Christian Propaganda: A Case Study


The other day I pointed out and we discussed the practice of some on Amazon to give very poor reviews based solely on the fact that a book was Christian fiction . . . or as it is so often called in these reviews “CHRISTIAN propaganda.”

Here is a case study of one book that has come under fire for being said Christian propaganda.

In December, Tyndale House Publishers decided to offer Tom Pawlik’s book Vanish as a free Kindle download to ramp up exposure for it and its sequel, Valley of the Shadow. Soon after, the reviews started pouring in, most good, some just awful. The funny thing is, the vast majority of the awful reviews (1- and 2-star reviews) are based on the fact that the purchaser (can you even say purchaser since it was a FREE download) was unaware that Vanish is Christian fiction and felt totally duped and violated for having to succumb to Tom’s Christian propaganda.

And when I say vast majority, that’s exactly what I mean. To be exact, as of the writing of this post, there are 18 1-star reviews, 17 of them are based on the book being propaganda. There are 16 2-star reviews, 11 of them due to it being Christian fiction. By the time we hit the 3-star reviews things start normalizing a bit. Of the 12 3-star reviews, only 4 were based on the book’s Christian themes. Amazing? Here are some excerpts from some reviews:

Disappointment does not come close to the actual feeling I encountered when I realized this book was an entire ruse for Christian fanatics. This was beyond ridiculous.

This was an enjoyable thriller for the most part, until at the end when it became apparent that the book was not-so-subtle Christian propaganda.

At about 3/4 of the book, the big reveal occurs … that this book is really going to be a bunch of religious ramblings.

I can’t believe I got sucked into two of these “slip the fundamentalist Christian message into the last few pages of a thriller” scams being offered free on the Kindle store.

I don’t have a problem with any religion that a person chooses but I don’t like being duped into reading religious propoganda.

This novel is simply Christian propaganda cleverly disguised as a thriller.

Ugh! What PROPAGANDA! Not even worth the $0.00 pricetag.

I think you get the point.

Now, look, I totally defend these indivuals’ right to review how they want to. I’m not looking to censor or dampen free speech. That isn’t what this is about. It’s about judging a book by its artistic quality and showing a little objectivity (and how about a little intelligence along the way).

Some of the reviewers said they thought the book should have a disclaimer on it: Christian book! Really? Should novels that push a humanistic world view or even anti-Christian message (ie. The Davinci Code) have similar disclaimers?

To his credit, Tom Pawlik is taking all this in stride. I asked him about it and he said that while he found the reviews a bit discouraging at first he can handle a few snarky remarks. He has no intention of letting a few bad reviews stop him from writing. Good for you, Tom.

And by the way, Vanish has gotten some very good reviews as well, 61 to be exact (4- and 5-star reviews).

So this brings up a question: Should Christian fiction sold on Amazon have some kind of disclaimer so the unsuspecting reader doesn’t get duped into reading a bunch of Christian propaganda? What do you think?

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About mikedellosso

Mike Dellosso is an author of wide-eyed suspense. He writes stories that not only entertain but enlighten.

Posted on January 6, 2010, in Book Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Usually, if you bother to read the Amazon summary or the publisher’s description, it indicates that there’s at least something Christian about it. But even if there’s not, I don’t think I’d stick a “This is a Christian book” label on it, just as I wouldn’t stick a “This is an atheistic book” label on something else.

    Then there are the reactions from the other extreme — “you’re hiding or distorting the Christian message,” or “this didn’t edify me.” (I saw that last one in a comment about Robin Parrish’s Offworld.)

    Reactions like these are going to happen. Pawlik has the right attitude, but it still has to hurt. Too many people in our culture — Christian and non-Christian alike — view everything through a pre-determined lens, and usually a political lens — and have forgotten how to read a good story.

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  2. I don’t think a disclaimer should be used — but if it is, then it should be universal. Where is the outrage for Sagan’s Contact (God is our security blanket, but not real) or the DaVinci Code (Jesus married and had a child and was not divine) or Preston’s Blasphemy book where he creates cardboard cut-out characters of Christians that are anti-science? It’s highly probable that a rating system, if used, would spill over into non-fiction as well.

    “One star for the Bible – I was shocked and dismayed to find out this was a Christian book!”

    Who sets these ratings? What’s offensive? We can already see that what is truth is error and what is error is truth in our culture.

    Somewhere along the way we have lost the old ability to understand there are multiple points of view and not take revenge or reciprocate against others. Technology has simply democratized this “entitlement.”

    One thing is certain, we are not *asked* to share the message clearly and plainly, we are *commanded* and perhaps that’s the only thing that is clear about this situation.

    Thanks for posting this Mike – great stuff.

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  3. Mike, this is really thought provoking. I love your point about humanist books and other books with agendas. Let’s be honest, don’t they all? Every author has a world view they are writing from. Speaking simply selfishly, I like the classifications simply because I love reading and try to avoid “junk” so I like to read “christian” fiction. I’m also just the kind of person that likes things classified. I like to know either way. Whether it should be required? I would think that if it is required to “warn” readers then as you mentioned all books should have a “warning”. Just quick thoughts.

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  4. Mike,
    I’ve been reading this argument of “Christian” fiction vs. “secular” fiction for some time now, and I can only conclude one thing…the Bible is true and it tells Christians that they will be hated, because the world hated Christ first. The world does not like truth…does not want light…will not tolerate the gospel message whether it is delivered via the Bible or a thriller novel. It won’t matter what label or disclaimer or description or anything is used. It won’t matter how much it gets discussed. What matters, as one commenter stated, is that we as Christians are commanded to share the gospel with the world, and we as individuals must be obedient to that command. If God has gifted you with the ability to write, and you choose to write a novel, you have a tremendous opportunity to share Christ in a way that is uniquely your own.

    Mike, your heart is for God. Your desire is to write for the glory of God. That, my friend is what it’s all about. I applaud you for thoughtfully considering what God has asked you to do as a writer and sharing your heart and your faith so faithfully with others.

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  5. You’re right, Glynn, it’s not hard to discover if a book is Christian fiction or not. What gets me is that Christian fiction is a well-established genre in fiction. I mean, it even has its own section in bookstores. So why do these reviewers act like it’s some underhanded way to indoctrinate people with our propaganda? And yes, Tom does have the right attitude. I admire him a lot.

    Sam, you make a good point about labels or ratings. What would qualify as Christian fiction? Somewhere there will be a fuzzy line, a gray area, and then what? And who makes those labels? Thanks for checking in.

    By the way folks, I’m reading Sam Batterman’s book, Wayback, now and it’s wonderful, full of Christian propaganda (remove tongue from cheek).

    Angela and Kim, thanks for your thoughts and insight. It saddens me that in a nation that once revered Christian principles we now have this kind of stuff going on.

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  6. Hi Mike –

    No, I don’t think there should be a disclaimer. It’s just another attempt to push Christians out of the marketplace and isolate them.

    In case Christians haven’t noticed, the world is becoming an increasingly unfriendly place for us – including our own beloved U.S. I, for one, don’t believe in being bullied into silence.

    Blessings,
    Susan 🙂

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    • Yes! Susan. Great attitude. We can’t be bullied into silence. Our culture is growing increasingly hostile to Christians but as long as we have a voice we must proclaim the Good News.

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