Many parents, especially Christian parents, have expressed concern with their kids reading a lot of modern fantasy fiction. Witches, vampires, zombies, werewolves, wizards… are stories with these as characters safe to read? Are there alternatives, especially for teenagers who like to read?
A friend posted a similar question in a Facebook group we belong to, and many responses can be distilled to this:
“The Bible is all you need to be reading. Besides, the Bible says to avoid reading this type of fiction.”
Some of the responders said to even avoid “Christian fiction” because the theology in it might be amiss.
I find these kinds of responses stunningly out of touch with reality and living from the Kingdom of God.
I recently saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and don’t worry, J.J. Abrams’ excellent film did not impact my theology. I’m currently reading and enjoying Homer’s The Ilead, and yet, I won’t be praying to Apollo anytime soon.
And understand this: some of the Biblical writers also read The Ilead! Was their theology changed?
The Biblical Authors Read Literature!
In fact, biblical authors read widely from the literature produced by surrounding cultures, including the most pagan societies of all time! Many biblical figures were government ministers in theocratic pagan regimes and were well-versed in the religious literature produced by the architects of culture like priests, government officials and merchants who were loyal to other gods.
And I’m not talking just about historical figures like Joseph, prime minister of Pharoah’s Egypt, or Daniel, prime minister of Nebachadnezar’s Babylon and head of the wizard class of nobles, or Mordecai the high-ranking government official of the Persian Empire.
Scholars can tell many biblical writers read the literature of the day because the biblical writers often lifted passages from pagan texts and repurposed them to make their points. Christians even do this today, like when a creationist takes a quote from a famous atheist like Richard Dawkins to demonstrate support for intelligent design. It doesn’t mean Dawkins supports intelligent design or the creationist is an atheist: this is called a polemic. But the creationist wouldn’t be aware of the Dawkins’ quote unless he or she had read it in the first place! In other words, many intelligent design thinkers are so secure in their understanding of science that they aren’t afraid to read the writings of an atheist who supports blind evolution!
A biblical writer even took a quote from a poem that glorifies a particular god and re-purposed it to Jesus. If you agree that in Christ, you move and live and have your being, then you are taking a quote meant to glorify a demon and repurposing it to glorify Jesus.
The Old Testament authors do similar things in the Psalms as well. The New Testament writers Jude and Peter actually quote or paraphrase fictional non-scriptural texts from a fellow believer to make certain points about Jesus. They didn’t agree with all of the theology of this believer, but that wasn’t the point. That particular author was widely read, and Peter and Jude used familiar elements to make their points.
In other words, the biblical writers were well read and well versed in the literature produced by those who were opposed to and those who were loyal to God! They were not afraid to read outside of scriptures because their hearts and minds were set on another world: the Kingdom of God.
We can do the same.
So let’s put aside the thought that we have to hide from the culture, that the culture will somehow taint us, and start engaging the culture and begin changing it.
General Grant’s Rant in “North and South”
I remember an apropos scene from the 1980s miniseries called “North and South.” This miniseries followed two fictional families through the American Civil War, a war between armies from the federal North and the rebellious South. One character eventually becomes an aide to General Grant, the ultimate head of the federal armies. General Grant had launched an offensive and, like every other offensive the North had launched against the South, the rebel general Lee was wrecking destruction on the North’s armies. Grant’s aides were moaning about what Lee was going to do to Grant’s armies and they had better retreat back north.
Grant finally yells he’s sick and tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do to him. It’s time to talk about what they were going to do to Lee! He ordered a retreat, not North… but to the South! While I doubt this scene is rooted in literal history, it reflected Grant’s mentality and strategy, which ultimately brought an end to the South’s rebellion.
I feel similarly regarding the modern culture’s affects on Christian families.
I’m sick and tired of hearing of hearing what the culture is going to do to us. Let’s start talking about what we’re going to do to the culture!
But Don’t Be Foolish
But like Grant, this doesn’t mean being foolhardy. Once Grant (in actuality, not in the miniseries) in impatience and frustration of constantly having to maneuver around Lee, ordered a full frontal assault against Lee’s armies, and thousands of his soldiers were needlessly and fruitlessly slaughtered.
This applies today. Care must be taken when engaging pop culture. Much isn’t redeemable and should be avoided.
Cut the Cord
A couple of years ago, my wife and I cut the cord to cable television to our house. We found so little worth watching, we simply turned it off and saved a bunch of money to boot. Recently I had occasion to watch some network and daytime television, and I was mortified at the offensive, rude, crass, and absolutely inane nature of television programming. You could say, I’ve been a little out of touch.
For instance, I watched, for the first time, the popular comedy The Big Bang Theory, and it was absolutely insulting to my intelligence (and especially the intelligence of women) and ridiculous. I couldn’t believe this kind of misogynist and crude sexual humor was on prime time television. Who are these writers?
It occurred to me the reason there is a laugh track after every other line of dialogue is because the writers are so bad, they have to train Americans to laugh at their bad writing. Well, here’s an idea: turn off the laugh track and write something worth laughing to! For that matter, cut the chord to television.
Maybe the reason live sports is so popular in America is because sports doesn’t require a laugh track and isn’t insulting to Americans’ minds.
There is much television programming that is intelligent and interesting (much of it from decades past), available on Netflix and other streaming services. BBC programs like Doctor Who and just about anything from the Food Network comes to mind, probably because that’s about all my household watches, lately.
