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Celebrating the Variety

by Jason C. Joyner

I’ve been a watcher of the Christian fiction industry for several years now as an aspiring writer. I’ve enjoyed reading great books, interacting with thoughtful authors, and helping to promote CBA books through blog tours and street teams.

Now on the cusp of the 2013 ACFW Conference in Indianapolis, there will be a lot of excited writers descending with hopes of seeing their hard work get into print. The variety of stories will spin the mind. There might be plucky heroines trying to save a ranch, wounded cops trying to save the innocent, or a space epic set in the future.

One thing that unites us all is our love for Jesus and desire to glorify Him in our writing. That’s what makes this conference so special – coming together in unity to encourage each other and challenge ourselves to grow.

However, the way we define Christian fiction is often a source of some controversy. Every so often there is a discussion on the internet on what makes a book “Christian fiction.” The answer is varied as the people reading and writing it, but here are some thoughts on the subject.

Faith can be applied as one layer of a multi-layered story. It may be more of a base layer, the foundation of what happens, but not as apparent on the surface. This would be a book where a character is a Christian, but overt aspects of faith aren’t featured in the story. Or it may be a novel written with the idea of a Christian worldview without explicit statements or actions of Christianity. I wouldn’t say these are any less of a Christian novel, but the story has another purpose. It isn’t dealing with the specifics of faith and belief.

Other novels are Christian from specific content. Whether it is set in a church community, a crisis of faith, or a conversion story, the author wants to explore themes and ideas of faith and religion. The layer of faith is close to the surface, easily discernible.

We are spiritual beings, and it makes sense to address this aspect of life, whether directly or indirectly. It drives me crazy when Hollywood continually puts out shows that ignore this major part of the journey. Christian fiction has many functions, and one of them is a corrective against this blind spot.

If our stories seem to match up with the core CBA audience, then they should have room in the marketplace and we should allow for the diversity of the body of Christ to reach different areas. The thriller I enjoy may not reach someone who enjoys historical fiction. The up-front wrestling with faith issues will have its place, as does the subtle evaluation of the same concerns.

I can’t wait to see what people have come up with at this year’s conference. And I’ll be cheering them all on.

Jason JoynerJason C. Joyner is a physician assistant living in the high desert of southeast Idaho. He is a long-time blogger, columnist for the regional paper, and working on revisions of his first novel.

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