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Is it Christian Fiction?

What is a Christian Fiction movie or novel? If you reach for a mystery, you will want to finish by seeing who did the crime. If you look at a romance, you will expect a happy-ever-after ending. What do readers of Christian fiction expect?


As a reader, if you know what genre you enjoy, you can more easily find the type of story, content, and style that you will enjoy. As a writer, following the general pattern of a genre allows you to satisfy the reader's expectations, receive positive reviews, and promote your book.


Do me a favour: Don't call my novel a Christian Fiction. Fans of Christian fiction may be disappointed if they find it re-tells the Gospel stories in a way that disrupts their thinking.


What is Christian Fiction - and is Forgotten Followers Christian Fiction?


1. No violence, bad language or profanity, no explicit sex

✔️Yes, Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold is clean, with no violence, bad language, and explicit sex.


2. Consistent with the Bible

✔️Evangelical Christians generally approve of The Chosen as a historical fiction drama that is true to the Bible, taking artistic license only where it fits with the biblical narrative. Christians also approve of Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ as true to the biblical account. Christians approve of the Left Behind series even though the plot is inconsistent with biblical prophecy or church teachings, perhaps due to the portrayal of brave, male leadership and the need for salvation,

✔️Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold is consistent with the Bible. The plot and character development are plausible and fit in the framework of the biblical narrative and portray Jesus performing miracles and rising from the dead.


3. Happily Ever After Marriage

✔️Christian Romance dominates Christian fiction. Romance has a happy ending as a character finds a romantic partner. It can have a predictable plot and provide pat answers to problems. The portrayal of marriage as a main objective for a female character fits with the traditional church view that a woman's highest calling is to be a wife and mother.

❌Protestants generally endorse marriage and motherhood as a woman's goal. My novel does not uphold marriage as the best and only goal for women. The female characters in Forgotten Followers learn that God values them for more than for being a wife or mother. Forgotten Followers normalizes the marital status of women who are single, divorced, separated, common-law, married, or widowed. The Bible honours either marriage or singlehood. Instead of looking for marriage, the women in Forgotten Followers are looking to heal from trauma, find their voice, preach God's word, and work for justice.


4. God Saves the Characters

✔️Christian fiction has a happy ending as characters come to faith. It may infer that God predestines only some for salvation, by God's grace. It may show characters as passive, and uninvolved in God's choice to save them. It may have limited tension or flat character development. It may infer that salvation may solve all your problems or provide health, wealth, and happiness. A focus on salvation can result in a story where preaching outweighs plot and character development.

❌Forgotten Followers does not support the prosperity gospel. My characters have real struggles that cannot be solved simply by believing in Jesus. They must take steps to overcome their challenges, heal from trauma and let go of pain, bitterness and fear. Forgotten Followers endorses the view that the work of Jesus is sufficient to save all people and that God wants all to come to salvation but does not predestine your decision. Each character has both good and evil within themself and has to work to decide what they believe and how to act. The novel encourages readers to decide for themselves who they think Jesus is. The fresh, creative approach helps readers who have doubts or questions or have been hurt or excluded, to feel affirmed, healed, and hopeful.


5. Represent Jesus as God

✔️Christian Fiction represents Jesus as the Way to God, equal to the Father, God in human flesh, and the promised Messiah.

❌Forgotten Followers represents Jesus both fully divine and fully human, consistent with traditional church teaching but inconsistent with evangelical preaching. Some Christians think the film Jesus Christ, Superstar is sacrilegious, making Jesus too human. Some Christians reject The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd because it imagines Jesus having been married in the years before he began his ministry.


6. Represents God as Male

✔️The church has traditionally portrayed God as male, with male pronouns and images. The main apostles were male, and the priests and pastors are male.

❌The Bible portrays God in male, female, and neutral terms and images. God is referred to as a father, a mother, the wind and the vine and the way. God is a Spirit, neither male nor female. The Shack, by W. P. Young, shocked some readers by showing God in the form of an African American woman, an Asian woman, and a Middle Eastern man. Forgotten Followers refers to God with a variety of pronouns including he/she/it/they. It portrays the Holy Trinity as three equal persons; Jesus is not subordinate. The Holy Trinity is not a model for female subordination.


7. Consistent with Male Theology

✔️Traditional Christian theology was developed by men with a male worldview. The Red Tent relates the biblical story of Dinah from a female perspective and is criticized for not being true to the male narrative in Genesis. Many Christians believe biblical interpretations restrict women from the roles of teaching and ministry leadership.

❌Forgotten Followers is consistent with feminist theology and with biblical egalitarian scholarship that proclaims God's design for mutual service between women and men. Jesus abolishes distinct roles by gender, affirms women disciples, patrons, and apostles and affirms equal rights and freedoms.


8. Consistent with Church Patriarchy

✔️Christian Fiction generally is consistent with the idea that God endorses patriarchy either as God's design or as a result of the Fall will be with us until Christ returns. It often portrays strong male leaders and secondary, female support. It typically portrays the biblical narrative as a literal history. They may teach the Bible as a foundation for placing limitations on women.

❌Forgotten Followers is consistent with biblical exeges showing God endorses equality for all people and God shows no favouritism. Patriarchy is the result of sin, not God's design. It portrays the biblical narrative as both literal, allegory, and metaphor. It challenges church teachings that only men may ever be in supervisory or leadership roles or that God ordains males to be in authority over women. This novel shows that Jesus affirmed women as equals, as disciples, apostles, and leaders. My novel shows the Bible as a foundation for equal freedoms and responsibilities. The Jesus in my novel is consistent with the Gospel accounts yet free from the church teachings about distinct roles by gender.


