I recently came across a blog post where the blogger wondered if some certain Christian books could qualify as Christian. The books had some edgy themes that the faith doesn’t really encourage.
I used to think the same way. I avoided all these types of books, thinking they wouldn’t be very clean entertainment. But are they as bad as they sound? With recurring themes such as cheating, killing one another, and keeping secrets and lies, it doesn’t sound that way.
I find that most people read thrillers to be surprised. They like the heart-pounding suspense or solving a mystery. To sum up, we read these books for the excitement, or an escape.
First off, the main characters don’t always condone the behavior. Granted, not all characters are good people. But how many of us are perfect? We’ve all done things that we shouldn’t. I feel, too, that not only are the characters avoiding the people that display this behavior, but the readers aren’t supporting it either. They’re holding their breath, hoping that the good people win in the end. Heck, even the Bible has many moments it doesn’t encourage. Just because Judas betrays Jesus doesn’t mean the Bible condones cheating. Something being written about doesn’t mean the author agreeing with it. Actually, a lot of the thrillers I’ve read recently serve as warnings against the behaviors displayed. I’ll often finish the book feeling grateful for the life I currently have.
These type of books also often deal with larger issues. You warns against social media use. Obsession warns us how envy can tear lives apart. Never Let You Go deals with relationships. In fact, many of the ones I’ve read deal with abusive relationships in some degree. This is a very real issue, and in many thrillers, readers can go along and root for the characters to go on and have a better life. It really opens your eyes to the issues and what these women content with. So the overall message is not necessarily harmful. Nobody here is rooting for the bad guy. That was how I originally thought of these types of books.
Still, there are times when us Christians need to watch what we read and continue holding themselves to that moral standard. This may be up to you. Do Christian readers find themselves sympathizing with or rooting for the villain, like Joe Goldberg of You fame? Do they find themselves thinking about how exhilarating cheating on a marriage could be after reading about the exciting affair a side character committed? Maybe it’s time to take a break from these types of novels. For me, I personally draw the line at murder mysteries, particularly the light-hearted ones. Murder is a thing that really happens to people and I don’t like to make light of that. Whereas with thrillers, we sympathize with the main character (usually) and we hold our breaths, hoping that everything turns out for the best–and we’re stunned when it doesn’t. Ultimately, that’s what I want anyway.
Of course, not all characters are likable and that’s a different story. Take Pekkanen’s The Perfect Neighbors, where several have dirty secrets to hide. I didn’t feel like I wanted any of them to win. Same with A Simple Favor...nobody was likable and all deserved what was coming to them. I didn’t enjoy those books as much. As long as the reader can separate good from bad, and realize that maybe that the characters aren’t role models, there isn’t a problem. However, I feel like those books aren’t as enjoyable anyway. There need to be some well-intentioned characters for me to like a book, but that isn’t always obvious before I delve into one. It’s very easy to accidentally pick up a racy book when that content isn’t advertised, like I did with Kiss Quotient. It happens.
I think that if Christians are looking for a good, wholesome book where the character is perfect, they will never finish that quest. You might as well give up reading altogether. But that’s because we’re all flawed. And isn’t that why we read: to go on a journey with a flawed character and watch them change over time? We can hope, anyway. I think that if readers are reading for the sake of trying to figure out a mystery, or just to be excited, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, in some cases we should still be watchful of content and be alert to books that are making light of serious issues. That to me is where the problem occurs.
Christianity has become so much more about judging others’ behavior than it is about God and faith and I think that needs to change. It might start with books.