Yesterday I was in a Christian thrift-store, looking at their used book area, when I spotted a fiction shelf labeled “Antiques”. After looking at a few of them, it was obvious that these pre-dated the Janette Oke books. Was there really Christian fiction before her?
Yes, there have been authors here and there through the years who have published Christian fiction. There’s John Bunyan with his allegory “Pilgrim’s Progress” in 1678. Then there was the 1896 classic novel “In His Steps” by Charles Sheldon. There was fantasy-type fiction from J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in the mid-1900’s. If you really want to go back, there’s Dante’s “Divine Comedy” in 1321. But I thought the Christian Fiction movement kind of started in 1979 when Janette Oke started cranking out books. Perhaps I was wrong.
I snapped a picture of the bookshelf with my cellphone, then pulled one book off and examined its dustcover. “Mount Up With Wings” by Rubye Kilgore Hancock” (1956) There was a description of the plot, followed by: “This is delightful Christian fiction.” Also on the shelf were:
“The Warm Summer” by Craig Massey (1968) about a 14-year-old boy who experiences a home business, a swindler, finding love, and getting to know God during the summer months.
“Highpockets” by John R. Tunis (1959) about a fictional baseball team and its rookie center fielder. with morals and integrity emphasized.
“With Healing In His Wings – by Orville Steggarda (1958) about a doctor who ministers to his patien physical and spiritual needs.
“Eternity In Their Hearts” by Lon Woodrum (1955) won 1st prize in Zondervan Publisher’s Christian fiction contest.
I was going to snap some more pictures of dustcovers from some of these books, but another customer was already looking at me rather oddly, so I resisted the urge. Suffice it to say that the history of Christian fiction has been a long and winding road, some of which has already gone down to obscurity.