I'm not sure whether I might be extrapolating too much from my own preferences here, but I think either an extremely obviously, blatantly Christian story or a very mildly, subtly Christian story could work. There's some middle-ground that doesn't.
For example, if you have a Police Procedural
where the main character is a Christian, but it doesn't come up in every scene, and most of the show is about looking at security camera footage and interrogating suspects and witnesses until they slip up, then that would be fine.
On the other hand, I think it also works if you go completely
Christian in theme. Write about a Christian woman in Trebizond during the reign of Diocletian, trying to reconcile with her estranged Mithras-worshiping father while surviving Diocletian's reign. Write about Trappist Monks living in Algeria during the civil war.
There's an intermediate that doesn't work for me (agnostic) though. It's neither fully Christian nor mildly, incidentally Christian. These works come off as preachy to me in a way that, paradoxically, the totally Christian-themed works don't. An example that comes to me is The Brothers Karamazov.
(Yes, it has some brilliant stuff, but a lot of it is heavy-handed and preachy.) I think Garrison Keillor
, when he gets into his more Christian moods, also slips into it at times.
The basic problem with these works, I think, is that they portray the problem
as being some of the common flaws of humanity — from disharmony in marriages to substance abuse to uncertainty about one's direction in life — and portray Christianity as some kind of solution. Whatever solutions those problems have, it isn't Christianity, and whatever Christianity is a solution for, it isn't those problems. This is what rings false. Christians have conflicts with their spouses, substance abuse problems, etc, too, and it's unlikely that this is just because they're not Christian enough.
Mildly Christian works portray Christianity as an incidental part of a person's character. Purely Christian works portray Christianity as a transcendental mystery entailing a whole way of life. It's the middle ground ones that come off as preachy because they seem to portray Christianity as a solution to problems it doesn't solve.
edited 19th Dec '11 2:19:11 PM by Maklodes