Evangelization via Novelisation

According to Pew Research Center, about one-third of Generation Z is not religious, and 21% of the generation identifies as atheistic or agnostic (Manning). Whether good or bad, this staggering statistic greatly influences the publication industry. Writers like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein may still be popular choices for the generation, but their allegories and symbolism for the Catholic faith may not be as popular for this younger generation of readers. What does this mean for the Catholic and Christian authors? And, what challenges will they face by publishing themselves in this troublesome atmosphere?

A Google search on the Catholic writers shows a list of Popes and philosophers, and though these are respectable reads, they may not catch the modern-day young adult’s eye when browsing upon the shelves of a bookstore. Another Google search for allegorical Christian young adult books will show a series of obvious titles, including “The Oracle: The Jubilean Mysteries Unveiled” by Johnathon Cahn and “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan (Barnes & Noble). As much as these authors are dedicated to their work, they do not use the same nuance as Lewis and Tolkein. These books are blatantly Christian works, and though this can help the authors gain a more obvious target audience, it does not help them gain those Gen Z’ers on the fringe of religion.

There seems to be a lack of subtle Christian influence in writing in modern young-adult works. Perhaps authors feel that they will not be able to appeal to a new, a-religious generation of readers. Maybe they feel that being “politically correct” and not taking a stance is the best way to go. Catch-22, The Handmaid's Tale, and Saturday are all anti-religious books showing the disturbing undergrowth of Catholicism and Christianity (Hugel). These titles are some of the most popular in the country, and to a Christian writer’s dismay, they are all taught in schools. Many works do not even mention religion because of the controversy that surrounds it (Thompson). As a host of the podcast Writing Excuses notes in “Episode 15:38: Depicting Religions That Are Not Your Own,” writing about religion is a daunting, high stakes task: as their guest writer, Nisi Shawl, says, her religion is widely written about, but is offensively misconstrued (Taylor). Since her religion is not “mainstream,” she expresses that authors write her religion as something to be feared, yet built from Christian influences - despite it not being based in Christianity (Taylor). Lack of “respect and research” also contribute to an author’s potentially poor depiction of religion, but religion may not even play a part in character building for some authors (Taylor). Whether authors “default” to making their characters of their own religion or decide to test out a new one, religion can sometimes be pushed under the rug during character building (Taylor).

Another theory is that characters can be relatable to anyone, no matter their stance on religion, if religion is never mentioned as an important part of their background. On the surface level, there does not seem to be much hope for Christian writers to integrate their faith in their works. Nevertheless, this challenging environment is the battlefield for which many of these authors find their calling to fight onwards.

Despite the anti-religious sentiment in Generation Z, there are many works that appeal to all audiences while continuing to have a Christian influence. Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry, Chosen by Ted Decker, and The Stergoni Sequence by Christine E. Schulze are all popular titles in religious literature that, while they have religious characters, are not overtly so (Sorrell, Willis, Rabinowitz). The Wingfeather Series by Andrew Peterson, albeit for a slightly younger audience, is another title that Christian readers seem to be loving (Peterson). These books are proof that religious work can sell, as long as it appeals to young adults properly. Each book has beautiful cover art, and most of them are centered around the fantasy genre, which many are particularly drawn to (Herold). The fantasy genre allows for readers to escape to another world and for writers to incorporate themes through the symbolism of ficticious creatures, objects, and even certain characters. Fantasy allows for creativity, which may be why this genre helped Tolkein and Lewis write their popular Christian works, too.

This is not the end of Christianity in writing, but writers must be more nuanced in how they incorporate these topics if they wish to appeal to the broader young adult audience. Though it may be hard for these writers to express their faith in an implicit manner, it might do them better to utilize symbols, allegories, and metaphors to relate these themes to their audience in a way that is less overt and more appealing to the new generations.

Works Cited

Barnes & Noble. “Christian Allegories, Christian Fiction & Literature, Books.” Barnes & Noble, www.barnesandnoble.com/b/books/christian-fiction-literature/christian-allegories/_/N-29Z8q8Z1bfd.

Herold, Thomas. “Book Publishing Market Overview for Authors - Statistics & Facts.” Book Ad Report, Herold Https://Bookadreport.com/Front/Wp-Content/Uploads/2018/06/Logo-White-Sm-300x51.Png, 30 Jan. 2019, bookadreport.com/book-market-overview-authors-statistics-facts/.

Hugel, Melissa. “5 Novels Every Atheist Can Believe In.” Mic, Mic, 29 Nov. 2013, www.mic.com/articles/74437/5-novels-every-atheist-can-believe-in.

Manning, Christel J. “Gen Z Is the Least Religious Generation. Here's Why That Could Be a Good Thing.” Pacific Standard, Pacific Standard, 6 May 2019, psmag.com/ideas/gen-z-is-the-least-religious-generation-heres-why-that-could-be-a-good-thing.

Peterson, Andrew. “A Note to Parents.” The Wingfeather Saga, www.wingfeathersaga.com/a-note-to-parents.

Rabinowitz, Chloe. “Christine E. Schulze Releases New YA Christian Fantasy Trilogy Boxed Set THE STREGONI SEQUENCE.” BroadwayWorld.com, BroadwayWorld.com, 10 June 2021, www.broadwayworld.com/bwwbooks/article/Christine-E-Schulze-Releases-New-YA-Christian-Fantasy-Trilogy-Boxed-Set-THE-STREGONI-SEQUENCE-20210610.

Sorrell, Karissa Knox. “12 Compelling YA Books About Religion.” BOOK RIOT, 12 Apr. 2019, bookriot.com/ya-books-about-religion/.

Taylor, Howard. “Episode 15:38: Depicting Religions That Are Not Your Own.” Writing Excuses, 20 Sept 2020. https://writingexcuses.com/2020/09/20/15-38-depicting-religions-that-are-not-your-own/

Thompson, Rachel. “Why Authors Should Avoid Discussing Politics and Religion.” Rachel Thompson, 29 Dec. 2015, rachelintheoc.com/2013/12/authors-avoid-discussing-politics-religion/.

Willis, Tiffani. “Christian Books for Teens, Tweens, and Adults To Enjoy.” BOOK RIOT, 8 Apr. 2018, bookriot.com/christian-books-for-teens/.

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