Spot the dfference…
Proudly Serving Heathens Since 2001
I’m always put off when (like today) a customer asks with a sneer, “You don’t have a Christian section, do you?” You’d be surprised how often people use the same tone for this question that they would use to say, “You don’t wear underwear, do you?”
I point out that we have a religion and philosophy section that’s chock full o’ Thomas Merton, Ann Lamott & C.S. Lewis, as well as plenty of bibles (NRSV, NKJV, NIV, TNIV and PDQ – that one’s abridged). Sometimes people ask specifically for “Christian Fiction,” and I feel the urge to let them know that our novels are heathens, every one. Since we got rid of the ice dam on the roof last winter the books remain happily unbaptised.
While I find it ridiculous to segregate paperbacks based on the religion of their author or that of their protagonist, I do wonder what makes patrons take one look at me and become sure that the store where I work does not sport such a section. I mean, I’m pushing 40 and wear a bun. On an especially bad fashion day I could pass for Amish. What’s tipping them off? Is it the A is for Agnosticism t-shirt I wear to Story Time?
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There’s lots of good Christian fiction out there. Faith is a big part of people’s lives; it ought to be reflected in our literature. By the same token, there’s an abundance of good Jewish and Islamic and Hindu and Shinto and Buddhist fiction out there. What I object to is the use of the word Christian to mean something else. In the case of “Christian Fiction,” I think people are using it to mean “safe.” And that is so very wrong.
Pursuing any religion seriously is the most dangerous thing we can do. Deeply committing yourself to a spiritual path will cause you to examine and re-examine the values you were brought up with and deny you a comfortable life. Ha ha! No more complacency for you. You’ll wind up hanging out with the sorts of people who most need your help, and they are not safe at all.
When I read a book where the main character is searching for nothing more than a big, handsome man and asks God to “guide” her on every other page, I want to slap someone. Any story in which attaining romantic love is the primary occupation of the main character is just wish-fulfillment. It’s an escape, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but to call it “Christian” because the girl meets the guy at bible study is like calling me Spanish because I’m wearing Manolo Blahniks. And people who turn to this sort of writing because they find it somehow more appropriate (i.e.: guaranteed not to have steamy, unmarried sex in it) should be told that as reassuring and cozy as these books may be, the only thing that separates them from a Penthouse Bedtime Story is that they are bland. And honey, bland did not lead the Israelites out of Egypt or teach peace to anybody. Bland is for sissies.