Tuesday, October 05, 2010

"Sensual" Christian Fiction?

File this post under "unfinished business."

On September 15th I reviewed Immanuel's Veins by Ted Dekker for the CFBA tour. I made the
comment, "Is this the book that changes what Christian fiction can be about?" I left off a cliffhanger saying I'd discuss it "tomorrow."

Hope you haven't been hanging too long!

Still, I don't want to let this idea go. Immanuel's Veins is a book that deserves some analysis.

The book is a potent mix of visual and emotional imagery. As I said in my review, Dekker spends time developing his two main characters, Toma and Lucine, and otherwise has placeholder characters that allow him to develop the tension and force the plot on its blistering pace. As Toma falls for Lucine, and she is torn between him and a deceptively dashing royal, there is a lot of description of the desire that develops.

Dekker describes it as probably "the most Christian book I've ever written." It certainly is laced with the love Jesus has for His bride, as well as a deep connection to the Song of Solomon (he dedicates the book to King Solomon) and other Biblical imagery such as the two sisters in Ezekiel who end up whoring after other countries and their false gods. To build such a premise, this book couldn't really be tame.

Dekker writes freely of passion and desire in building up the drama. The story wouldn't have worked without it. The sensuality of the followers of van Valerik is contrasted with the nobility of Toma and Lucine. Still, both of them are tempted by the opportunity, and Lucine is seduced by Duke Vlad van Valerik. The horror of what she encounters after she gives herself to him echoes the mistake people make when they go after the schemes of Satan, only to realize they've been snared.

The book is sensual. The story demands it. As I read it, sometimes it was slightly arousing. It is unlike any other Christian (CBA) novel I've read. The book was actually not accepted by Ted's Christian publisher in Holland due to its sensuality (can you say irony?).

I think only someone with Dekker's clout in the CBA industry could get away with writing this book. Violence has long been accepted in Christian fiction, but any kind of sexuality is resisted. Now, I don't think we should be seeing "Christian erotica" anytime soon, and that is not the purpose of Immanuel's Veins. Again I'll say the story required such language.

So this book could be a book that changes Christian fiction. I don't think we'll be seeing smut in the CBA, but if there is a proper place for sexual/sensual language that serves the story and the message, then Immanuel's Veins sets a precedent. It will be resisted by some for sure - on the Amazon page the book is overwhelmingly praised, but there are several 1 star reviews that decry the language and imagery. I see their point, but I feel those reviewers are missing the point of the book by focusing on the trees and missing the forest.

Will this open up Christian fiction to the idea that "the end justifies the means?" I don't think that is the case here. But Dekker really is not forging new ground, not when prophets and wise men in the Bible used such imagery first. Time will tell if it pushes CBA fiction, or if it is an isolated case.

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. (Jason, read my review and tell me what you think.)

    It's difficult for me to address your questions because my novels also infer and directly tackle sensuality and sexuality without graphics and/or erotica. I posted on "The Last Frontier of Christian Fiction" deciding the frontier is definitely sexual issues. How can we as writers ignore what's in our faces every single day of the week and decide not to address it? How can we pretend that sexuality is too "edgy" when blood and gore is acceptable. In reality most of us (outside of our soldiers or people in the medical professions) don't have to directly deal with blood and gore. And, hey, I'm not complaining about the novels such as Steven James and others have written. I read them. I watch the CSIs and other forensic shows. That isn't my point.

    Does dealing with sensuality infer that we are somehow dirty? I'd really like to know how Christian romance can be romance without facing sexual attractions and writing honestly about them.

    I didn't think Immanuel's Veins did anything "unacceptable" in its vivid language. And though I'm not a fan of the "topic" or some of the suggested theology, the story held my interest. For what it was, it was very well done. Perfectly seductive as it should've been.

    Sorry if I rambled here, Jason, and failed to add anything of value to the discussion.