What has happened to Christian fiction? Paul Elie, in the December 23, 2012 New York Times Book Review, wrote that Christian belief figures into literary fiction “as something between a dead language and a hangover.” He comments on a bestseller about free will, written from a Catholic perspective, but points out that the novelist, Anthony Burgess, died almost 20 years.
God seems to have survived the “God is dead” movement of the 60’s, but can Christian literature survive? Ely believes its demise is simply a reflection of our post-Christian American society, but he does cite examples from current newspaper articles and essays that acknowledge man’s need for religion.
Gregory Wolfe writes in The Wall Street Journal that the “myth of secularism triumphant in the arts” is just that –– a myth. He cites Christopher R. Beha’s What Happened to Sophie Wilder and Alice McDermott’s Charming Billy as examples of faith found in literature that is “more whispered than shouted.”
I think there are plenty of new novels that have a Christian theme or introduce a mystical presence, but they are not bestsellers written in the strict literary genre. Elie is writing about “serious” writers and I think this excludes books that do not fit his criteria for serious fiction. How open are agents and publishers to “serious” Christian fiction, anyway? My new novel is about free will and is written from a Catholic perspective, but it would be viewed as only semi-literary because it gives equal weight to plot and character development.
Ross Douthat, in his provocative book, Bad Religion, How We Became a Nation of Heretics, writes that even people who do not consider themselves Christians have values and beliefs that owe more to Christianity than they realize. And if they think they have left their ancestors faith behind them entirely, “chances are they are still partially within the circle of faith and are more heretics than true apostates, more Christian-ish then post-Christian.”