I just read the submission guidelines for a Christian publisher that made me shake my head:
We are currently accepting submissions. Please adhere to the following guidelines:
~Your manuscript must be clean. No cussing, no taking the Lord’s name in vain, no sex, drinking, drug use, etc. This is a Christian publisher and we take pride in having our work be centered on Christ and clean of the temptations of the world! We accept stories of redemption and consequences, but not stories that glorify negative behaviors.
~ Manuscripts do not have to be overtly Christian focused but do need to follow basic Christian values. We seek an underlying positive message.
How can a story truly be about redemption if the characters commit no evil acts? There are people who do some or all of those things who long for that redemption, but they will never look here. Why? Because the characters will be “better” than they are from the first page, and they will never be able to relate.
It goes to show a lot of Christian publishers aren’t about bringing redemption to those in need, but preaching to the choir. God forbid should we challenge their fragile sensibilities.
The biggest gripe I have with these types of “guidelines” is even the Bible would be rejected. The Bible quite graphically describes infanticide, cannibalism, genocide, fornication, torture, and other forms of murder to name a few. If we are to grow closer to God, we have to acknowledge and admit there is evil in the world and in ourselves. That’s the whole point of confessing our sins. Hiding away from that reality does not change us for the better. God does not encourage us to seek shelter from every storm, but to go out in the middle of it to help and save others from its wrath.
Granted we sometimes need books to help us escape from reality. Publishers are also in a sometimes untenable position, because their largest demographic is people who don’t want to be slapped in the face with more evil they can get by merely watching the news.
On the other hand, these publishers also claim that they want books that focus on Christian values. First we need to define what those values are.
For some, it’s to live a moral life. That means no sex outside of marriage, no drinking, no gossip, yada, yada, yada.
Christianity isn’t about living cleanly. It’s about acknowledging our imperfections and accepting Jesus’ sacrifice that our sins are forgiven. Even more, we are to bring that message to everyone. We are the ones who should be the first to admit our fallen humanness, not to pretend that we’re better because we manage to avoid certain temptations.
That is why in all of my books, many of the main characters drink, some are drug addicts, and few are virgins. They are like everyone else, and as such, relatable. I want my readers to know that it doesn’t matter how “horrible” a person is, Jesus willingly died for them, too. His love and grace is out of reach for no one.
If these publishers want to relay a truly “Christian message,” then they need to use the Bible as their guide. It’s not about glorifying that evil (because the Bible does everything but, even if it is graphic). It’s about presenting a positive message that through Jesus, all manner of evil has no hold on us.