Last Christmas, I was introduced to the books of a Christian historical romance author. As I’ve said before, I am very particular about the Christian literature I read, since it can often be cheesy and unrealistic. These books, though, have a depth I love. I’ll write more about that in a future blog post.
The author of these books recently set up a readers group on Facebook. One day, she expressed a desire to write a story with light fantasy elements and wondered what her readers would think. About half of the commenters (including myself), showed interest in reading such a story. A few said they don’t usually read fantasy, but would if she wrote it. The rest said they never read fantasy and discouraged this author from writing fantasy pieces.
I had forgotten that some Christians refuse to read fantasy. The memes crop up on social media now and again, but I forget them as soon as I move on. In the Christian home where I was raised, fantasy books and movies were common.
What really got me thinking when I read these reader comments, though, was the fact that only a couple of days before I had read a social media post from an agnostic writer friend that juxtaposed this opinion. She spoke about feeling a desire for greater spirituality in her life and wondered what she should look into. When speaking about Christianity, she said she struggles with the “magic” of Jesus’ Second Coming.
“Magic” is not a word I would ever have thought to apply to Jesus’ Second Coming. It’s an event I think of often and look forward to, but my imaginings of that occasion are very natural to me. Certainly not something I think of as “magic.”
Just think of that contrast: Christians who avoid anything that could be seen as magic and non-Christians who view the product of Christian faith as fantastical. When we look at the miracles of Jesus in the scriptures, Christians see the power of God—a power our mortal minds can only have a limited understanding of—working through His Son to accomplish the Father’s purposes, but still as natural as anything we do in our everyday lives. For those on the outside, they see magic that goes against the laws of nature. (To be fair, when asked “How did Jesus perform His miracles?”, one girl in our Primary class answered with: “Magic.”)
I believe that fantasy is a useful way to express religious ideas that are difficult to explain through other means, just as the workings of the Holy Ghost are difficult to describe. Faith is like a piece of music that touches your heart and stirs your spirit in a way words can never describe. When the characters in a fantasy novel are able to overcome their challenges in ways they never thought possible, it mirrors the Christian belief that nothing is impossible with God.
I will confess that there was a time when I refused to read fantasy books, but not because I thought they were evil. Being a snobbish teenager, I believed they were beneath me. Fortunately for me (and anyone who enjoys my books), my older sister managed to find a book series that changed my mind. Over the years, I have learned to see the universal lessons taught in fantasy novels—lessons that, for the most part, transcend any one set of beliefs.
I doubt my opinion could change anyone’s mind when it comes to choosing whether or not to read fantasy. Those who avoid it have their reasons and I agree that it’s important to differentiate between good power and evil power. But if you are a reader who enjoys fantasy, know that you are not alone in your interest. You can learn a lot from fantasy stories if you are willing to read with the right eyes.
Side note: In preparing this post, I discovered a website called Geeks under Grace. One particular post addresses the same topic as this one I have written, but there entire website is worth a look if you are a Christian who is interested in fantasy.