Have you ever read smut? If you said yes, you’re a lustful sleazebag and you need Jesus. If you said no, you’re a lying sleazebag and you need Jesus.
It’s a tough religion, I know.
For those who honestly don’t know, smut is any written work that’s only there to titillate. They have titles such as “The Greek Tycoon’s Secret Lover,” or “The Lusty Captain’s Captive,” or “My Boss’s Mistress is Me.” Sometimes, they’re straight up erotica (porn without the pictures), sometimes they’re more softcore naughtiness, but if its sole purpose is to make your thighs tingle, that’s smut.
But Christians know better than to go anywhere near that stuff…right?
Well, not quite. Sure, our book market frowns upon sex scenes, but we have our own versions of smut. Christian Smut. I should copyright that.
Before I go any further, let me put my obligatory disclaimer here that not ALL Christian work falls under the smut categories I’m about to describe. Many are phenomenally written and I could recommend several.
However, the C-Smut (copyright 2016 Michael A Blaylock) is put on a pedestal in Christian Fiction, regarded as purer, holier, better than you. In fact, some would even say that this stuff is the “real” Christian fiction and that if you’re not adhering to this type of fiction, you’re falling short in some way. Again, not all act like this, but an alarming number do, this is the kind of stuff that gets good shelves in Christian book stores.
Unfortunately, the idolized Christian books have the same three fundamentals as those naughty books in the “Romance” aisle.
1. It’s Fantasy
No one in their right mind thinks that smut represents the real world. All the guys have rugged physiques with rock-hard abs and all the ladies have hourglass figures about to burst out of their scanty bodices. Sex is always super hot and perfect (no one accidentally yanks someone’s hair), the locations are often exotic and exciting, and nobody farts.
In the same vein, no one in their right mind thinks that these Christian books are realistic. Characters don’t have flaws, they have “a past.” On the off chance that a character is sexually tempted, they flee the room because they’re a good Christian who would never go down that road. And nobody, NOBODY uses cuss words. You’re more likely to find a gay person in Christian fiction than the a-word.
Look, I write fantasy. I’m working on a story right now with mermaids, magic swords, and fairies that can only speak in rhyme. And even I have to say this stuff is fake. It’s so far removed from reality that you have to turn your brain off to enjoy it properly.
Unfortunately, both readerships eventually idolize this fantasy as some sort of perfection that must be attained to find true happiness. They may not admit it or even realize it, but their actions say as much.
And when they don’t find it, they retreat even more into smut. Why?
2. It’s an Escape
With most fantasy books, the reader is glad it’s fake. We may say we want to visit Middle Earth, but we forget about Sauron and his armies waiting to kill us. We may wish to visit Hogwarts, but we forget that Voldemort would probably blow us into tiny, British pieces. In truth, we’re glad to stay home.
With smut, however, we want to stay in the fantasy. We want perfect bodies, exotic locations, and carnal bliss. We want to stay in a world where the only law is pleasure.
Likewise, many Christians want to flee to a world where we get forgiveness by the end of the book, good and evil are black and white, and “those people” are stereotyped into submission or omitted altogether.
The problem? Reality eventually sets back in.
I personally spoke to a woman who said that she reads to get away from the real world. There’s a word for that: escapism, fleeing the real world because you can’t cope with it.
Art can be used for escape, yes, and it’s fun to read about perfect, righteous characters with perfectly happy endings. But that’s not all art is. Art a means of changing the world as much as a means of escaping it.
Reading escapist fiction isn’t necessarily bad on its own. The problem comes when all we have, all we promote, and all we call “Christian” is escapism.
3. It’s Trash
Smut does not win Pulitzer Prizes. It’s not about good storytelling or relatable characters, far from it! It’s about getting your blood pumping, your mind wandering, and your libido spiking. It’s the junk food of the literary world. Absolutely bad for you, but tastes so good.
C-Smut on the other hand is praised as some sort of literary threshold reached only by the apostles and prophets. I exaggerate, but only a little. Christians pump out the “pure” stuff to fill bookshelves worldwide and sit on coffee tables next to lacy Bibles.
But it’s merely low-calorie junk food. Better, sure, but you can’t live on it.
Christian art should encompass the full spectrum of creativity. Thankfully, we’re getting there. I’m seeing more genres, better characters, even edgy material. However, there’s still this unwritten assumption that all Christian fiction must be chaste, clean, and pure.
What’s wrong with that? Simple: Jesus didn’t live that way.
Yes, he was chaste, clean, and pure, but he walked in an raunchy, dirty, corrupt world and he wasn’t afraid to do so. He associated with loose women, “those people,” and a guy who would betray him. He wasn’t of the world, but he was certainly in it.
Christian Smut will have none of that. It elevates itself above and beyond the world of mortal men and makes itself God because of how perfect it is. When we elevate this kind of fiction above all others, we raise up not Christ, but religion. We raise up a certain type of person, a certain type of Christian, and as a result put down others.
We make Pharisees of ourselves.
So when we write and when we read, let us remember that Christ died to give us freedom, not religion. Yes, it is good to hold up models of faith and holiness in our stories, but in doing so, let us not forget God’s other commandment: no idols.