Maybe you feel more strongly for something else. Maybe your creative spirit soars to different music. Maybe you don't know what I'm on about discussing books for this "missing middle."
Do your thing and do it well.
But for nearly 20 years, maybe longer, I've been disappointed by Christianity. I've lived in the shadow of something I considered an embarrassment. It seemed to follow me around wherever I looked. I was guilty by association. In the popular parlance of my childhood and early adulthood which took place in the early 80s and 90s, the adjective "Christian" was largely synonymous with "a shoddy, reduced copy."
Some of you know what I'm talking about. Some of you don't.
Sure we had Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. Frank Peretti wrote that big thriller. And there were a number of excellently produced boycotts. But for every reason to be proud, there were 100 reasons to cringe.
Now that is finally changing, after all this time–in music, in movies, and in books. In my industry–books–the popular interest in spiritual things is welcome indeed.
The Christian pop culture was described well in Rapture Ready! by Daniel Radosh. This is the parallel universe I grew up in. An old article/reviewby Hannah Rosin said:
"A young Christian can get the idea that her religion is a tinny, desperate thing that can't compete with the secular culture. A Christian friend who'd grown up totally sheltered once wrote to me that the first time he heard a Top 40 station he was horrified, and not because of the racy lyrics: 'Suddenly, my lifelong suspicions became crystal clear,' he wrote. 'Christian subculture was nothing but a commercialized rip-off of the mainstream, done with wretched quality and an apocryphal insistence on the sanitization of reality.'"
Where souls are at stake, it seems, creative work is restricted. And where creative work is restricted, it becomes a clanging gong, serving only those already in the club. That's one reason (as Rosin says) “it's always been a stretch to defend Christian pop culture as the path to eternal salvation.” So now can we write books that are Christian but not for Christians? That's where this middle ground is opening up between CBA and ABA through books like The Shack and others. Will we escape the confines of these walls and face up to the fact that a Christian pop culture does not save souls, has never really been about that underneath anyway, and conflicts and confuses converts with its “eternal oxymoron?”
Here’s my answer: No. Some can’t. And some shouldn’t. They have God to answer to. Some have been called to preach to the choir to encourage them to sing, and to keep singing even in the face of incredible opposition. Yes, these folks are needed. Let me not stand in their way.
But here’s my answer to the new voices: Yes. You don’t have to produce the Jesus Junk and the Kinkade Kommemorative Kolection just because you’re a Christian. There’s a big world out there waiting for your junk, er, work, and Andy Crouch and Mako Fujimura and many "covert Christians" are working to define that space and help it survive its infancy and get off the ground. You'll take some flak for it, but less than you'd expect. It's pretty well established by now–in books like Don Miller's and Rob Bell's and David Kinnaman's unChristian–that there's a problem here and it's not going away until we deal with it.
So if you are a writer (elitist, hack, or otherwise), who has a vision for something nontraditional that doesn't fit in the current Christian pop culture market, several modern-world changes are contributing to (as Paulo Coehlo says in The Alchemist) "conspire in your favor." And this should give you all the confidence you need to step out and not accept confinement to your previous notions.
Start by reading all the authors and books mentioned in this post. And by sharing your thoughts here. And coming back.