I have had a lot of ideas for novels, and I’ve looked at the guidelines set forth by a lot of Christian publishers to see where some of my ideas fit in. It has amazed me to see that stories I would consider “Christian fiction” would not be acceptable by some publishing houses. Why? Because the characters I have in mind are too real.
One of the “rules” I’ve seen over and over again is that main characters should not be divorced. That is sad to me. The whole idea of divorce is sad. I do believe that marriage is meant to be between one man, one woman, and is to last “until death do us part.” No couple, especially not a Christian couple, should go into a marriage thinking, “I love this person today, but if in ten or fifteen years this isn’t working out, I can leave and start over. No big deal.” It IS a big deal. Marriage is a big deal. It is something that is meant for life, and should not be entered into lightly.
Sadly, things happen. Life happens. And there are Biblical reasons for divorce. Adultery is one. If you think adultery does not happen in Christian marriages, think again. Remember Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggert? OK, so those two men are from the 80’s and maybe you don’t remember them. But what about Amy Grant and Vince Gill? Both were married to others when they began their relationship, and both are Christians. It happens. It shouldn’t. There is no excuse for it. But it does happen. And though I don’t believe it is named in the Bible as a reason for divorce, I can’t imagine God is against a woman leaving her husband, even if he is a “good Christian man,” who is physically abusing her or her children. While I do believe God meant for marriage to be a “one and done” sort of thing (you know—a once-in-a-lifetime, this-is-forever arrangement,) I think He understands that humans are, well, human. We are flawed. It grieves Him deeply when He sees two of His children give up on the marriage He brought together. I don’t think He is in anyway pleased when a marriage ends, no matter the reasons for it, but I don’t think that He stays angry forever about it, either.
Which is why I don’t understand why divorce should be a taboo subject for a novel. More accurately, why should I be afraid to write about a character who has survived a divorce?
Maybe it’s a man whose wife was having an affair. Maybe he was determined to save the marriage, but she walked out, she served him with divorce papers. And maybe he has taken the time to learn from the experience, to look at the marriage and see not only what she did wrong but what he might have done that led to the choices she made. Maybe he has grown closer to God because of that divorce and now is ready for a real relationship, one where he is sure to put God at the center.
Or maybe it’s a woman who left her husband to save her life. Maybe she was beaten daily by this man who claimed to love her. Maybe the only way to stay alive was to get away from him, to physically leave him and to end the marriage. And maybe she, too, has had a lot to learn through the experience. But maybe her heart was hurt so badly by him that she is afraid. Afraid to love, afraid to trust, afraid of her own choices. Maybe her ex-husband was the one who introduced her to God in the first place, so she isn’t even sure if she can believe in Him anymore.
Either of those characters could have an amazing story to tell. A full novel worth of story? Who knows? But if I am writing for a traditional publisher, I wouldn’t be able to really find out. Because this man and this woman were divorced, they would not be viewed as acceptable main characters for a traditionally published Christian novel, at least not through many of the publishing houses I have looked into.
That makes me wonder—would we, as Christians, view these characters as less than acceptable members of our church just because they were divorced?
It kind of reminds me of the old saying “love the sinner, hate the sinner.” We don’t have to agree with what others have done to love them. In many cases, we don’t even have to know what others have done in order to love them. Jesus only asks that we love them.
And if He asks me to write a novel about a divorced man or a divorced woman, I plan to do it. No matter what the traditional publishing houses say about it.