There is a civil war within the Christian Writing community that generally boils down to two majority views.
The question is whether we as Christians should “label” ourselves as “Christian Authors” or whether we should just be “Authors” who happen to be Christian. Both sides have valid points. Team Author tends to make the argument that you don’t see people calling themselves “Christian Plumbers” or “Christian Lawyers” or “Christian Shift Managers”, so why bother with this?
Meanwhile, Team Christian Author says the others are sellouts, only after the money, and are serving only themselves, not God.
As with anything, there are always extremes, so let’s try to find a middle ground where sanity reigns and we can have a conversation. Before we dive in, let me clear some things up.
1. I’m a Christian Author
I can honestly say this wasn’t my initial publishing plan. My thought was to leave God out of my writing, do it myself, and make billions of dollars. Not only that, I had ZERO intention of mentioning I was a Christian. Why?
Because it would hurt my sales.
I’m not stupid. In today’s increasingly hateful attitude toward Christianity, I didn’t feel like painting a giant target on my back that could lead to no one buying the book. God, however, had other plans and wanted me to label my fantasy novel Christian Fantasy and the title of Christian Author. Seeing as things historically don’t go well when I ignore God, I went ahead and did it.
More than that, I don’t write your typical Christian Fiction. My stories are raw, deal with hard topics, and aren’t “clean”. I write characters who swear, drink, smoke, abuse, and some even revel in debauchery. There are also broken heroes, rebels with hearts of gold, and ordinary people who live simply. None of them are perfect.
2. My goal is to encourage you
If you’re finding yourself stuck between choosing, this article is for you. I’m going to be sharing my thoughts on this in the hopes of getting you to think about things, regardless of which option you choose. I will advocate for Team Christian Author because I believe in it, but I am not expecting you to do it simply based on this article. What you do is ultimately between you and God.
Now, on with the show.
Why Team Author Says You Shouldn’t Label Yourself
Most arguments all boil down to one thing: money.
It’s not unrealistic, nor is it “evil” unless the person is solely doing it for themselves and not for the glory of God. But I always find something in me cringing because the points for it tend to be:
You can’t make money if you label yourself a Christian Author
The general market won’t buy it because it’s Christian
You can reach more people by just putting “Christian Morals” into the story
Christians read the general market, so why write for them?
The last one is what gets me, but we’ll address each in turn.
You Can’t Make Money if You Label Yourself a Christian Author
I don’t believe they mean you won’t make any money, just less of it. In this, I would partly agree. You are likely to make less money if you label yourself as a Christian Author because many unbelievers won’t buy the book. You could have a very compelling story, interesting characters, and a killer plot, and still may end up hardly making anything. Why?
Because you called yourself “Christian.”
The General Market Won’t Buy it Because it’s Christian
Personally, I think this is (in part) a strawman argument. Now, you may be wondering why considering the first point I made above, so let’s address that.
I said “many unbelievers” wouldn’t buy your book, not “none.”
The general market craves good storytelling, and if you do that well, you can get them to buy your books. You will have to work harder, however, and I don’t think a lot of authors want to mess with it. In my experience, I’ve had a harder time selling my books to fellow believers than I do to someone who doesn’t believe in God.
The other part of it is readers don’t want to get preached at while they are trying to read. Heck, I hate it when a book does that! And from my experience, it’s how you tell a poor storyteller from a good one: they cannot communicate their worldview effectively through a story.
This brings us to the next topic.
You Can Reach More People by Just Putting “Christian Morals” into the Story
Admittedly, I was this person early on when writing my stories. I told myself that if I write characters that are “good people” then people would get saved. Over the last couple of years, though, I’ve left behind that line of thinking.
Christian morals are nothing without God because they come from Him. All morals flow from His throne, so to remove Him from it leaves us with something that is empty and vain.
But I think the biggest error in this line of thinking is that every other religion is all about having good morals, so how would someone see Christ that way? If you don’t look any different than the world, how will the world know you belong to Christ and see Him in you? That was something that challenged me.
Christians read the general market, so why write for them?
This is probably the worst argument. What I’m about to say might step on some toes, but rest assured, my toes are squished too.
Christians are watching/reading stuff they shouldn’t be watching.
Far too many Christians I know watched Game of Thrones and praised it. I watched Season one, and yeah, it was “porn with a plot” and I shouldn’t have watched it. We’ve dropped the standard, and the Church is suffering because of it. And guess what? The general market is filled with stuff like this and Christians are reading it.