But just because it’s intelligent and well-written doesn’t mean it’s watchable. I can’t recommend The Game of Thrones series because I cannot recommend anything that promotes porn and degrades women.
Young Adult Fantasy Fiction
It doesn’t take much more than a cursory glance at Young Adult Fiction, especially modern youth fantasy, in Barnes and Nobles to notice that reading such material will be spiritually and mentally harmful and should be avoided. (Yes, I still like books that are made of actual paper and enjoy browsing through book stores. They can take my books when they pry them from my cold, dead fingers!).
But if a teenager who enjoys reading young adult fantasy came to me, asking for alternatives, and I responded with, “Just read the Bible. It’s got action and magic and romance and everything in a good story!” she’d look at me like I was a two-horned toad and go back to her crappy fiction.
Seers Who Like to Read
Many of the young seers I have met have a deeper intelligence and introspection than other teens. This is probably because they can see there is more to life than what a lot of us perceive. Many of these kids are avid readers, often looking for something to help make sense of the world. Yes, the Bible does this, but too many of us approach the Bible with our modern non-supernatural lens, and thus we miss what is really going on in the biblical authors’ minds. We miss what is being unsaid.
It’s useful to train our minds to think supernaturally, and much fantasy fiction can help us.
But seers and other spiritually-sensitive people need to take extra care, because as they direct their minds to specific thoughts, they can attract the attention of angels or demons! What to do??
My Seer Daughter Who Loves to Read
Of grave concern to me and my wife is our spiritually-attuned seer daughter, who is now in middle school and being programmed by the school and culture to attract all kinds of spirits.
Make no mistake in understanding this point: Your thoughts and actions can attract spirits.
You must take your thoughts captive, so that you do not attract demons and can be a fit vessel for the Spirit of Christ: the Holy Spirit.
In one class, she’s been assigned to watch The Hunger Games. She was so nervous about the violence in the new Star Wars movie that she didn’t go with me to see it. Why was she nervous about the relatively tame Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Because the antagonist looks remarkably like a demon she has seen before.
If she is that spiritually sensitive to darkness, should she be watching a movie about teens who kill each other, as in The Hunger Games?
And about the books she’s reading in school?
Advice From a Teen Seer
About a year and half ago, a teenaged seer and her mom wrote to me about this issue. Below, I’ll post some of what the teen seer wrote. She was conveying caution to me about asking God to raise my daughter’s spiritual antenna again, and we took her advice and did not.
I urge all parents and students to read it carefully! (The emphasis is mine).
Over the next few years she’ll be reading material at school you won’t be able to preview. Even if you do preview it, you won’t be able to stop/ intercede all the time. Things that can create problems include:
Subject matter–My English sixth grade teacher love ghost stories and haunted house books. Stories of wars in S.S. created problems. We studied Islam, Hindu, Shinto etc, and each of these created openings.
Yoga–I can’t tell you how many times I was subjected to this. Every time, it created problems for me. I might be in math, and suddenly the teacher would decide we needed to ‘focus our energy’ with a yoga pose.
Or in band, and we needed to ‘relax’ with a different pose. In chorus, songs from primitive cultures seemed to draw ugly spirits. Even songs supposedly Christian, if sung in the Native language would bring spirits, but in English were ok.
The Holocaust has been a real issue for me. Any genocide is ugly, but the German Holocaust is the worst. I had nightmares for three months after reading Devil’s Arithmetic. After a Holocaust movie in Social Studies, I had nightmares for a year.
Finally, a teacher who respected me, and was friends with my mom let me go to the library instead of seeing more images. I can’t go on the school trip to Washington, DC because they go specifically to see the Holocaust museum. I know that if I go in there that I will be sick.
Teachers–some were active atheists, others mean and cruel, others had occult symbols on ‘cool’ posters. Those who didn’t pay attention to cooperative groups allowed student interactions that opened doors. Teachers who lost control of their tempers also allowed the supernatural world a doorway of potential.
Students– some were satanists who deliberately taunted me. Others had chaotic family lives that spilled over on me. I remember looking around in class, seeing several classmates with red/black swirling energy overlaid upon them.
I could hear, actually hear, the horrible things their parents screamed at them. Finally, all the bottled-up tension and energy seemed to call spirits.
Books and Instructional Materials: who had the book before me mattered. Student graffiti on the materials could open doors. The illustrations, the words, the topics… all of it could create problems.
Finally, I’d like to warn you about the newest YA books. So many new authors of so many fantasies are really wonderful stories. But almost all provide cues and clues about seeing the spirits, contacting demons and fallen angels, and pagan ritual and festivals.
So much is written about music and its influence over teens. However, I’ve found books to be my biggest weakness. If you’d like, I can provide detailed info about the different series I’ve read and how they connect to the paranormal. Perhaps other teens could then contribute books they’ve read.
There are also books that help shut down the portals. Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull, was one of my favorite series. I would think about the wonderful world he created, and this would open portals. Horrible demons came through them, and I was terrified. If I read Lousia May Alcott or CS Lewis, the portals will shut down.
The Troop, Supernatural, Treasure Planet actually shows a familiar spirit–all of those open portals and I can see more after I’ve watched them.
So what’s a teen who loves to read to do? Read just the Bible? Give up reading and crawl in a cave somewhere?
I don’t recommend that at all. I suggest helping students to read fiction that help develop a supernatural perspective, but also that won’t “open portals” or attract demonic spirits.
In the next post, I’ll list some of what I recommend and why.