76. Why Did Secular Readers Try to Cancel A Christian Historical Romance Novel? | with Parker J. Cole
Last month, social-media citizens criticized the Romance Writers of America for nominating a Christian-made historical romance novel for its 2021 Vivian Awards. We’re looking at a surprising plot twist, when secular readers are feeling strict about a book like this. How can readers respond when secular critics fault Christian-made fiction for being too gritty and realistic?
We explore the backstory with Parker J. Cole
Parker J. Cole is an author, speaker, and radio show host with a fanatical obsession with the Lord, Star Trek, K-dramas, anime, romance books, old movies, speculative fiction, and knitting. An off-and-on Mountain Dew and marshmallows addict, she writes to fill the void the sugar left behind. To follow her on social media, visit her website at ParkerJCole.com.
- The Butterscotch Bride, newest release from Parker J. Cole
- Paranormal Romance Can Reflect Man’s Evil and God’s Grace, Parker’s newest Lorehaven article
It’s not often critics accuse a Christian historical romance novel of “racism” and “glamorizing genocide.” Yet a vocal contingent of romance fans leveled these charges while demanding the Romance Writers of America (RWA) rescind its 2021 Vivian Award to Christian historical fiction novelist Karen Witemeyer for her novel At Love’s Command.
RWA voters awarded At Love’s Command in the category of “Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements.” Days later, the association stripped Witemeyer’s book of its award.
Why are critics hating At Love’s Command?
The controversy concerned the male lead, a cavalryman who participated in the Wounded Knee massacre of Native American women and children, and his later search for redemption. At Love’s Command portrays the protagonist as anguished about his actions and seeking atonement.
Back in the real world, the mob offers no such forgiveness.
Readers largely criticized the book for portraying a “hero participating in genocide of indigenous people.” They called this repugnant. Some saw the book’s publication as evidence of “deeply embedded… white supremacy.” One reader felt prompted to continue her “boycott against all white authors,” while many others pledged to cancel membership with the RWA.
One critic quipped, “Next up: Romancing Auschwitz.”
Another said, “Real Christians do not excuse, promote, or approve of racism and genocide.”
In fact, the very idea of atonement for such egregious sins torqued the Twitterati.
“Characters who participate in genocide cannot be redeemed,” another critic said. That’s a direct quote.
- We haven’t read the book. Fortunately, Parker has begun reading it!
- If the book offered no redemptive storyline, we might share criticism.
- But it does. That’s what the critics say they despise. That’s wrong to say.
- We must focus on the moral and imagination issues, not call this “politics.”
- In fact, this isn’t about politics—that is, public policy. This is people stuff.
- We assume this is a religious/moral conflict, not “neutral” versus “religious.”
- If you attempt to enforce your religion, that’s fine, but now you’re in that turf.
- You have to play by the rules like other religions, including ours: Christianity.
- Finally, we see no dragons or spaceships here. Still, this is a neighbor genre!
- Also, we didn’t want to invite the author.1 At such times it’s best to take a break!
- That’s why we invited Parker to help us blokes explore this strange world.
1. To review, what’s the purpose of romantic fiction in gospel worldview?
- What’s the purpose of these kinds of stories, for Christians and others?
- How have fans rightly objected to overemphasis on white romantic heroes?
- What are legitimate issues with historical fiction’s portrayal of past sins?
2. What’s the tragic backstory behind this rejection of At Love’s Command?
- What happened with the RWA and how it promotes authors of color?
- How did that issue lead up to this issue involving _At Love’s Command_?
- What’s in the book, and how does Witemeyer start showing redemption?
3. How can Christians engage this latest controversy fairly yet firmly?
- How do secular “mobs” try to recapture a sense of missing “divine wrath”?
- Why did some Christians’ emphases on “God loves you” lead to this issue?
- How can we subvert fake wrath and point to God’s love yet “consuming fire”?
Janie wrote in reply to our Lani Forbes interview, episode 75:
Great interview Lani. No one know how they will respond in this situation until it’s their life. We can aspire towards that goal, but you have reached it. And peace doesn’t mean there’s no fight left. You persevere and trust and ask and accept… God is using you whatever the outcome. We love being part of your story through prayer.
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- Karen Witemeyer did address the situation in her Aug. 19 article “When God’s People Stand Together.” She didn’t address the controversy so much as her personal recovery and support. In part, she wrote, “What broke my heart most was not the loss of an award, but the fact that people were using my book to bash Christianity and the message of redemption.” ↩
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