One of the things I really dislike about Christianity … or Christians (I’m not sure which at this point), is that the over-simplification of life tends to be part of the “territory”. The Bible does say that you are either for God or against Him, there’s no denying that, but there are things that I feel need debate because they’re not explicitly addressed in the Bible.
The Novel, is the main one that comes to mind. I love reading–absolutely adore it. I thank my mum who, even though we had little money growing up, made sure to take my sister and I to the library every Saturday so we could pick up books. My mum really inspired me to read and there were books everywhere in the house. She’s not a Christian and back then she had no interest in Christianity either, so there was no religious material. Lots of horror stuff, actually. Gore. Crime thrillers. I know she read loads of Stephen King, Shaun Hutson, Tom Clancy, Deen Koontz, Lee Child and John Grisham. There were loads of Pattersons too, and Ruth Rendells and Danielle Steels… I was attracted to horror when I was young (I think most children are. Who didn’t love telling scary stories to their mates during sleepovers?) and I read a lot of mum’s tomes even if I didn’t understand all the words. I think I read Deathday when I was about 7. ‘Twas fun.
As I got older, tastes changed, but I never stopped reading. Sadly, though, the main feeling I get, since coming into the church, is that reading anything other than Ellen White or the Bible is wrong. I find that really worrying.
Because what is the argument here? That anything secular is wrong? So does that mean that auto/biographies are wrong? Or history books? Or science books? Or poetry anthologies?
Or are novels the problem? Things that are fictional. Why so? Fiction is fiction is fiction. Events that happen in most novels are actually more believable than the Bible, in fact. No author tries to manipulate their readership into believing something that is never going to happen.
I wonder if it’s the popularity of novels? The Harry Potters and Similar Tales. The things that draw people away from what’s “really important”? What I’ve realised about the people who are anti Harry Potter, His Dark Materials and other popular fantasy stories is their over-zealous, almost obsessive hatred for these stories because it’s easy. In the same way it’s easy to be against certain strains of rock music (Black/Death metal in particular), because of all the black, the upside down crosses, the explicit lyrics; but get annoyed whenever someone speaks against acoustic music, or jazz. All of those genres are secular, but only with music do people intelligently discern between the “good” and the “bad”.
When it comes to novels, though, something just doesn’t compute with people. It’s all a bit higgledy-piggledy, because I know people who say that novels are wrong (whilst quoting E.G. White’s comments on the dangers of novels), and yet they’ll read 1984—A novel. Or they’ll read Austen, or Dickens. Or Shakespeare plays. These are all fiction, can they not see how confused they are?
And why, pray tell, do none of these people have a problem with The Pilgrim’s Progress? A book cherished by Christians. Or similarly, Paradise Lost? Allegories are literary devices used in fiction all the time.
I know how to be discerning. I know that there are some novels that are just unedifying. Twilight is unedifying (even if it was written by a Mormon), 50 Shades is unedifying, anything by Dan Brown is unedifying (haha, I kid), but for me, as an aspiring writer, the first criteria I give for a novel being unedifying is: will it make me a better writer? Will I learn anything from it? Will it teach me how to write well? Then I think about the sort of responses it’ll induce in me; the thoughts it’ll put into my head; if the novel is glorifying violence and crime? (note: describing is not glorifying, otherwise we shouldn’t be reading the Old Testament).
Those sort of things.
If I ever have children, I want to give them the passion of reading. Especially as Black children, children who society has already called “second-class, unintelligent” (“What’s the best way to hide something from a Black man? Put it in a book”). I don’t think that just because you’re a Christian then you should never read anything fictional. What’s wrong with imagination? (Cue Spongebob)
I also say this because I write fiction… and I’m currently writing a novel (haha), so I’ve always wondered if I’d be dis-fellowshipped from the church for being such HEATHEN? ; )