Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Books I read, books they write

I was out for lunch with Paul yesterday and when Paul and I get together, we talk God, we talk theology, we talk books. This round of lunch however, when one of our other colleagues walked passed us, we invited her to join us since she was without lunch mates. So Paul and I had to switch gears, and we ended up talking about movies and still, books.

What was interesting was that when I began to talk about my interest in the Harry Potter series --the subject came up because the 6th instalment of the movie is coming soon-- Paul had a worried look on his face. (I was once immersed in the books, not anymore, I got over it).

I started thinking, what should be our commitment as Christians in the books we choose to read? Should we read books like the Harry Potter series that delves into witchcraft, books by Philip Pullman that preaches atheism, books by Dan Brown that centres on controversies? Can we not read them for leisure? Or to be in the know so that we can talk about them responsibly? Another good question would be how matured are we to be in Christ before we open ourselves to these books? What about our children? Should we be allowing them to read books by Philip Pullman for example?

And more than that, should I be reading all the books before my son reads them? My son just finished the Lion Boy trilogy not long ago and I have no idea what it is all about -- just that this boy talks cat. And some time back, he was into this book entitled, The Pig Who Saved the World, which has some Greek mythology in it and he was telling me about a section in the story where there was no death -- living things just could not die, though they suffer.



  1. I suppose ... more often than not, people (excluding the scholars) read for pleasure and hardly to come up with technical criticisms. Unless they are well-informed of the subject matter, at most the readers would either rate a book "great" or "boring". But some writers are "gifted" at sensationalizing things and articulate themselves and this where some may find it difficult to know when reality ends, and fiction begins. But this is just my opinion, though.

    Truthfully, I enjoy reading the first five of HP books (haven't read the last two) ... and for children's fiction, while wizards and witches are nothing new in the literary genre, how JK Rowling brought that wizardry world to vivid imagination is something to be “valued” for in the children’s fiction line. It is not easy to write something so vividly and interesting as she did. As for alleged spells and connotations; …could we have been carried away with all the hocus-pocus cry-outs?

    But then again, I read these books as an adult … so for me, no "real" harm (and some can counter, I'm be-witched already). Perhaps, I am turning Anglican now … ;p LOL


  2. Glad to hear you got over the Harry Potter books.

  3. many christians call for a ban or boikot to dan brown's davinci code...why?is it justified?

    some say, because this book could cause christian to backslide, to doubt their faith, after reading it...how you see, pearlie?

  4. Hi pearlie, I suspect you mean Philip Pullman; Bill Pullman is the actor! :)

    This is a topic dear to my heart, but I don't really want to ride my hobbyhorse now. I do think key to this is to, if I can be simplistic, simply to be Christian readers.

    So we approach all "stories" (with a small "s") as participants in God's Big Story. In other words, we should seek to be familiar with the Bible and allow it to inform our worldviews (an ongoing struggle which we'll never be perfect at this side of creation). In doing so, we no longer need to fear alternative narratives but treat them respectfully and critically at the same time. We can delight in the pleasures stories give us, or the worlds they invite us into, as part of God's good creation. At the same time, we are aware of the persuasive pull stories can have at forming our moral imagination, and so we "discern the spirits", as it were.

    As readers we're all different. Some children can handle mature material at an earlier age than others. Some of us are not affected by some stories which can have a powerful impact on others. So I am loathe to be prescriptive. Parents know their children best (and should read with them when they can!). But we should not be reactionary or alarmist. There is certainly no good reason to be especially fearful of Dan Brown or Rowling. (Pullman is slightly different but even then we can still treat him respectfully. I would argue too that many authors who are not so well-known to us but are staples of children's lit, eg. Robert Cormier, warrant more attention from us as Christians - he might not write about killing God, but he offers a bleak worldview which can be disturbing for a sensitive child).

    I know some will immediately say, "oh it's only those academics etc." who can read like that! I refuse to believe this. I think we can all learn to read well. We might not be able to use technical terminology and all that jazz, but I think we can all offer good and unique insights.

    I recommend people read Phil Ryken's little book Art for God's Sake (only 64 pages!) or the Kairos issue on the Imagination a few years back for a great Christian intro to this topic. Also, read Alan Jacobs', a Christian professor of English, essay, Harry Potter's Magic (published nearly 10 years ago now!) or Greg Clarke's review and reflections on 3 books that tackle the Harry Potter question differently as good models for thinking about the subject.

    [Gets off horse which BK has unconsciously mounted while coughing - am feeling a little under the weather today! :-p ]

  5. BK,
    Oops :) of course, Philip Pullman. I'll get to your horse later ;)

  6. Hi BK, just butting in here.

    I just read Alan Jacob's review and that IS so far the fairest treatment on HP I have read. Thanks!

    I love kiddies' book actually and JK Rowling writes/tells her stories really well (or maybe still, with the help of her editors -- indispensable these lots are, LOL).

  7. Melissa,
    We already spoke at length about HP :) and I reiterate that I understand where the Christian parents are coming from, since I am one. But easier on me since Calvin does not even want to read the HP series.

  8. Susan,
    I get excited and "un-excited" about stuff pretty fast -- same way I loos my temper and recover very quickly too :) :)

  9. 不肖生 Sceptics,
    I dunno, I think it depends on the maturity of Christians. To me, Christianity is strong enough for any kind of attack. The only problem is the Christians who are not willing to spend the time or effeort to check it out like the Bereans do, but listen to whatever that tickle their ears. Which is why the call to the ban? I read them all to see what the fuss was all about and I think it is over blown.

  10. BK,
    I'm glad you got on your horse, albeit inadvertenrly :) and I hope you are feeling better by now. I enjoyed reading your "ride" and agree with you on most points. On some, I would like to check it out first particularly on the links you posted.

    To me, how mature a child is, is most probably biological but a big part of it would be how they are raised and guided by their parents or teachers or mentors or carers. But I agree we are not to be alarmed by or afraid of any authors. They do need to be guided though as do we when we read our level of stuff.

    I'll most probably be back on this later :)

  11. To me, christians that I know, mostly dont read,lazy to read, no time to read, let alone book like Davinci Code...

    The most they read is , Joel Osteen,Rick Warren, Jabez Prayer kind of books, hehe,,,

    so I dont think they would read dan brown, understand it and then become backslided...

    if any indeed is such, then it seems a good sign, at least I know that some indeed do read and understanding that kind of stuff.

    then how about the losing of faith?

    then I think they deserve it, since they could read dan brown, and understand, how come they dont read serious christian literature,eg. CS Lewis and be edified with stronger faith?

    hehe, maybe, Sceptics' arguments usually sound awkward...??

  12. 不肖生 Sceptics,
    But wouldn't you agree that most people don't read these days? And if they do, they read the simpler ones. Like I am quite attracted to popular science, thus, they would be more steered to popular theology?

    In a sense, could these books be profitable to us as it make us "question" our faith and hence we will put more effort into reading and thinking what we believe in? That is only in hope that they *do* end up reading or asking rather than taking it all in without question.

    Nah, I don't see anything awkward :P