Sunday, February 22, 2009

On works of fantasy

I love reading--it is easily my favorite pastime. Since I was five, I've thought that pure bliss would be days on end in a bookstore or library, with a continual supply of snacks, of course. As I mentioned in the previous post, last night I got to chat with a new friend about some of our favorite fiction.

At times our perceptions differed radically. One of her favorite books is Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers. My mother, sister, and most other women that I know who have read it were deeply moved by it. Personally, I loathed it. (Sorry, Christy--feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph; it isn't meant to offend you!) It totally offended my sense of justice. The protagonist, sold into prostitution as a child, is a disgraceful fallen woman because she survived (although, surely suicide would be frowned on, too?). But, a supposed Christian practically rapes her, and is rewarded by marrying her best friend. It was fine for him, because he was a guy? Barf. Another of her books on abortion has a similar thread where once the woman is raped, her Bible-school fiance dumps her, because of course he can't sully himself with her. I personally get the impression that the author has both a very disgusting "blame the victim" attitude towards survivors of sexual abuse, and a revolting double standard when it comes to men and women.

But, aside from our divergent opinions on that particular book, we agreed that we both love fantasy. It was kind of funny because we both had brief periods in childhood where it was considered OK, then more or less prohibited, and even now as adults we find ourselves still working out our own standards.

When I was a child, my mother abhorred violence, even John Wayne-the-bad-guys-fall-down-with-a-bang-violence. She didn't mind magic or fantasy, as long as it was pretty and nobody got hurt. My dad, on the other hand, had no problem with reality-violence (not sadistic tortures scenes, etc, but general war movie or good-guy-gets-bad-guy violence), but strongly opposed any hint of witchcraft. My mom would oppose Bambi, my dad would disapprove of Cinderella. Even the Chronicles of Narnia were viewed darkly and with great suspicion!

I'm poking fun just a bit, but the truth is that I respect, appreciate and share my parents' desire for filling our minds with that which is good. There is Biblical precedent for standing against the occult in popular culture. At the same time, the cynic in me notes that any time something becomes intensely popular with children, there seems to be an answering wave in Christian circles condemning it as evil (and probably demonic). I've seen it happen many times, from Cabbage Patch dolls and wicked My Little Ponies to the Harry Potter books.

I believe that, like with a good many other things, there is some leeway for a person's own conscience. I love fantasy. I think that it is a beautifully rich, God-given form of expressing our imagination. Some of my brothers and sisters in Christ have used fantasy. Madeleine L'Engle's Time quintet is one of my favorites. I look at men like Tolkein and C.S. Lewis, who wrote successful and brilliant works featuring magic, wizards and any number of mythical and fantastic creatures. For that matter, I've read Daniel, the Revelation and several other passages in the Bible that teem with improbable creatures and the supernatural. Jesus himself was a renowned story-teller, and I think that fiction is a wonderful way to convey Truth.

So for those out there wondering, why yes, I am a Harry Potter fan. They are great stories, and the themes of love and self-sacrifice overcoming evil don't trouble my conscience in the least. I love Tamora Pierce (especially Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen), and am eagerly awaiting the release of Bloodhound. I haven't read any of the Twilight books yet (if you've read them, feel free to comment!), but I generally enjoy vampire stories.

If you are shaking your head over my reading material, you may be relieved (or amused) to learn that I rarely listen to secular music. The only CD I own that isn't overtly Christian is Andrea Bocelli. I certainly have no desire to restrict other people's choices (although, I will admit to a not-so-secret revulsion to country music). I've just noticed that after listening to it, especially if the lyrics are depressing, that I feel edgy and grouchy (note, my reaction to depressing lyrics does not fully explain my aversion to country music--I can't stomach country gospel, either). Again, so much comes back to our individual experiences. We may be convicted or comfortable with very different things.

I'll post before getting into all of my thoughts on Kukulkan, Quetzalcoatl, dragons and serpents...


Blessed Mama said...

I understand why you would get that vibe from Redeeming Love. I'm not offended by your opinion at all!!! My sense, though, was that the disgrace was more because she kept choosing prostitution even after she had a man who genuinely loved her and wanted intimacy for the right reasons. She wanted what was familiar (albeit harmful) instead of what was good--like we all often do. And I think we were supposed to feel angry about the "christian" who raped her and married her best friend. I don't think the author was condoning it but adding some more edginess to the story. The truth is that so-called Christians do horrible things sometimes. You know the parable of the weeds mixed in with the wheat? Sometimes only God knows which is which until a thing like that is exposed. This is a really long comment. It would be fun to discuss it for real sometime (as well as other books).

Ms. Burrows said...

Interesting experience and perspective. I've never read those books you described in the begining, but they do sound troubling.