Carole Whang Schutter
Terri Haynes

Terri J. Haynes is a homeschool mom, wife, writer, and freelance graphic artist. She holds a Masters in Theological Studies and is an adjunct professor at National Bible College and Seminary. Terri and her husband are the leaders of Joshua Generation, a ministry for young adults ages 18–35. Her publishing credits include Cup of Comfort for Military Families anthology and a devotional in The Secret Place. She lives in Maryland with her husband and three children. Visit her Web site at

The Israel Houghton Effect

When Israel Houghton released his first album in 2001, the Christian world didn’t know what to do with him. His unique sound hit a huge roadblock, labeled too white for gospel and too black for contemporary Christian music. Born to a white mother and a black father, Houghton’s music reflected his multicultural background with a huge dose of Latin flavor. He didn’t fit into any genre box.

Finally, Integrity Music took a chance with him. They gave him his own box. Now he is a well-known, multi-award-winning powerhouse in the music industry. Even if people don’t know his name, his music is sung in churches all across America. His crossover success has brought the body of Christ in closer unity. Now many other artists are branching out and incorporating different music styles into their albums. It’s the Israel Houghton Effect, bringing the best of all cultures into one project.

I long to see the day when the Israel Houghton Effect manifests itself in the Christian fiction world. With all the cultural diversity elsewhere in the body of Christ, I’m a little disappointed that it hasn’t reached the Christian fiction industry. A recent trip to my local bookstore proves we have a long way to go. Most of the novels I found in the Christian fiction section were written by Caucasians. I had to venture into the African American section to find Christian fiction featuring African Americans. And I wouldn’t even know where to look for Christian fiction about other ethnicities, if it exists at all. In my opinion, the Christian fiction label should be a big enough box to include all of them in one section.

Right now, we have a few writers like Cami Tang, Stacy Hawkins Adams, and Claudia Mair Burney who have broken the cultural-diversity glass ceiling, but more is needed. We need more publishing houses to be like Integrity Music, willing to take the risk of publishing and promoting something a little different from the norm. We need more writers willing to incorporate multiple ethnicities into their novels. And we need readers who aren’t afraid to buy a novel about people different from themselves.

Many people question how to cross the cultural bridge, and the answer is simple. In an interview, Houghton asked how he managed such great crossover success. He replied that he continued to write the music that God had given him. He never

gave up on the God-given vision for his music and his group. God used his multi-ethnic background to reach many different races. The message that God gave him crossed racial lines. In the same way, a God-given story has the power to cross gender, cultural, and even generational lines.

Look at the power of the Scriptures. Even Jesus’ parables reflected cultural diversity. The parable of the Good Samaritan portrays interaction between two ethnic groups. He spoke parables about common people and rich people. Publican and religiously devout are united in Jesus’ parables. And the truths of these parables continue to minister to all races because we can indentify with the characters Jesus presents.

Do you have to be black to understand injustice, white to understand forgiveness, or Asian to understand honor? Of course not. Pain and suffering are universal. Loss and tragedy resound with all peoples. Christians can identify with healing and restoration. These themes cross color lines and minister to all. I can name several novels in which the characters looked nothing like me, yet I could identify with their struggles. Race and color don’t change the fact that we are all human.

A terrible misconception exists about the salability of cultural diversity in Christian fiction. Unfortunately, it often boils down to long-standing racial stereotypes. I know because I don’t fit the mold. As an African American, I don’t need to read a story about people who grew up in the inner city, poor with a closet full of hand-me-downs. Yes, that’s how I grew up, but that doesn’t define the African American experience for me. Yes, I’ve experienced blatant racism, but I also have made great friends from all races. And maybe the problem isn’t that people won’t buy Christian fiction that includes multicultural characters. Maybe it’s because there aren’t enough choices.

The body of Christ is more diverse than its bookshelves, and that should not be the case. This will only improve as Christian writers began to produce more books that fully express the Christian experience and publishing houses are willing to take a risk. As Christians continue to identify with the struggles of all humans, regardless of race, and purchase books accordingly, it won’t be long before we see the Israel Houghton Effect take root on our bookshelves.