I’m not looking to be harsh, but I am meaning to be direct. We can do better as creatives than the half-baked, low budget, and poor quality Christian Media seems to push currently.
I want to touch on why I think there needs to be a shift in how we approach things. Not everyone is going to do it, but I hope it might encourage you to join in.
Why You Should Consider Labeling Yourself a Christian Author
The world is going to hell in a handbasket before our eyes, and if anyone thinks it’s getting better, they may want to spend some more time in their Bibles. We’re seeing evil be called good, and good is called evil. We have “Christians” calling for the acceptance of things the Bible has clearly marked as sin, and Prosperity Gospel teachers paving the way for souls to go to hell because they’ve never actually preached a gospel message.
We have whole churches embracing New Age thinking and teaching that Jesus didn’t come to save us from our sins. The gospel is “too offensive” and “exclusive”, so we have to water it down and be more inclusive. Or they straight up call Jesus a racist (and no, I’m not making that up).
The times we’re living in call for Christians to take a stand on sound doctrine and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to an unbelieving world. There needs to be Christians who are bold enough to say, “I’m a Christian” rather than hiding it (which means you need to live it).
There needs to be creatives who tackle hard topics in their books and are not afraid to do so.
We are called to be different. To be salt. To be light.
Be Like Jesus: Tell Parables.
The thing I love about Jesus was how he addressed tough topics through a story. Whether it was people’s hard hearts, sin, or explaining what the kingdom of God was like, He used stories. We should take a hint from Him.
Rather than shoving what we believe down people’s throats, we should convey through interesting and relatable characters the story He’s put on our hearts. We should explore those questions we have as believers through story because it could be what helps someone else see Jesus.
For example, in The City of Snow & Stars, I address the topics of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, and mental), human trafficking, and the question, “Why does God let bad things happen?”
In The City of Stone & Sorrow, there are themes of loss, death, cutting, and betrayal.
Not once do I say, “I have the answer!” for anyone. Nor do my characters get Insta-Saved in the book. They are all broken, messed up, and have questionable motives at times. Some follow God well. Others…not so much. And that’s the point: people aren’t perfect.
A couple of years ago at a bazaar, I was selling my first book, and a lady looked over the back cover after I did my spiel. When she decided to buy the book she said, “I’m buying this because of the question.”
She had the same question I did when I was dealing with my trauma, and my hope is God will use the book to help her. But what would have happened if I didn’t write on the topic of abuse, making it clear I’m a Christian who has questions because I’m human?
Be Prepared for Trials
Ironically, the strongest opposition I’ve gotten is from other Christians, so you could expect the same. I’ve been called a heretic and told I needed to repent of my godless ways because I dared to write about the topics I did.
Depending on the genre, and the content, you could be caught in a weird limbo between the “squeaky clean” Christian Fiction market and the general market. It’s hard to know who to market to because some Christians won’t read your stuff (but they’ll watch GoT) and the general market thinks you’re going to yell and scream at them. It’s a challenge.
Putting yourself out there also means you’re held accountable by the world for how you live.
If you say you’re a Christian, you better be ready to stand for what you believe, know what you believe, and more importantly, be living what you believe. If you’re actively not living a God-honoring life, they will be the first to see it and call you out on it.
A few years ago, it would have been a compliment if someone had told me, “Oh, I didn’t know you were Christian” because it meant I wasn’t one of “those” Christians.
Today, it would be the biggest insult someone would be able to give me. Why?
Because I want to be known for my faith. I want to be a light for others in a dark place that feels hopeless. I want to share the Truth that will set captured souls free. I want to serve the body of believers and encourage them on their walk and partner with them to raise up the standard.
As I said at the start, my intent isn’t to attack anyone, but to encourage you to go as God leads you. If you’ve been wondering whether you should call yourself a “Christian Author”, I hope you are encouraged. It’s not sunshine and rainbows, but I’m thankful God called me to it.
The Christian life isn’t meant to be easy, nor were we supposed to water down the gospel.
We are not meant to hide our light, but to shine it before men. Not for our glory, but for God’s glory. It is our act of service as a slave to Christ, a living sacrifice.
You may not be blessed with riches and tons of sales, and I’m never going to earn a billion dollars. But I believe you will store up for yourself treasures in heaven because you’ve been faithful to what God placed on your heart. And someday, you might just meet someone in Heaven who read your book and it led them to the Lord.
And what a day that will be.