Literature’s Divorce Between Secular and Religious


Today’s literature tends to be divided, like much of our culture, between secular and religious. The two types usually are marketed to different audiences. Religious fiction may be Jewish or Buddhist or from another religion, of course, but the Christian market has grown remarkably over the past few decades.

In a desire to reach secular readers, writers for the Christian market now explore “crossover” fiction, fiction that may appeal to both audiences. Crossover novels often suggest Christian themes but lack overt references to Christian practices or mention them only in a general way.

As both a writer and a Christian, how much Christian flavor should I impart to my novels? The answer for me is that it’s not an issue. I simply write the story, present the characters as they come to me, and attempt an honest telling of the story.

The conflict in my stories, as in my novel Searching for Home, emerges as the characters work out their salvation in an America becoming less religious and a non-Western world becoming more religious. The stories place the characters in a global context. The characters see their lives as related to the larger world, often away from a domestic church-related venue.  They doubt, sometimes are cynical, and may discover less than full answers to their questions.

I am drawn to novels of authors like Marilynne Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize winner for her moving story about a Christian pastor. Though my writing in no way approaches her wonderful prose, authors such as Robinson give me hope that novels with Christian characters can join the secular literary world. My market, I believe, is the Christian aware of a level beyond strict domestic issues and perhaps a few seekers searching for hints of God beyond the secular.

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