Friday, February 5, 2010

Faith'n'Fiction Saturday: Why Should Christians Read Fiction?


(Faith'n'Fiction Saturday is a weekly event where we discuss the intersection of Faith and Fiction. You are welcome to respond in comments or by writing a post on your blog and leaving your link in Mister Linky)

Today we're going to discuss why Christians should read fiction. If you are a lover of fiction, it's no doubt that you're heard all sorts of arguments against spending time reading it. In fact, a commenter just this week on my blog said she's heard it referred to as emotional porn. The very concept of Christian fiction had a huge battle to face in conservative circles and is, in my opinion, still facing those battles in its attempts to grow. Is there any value in reading fiction for Christians? Why are some people so resistant to the idea of reading fiction? If you DON'T read fiction, why don't you read it? (Please keep in mind we are talking about ALL fiction and not just Christian fiction)

I think there's tremendous value in reading fiction. I am not going to tell anyone that they should or shouldn't read it, but I do think it carries importance. Here are a few reasons why I think reading fiction matters.

The stories of others help us make sense of our own
When I read fictional stories that give me insight into the way the minds of others work, what causes them to make decisions, what makes them laugh, grieve, hope, and fear, I can start to make sense of these same elements in my life. It serves as both mirror and window. The structure of a story reminds me in -exaggerated terms sometimes- of what I face in my own life. It also raises me above the immediate pressing nature of my circumstances to remind me that whatever I'm facing now is part of a longer story.

Stories help us understand other people in a non-threatening way
It is so easy to spout statistics and explain facts, but a story brings to life the circumstances and often bring the human element to what was before only dry knowledge. Also, and I say this with respect, but I think evangelical Christians especially, form strong opinions about people and their motivations that lacks compassion. Story gives us the opportunity to see that maybe we don't always understand what we thought we understood, it gives us empathy and compassion.

Stories give us space to process our emotions
Life can be rough. It can be painful, and there isn't always a safe way to deal with our emotions. In fact, sometimes we don't even realize we have stuff sitting there in our hearts and souls clogging us up. Sometimes the very thing we need is to read a book that will just allow us to let it all out.

Stories help us think.
Jesus told stories to help his followers think about things in a new way, and I'm so glad that when I read fiction it does the same for me. Stories are like a bridge between hearts. They help us know each other, they help us think about each other, they help us reconsider the way we see things and understand things. Stories challenge our politics, our faith, our most deeply held values.

Stories affirm the human experience
Stories also remind us of how sacred life is, that each life has a story, and that each story impacts another.

Stories stir our imagination
The more we read, the more is in our head, the more we will be able to approach life with creative solutions and ideas.

Your Turn:


Teresa said...

So, so true. I can learn a lot and be provoked to think when I read nonfiction or straight-up theology, but stories have much more power to change the way I think and feel. Endo's Silence, for example, taught me so much more about what it means to profess faith in Christ than any book of missiology could do.

LM Preston said...

I believe fiction is an exploration of the world we live in and worlds that allow us to expand our way of thinking. Being a Christian or following any other religion should not stop or band you from enjoying other perspectives. If you are strong in your beliefs nothing can alter your beliefs. I guess that is the true question, are your beliefs firmly rooted enough for you to enjoy a good story without it challenging what you know to be true.

MizB said...

Mine is a long-winded answer that may not make a lot of sense (caffeine from the instant-coffee hasn't kicked in, yet! LOL), but I tried to answer as best I could! Especially given that I'm prone to read more nonfiction! LOL.


Jenny said...

I'm remembering from a class on Milton that he - a very devout Christian of course - believed it was vital to read stories, even if they contained evil ideas. He thought that confronting stories about evil were a sort of dry run for confronting actual, real-life evil: you could see what it was like, and get in practice in rejecting it. In Paradise Lost - if I'm remembering this right! - Satan tries to tempt Eve in a dream, and Milton implies that this could have been a way for her and Adam to prepare for rejecting the real-life temptation.

Heather said...

Thoughtful post. I agree that people should read fiction. Fiction helps you relax and enjoy gives you perspective on other people's issues, maybe understanding. And, Christian people should be careful what fiction they choose, just as in any other media:) So...for me that leads to Christian Fiction. I'm glad it exists.

Anonymous said...

I know that you said this in your list of reasons, but what immediately came to mind for me was that Jesus taught using parables. And parables are stories. And stories are fiction usually. I can't even conceive of not reading fiction. Both Christian and secular. I think it broadens our minds and puts us in the shoes of others. We can't hope to influence others if we can't think from their perspective.

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment! I appreciate hearing your thoughts.