When I saw that thousands of downloads of my book had taken place, I was thrilled that people who might not have seen it before would take notice, but I also mentally prepared myself for that review.
What review, you ask?
“This book is a steaming pile of garbage and I’m deleting it ASAP?”
No, not that one.
“This book is a pedantic, predictable progression into a pool of blithering tripe?”
Instead, I waited hesitantly for the review I knew was coming because I have seen it on countless other books. Every time I witness it, I cringe and wonder what will become of us all.
What could this horrible, mind-numbing review possibly contain?
“This book is not Christian enough.”
I am about a quarter of the way through reading a novel right now about characters who feel like they could be my neighbors, and situations that are taken from real life. The book is good and there is nothing immoral in it, but I am positive the author will eventually be held up to some ridiculous invisible standard simply because it’s not preachy. Maybe she already has been.
Listen, I know people have different tastes, and quite frankly I myself find most “Christian fiction” too heavy-handed in the description of spiritual things. Any basic creative writing class will tell you that good fiction is about showing, not telling. It’s a lot like life in that regard – they will know we’re Christians by our love, not by our endless speeches telling them so.
In the words of C.S. Lewis, “The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.”
When we decide to set ourselves apart by writing novels that only appeal to Christians, or songs that a nonbeliever would never suffer through, or cheesy movies that we support even though they inwardly make us groan, what are we really accomplishing? The great commission Jesus gave was to go to all nations, not to entertain the choir.
Yet, it seems there are way too many of us who sit in our glass houses with litmus tests of whether something measures up spiritually. It’s often not practiced in a cruel manner – sometimes it’s wrapped up in sweetness to help it go down easier. (This book was fantastically written and I absolutely loved it, but I usually like a little more scripture in my reading, so I have to drop it down a notch.) Maybe the hope is to convince the person we’re critiquing to step up next time – maybe to add a few Bible verses, or a little sermon perhaps.
Can we stop doing this, fellow believers? Either something is good, or it’s not.
Do you want to know what bothers me the most about this practice, honestly? What if a nonbeliever does stumble upon a book or a song critiqued in this way? They’re going to think Christianity is about living up to a standard that is impossible, and then being judged when they fail someone else’s expectations. Forget about the love and compassion painstakingly written into the characters in my book – all 100,000 words of prose can be brushed aside by those three little words in the review: Not Christian Enough.
C.S. Lewis told stories through allegory. Tolkien did, too. Even Jesus used that method to get his point across. So, I think this is a plea for all of us to be very careful in our judgments – the very thing that isn’t quite to our expectations could be the same thing that God is using to change a life forever.
In fact, you know what a more appropriate response would be to finding that something is well done but “not quite Christian enough?” Recommending it to our non-believing friends. Imagine the difference we could make.
4 thoughts on “The Dreaded Review”
I think there are some readers that you couldn’t please no matter how you write. I agree with you, the book I am reading is either good or not and I either enjoy or I don’t.
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I’m pretty sure you can hear my applause from way out in here in Houston. Excellent post.
Thanks Stacey! I thought I heard something earlier. 🙂