At sixteen years old, I read a Stephen King book called ‘Misery.’ It’s a story about a writer that gets kidnapped by his biggest fan: who happens to be insane. The book, which I downloaded as an audio file, onto my iPod was, in a word, amazing. You could tell that King was writing about something personal. He had such valuable insights to the human psyche that really simply amazed me, but when I mentioned to my Christian friends that I read Stephen King, of all things, I was met with critical looks. One statement seemed to be predominate: “I just don’t like dark stuff.” This seemed more like a cop-out than anything else, and I still think so. If it was simply a matter of taste you wouldn’t be giving me that look you give to the kid that tries to justify cutting himself. The dark part of reality is important. It exists after all, and if God placed us on an earth that has evil in it: then he must have meant us to learn something from it.
I read a book called ‘The Crucible‘ for literature a few years ago. It’s a book about the salem witch trials in which mob mentality totally takes over. Everyone starts suspecting other members in the town of being witches. This leads the town into chaos, and the town acts unjustly in many cases. This is an interesting story on it’s own, but whats really interesting is that it was written during the red scare. This should, pardon the pun, scare us a little: the fact that maybe the days of mob rule aren’t so far behind us after all. We create some horrors to try to deal with the real ones, but eventually the made up ones come to represent the real ones. They mean something to us because we’ve dealt with something on a smaller scale. The problems in books are both bigger and smaller. They’re bigger, generally, because they’re dealing with life,and death situations. They’re smaller because it’s not your life the author is dealing with. It’s important to read dark books sometimes because it gives a place to articulate our common problems without suffering the radical consequences of certain actions.
The books under the ‘Harry Potter’ title have brought much distain among Christians. This didn’t strike me as odd until I examined the books themselves more closely. The books bore no real marks of the Wicca religion. All that was similar to the students at Hogwarts was that some were called witches. What was I sensing then? I think after afew years I have figured it out. Christians have a tendency to push away radically anything that could possibly make them doubt, and if you thought that a certain worldview would make you doubt then the natural Christian reaction would be to shove it away. The problem with this is that it is self defeating. You prove you are already doubting by shoving away something that could prove to be more reasonable, in such a person’s mind at least. 2 Corinthians 10:4 “We use God's mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.” This being the case we do out Christian duty a disservice if we do not weigh with patience and intelligence the world views of our day.
I hate to generalize, but I feel I have to do it here. For the most part Christian fiction is bad. There are a few outliers: Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee are the mentionable ones. The stories and the characters seem flat. The bad guys aren’t that bad, and the good guys are inhumanely good. They seem to be woefully ignorant of the way the “real world,” works. So, my challenge to Christian authors and Christian readers is this: if we have the best understanding of reality then why don’t we write the best fiction? After all, fiction is supposed to reflect reality.
- note If you have read this far, then, I thank you. If you see any mistakes in my points, and logic tell me. I have no problem being wrong. -Joshua Mingo, Woodbridge Virginia 2012