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  • Writer's pictureElaine R Kelly

Is it Christian Fiction?

Updated: Jun 3

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 pick it up and find it re-tells the Gospel stories in a way that disrupts the patriarchal teachings they believe. They may not like that my characters have real struggles that cannot be solved simply by believing in Jesus. They may not like that my novel does not uphold marriage as the best and only goal for women. They may not like that my female main characters are strong, and instead of being focused on finding a man, they are focused on trauma recovery, making a living, working for justice, and preaching God's word.

Is it Christian Fiction?

Christian Fiction generally has the following characteristics:

  • consistent with the Bible

  • references to biblical teaching

  • imaginative plots plausibly fit within the biblical narrative

  • no violence

  • no bad language or profanity

  • no explicit sex

  • affirms the Christian message

  • characters who either believe in God or end up believing in God

  • characters who experience God's grace and love

  • consistent with church teaching

Works Approved as Christian Fiction

The Chosen is a historical fiction drama series approved by Christians as being true to the Bible, portraying Jesus and taking artistic license only where it fits with the biblical narrative.

Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ is also approved by Christians as portraying Jesus powerfully and being true to the biblical account.

Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and the Chronicles of Narnia all get the nod of approval as fantasies representing the moral fight between good and evil.

Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold is also consistent with the Bible and is a plausible story that fits in the framework of the biblical narrative. The fiction comes with the character development of the women.

Not Christian Fiction: Blasphemous

The Last Temptation of Christ, is a religious fiction drama which admits it is not based on the Gospels; Christian groups condemned it as blasphemous

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown is a mystery thriller with a fictional storyline that Jesus married and had children, which misrepresents Christianity and the church.

Works Disputed as Christian Fiction or Not

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling continues to be disputed by Christians, with some opposing it because characters are in the real world, participating in witchcraft, wizardry, and the occult. However, others see it as a fantasy that shows the human struggle towards good or evil, involving friendship, love, and sacrifice on behalf of others.

The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant, is disputed because it relates the biblical story of Dinah from a female perspective that is much different from the male narrative in Genesis.

The film Jesus Christ, Superstar is disputed, as some Christians think it makes the Gospel relevant and meaningful while others think it makes Jesus too human and is sacrilegious.

The Shack, by W. P. Young, is disputed because, while it shows God supporting the main character through tragedy, it shows the Holy Trinity taking various forms as an African American woman, an Asian woman, and a Middle Eastern man.

The Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye is suspense fiction concerning the rapture, and the end times, however, while some Christians believe it portrays truth, other Christians reject it as manipulative and inconsistent with biblical prophecy or church teachings.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd is a historical fiction with a female main character who defies the patriarchy of the time to follow her personal calling. Some Christians may reject it as blasphemous because it imagines Jesus having been married in the years before he began his ministry; others see the premise as plausible, fitting what we know about Jesus, and the writing taking a reverential approach to Jesus.

What about Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold?

1) Consistent with the Bible. Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold sticks to the biblical accounts showing that Jesus performed miracles, called himself equal to the Father, and rose from the dead. Like The Chosen, it is true to the Bible, with the fictional elements fitting plausibly into the biblical narrative.

2) Clean, no bad language or sex scenes

3) Forgotten Followers portrays Jesus in the same way as the Gospels- as God, the Messiah, equal to the Father - yet also as a human.

4) Instead of affirming the Christian message, Forgotten Followers asks the reader to decide for themselves who they think Jesus is and whether they believe Jesus is Lord. This is a biblical concept that gives humans the choice for salvation, opposing the idea that God predestines only some to be saved. While many Christians believe God grants free will, others believe only God decides who will believe Jesus is Lord.

5) Affirms the Christian message from the Gospels that Jesus opens the way to God; however, the novel challenges church teachings that only men may ever be in supervisory or leadership roles. Those who teach that God ordains males to be in authority over women may find this novel challenges those church teachings. Instead of affirming their worldview. This novel shows that Jesus affirmed women as equals, as disciples, apostles, and leaders. I tell the biblical accounts of what Jesus does and says and how he treats women and men. My novel shows the Bible as a foundation for equal freedoms and responsibilities, in contrast to those who use the Bible as a foundation for placing limitations on women. The Jesus in my novel is consistent with the Gospel accounts yet free from the church teachings about distinct roles by gender.

