No Other Name

If we think of Young Adult fiction as a burgeoning universe (expanding rapidly from a singularity known as Twilight), “Christian YA” is a robust galaxy within it.  Like Christian fiction in general, it’s improving: more realistic, stronger characters, believable conclusions (i.e., no mass conversions of all sympathetic characters by the end).  But in the process of becoming better fiction, it may be becoming less “Christian.”  By that I mean, in some Christian YA at least, the name of Jesus is barely mentioned.  God is certainly a major theme, and since many of these stories have some references to church, and are published by Thomas Nelson or Zondervan, we may assume it’s the God of the Bible.  But the salvation reached is often generic (like an ill-defined homecoming or inner “peace”) or potential (characters deciding to give God another chance or more thought after an outright rejection).  I haven’t read the entire subgenre so I wouldn’t say they’re all this way, but that seems to be a trend.

Meanwhile, another trend.  In secular YA fiction, the use of Jesus’s name is increasing.  A lot.  Just in the last five years or so: if you want to be considered serious, important, or edgy, you swear by the Lord.  This is true in almost any genre, from a seventies contemporary award-winner like Tales From the Madman Underground (which I had to stop reading because the profanity was so extreme) to dystopian fiction like Chaos Rising trilogy, whose setting is a planet outside our solar system.  It’s not enough to say Oh my God anymore; the swearing must be specific.  But nobody says Oh my Buddha! or Holy Krishna! or Sweet Allah!  No other name has the same impact.  Or can it be that no other name has the same power, whether for blessing or curse?

It’s very curious: Christian YA novels downplay the name of Jesus in order to be taken more seriously.  Secular YA novels play up the name of Jesus for the same reason.  How odd is that?

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One Response to “No Other Name”

  1. A. Carroll Crowe Says:

    Where the use of God’s name in vain seems particularly odd is in YA fantasy books where God is either not mentioned or is replaced with a set of gods. The example that stands out to me right now is Megan Whalen Turner’s “Thief of Eddis” series. I enjoyed the series, but I found it extremely odd for Eugenides to be saying “Oh my G-d” one moment and telling stories about the Eddisian gods (who, in the series, are real) the next. The author was smart enough to stay away from Christ’s name, though–one curse that absolutely doesn’t fit in a fantasy world.

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