Lately I’ve been reading romantic thrillers (yes, this is my guilty secret after 25 years of reading more redeeming books I started reading romance novels). I’ve found a few authors I like, but I’ve read most of their books, so I’ve been looking for new authors I might like. I looked at some of the Listmania lists on Amazon, and found some suggestions. One of the suggestions was for the O’Malley series by Dee Henderson. What I didn’t realize until I was five or six chapters into the first book is that these are not just romantic suspense novels. They’re Christian romantic suspense novels. And it bugs me. A lot. I really like the characters, and the plot is pretty good, but the discussion of faith and believing makes me want to throw the book across the room.Granted, at least a little of this is because of the way they treat the importance of belief. (i.e. I’m so worried that she might die now, before she believes or It’s okay if I’m in danger now, and if I die now, because I believe) (And you should just hear the way I say that believe, in my best Southern Baptist minister voice. Or maybe you’re glad you can’t.) Anyway, this part of my disgust is understandable, since I don’t think someone is going straight to Hell just because they haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior before they die.
The first real focus on religion in the book, however (and the first time I wanted to throw it across the room), was when the male lead was hesitant about dating the female lead because she didn’t share his beliefs. And my reaction surprised me a little. It didn’t totally surprise me, because it was the first time I realized it was a religious book, and I generally get frustrated and annoyed by religious fiction. Actually, I usually just avoid religious fiction completely (except for Heimerdinger’s Tennis Shoes books, those I always liked, though it’s been many years since I read them). But still, why should I be so bothered by the fact that the guy doesn’t want to date a girl who doesn’t share his religious beliefs? After all, in real life that’s a legitimate concern for most of my friends, and one I respect. It was something I certainly took into account when dating people. Usually I respect reality in fiction, so why does this bit of reality bother me so much?
One idea I had was that the religion parts of the book were just not as well written. And I think this might be true, but I’m not sure, because I’m not sure I’m objective enough to judge. Another reason might be that I don’t like how they introduce religion to her, she thinks about it for a few days, and is suddenly converted. Hooray, all happy and pat and done with. Conversion (in my opinion, and experience), doesn’t work like this. But then again, neither does love, and that’s the way it’s presented in romance novels, and that doesn’t seem to bother me.
I think the most likely reason I don’t like religion in fiction is that it gets too preachy for me. They didn’t just discuss religion, they needed to convert the main character. And while I’m very firm in my religious beliefs, and will happily discuss them with friends and acquaintances, I’m very wary of preaching or trying to convert someone else to my way of thinking. And I know this is kind of opposite of what the church teaches, and sometimes I think I need to work on it, but I never really do. So maybe I’m uncomfortable because this reminds me of my own shortcomings.
Anyway, the point of this post is not only to share my own thoughts, but to solicit your thoughts. How do you feel about religious fiction? Do you find it’s not as well written as other types? Do you like it, hate it, feel indifferent toward it? And is this discomfort I feel reading it a big deal? Should I just continue to avoid the genre, or is it an issue I should actually work on?
- 22 October 2006