Living Happily Ever After

Christian Romance dominates Christian fiction. It may be because both Christian fiction and Romance genres have a happily-ever-after ending, It may be because women characters who focus on romance and marriage fit with the church message that a woman's highest calling is to be a wife and mother.

In contrast, Forgotten Followers normalizes the marital status of women who are single, divorced, separated, common-law, married, or widowed. It portrays betrothal in the first century as an agreement by male guardians, where women have no control or agency. My female characters are not focused on finding a husband. Instead, they are thinking about things like trauma recovery, making a living, working for justice, and preaching God's word.

Because Christian fiction often has a happily-ever-after ending where a main character experiences God's grace, it can follow a predictable plot and pat answers. God may break into the story world and solve the characters' problems. Critics of the genre might see it as unimaginative, with flat characters and limited tension. Staying very close to the Bible can result in preaching that can outweigh the plot and character development.

In contrast, the characters in Forgotten Followers must take steps to overcome their challenges, cope with trauma and let go of pain, bitterness and fear. There is tension as characters advance and then fall back into old, problematic thinking. They are relatable in their efforts for self-acceptance and relationship-building. Each character has both good and evil within themself and has to work to decide what they believe and how to act. They are real people, who lie and manipulate, who insult, abuse and exclude, who argue, brag or fight to be the most honoured. They struggle with guilt and forgiveness. Meeting Jesus does not solve all the character's problems; they work to overcome their own challenges, and then experience God's grace and love. The fresh, creative approach helps readers who have doubts or questions or have been hurt or excluded, to feel affirmed, healed, and hopeful.

What Genre Is Forgotten Followers?

For some time, I have been puzzled over categorizing my novel, Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold. It is a fiction that is true to the biblical account and shows Jesus as the way to God. However, since Christian teachings are conflicting, it cannot be consistent with all church teachings.

  • affirms the worldview that patriarchy is the result of sin, not God's design (this opposes Christians who believe patriarchy is God's design)

  • Jesus abolishes distinct roles by gender, affirms women disciples, patrons, and apostles and affirms equal rights and freedoms regardless of gender or race (counter to some church teachings)

  • affirms that Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit, are three equal persons (challenging the idea that Jesus is subordinate to the father and that women are subordinate)

  • portrays Jesus as both fully God and fully human

  • affirms a woman is blessed most by hearing God's word and obeying it (challenging the idea that being a wife and mother is her highest calling)

  • real people with real faults must take action to overcome their own challenges and are responsible for deciding for themselves who Jesus is (as opposed to passively waiting for God to choose them for salvation).

Historical fiction lets you time travel and is likely the 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 Historical Fiction that allows you to time-travel and experience being a woman disciple in the first century. I played with #heritageai and 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 punished 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.

Religious fiction includes universal themes of good vs evil and moral choices but the evangelical Christian message may be less obvious. The genre includes allegories, such as the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, and science fiction, such as the Lord of the Rings, by Tolkien. I see Forgotten Followers as a parable, a story showing Jesus treating all people as equals.

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 Ficton tells stories that shine the light on the consequences of gender inequality and promotes 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 demonstrate 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.

Putting it all Together

Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold may fit into several categories:

  • historical fiction

  • biblical fiction

  • religious fiction

  • inspirational fiction

  • feminist fiction

  • women's fiction

  • Christian fiction

That's right. I believe my book is Christian fiction because it is true to the biblical account and shares a Christian message. Those who are likely to enjoy Forgotten Followers are those who are looking for a novel that affirms all people and questions the view that the Bible endorses distinct roles by gender.

For those who debate whether or not it fits with orthodox Christian doctrine about gender roles, I encourage them to dig deeper into the biblical telling of the stories related in the novel. I provide a free Reference Note to assist you in your journey.

#deconstructingfaith #biblicalequality #historicalfiction #Biblicalfiction #womensfiction #inspirational #empoweringwomen #ReligiousHistoricalFiction #genderequality


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