I've been mulling this post over in my mind for a couple months now, and I'm still not certain I have all of my thoughts collected. But this is a post I don't want to procrastinate writing.
I've noticed that, in most YA books (particularly contemporary), the characters are either Jewish, agnostic, or atheist. Rarely are Christians encountered - or at least true Christians. Most "religious" or "churchy" characters are hypocrites, jerks, or are just what the world thinks Christians are. There's the whole mean pastor trope, and the Christian super good girl stereotype (that's often about that girl only being that way because that's what her family wants), and there are sometimes philosophical discussions about whether God and heaven really exist.
I'm fine with a wide variety of religions being represented in fiction. I'd just like to see Christianity represented more accurately in books that aren't strictly religious. I'd like faith to be a large part of a character but not all they discuss, because I believe in God, Jesus, the Bible, heaven, etc., but it's not all I talk about (although a lot of my thoughts and actions do revolve around what I believe is right, and most of that comes from the Bible). Wow, that was a long sentence.
In my own writings, I've had several Christian characters who mention praying, going to church, God, and so forth, but since they're never solely religious stories, it doesn't usually go beyond that. In a current WIP, I've created a fantasy world, and I had to decide if that world and my characters were going to be religious, particularly since magic exists (sort of in a Narnian and Disney way). It was interesting to create a variety of characters whose religions are similar to Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, and atheism (this is a fantasy world after all, so I don't think they'd actually use the same names we do). I think some of my characters are going to be more devout than others. I want them to bring up questions among themselves about why they believe a certain thing and let everyone still get along after these debates, but I don't want this book to be religious. I just want it to be a matter of life, like it is in my own. I also want to challenge "the church is EVIL" trope. Yes, currently, I'm planning for the church in a few kingdoms to have a bit of an Inquisition, but I think it's important to acknowledge the following fact. There are bad churches and there are good churches. Some are firmly rooted in the Word of God and others just claim to be Christian. What I believe matters most is the condition of the believers' hearts. Are they a true Christian and do their actions exhibit what they believe?
One thing I don't like is when any novel - even religious Christian fiction - gets too preachy. I can go to church and read Christian nonfiction if I want a sermon (or something similar). I don't like when books get too preachy about other religions or issues. And if a book goes against my views too much, I'll stop reading or won't read it. That's the whole point of my "The Ugly" category in reviews. As a Christian, I'm careful about what I put in my mind. I don't tolerate an excessive amount of swearing, sexual content, drug/alcohol content, or mysticism. It's also why I tend to not read horror novels (besides the fact that I have an overactive imagination and won't be able to sleep without having nightmares for weeks if I read those books) or ones with magic that's too reminiscent of witchcraft.
I probably got a little rambly, but I wanted to get my thoughts out there on this topic. If anything I've said in this post offends you, I apologize (not for my beliefs, though, just making that clear). This isn't me starting a debate; this is me starting a discussion that I hope will remain calm and respectful. What do you think about Christianity in YA? Would you be open to more Christian characters who don't fit into one of the tropes? Have anything else you want to discuss relating to this topic? Let's talk! :)