The question was posed, “Is there a separation in Christian Fiction readers, and authors, as it relates to race?” What a bold, and apropos, question. One that I welcomed the opportunity to answer. Division has been the behavior du jour, in America, since her birth.
In order to truly articulate the divide, and the reason for it, we must first understand the true definition of ‘race’ and ‘Christian’. So, bear with the theologian in me, because I’m going somewhere.
The term ‘Christian’’ wasn’t used until the Jewish apostles, and disciples, arrived at Antioch, Rome. (Acts 11: 26) The purpose was to discount their ethnicity, as secondary, in religious matters. Paul said, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view…” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:16.
He went on to say, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come." ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17. He declared that it didn’t matter if they were Jew or Greek – slave or free man. As long as they were followers of Christ, they were brethren.
Throughout Pauline’s Epistles he continuously speaks about ‘race’’. Not as an ethnicity; but as a journey. Paul writes, “I fought a good fight, I finished the ‘race’. I kept the faith.” ~ 2 Timothy 4:11. He clearly was referring to his Christian journey, or his Christian walk.
By Paul’s definition ‘race’ means journey, or competitive movement. One person pitted against another, or one group against the other. All of them sprinting toward the finish line to receive an unequal, but equitable, prize.
We, authors and readers alike, boldly declare that we are Christians. We write and read as such. We unequivocally acknowledge that Christians come in all shades of melanin, or lack thereof. That part is easy to do, with our mouths.
It’s the ‘race’ part that causes us to stumble. We see other ethnic groups not as fellow Christians, but as different ‘races’. What if we were to apply Paul’s definition of race as a journey, to our definition of race as an ethnicity? This is what it would look like: “The White man’s journey” - The “Black man’s journey” – “The Spanish man’s journey” - etc.
The aforementioned is blaringly substantiated by how America refers to her Black and Brown citizens. Like a bullet point, we are sub-categorized by our heritage: African American, Spanish American, Asian American, Muslim American, Indian American, and Native American. Yet, Irish, Scottish, English, Italian, and all other with very little - or no - melanin enjoy the benefit of being grouped together as just American.
It is no wonder the divide has spilled over into our spiritual walk, and our literary lives. I suggest the divide has always been there, in every walk of life. Why would we expect Christian Fiction to be any different?
Our society has been indoctrinated to embrace the divide. We believe that even though a person of another ethnicity is Christian, they are different. Authors believe we can’t write about another ethnicity, because -
(1) We couldn’t possibly understand them,
(2) They worship God differently than we do,
(3) We don’t want to offend them by writing what we think their behavior is.
As readers we gravitate to authors who write about characters who look like us, behave like we do, live in neighborhoods similar to ours, fellowship like we do, and whose struggles are akin to ours. Or so we imagine.
Publishers, bookstores, and online entities, are guilty of perpetuating this divide. They encourage authors to identify their books with words, such as “African American Interest”, even if they are Christian Fiction. Publishers encourage African Americans not to adorn their books with ethnic covers. They claim there is no market for them. Then, like the water fountains of old, or the back of the bus, they segregate books according to the author’s ethnicity.
African Americans will venture into the “White” authors area, in search of a well penned tale. However, very seldom will other ethnic groups venture into our ‘segregated’ area. Or our literary ‘hood’.
As an author of Edgy Christian Romance, it has been a blessing to see readers from all walks of life embrace my imagination. I recently had a reader inbox me on Facebook. She said she was truly enjoying my series and liked my writing style. She said my series has God meeting us where we are…in our mess. She said she was amazed that I, as a ‘black author’, included all ‘races’ in my series. And not only that, but I was able to depict the other ‘races’ - and their struggles - accurately. She said it was truly an amazing experience.
It did not surprise me that she was surprised. I very politely reminded her that God has no respect of person. I informed her that I refuse to be labeled or put in a box. Not when so many souls are lost, and hopelessness has swept across America like billows. I told her that I’m not trying to reach church folk. That’s why my books are called “Paranormal” and not “Christian Fiction.”
I’m trying to reach the hurt, and unsaved. My pen is a web that stretches across the highways and byways. I am seeking those who are lost, from all ethnicities.
If authors and readers were to embrace Paul’s concept of ‘race’, we could close the divide. Then Christian and race would become one unified phrase: Christian race.
EJ Brock was born in Chicago, Illinois, but raised in Gary, Indiana. She is a student, and teacher, of the Bible; and other spiritual writings. She has used her insight and knowledge to penned one dynamic spiritual warfare sage, wrapped in two series: “A Spirit Mate Love Story” - and - “A Sanctioned Mate Series.”