Christian vs. Secular — it doesn’t have to be a cage match

In 1995 I was a good Christian girl growing up in a good Christian home attending a good Christian school. And I listened to Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Veruca Salt, Hole…you know, the normal, 90’s grunge bands. I liked the hard edge of their sound. The angst in their lyrics. The raw and very true emotion.

Then conviction set in. It came in the form of a speaker I heard who said that good Christian kids needed to stay away from evil rock bands. The speaker said that we should go to our good Christian store and find some good Christian bands.

So, I turned off the Michigan State University run alternative station and tuned into the Christian station. I drove to a Christian store and perused the music.

I am not kidding when I say they had a chart for finding Christian alternatives to the secular bands. It went something like this.

If you like Pearl Jam … You’ll LOVE Third Day!

If you like Red Hot Chili Peppers … You’ll LOVE Skillet!

And so on.

This silly phenomenon has become a bit of a joke between my husband and I. Here’s a taste of my weird list…

If you like Katy Perry … You’ll LOVE Amy Grant!

If you like Metallica … You’ll LOVE The Gaithers!

If you like Eminem … You’ll LOVE Sandi Patty!

Hear me out. I’m not making fun of the artists who record for the Christian industry. I think their music has validity. They have an audience. Many of these artists are deeply talented.

But why do we have to compare them to mainstream music?

It isn’t fair to the artists who are trying to present a unique sound, to pigeon hole them into competing with a band that is different musically, ideologically, and in the audience they are striving to meet.

I happen to write for the Christian market. I certainly don’t want anyone saying, “If you like Jodi Picoult … You’ll LOVE Susie Finkbeiner” (Note: I’ve never read any of Jodi Picoult’s books). What would I rather have people say? “Hey, there’s this book I think you’d like called A Cup of Dust!” (Note: A Cup of Dust releases October 27, 2015 with Kregel publications…wink, wink).

I don’t want to feel like I’m in a cage match with Jodi Picoult. I mean, I’m sure she’s super talented and that her books are moving. And I’ll bet she’s a nice person. Plus, I’m a yellow belt in Tung Su Do. It wouldn’t be a fair match.

What I’m saying is this: I write novels that reflect my worldview. That worldview just happens to be Christian. When I wrote Paint Chips I had to make a hard decision. Write it for the secular market and keep the Jesus bits out or write for the Christian market and keep the cuss words out.

For me, the Jesus in the novel was far more important than the cussing. (What the George Herbert Walker Bush? That’s my favorite euphemism in Paint Chips).

That, my friends, is why I write for a Christian market.

It’s not because I’m trying to preach at my readers. It isn’t because I’m afraid of the world. It’s not because I don’t think I could make it out there in the ABA (American Booksellers Association…or mainstream publishing).

I write for the Christian market because Jesus in my stories can’t be dulled. He’s in the fabric of the novels I write. He changes the characters and, while they’re fiction, I am not. And as I write, I’m being changed. My hope is that the reader is too, even in a small measure.

I don’t write so that readers have a cleaner, more wholesome option. Sorry. That’s not my style. I’m not competing with the mainstream market. In fact, I refuse to compete at all in my career.

I write stories of faith because I’m a person of faith.

So, that said…

If you like Stephen King … Read Stephen King.

If you like Amish Romance … Read Amish Romance.

If you like Harry Potter … Read Harry Potter.

And if you like Susie Finkbeiner (and I kind of hope you do) … Read Susie Finkbeiner (pretty please).

Enjoy the art that speaks to you.

The art world, between Christian and otherwise, doesn’t have to be a cage match.

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10 thoughts on “Christian vs. Secular — it doesn’t have to be a cage match

  1. Giggle. But SO true! Though I DO see the value of comparison lists for folks who like a particular style of writing, but want to avoid the curse words and worldly POV. Still – point ABSOLUTELY taken. And I ADORE Susie FInkbeiner (and will soon be counting own the days until October 27, 2015 (eight months AFTER my son’s birthday and one month before my daughter’s). 🙂 Great post

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  2. Great post! I remember those lists, too. Like your beautiful novels (in contrast to some I have read in the secular market), I would expect that music which edifies rather than victimizes would be chosen as much for the content as for the beat.

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  3. Absolutely perfectly said! I kinda detest when some Christian friends look at my reading list and exclaim “How CAN you read that! It’s NOT a Christian book.” Well, duh. I have a pretty even list I think between “Christian” and “secular” novels. They don’t compete for my attention. When I’m reading a book – I’m reading THAT book. One of the reasons your books especially have touched something deep in me – you don’t ignore the world in them, but you definitely bring Jesus and your faith. And that’s kind of awesome. Keep writing! Heck at this point I think I’d read your daily “to do” list 😉

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