portrayed–I could list a ton of “Christian” fiction which doesn’t pull any punches, is real, deals with hard, tough subjects, etc.

    I spent 30 years living the world’s way. Drugs, sex, rock ‘n’ roll. I know it. I lived it. I no longer find any pleasure in reading about it from an unsound, fully engaged perspective of humanism and worldly philosophies. I did my share of that. Beautiful writing doesn’t cover worldly depravity with no redeeming source. That’s only my opinion.

    I write raw and real, characters fully engaged in sin, without judgment. Some are redeemed. Some aren’t.

    There’s bad and good Christian fiction. No one seems to have a problem identifying a church as a Christian church as opposed to a Mormon or JW church. Yes, I know the Church is us, but it also describes a building. Some are good, some bad.

  3. Okay, attempt number 2 at leaving a comment, summarized.

    If you’re a Christian, who writes horror novels, then the to say you’re a Christian who writes Christian horror would be redundant – yes? Nobody can help but have their words, actions, and creations be tainted by their beliefs and experiences. Therefore, knowing you’re a Christian, it should be obvious that your writing would be affected by that in some way – sometimes more, sometimes less. No modifier needed.

    For me, ideally, the modifier “Christian” in front of some item, would indicate an item created from a Christian perspective – but since that does not always apply (non-Christian people create music, books, trinkets, etc and market them TOWARDS the Christian market) I think the modifier has lost it’s meaning anyway.

  4. You didn’t know that I like Willie, huh? I’m just full of surprises.
    My issue, really, is there’s no biblical or historical precedent for using Christian as anything else but a non for a group of people who find their identity in Christ.
    We should all be striving to write good, beautiful stories that glorify Christ (we meaning Christians–I don’t expect nonChristians to do that, although often they end up doing just that!) without worrying about the modifiers. And as Christians, like Amber said, our beliefs will naturally come out (which means we should always be looking to discuss those beliefs in the Church, going to the Bible, going to Christ). As Christians, we also have different beliefs and different lines re theological issues as well as more superficial issues such as drinking, cursing, etc (I call them superficial not meaning condescendingly whether you’re for or against but meaning they’re not more core issues), and these beliefs will naturally come out in our writing, which (and this is becoming a super-long sentence) gives other Christians plenty of options from which to choose to read.


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