Monday, May 28, 2007

Should CBA change? Part 1

There lies within the realms of Christian fiction, a small ( I assume ) band of authors who want to challenge what they consider to be a narrow minded stubbornness on the part of the so-called gate keepers of the industry, otherwise known as executives at the Christian publishing houses.

They believe that the standards are too rigid. No profanity. No sex. No extreme violence. And on top of that, a clear Christian theme must be included (forcibly if necessary). The rebels believe the executives to be too strict and uncompromising. That their hard line stance is leaving in their wake of pious elitism, a large untapped mission field of fiction readers who don't venture into the Christian fiction section.

But, that is exactly the problem with this view: Only Christians shop in the Christian fiction section.

The rebels want to write Christian worldview novels. Novels without an obvious Christian message. The theory is that whatever is written by a Christian is inherently Christian. To me, this is denial. Christians are not infallible. Therefore, not every novel written by a Christian will inherently be truth.

-- By the way, I don't have a problem with Christians writing novels that have no apparent Christian message, in fact there is a great benefit to this, which I will discuss later --

The rebels claim that they want to reach the non-believers. But to what end? If the Christian world view novels have no overt Christian message, then how is the unbeliever who happens to pick one up going to know? No one is going to read Ted Dekker's Obsessed or Thr3e and then immediately drop to their knees and have a conversion. I consider myself to be a well versed Christian and I couldn't discern a message in either of those books that will lead someone to Christ. Sure there are semblances of Christian values involved, but this is true of most secular novels.

Most so-called Christian philosophical principles are not unique to biblical teachings. Only the gospel is unique. And without Christ Jesus there is no gospel. Without Christ Jesus, a novel cannot be used as effective missionary outreach. The Christian worldview novel can, however, serve as an effective counter to the novels that preach anti-Christian principles and provide a positive influence in cultural aspects. But to do this they must be published through ABA.

To be continued . . .


Todd said...

This is an argument that is in no way limited to literature. You claim to be a Christian. You have painted scenery. Are the paintings you have posted “Christian Scenics”? I claim to be a Christian. I have written instrumental music. Can/Should I call them “Christian Instrumentals”?

CBA originally meant “Christian Booksellers Association”. As a CBA veteran of over twenty years, I can tell you that there has always been controversy over which products are Christian and which are not. From “Christian” candy to bands like P.O.D., I have yet to find many people who agree on a definition. Even before CBA, the church councils had trouble deciding if “The Song of Solomon” was suitable for the Bible. It is pretty racy – there is no direct mention of anything spiritual.

I also believe that many people label their art as Christian because they perceive the “Christian” market as easier to break into. On the other hand, I have seen Christians reach out and attempt to drag secular bands that they perceive as having a Christian agenda (i.e. U2) into the CBA “Christian Retailosphere”.
(hey that's not bad, feel free to use that term, but give me credit for it!)

Personally, I feel the best strategy for the Christian artist/author is to create from the heart, according to their convictions, and let the market sort it out. I would not hesitate to pitch a quality artistic work to publishers that consider themselves Christian or secular. And, to further stir the pot, in this day of the internet, a lot of artists/authors question the whole premise of needing a major label/publisher.

But then again, that is, in a way, an outsiders view. It is easy for me to make such sweeping pronouncements because I have not been brave enough to try and make my living at it ... that could definitely change a person's perspective.


dayle james arceneaux said...

I agree with you completely. My argument is not about 'what comprises Christian art'. Although I do have strong opinions on the subject.

My argument is aimed more at those who want to villify the CBA. They are not deciding what Christian art is, they are deciding what they want to publish as regard to their own set of standards. I BELIEVE they have every right to do this.

The market will determine if their choices will allow them to stay in business, but in the end it is their choice.

They are not a monopoly.

To authors, I paraphrase you: Write what you want. What God has laid upon your heart to write. And then pitch it to whoever will publish it.

If the CBA doesn't want it, that doesn't mean it's not Christian.

Blaze your own path and go to the ABA.

part 2 will have more on this - stay tuned


Anonymous said...

Wow, Dayle ... start a blog and, like, jump right into the fire! ; )

I choose not to hold firm opinions about this matter, cuz each time I've tried to formulate firm opinions about this matter, the whole thing gave me headache.

Eagerly awaiting part two of this discussion.

And BTW, love what you've done with the place.

dayle james arceneaux said...

To Donna:

Yeah, it's a bit risky. But I love a good debate - ask anyone who knows me. ( even if I'm wrong )

My only fear is that I'll come across rude or just plain nasty. I hope that's not the case, so I will endeavor to tread lightly. But not so lightly that I don't leave an impression.

I will try to balance this kind of post with some that will hopefully be funny or inspirational.

thanks for stopping by,


Todd said...

Well dangit Dayle, you had to go agree with me and just suck all the fun right out of it.

Where lies that abrasive malcontent with whom I expected to engage in intellectual affrontary upon this hallowed virtual field of literary contention?

dayle james arceneaux said...

To Todd:

Do not despair. We have just begun to eplore the dark corners of my mind where the likes of you dare not tread. There are many arrows in my quiver with which to abrasively affront your intellectual deficiencies.

Actually, you're looking at this all wrong. It is you who have changed. You have grown since being exposed to my genius. There is no greater evidence to prove this than the fact that it is you who agree with me.

Anonymous said...

Let 'em have it, Dayle. : )