What’s your biggest challenge with discovering good Christian books? I confess I’ve struggled, sometimes wondering if everyone has crossed over to secular ideals and maybe I should just jump off the bridge. 🙂 Where is that bridge over troubled water for you?
What do you seek in a book? Especially one labelled and marketed as Inspirational? Because I often ask myself, Is this what passes for Christian these days?
Perhaps we should change the focus of these crossover books. What constitutes a bridge book for you? What could change your life? And what would help you over troubled water?
Because I believe it’s about crossing over, not moving over. Crossing the bridge, not burning it. We’re supposed to reach the other side, not dump all our beliefs and values down the river.
These days, I garner as much from secular literature and the general book market as from the Christian publishing world. For what it’s worth, I try to learn whatever I can, however I can. And I’ll enjoy a good story wherever I find it.
But call it spiritual nourishment? Well, probably not.
Which is exactly the point of a bridge book–to stimulate minds to think about those deeper issues of life. To bypass the materialistic, to flesh out the nebulous, to embrace the hidden and ignored. To tantalize with truth.
A Bridge Across the Great Divide
As the song goes, the Cross of Jesus is the Bridge that bridges the great divide between life and death, lost and found. It’s a narrow footbridge intended for one person at time. We cross over via the radiant torch of God’s love and grace, or we really can’t cross at all.
I may be treading into a minefield of polemics here. But as a reader, I’m looking for a crossover writer whose only evidence of following Christ isn’t a hollow word in the acknowledgements section. Especially when the worldview of the work itself makes me cringe at the contradictions. Why do we obsess about being perceived as cool, tolerant, and politically correct by our peers or the literary elite?
And if you can’t share the gospel, at least don’t deny it.
As a reader, I’m also seeking a bridge book with a point to the story. Does the writer have anything to say? A current editorial edict dictates that Christian books must not “preach” or carry any overt Christian message. Wow, just wow.
Just what is the point, then? Why is it acceptable for the secular world to unreservedly promote their lifestyles and air their liberal views, but if a Christian shares her beliefs in fiction, people yell, “It’s a trap!”
Everybody has an agenda, and all of us should perhaps stop pretending that’s not evident in every word that comes from our lips or pens. Novelists need to make a case for their convictions as well as spin a top-notch tale to carry the viewpoint.
Light on the Bridge
No matter how amazing the plot or how masterful the prose, the passion is what makes a story unforgettable. I want to take away something transcendent from the time I’ve spent reading.
Make me laugh, make me cry, make me mad, even. But don’t make me wonder: What was that all about?
Again as a reader, I want to find a crossover writer of bridge books that blow a clear trumpet blast, loud and strong, not a weak squeak. Be authentic, whatever your decisions, but we shouldn’t have to speculate about which side of the river a writer’s on.
Of course, not all genres are created equal. Romantic suspense, say, isn’t going to sound the same as a volume of sermons or devotionals. But still, when warming a church pew on Sunday provides the “inspiration” in Inspirational…? (Is it a secret the rest of the week? Or just irrelevant?)
A novel with a delineated Christian worldview should mention God outside of a rosary of cursing…shouldn’t it? People do think about spiritual issues, and sometimes they express doubts, ask questions, even. While lecturing may turn them off, at least one character could incarnate the gospel.
And absolutely, some characters—maybe even most—will go through a process of growth and change over the arc of a story. But there’s more to Christianity than a prayer. It seems to me that those of the cast who claim to believe might act as if they do. A confessional faith alone, without commitment to integrity in action…is dead, the Bible says.
“Show me your faith without the works,” James (2:18) challenges. He’s really saying you can’t do it.
“We draw people to Christ not by…telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light…so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” –Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water
The Bridge of No Return
Interestingly, the bridge motif has been used in many stories. I recall in particular the 1985 CBC version of Anne of Green Gables and its 1987 sequel.
My own first book, Destiny at Dolphin Bay, features a couple of bridges. One, a mere plank thrown across the brook dividing the church lot from the local soccer field, makes its cameo appearance in later stories too. As does the other, a hopscotch path of stones over rushing water into the heritage orchard on Chauquelín Island. In fact, this bridge setting opens Hope Chest.
But in another bridge scene, Coni Belmar and Marcos Serrano, the two main characters in my Swan Island Secrets series, hike to the Hanging Glacier and cross a bridge—literally and figuratively.
The river rages below, yet Coni feels happy, safe. Then she and Marcos stumble across a figurative line that neither of them will be able to reverse. The comfortable security of their friendship flips on its head. On the return trip, their minds are so troubled, the river looks placid in comparison. Nothing will ever be the same for either of them again.
That’s what I anticipate when a writer crosses over. Fresh air, new light, and unexpected love explode and rearrange the thought processes of the reader. Good writing—like good music, good art, good food—can shift moods, boost joy, create longing.
Great writing can build a bridge where none existed. It can pierce us with what Emily of New Moon termed “the flash” (another L. M. Montgomery classic). It tiptoes in the back door of our souls, but instead of catching us in a trap, it invites us to a banquet. And hopefully, we’ll never breathe the same stale atmosphere again.
“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
And so true… “How will they hear…unless (some) are sent?” (Rom. 10:14-15). Few will discover the Bridge of the Cross unless an army of word warriors, brave and skilled enough, will gird on their pen-swords and cross the Bridge of Good Writing.
It means fidelity to the message and to simple discipleship. Not a desertion of worldview and values. It may cost a willingness to sacrifice the need for universal approval and the craving for awards. I’m not holding my breath to hear my Christian book has won the Pulitzer.
But on the other hand, but shouldn’t it be good enough to? Or at least to garner awards within its genre?
Bridge over Troubled Water
Of course, we Christians may belong to different denominations with their respective doctrinal particulars. We hold different convictions and individual tastes in the practical outliving of our faith and even in our reading preferences.
I’m not chasing a path to perfection. No writer can accommodate every reader’s personal opinions. That doesn’t mean I don’t live out my own. But I believe more in highlighting biblical faith and a genuine testimony rather than taking up the baton for one-size-fits-all in the details.
God help me stand up to the challenge to do better work, whether I win the medals or not. The Bridge over our troubled water is the story of the cross, written in language that reaches and touches hearts, peopled by characters who look a lot like you and me.
“The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.” –C. S. Lewis
I never set out to write a Christian book. But since that’s who I am, that’s the theme that pours out. God willing, we Christian writers can offer hope, help, and healing for the troubled times we all face.
I always did aim to write a good story. May God help us march across in prayer, connected to the creative power and passion of our God. Not to capture, but to captivate.
“Write so heaven will be different.” –Lee Roddy
I’d consider it a blessing to hear about what YOU like and/or want to read. To find an audience that “gets you,” whose heart you can share and whose mind you can affirm and impact—I call that truly inspirational.