Last month, Aimee Meester of To The Barricade wrote a post about the Christian genre of movies, books, and music. It delved a little bit into what quality work is and why the genre exists. The discussion got a lot more in-depth in the numerous comments that followed. You can read the original post and comments here.
I don't follow Aimee, but a lot of the people in my circles do, so that's how I found out about the post. And, I will admit, at first I was offended. In reading the post a second time and scrolling through the comments, though, I was able to see more of Aimee's heart in writing it. This isn't a post meant in any way to bash Aimee (or anyone else) or her opinions. I just have a lot of thoughts about the issue in general that I want to introduce here.
What is the Christian Genre?
In any discussion, it's important to first define your terms. In my opinion, the so-called "Christian genre" is works created from a Christian perspective that typically (but not always) include a faith element and are published through a source designed for that purpose. So, we have Christian music labels, Christian publishing houses, and Christian movie studios all putting out work that is generally considered "Christian."
For some, though, the Christian genre seems to be synonymous with cheesy, poorly-done work. I think that's unfair and untrue. No, I don't think everything that is in the genre is great. But there are some fabulous examples out there that disprove this concept.
What is the Purpose of This Genre?
All right, now that we've established what is generally considered to be part of the Christian genre, let's look at the purpose. Why do we have this separate genre?
"Genre" is just a way of setting up categories for things. We use genres in music, books, movies, and TV shows to sort and organize differences and similarities. Human beings like things that conform to our expectations. So, "country music" brings with it a certain set of expectations, while "horror films" are something different, and "thriller books" are another thing entirely. Genres help us organize our expectations, likes, and dislikes.
The "Christian" genre, as a whole, is organized upon the premise that there is a difference between it and other books, movies, and music. That difference is the faith of its artists. The artists who work in this genre are Christians. Which is not to say that secular artists can't be. There are plenty of Christians who work in what would be considered secular genres. There are Christians who write secular books, create secular music, and work on secular films. I'm not in any way saying that's wrong. I'm just saying that the difference is that artists in the Christian genre have that faith, first of all, and usually transmit some aspect of that faith through their work.
There are many sub-genres within the so-called "Christian genre," as with anything, and those different sub-genres have their own expectations and definitions. There's generally a big difference between biblical fiction and Christian suspense. Skillet is a very different band than Casting Crowns. Variety exists within the Christian genre just as much as within any other, and I think that's a good thing. God created variety; I don't think He designed us all to be the same.
Expectations of the Christian Genre
As mentioned above, every genre has its own expectations. The overarching Christian genre is no different in that respect.
One of the big expectations for the genre is Christian values. Generally, people who listen to Christian music, read Christian books, and/or watch Christian movies are looking for entertainment that affirms their values. So, we don't expect Christian music to include cussing; we don't expect to experience an explicit sex scene in Christian books or movies. We want these things to affirm values of family, of God's existence, of His working among human beings.
Many people who listen to Christian music want to hear something uplifting. Readers of Christian books don't want glorified sin. Neither do those who watch Christian films. I've actually written about this before, in these posts. The question I tacked there is realistic Christian fiction and the many factors to consider.
Courtesy of Pixabay
Serving Different Purposes
This is, in my opinion, a really important point. There are many different audiences and purposes when one considers the Christian genre as a whole.
When I was growing up, I devoured books very quickly. I also read above my age level. Thus, it was really hard to keep me supplied with books. I moved onto adult Christian fiction by my early teens. Yet there was a problem. I was reading at an adult comprehension level, but I was definitely not an adult. I wasn't old enough to be exposed to many things found in adult (including Christian) fiction. So, I read a whole lot of Gilbert Morris books. I read Beverly Lewis. I read Janette Oke. They were largely romances, but they were sweet and wholesome.
Here's the thing. I don't read the same things now that I read when I was fourteen. But much of what I read now wouldn't have been good for me then. I wasn't ready to be exposed then to things I can see the purpose in now. Age-appropriate content is a very real thing, and Christian content has many different ranges of what it's appropriate for.
Age isn't the only consideration, though. So is one's ability to handle content. Sure, at fourteen, there was content that I wouldn't have handled well. Guess what? I'm an adult now, and there's still content I don't handle well. There's a lot of things to consider when it comes to age and content.
As I've been writing this, my thoughts are going in a lot of different directions, too broad for this post. So, I'll address more about this topic in later posts, and we can consider this an introduction. For now, I want to introduce some examples of the Christian genre that I have found to be excellent, uplifting, and deep. Not everything in the genre is perfect, and neither is everything outside the genre bad. There's good in a lot of different things. But I have a warm spot in my heart for Christian fiction and Christian music, in particular. So, I want to highlight some of the good that's out there.
When I set out to make a list, it turned into an unmanageable beast. So, I made ya'll a Spotify playlist, instead! I would recommend putting it on shuffle, though, because I apparently haven't figured out to organize playlists yet…
There are many, many Christian books out there that I feel address real issues in an uplifting way. This is just a sampling of some that I have enjoyed.
The Mark of the Lion Trilogy – Francine Rivers
Refiner's Fire Trilogy – Lynn Austin
The Butterfly and the Violin – Kristy Cambron
Bridge to Haven – Francine Rivers
The Mission League Series – Jill Williamson
Brush of Wings – Karen Kingsbury
All Things New – Lynn Austin
Shadowed by Grace – Cara Putnam
Anything by Bodie and Brock Thoene, including The Shiloh Legacy and The Zion Covenant series
Chronicles of the Kings – Lynn Austin
Do you enjoy the Christian genre? Why or why not? Have you read or listened to any of my suggestions? What authors and bands would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments!