Christian—adj. 1. Of Jesus Christ or His teachings. 2. Of or adhering to the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ
Inspirational—adj. The act of inspiring
Inspire—v. to fill with animating or exalting influence 2. To arouse or generate (a feeling, thought, etc.) 3. To affect with feeling, thought, etc. 4. To guide or control by divine influence.
That little vocabulary lesson come courtesy of my little red Random House Webster’s Dictionary. It is as much for my benefit as it is for yours. Those words have been on my mind lately. A comment was made recently that the words “Christian” and “inspirational” can be interchangeable, at least when it comes to music and literature. It came up during a discussion about my writing. I call it “Christian Fiction”. A writer friend mentioned that I might reach more readers if I call it “Inspirational Fiction” instead. She said that the label “Christian” might alienate potential readers who don’t want to read about God and don’t want to be preached at. But the label “Inspirational” is more likely to make readers think uplifting and positive. She went on to say that someone not looking specifically for Christian work might pick up one of my books and be touched by what I wrote.
Yet I am really torn. Yes, I LOVE the idea of reaching more readers. What writer wouldn’t? At the same time, I do not like the idea of compromising my beliefs and values to get those readers. Calling my work something other than Christian makes me feel like I am compromising.
I mentioned this on Facebook this morning. Most of my FB friends have been supportive, telling me to call it what I want and let the readers decide for themselves if they are going to be offended or not. One writer friend, while still being supportive, took a slightly different approach. She said, “BUT if you don’t label it, someone who would not normally read “Christian Fiction” may read it and be inspired by your message of faith. Wouldn’t that make it all worthwhile?”
That has really made me wonder. Would that make it worthwhile?
I mean, sure, I want to inspire others with my work. And I do feel that every word I write was given to me by God, so all of my work has been inspired by Christ. So going by definition #4 of inspire, then my work is inspirational.
So why does calling my work simply “inspirational” feel so wrong to me?
Not that I am saying it is a sinful thing. That is not the wrong feeling I am talking about. It just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel like it is the appropriate definition of my work.
I am a Christian, and I am not ashamed of that. In the book of Romans, Paul said, “That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’.” (Romans 1:15-17, NIV) I don’t know that I was called to preach; I was called to write. Pastor Clive often says, “You may be the only Bible some people will ever read.” In the same way, my work may be the only sermon some people ever hear. I trust that God will get that “sermon” into the hands of whoever needs to hear it, no matter what label is placed on my work.
As for me, I have decided that I will call my work “Christian Fiction.” Will that cost me any readers? Only God knows. But it will be honoring to Him, and that is more important to me than who reads my books or how many copies I sell.
My writer friends may well be right. The label I put on my work might alienate certain readers and offend others. Strangely I am OK with that. It’s better to risk my career by offending possible readers on earth than to risk eternity by offending my Father in Heaven.