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On the content of the non-Carpenter novels...

February 6, 2012
Posted at 12:26 pm

As y'all know by now, I've started posting my non-Carpenter stories as well as the Carpenter series. The non-Carpenter stuff is related to the Carpenter books - they all in some way connect to the Carpenters' church, and in some of them the Carpenters make an appearance. But unlike the Carpenter stories, the non-Carpenter stuff is explicitly Christian fiction (the Carpenter stories aren't un-Christian, but it's about people who happen to be Christians, rather than having an explicit Christian message).

I've been reviewing these non-Carpenter stories, and found some things in them that I'd forgotten I wrote. It's nothing I'm ashamed of - but at the same time I realize that it's a bit stronger, sometimes, than you'll find in books that issue from Christian publishers.

I've never submitted anything to a Christian publishing house, but I've conversed with people who have, and it seems that there's an unwritten standard that excludes anything "controversial." It seems, based on what these individuals have told me, that Christian fiction publishers only accept books which are sweet, uplifting, and don't deal with some of the difficult issues that face the church.

I refuse to write that way. Like it or not - and I don't - the church has to face such things as prostitution, teenage sex, adultery, hypocrisy, and unmarried mothers. Like it or not, these things are sometimes in the church - not because they're part of Christianity, but because human beings comprise the church, and act like human beings.

And even if these things didn't come into the church, the church would still have to deal with them because of the Great Commission. Jesus commanded His people to go, and wherever they go, to make disciples. He didn't say that we can go everywhere that people are upright and moral, but just that we are to go everywhere. That means that our message goes to prostitutes, teenagers who are having sex, adulterers, hypocrites, and unmarried women who have children.

And so for the church - and Christian fiction - to ignore these things is to first ignore the reality of the world as it is, and second to pretend that Jesus didn't say what He said (or, if you want to reverse the formulation, that He said what He didn't say). In my opinion Christian publishers, by choosing to omit books that face such matters from their catalogs, are eviscerating the Christian faith as it appears in the books they issue.

I don't dodge such matters - in part because I'm not, after all, ambitious about publication. If someone were to offer to buy one of my books, and publish it, I wouldn't turn him down - but my purpose in writing isn't to get into print. It's to write. It's the writing that's important to me. Publication, if it ever comes, will be gravy.

And so in my non-Carpenter books you'll find a biker who's whored and done drugs and sold drugs and fought and quite possibly killed someone. You'll find a woman whose father raped her, and who wound up a prostitute, and after she marred a good Christian man fled from him and returned to prostitution. You'll find married couples who, in their conversations with each other, don't pretend that they never have sex. You'll find people who struggle with sexual desire. You'll find, in short, real people.

Because of this, though nothing in anything I've ever written is pornographic or close to it, there is some strong material. There are subjects which, to put it bluntly, parents ought to be discussing with their children instead of being either lazy or cowards and letting the schools do the job. There are things which are proper for parents to discuss with their children - but not for me to discuss with other parents' children.

And so some of the non-Carpenter books will have an age rating on them (I appreciate the fact that Fine Stories permits this). It's not that they're wicked, but rather that I'm not going to expose someone's child to something that it's the parents' business to talk to that child about.

And since that's what I wanted to say, I'll stop typing now. :)