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Real Issues in Christian Fiction

by Dani Pettrey

I often hear people say they don’t read Christian fiction because it doesn’t deal with real issues. I take issue with that.

I’ve read phenomenal Christian novels dealing with issues like adultery (Dry as Rain by Gina Holmes), drug addiction (Terri Blackstock’s Intervention series), and most recently, I read a novel dealing with a very prevalent issue among today’s youth (Wish You Were Here by Beth Vogt). Beth is guest posting here tomorrow, sharing some fabulous insight into how and why she writes.

In my debut novel, Submerged, the issue is bondage-not physical bondage, but rather emotional and spiritual bondage. My heroine, Bailey Craig, is a slave to the sins of her past.

Bailey has accepted Christ as her Savior, but she hasn’t embraced the fullness of His forgiveness. She’s allowed the pain and shame of her past to hinder her future. Like Bailey, I’ve sinned and made horrible mistakes in my past, but God has been patient and faithful to show me that He is greater than all that pain.

As writers, we pour a part of ourselves into our characters-whether that part is something from our past, our hopes for the future, bumps along our spiritual journey, or even a question burning deep inside us. That’s the beauty of Christian fiction. We get to explore everything (pain, shame, fear, hurts, loss) all in the light of God’s truth. What could be more real than that?

What moving, real-life issues have you read about lately? What issues would you like to see addressed more in Christian novels?

ACFW’s Fiction Finder is a great resource specifically for that. Not only can you search by title, author, and genre, but you can also search by topic. If you haven’t already visited Fiction Finder, I encourage you to do so. There are so many wonderful stories covering a wide variety of topics. I’m sure you’ll find just what you’re looking for.


Dani Pettrey feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves: the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of one’s faith and plenty of romance. Her debut novel, Submerged, is available now from Bethany House.

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8 Responses to Real Issues in Christian Fiction

  1. Mary F. Allen says:

    I was pleasantly surprised and pleased at the fine quality of reading in the Christian market. I sometimes think it’s a difficult edge to give hope along with the reality that life is difficult, but still redeemed, blessed, and joyful. BTW That is a great photo Dani.

  2. Pingback: The Issue of Issues | Elizabeth Maddrey

  3. Dani,

    An excellent post.

    In part, I share the sentiments of those who’ve told you Christian fiction doesn’t deal with hard issues. I had that reaction myself (and I’m a writer writing from a Christian worldview) after reading the writer’s guidelines for a lot of publishers publishing Christian fiction.

    I’d be interested in knowing what genres the people who say such things to you are reading. Christian romances are notoriously ‘squeaky clean’.

    Other genres of Christian fiction are more or less squeaky clean, but each genre is geared toward a different readership.

    If the people who turn away from Christian fiction are looking only at the romances from certain nameplates, then they are correct.

    If they are basing their judgment of all Christian fiction on those nameplates, then they are not correct.

    As for ‘hard issues’ I’ve recently read about, Chris Fabry’s Dogwood, June Bug, and Almost Heaven come immediately to mind. Each book deals with a different real-life issue (self-sacrifice, good coming from bad and forgiveness, and past abuses).

    But I would have no difficulty recommending those books to anyone.

  4. Sharon Srock says:

    Dani, I loved your post and I loved your book. In the last three years I’ve read, almost exclusivly, Christian fiction. Some were really good, some were so-so, amd some were so bad I souldn’t force myself beyond the half way point. I challange any reader of secular fiction to beat that record. I’ve come to discover that I like that Christian-uplifting thread through what I read.

  5. Dani Pettrey says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Carrie. I’ve heard very good things about Chris Fabry’s books. Will definitely have to check them out!

  6. Dani Pettrey says:

    Thanks, Sharon. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and Submerged. I agree. There is a wide range of stories out there both in CBA and ABA. Both can deal with hard issues, but the beauty of Christian fiction is the hope we have in Jesus that shines through.

  7. I am SO glad writers are beginning to address real issues through Christian fiction. I look forward to reading your book, mostly because I’ve heard many great things about it.

    I’ve seen so little about 2 issues close to my heart, depression and inter racial marriage, that I tackled it myself. It should be interesting to see how long it takes to get an agent with 2 huge, flaming red flag issues in a historical romance!