My experience as a pastor’s wife has taught me that you just aren’t going to please everyone all the time. It’s why we have denominations, and frankly, only Jesus Himself is going to be able to sort out all the finer details when it comes to differences among believers. There are readers who want ‘edgy’ fiction and there are writers who feel called to deliver. Some readers don’t want the characters involved in anything unsavoury while others want characters who succumb to moral failings since it allows God’s grace to come shining through. The problem lies not in the sub-genre. The real issue is the lack of classification or standards. There is no rating system, as yet, for Christian fiction, and readers don't always know what they may be getting into.
My own writing is evolving in this regard. While I do believe that there is room for all types of Christian fiction, even so called 'edgy', I have come to realize that this is not the hill I wish to die on. (Or should I say 'edge' I wish to fall over...) My novels are quite tame in comparison to some. I don’t appreciate a lot of skin in a movie when the photographer could easily have ‘panned to the left’. (We don’t need graphic evidence to know that a couple may have ‘hooked up’.) Similarly, this is the approach I take in my writing. Characters may engage in less than godly activities, but the reader doesn’t need to see the details. In my earlier work, I have used a few mild ‘cuss’ words (emphasis on MILD) – something I thought added authenticity and which I felt was no big deal. I have since been surprised to find that it is a big deal in some people’s minds and I’ve had to rethink this approach. I plan to republish my earlier work once the contracts are up, minus some of these words. The story is still the same, with or without them.
I think that expectation is the real key. Many Christian readers may read a secular novel with the same amount of so called ‘edgy’ content (or perhaps more) and not find anything wrong, but when given a Christian novel, they are shocked by minor ‘PG’ content. It’s a bit of a double standard, but understandable. When a person is buying a book labeled ‘Christian’ there is a certain expectation about what it will and will not contain. Unfortunately, everyone's expectations are different. Some readers seem offended by everything and are quite vocal about sharing their opinions. (And trying to make everyone else agree with them...) Dogmatic legalism is just one end of the spectrum, however. At the other end are those whose salt has become a mere sprinkling in a dish overflowing with pop culture, all in the name of evangelism. Somewhere in between there needs to be balance. Perhaps a self imposed rating system is in order to help readers make more informed choices.
What are your thoughts? Should Christian fiction have some kind of rating system?