9. Consistent with a Binary, Heterosexual Agenda

✔️Many Christians affirm only two genders and only heterosexual orientation. Christian fiction often ignores or omits LGBTQ characters and reflects church opposition to full affirmation and inclusion of LGBTQ people.

❌Forgotten Followers shows biblical affirmation of male, female, and a grey area in between. Forgotten Followers shows that Jesus affirms a same-sex orientation as natural and God-given for some people. It is consistent with inclusive Christianity.


10. Christian Themes of Good Vs Evil

✔️Christian fiction represents Jesus respectfully, consistent with church tradition. Christian groups condemn The Last Temptation of Christ and The DaVinci Code as blasphemous or misrepresenting Christianity. They don't tend to condemn Christian fiction that shows women in support roles, even when the biblical narrative has that woman in an elevated leadership role. Religious Fiction has universal themes of good vs evil and moral choices but the evangelical Christian message may be less obvious. Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia both include wizards but get the nod of approval as allegories of the moral fight between good and evil. While the Harry Potter series shows the struggle against evil, many Christians reject it because it includes magic and wizardry.

❌Forgotten Followers represents Jesus respectfully, consistent with revisionist, progressive biblical interpretations. Indeed, including Jesus as in the novel was likely the most difficult, yet I dared because I wanted to demonstrate how Jesus uplifted women and overturned traditional patriarchal hierarchies. I see Forgotten Followers as a parable, a story showing Jesus treating all people as equals.


Conclusion


In summary, Forgotten Followers does not fit perfectly with the Christian Fiction genre. The genre is largely dominated by evangelical protestant perspectives. The plot of Forgotten Followers hangs on the timeline of the Gospels and shares the message of God's redeeming love. However, it illustrates progressive interpretations of biblical equality, gender equality, and inclusive Christianity. It shows that equality and affirmation are biblical and Christ-centred. It shows that Jesus affirms all people, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.


What Genre Is Forgotten Followers?

It does not exactly fit with Christian Fiction if the Christian Fiction genre endorses traditional, evangelical, or male-oriented views of the Bible. Since Christian teachings are conflicting, the novel cannot be consistent with all church teachings. So what is it?

4 images
Elaine Kelly doing time travel with heritageai

Historical Fiction/Ancient World Fiction lets you time travel and is a genre I most enjoy reading. I like reading an engaging story and at the same time learning something about another place and time. Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold is a Historical Fiction that allows you to time-travel and experience being a woman disciple in the first century. Through heritageai, I was able to time travel to be an Egyptian, a pirate, a WW2 nurse, or a Celtic gypsy. Examples of historical fiction include The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, Roots, by Alex Haley, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.


Biblical Fiction or Religious Biblical Fiction is a genre that uses characters, settings, and events from the Bible. Forgotten Followers is set in Bible times and develops biblical characters. Biblical fiction is not only entertaining but it inspirational and informative. Perhaps the book that got me hooked on biblical fiction was Michal, a novel about the first wife of David by Jill Eileen Smith. Rather than portraying Michale as evil for criticizing David and punishing her with infertility, the novel allowed me to see Michal was brave when she hid a statue under blankets to help David escape; she was strong when she faced her father King Saul's judgement, she was wise when she counselled David to show respect before God and the Ark; she was faithful even when David moves on to other wives.


Inspirational Fiction tells stories of people who overcome adversity or grow in understanding. Reading these stories is uplifting, encouraging and entertaining. I hope that Forgotten Followers is inspirational and empowering.


Feminist Fiction tells stories that shine the light on the consequences of gender inequality and promote change to empower women. For example, The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood, shows a dystopian world where an extreme version of Christianity demeans women. Similarly, Forgotten Followers retells the Gospel stories from the women's perspectives and demonstrates that Jesus supports equal opportunities, commends women and men for their faith and commissions them to go out into all the world to spread the word.


Women's Fiction has female main characters and tells stories of women's life experiences, personal growth and emotional reflections. Forgotten Followers is also the story of strong women characters, showing their personal growth as they interact with each other and with Jesus. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, is an early example of a fiction with female main characters, struggling between domestic duties and their own personal and professional growth.


Affirming Fiction/LGBTQ Fiction

Gay literature and fiction incorporate homosexual themes or characters in the plot. Authors may be either gay or gay allies. Again, Forgotten Followers has no romance or sex. LGBTQ Christian fiction includes queer or gay characters and their stories in the novel. The novel may be referred to as progressive Christian fiction.


So you see, the term Christian Fiction may give readers the impression that a novel will support a literal or patriarchal type of Christianity.


Those who are likely to enjoy Forgotten Followers are those who reject a literal or patriarchal type of Christianity and are looking for biblical support to affirm all people, to free all people for any role. My novel is not true to patriarchal church teachings, but it is definitely true to the biblical account and gospel message. I provide a free Reference Note for readers to dig deeper and contrast the novel to the biblical account.



Sources:


 

Elaine Ricker Kelly uses her experiences as a woman in business to inspire and empower women at home, church and society. She was an investment and insurance advisor for thirty years, has three grown daughters, and is passionate about writing to encourage girls and women in leadership. Elaine R. Kelly lives near Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, with her husband and lap dog. She and her husband have hiked the 900 km Bruce Trail and enjoy hiking, nature, tennis, music, history and culture.

Books by Elaine Ricker Kelly:

Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold - biblical fiction offering hope and healing to anyone who feels forgotten, belittled, or out of place.

The Sword: A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role - provides 104 flashcards with an objective, memorable look at the rationale for diverse views on gender roles.

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