Saturday, September 05, 2009

Faith n' Fiction Saturday: Read Dark to Shed Light

I love Faith n' Fiction Saturdays. I stalk numerous blogs and love reading some of the discussion topics which come up.

Today, MizB prompted a question I think is important for Christian readers on her blog:

On Should be Reading, she writes:

Question: As a Christian, will you read nonfiction (or fiction) books that are somewhat controversial, in that they may stray somewhat from the evangelical viewpoint (for lack of a better term)?

The answer, for me, is absolutely ....YES!

I am going to use a bit of a controversial example as a means of laying my argument.

A number of years ago, Heather Reisman, the CEO of the prominent Canadian bookchain Chapters/Indigo ( think the Canadian equivalent of Barnes and Noble) banned the selling of Mein Kampf from her shelves.

I completely disagreed with this move. Of course Mein Kampf offers a lot of controversy. But, I studied it in University in my European history class and, as I learned from learned University professors, one cannot hope of forging the path for a brighter future if one forgets the history that cemented what we are in the present.

In order for us to completely understand the make-up of our world and why travesties such as the Holocaust took place, we need to understand where we came from.
Knowledge is power--- and power comes from reading.

Mein Kampf is an extremely important book and I feel that most readers would treat it with the respect it deserves: not as a catalyst for antisemitic tendencies; rather a key to understanding the horrors of a tormented mind.

It is a historical document and, as such, cannot be overlooked--- no matter how uncomfortable or controversial.

I think, as Christians, it is extremely important to be well-versed in what is being output by the secular world: be it through film, television, music or books.

I, as a reader and a professional, have absolutely no tolerance for ignorance. If a writer or spokesperson shows a gap in knowledge on a certain subject while arguing their standpoint on that subject, they will lose not only my attention but my respect.

Take Harry Potter: oft scorned by Christians for its witchcraft and dark premise. I remember a girl coming up to me in university telling me she thought I was a Christian and, as such, she was shocked I would be caught reading a book which ( to quote verbatim) "would send me to hell."

I asked this girl if she had read Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. She assented.

What, I wondered, was the great difference: other than the fact that Tolkien was writing with a conscious pre-evangelum and Lewis was writing under the umbrella of allegory. Certainly for those informed of the background, Narnia and LOTR are overtly Christian.

But we neglect those who have no understanding of their inherent theological tenets. If a non-Christian does not understand the link between the fantastical realms displayed and Christ, would they not be reading stories immersed in the same magic, dark craft and witches so apparent in Harry Potter?

I infuse this rhetoric only to prove that Christians cannot take the side of a genre or series merely because it was written by a Christian. Rowling has stated ( and here I greatly paraphrase) that her series is surged with her own spiritual questioning.

Could Harry et al not lead people to moral and ethical contemplation on some of the spiritual matters saturating Lewis and Tolkien?

As Christians we should be armed to answer any question granted us. The world is seeking for something and we need to be able to relate to it. To sequester yourself is to remain ignorant and the seekers of today's generation have no tolerance for ignorance--- nor should they.

I was listening to a commentary on my dvd of Joan of Arcadia. Some Christians might find the content of that show controversial: a teenager hearing the voice of an omniscient, yet non-denominational God. Barbara Hall, the creator and writer of what remains one of the best-written shows of the past two decades, talks about the post-9/11 need for spiritual connection.

She explains that pre-9/11 a show that questioned the purpose of God; his presence; the way He manifests Himself would not be given the greenlight. However, after the atrocity that plagued my neighbouring country, people were searching for something higher.

The people you encounter in your day-to-day life are wrestling with something and, as Christians, we need to be informed.

Should we read that which is controversial: ABSOLUTELY! --- if only to be prepared should the controversial matter stem some sort of spiritual question.

How often does a film or book command attention for its parallel to theology ( whether or not it be the theology we ascribe to ? ) Think Star Trek , Battlestar Galactica, Terminator, the Dan Brown novels-----the aforementioned are all a platform where spiritual or theological "meat" can be found.

It is a perfect opportunity.

My "controversial" read this summer was Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: a fantasy satire starring an almost soft-hearted demon named Crawley, an archangel named Aziraphale and their plot in saving the world and humanity from Apocalypse.

Sure, I was reticent to immerse myself in a book which, to the Christian onlooker, might seem a little ...risque --- but it proved how open I was. And, it led to some amazing conversation.

Do not seclude yourself. As Christians we cannot create borders and boundaries: attend secular universities; become involved in non-Christian activities; befriend believers of all faiths and simply BE THERE! -- you never know when a great conversation opportunity may present itself; when a reader you discuss secular novels with may crave something the work of your Christian writer may alleviate; when you will have a chance to insert your belief in a subtle yet lasting way.

The evangelism of today, I believe, is not to be presented in a loud and boisterous judgmental way. People have seen Christianity mistreated this way and they are understandably questioning and sceptical. Instead, be Frances of Assissi: who stated that one can preach the Gospel daily ---if necessary, using words.

READ CONTROVERSY! Strong Christians will find it does not present any threat to the Christian walk; rather it offers understanding to a seeking secular world dying for intervention.


MizB said...

Wow! Thanks for your long and thorough answer! I agree wholeheartedly! :)

Did you know there's a book out there about J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series? It's written by John Granger and is called "Looking for God in Harry Potter". It shows the hidden Christian symbolism throughout the books, and it's a great resource for Christians! Written by a pastor! ;)

Also, I was going to say (until you brought him up) that Dan Brown's books ("The Da Vinci Code" specifically) made me go learn more about my faith, as it sparked so many questions from those around me that I didn't necessarily have answers to... and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that my pastor read "The Da Vinci Code" and then did a sermon on it! What a great guy! :P


Court said...

. . . . . . who REALLY wrote this post, Rachel? Because I KNOW that you would not mention Dan Brown without going on a bit of a rant.

Robin McCormack said...

Wandered over from MizB's. Just wanted to tell you excellent post. I wholeheartedly agree. Strong christians aren't threatened by books.

Jess said...

Bravo. An excellent post on the subject.

(Also, Good Omens! Fantabulosity!)