Originally Posted by Synamon
For a long time I shunned scifi because of the religious overtones.
Sci-fi has religious overtones?
Some have made-up belief systems which get explored, yes, but otherwise I'm kind of baffled at this remark.
As for the OP question:
Originally Posted by caleb72
Have any of you read fiction that is specifically labelled Christian fiction - especially those of you who may not be Christian? Is it an exercise in alienation? Or are the stories the same as other stories except that the author identifies with and wants to be known as a Christian author? Or is it a mix-n-match like everything else out there?
I'm an atheist and I've tried a couple of the freebie specifically "Christian fiction" specialty-publisher-imprint books, mostly because they had plot/setting that sounded kind of interesting and/or kind of cracktastic.
Admittedly, this is a very small, skewed sample because of said selection process. For the record, I read one "inspirational" historical romance on the grounds that apparently people complained about how racy it was (it wasn't unless you have really tame standards for racy), one story about modern Amish values coming into conflict with modern secularized Christian values after a tragedy forces two disparate branches of the same family together (which came with recipes), and one interracial chick-lit romance because I was kind of curious as to how faith depictions and would be handled with Asian characters who were apparently converts interacting with non-Asians.
It's definitely a mix-and-match.
1) The historical was noticeably more preachy than others, with everyone, even the people who were already Christian but kind of casual about it, becoming strong-faith church-going Bible-reading proselytizing totally reformed born-again types (and I will add that I don't think that presumably Protestant evangelicals should try to write Catholic characters unless they really know what they're doing, because there are sect differences which even I know about).
Very annoying, because the "hero" was an idiot wastrel whom the "heroine" lusted after but rejected snobbishly not because he was an idiot wastrel, but because he wasn't a sufficiently church-going idiot wastrel, and he only became good enough for her when he became born again (and not because he'd actually cleaned up his idiot wastrel act in the process). Also, the steamiest it gets is when characters refer to the Song of Solomon and a long-established married couple is hinted at enjoying what happens when they go to bed together offscreen. If this is "not your mother's inspirational romance!", your mother must have read some really boring romances which weren't particularly "inspirational" in that regard, such that it's amazing she became your mother at all.
2) The Amish/secular family drama was actually pretty decent. All the characters were already faithful church-going Christians so no "conversion" happened in the story. The conflict between modern Christian ways and the Amish traditions was done well, and the characters learned to let go of their pride and what clinging to what they thought was the proper expression of their faith when it came to family responsibilities, and do what was best for the family members in question, instead of what they'd pre-decided God was telling them to do based on their social milieu.
I liked this one and would be willing to read others in the series if they were offered as freebie, at least until they got preachy, if they ever did. It seemed the most Christ-like of the books, with an emphasis on tolerance and understanding of other people's ways, albeit they were all Protestant Christians of some sort there and I don't know if the same tolerance and understanding would have been extended to more outlying groups, storywise.
3) The interracial Asian/white chick-lit romance was closest to a secular novel, and if you substitute the character's occasional mentions of how important her faith was to her for say, mentioning shopping, it was on pretty much the same casual, light level of generally non-preachy.
And while some atheist/Buddhist/non-believer characters were portrayed as jerkish at the beginning, some of them turned out to be decent and supportive people, much to the main character's surprise and acknowledgment that she'd misjudged them, without their becoming better people through "seeing the light" of Christianity as a convert, as the character herself was. And some Christians in her church group were depicted as selfish jerks, for balance.
Overall, I found this pretty decent and interesting until after a pretty promising start and middle, it decided to take the cheap cop-out route of having the staunchly-atheist/agnostic potential love interest that the heroine was kind of conflicted about seeing because he didn't seem to understand how much her faith meant to her but was otherwise a very sympathetic and appealing and attractive guy suddenly become totally acceptable because one day he saw this, like, deeply soul-searing and affecting picture of Jesus (and not the kind that magically shows up on toast) when attending her church to please her and BLAMMO, all of a sudden became a light-seeing Christ-curious potential member with a hinted future conversion away from his former firmly-held disbelief.
To paraphrase Morbo from Futurama: ATHEISM/AGNOSTICISM DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY! GOODNIGHT!
Aside from that, I did kind of like it enough that I'd be willing to curiosity-read the others in the series, which is apparently all about converted Asian interracial romances, as long as they were free.
Long story short (too late!): I'd say that some Christian books are almost-but-not-quite close enough to secular with only a few faith mentios in a mostly non-preachy manner (there actually wasn't any preaching in that last one, only sudden left-field probably-conversion, which is why it was so surprising). Some deal with prominent faith issues in a fairly balanced and non-alienating manner that can be interesting to outsiders. And some are just poorly-written Gotta Convert Them All fantasies of making everyone, even those who already belong to the faith, live exactly
the way you think they ought to be living because it's the only
way you can envision people living if they're "good" people, whether they're suited to it or not and/or the plot makes sense if they do or don't, or even the characters make sense afterwards.