Have you seen the term “faith-friendly” floating around the bookisphere recently? I’ve seen it a few times, and the more I consider it, the more I like it.
As a woman whose primary love language is words, who flourished in English and went on to become a writer, words hold a lot of meaning to me. I love to collect and savor them when I come across something particularly intriguing or unique. When words are inadequate or used ineffectively, it drives me crazy. I place a high value on choosing the right word to convey the fullest meaning, and when I find one that’s especially apt, I adopt it.
I’ve adopted faith-friendly recently, and I’d love to explain why. Now, since the English language is a wonderfully complex beast, my definition may not be the one you’d use. It doesn’t have an official meaning. If you google it, you won’t find much to help you, either. So we’ll consider this to be documentation of early use for posterity’s sake. 😆
Why use “faith-friendly” to describe books?
There are a lot of subgenres and book classifications out there for romance readers. Christian. Inspirational. Clean. Sweet. Closed door. Do we even need another term? In my opinion, not only yes, but a resounding yes!
Christian books are typically written from a Christian world view, but the term is super vague. How much faith will be included? Will it be more rigidly religious in tone or filled with grace? Will the characters be flawlessly perfect and turn to Jesus every time they have a wayward thought, or will they face struggles and need redemption, sometimes from really big sin mistakes? Will one of the MCs have a salvation moment or are they all already saved and living for the Lord? You’ll find a very broad spectrum under this massive umbrella, so clearly it’s inadequate. I’ve listened and read comments online, and the general consensus of feedback I’ve seen is those who predominantly prefer to read Christian books want to read solid, unabashedly Christian content. Many will go so far as to leave lower-starred reviews when a book isn’t “Christian” enough. Ouch. That’s not so helpful for readers and authors who tend to opt for subtlety.
So where do the books land that might be told from a believing worldview but aren’t overtly Christian? Let’s explore those other terms I mentioned.
Many of the same questions may arise when considering “inspirational” as when choosing a “Christian” book. Sometimes, inspirational is code for books from Jesus believing religious groups who don’t fully identify as Christian. Sometimes it simply means inspiring or uplifting with a generally positive tone. Sometimes it is fairly overtly Christian, and the publisher simply double dipped into both categories. Again, no clearly defined standard that can lead to confusion.
There are plenty of books out there in which the characters or romance are sweet. Many will be marked as “sweet and spicy,” just as others use “sweet and clean,” making this yet another ineffective term.
Closed-door can be a mixed bag. The expectations are loose, as some can fall on the spectrum closer to inspirational with characters who pray and even go to church while others will have lust-driven MCs who fixate on the physical but the sex happens off the page, aka fade-to-black or behind closed door. These can be off-putting to a person who wants a chemistry and banter filled romance without all the sexual undertones.
Recently, there’s been push back for using the term “clean” because it implies that sex is “dirty.” And honestly, as a Bible believing woman, I agree. God made sex to be a beautiful, enjoyable, lovely thing within the right context, and the viewpoint of sex being dirty is both antiquated and damaging. The Bible uses the term “unclean” in reference to sin, but unclean doesn’t mean dirty. He outlined steps for becoming clean again in the OT, and in Jesus we are made new. The characters in spicy books are living as lost sinners, and we believers should never hold unbelievers to our own moral standards. The lost will behave sinfully, but it’s not our job to condemn them just because we’re called to live differently. Our job is simply to love, serve, and be the hands and feet of Jesus (not the mouthpiece). So classifying books that don’t have sex scenes as “clean” is, at heart, rather judgmental. (I might be campaigning a bit here to stop using this term entirely…lol!)
Still, as believers, we ought not be immersed in the glorification of the flesh, so how do we find books sans the fixation on sex without becoming modern day Pharisees in our attitudes?
It’s a well-known, well-bemoaned fact for romance readers that the current terms are simply inadequate. Terms like “low spice” help, but even that’s subjective. We need to find a way to describe books where the focus is on character growth and true romance, in which faith may or may not be an obvious part of the story, but the characters don’t behave in ways that would make a believer bristle (except in cases where the behavior is addressed and repentance/redemption is part of their growth arc).
I propose the industry adopt “faith-friendly” as a more effective descriptor for such books. Friendly toward people of faith, though not necessarily overt in Christian themes. A faith leaning worldview, but few to no references to scripture or God himself, though believers will recognize the implied truths for what they are. Faith in action as characters live the Word without needing to quote it.
There’s a place and an audience for both overtly Christian and more subtle stories, just as some believers are called to the mission field or pastoral ministry while others are called to serve in less visible capacities. The books I write tend to fall along the Christian spectrum anywhere between overt salvation moments to barely a mention of God. I ask the Lord for guidance every time I sit to write, and I try to pay attention to his leading, but not every book comes out with a direct Christian message. I don’t want to disappoint readers who expect more or less overt content, but how can I avoid it unless I establish expectations from the onset? I can’t begin to tell you how many of my author friends have bemoaned getting dinged in their reviews for not meeting those expectations the way a reader preferred.
This is why I’m championing we adopt “faith-friendly” into our lexicon of classifiers. When it comes to reading tastes, it’s nice to be able to easily identify the kind of story we’re looking for without offending or hurting nonbelievers—or even fellow believers whose convictions might not be the same as another’s. Readers want expectations met. Authors and publishers want to meet them. For Christians who don’t only read “Christian” books, we need a way to identify and clarify so those expectations stand a chance. There needs to be an alternative to one broad umbrella that covers too much and yet too little.
So, hi! I’m Jaycee. I love Jesus and value authenticity. Books and words are my passion. I write faith-friendly forevers, swoons, & sass. Coincidentally, that’s what I like to read.
Which books have you read recently that you’d consider “faith-friendly” versus “Christian”? Do you tend to read one over the other, or do you like to mix it up?
I look forward to chatting with you in the comments!
Until next time,