Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Can Fantasy be True?

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." --Philippians 4:8

That pretty much says it when it comes to our entertainment choices - things to read, watch, and play. If you're a kid or a teen picking out something to do or a parent filtering those choices for your kids and for yourself, your decision is a big deal--big enough for God to direct us through His writer, the Apostle Paul.

Why? Because the Lord knows that what we input fills our brains, our hearts, and our very beings. Jesus was a great storyteller who understood better than any that stories are powerful things. They can make us feel thrilled, happy, triumphant, sad, angry...every emotion there is. They can overwhelm our souls with light or with darkness. Stories can teach us and He used them marvelously well. Read "The Parable of the Lost Son" for an example. (Luke 15.)

Yeah, but, I see a conflict here, maybe. I'm a fantasy fanatic. The fantasy genre can match all of Paul's criterion but one: "...whatever is true...." Does that mean it should be off my list?  Does it displease God that I love stories filled with non-existent creatures like hobbits, elves, and fairies who do supernatural things? When I was little, Mom often read to me from The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, published in 1958, with classics like "Thumbelina," "The Frog Prince," "Cinderella," and "The Sleeping Beauty." I made quick work of learning to read and immersed myself in The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien), The Dragon King Trilogy (Stephen Lawhead), The Tower of Geburah (John White), and many besides.

In all my enjoyment of fantastical things, I would never delve into magic of any kind. Real witchcraft freaks me out and I would never be so stupid as to practice it, knowing that the real deal is a real danger and a very real evil. Still, I wondered if fantasy was "allowed."

And here's where the Comforter, the Holy Spirit (John 14: 16 & 17), soothed me through one of my best memories. I was eleven years old. My brother Tom, who was away in college, sent me a hardbound copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis). In the enclosed letter he said this: "Kat, figure out who Aslan is."

I read it. I loved it. I marveled at the Great Lion, wished I could ride on His back as Lucy and Susan did, and pondered what Tom said. Who is Aslan, the Son of the Emperor, Who died in a traitor's stead and then came back alive? The answer hit me so hard it stopped me from moving and gave me a chill of awe from my head to my feet, so that my eyes watered. He's Jesus.

I didn't understand what it meant to believe, I simply did it and, without words, thanked Him for dying in my stead. A few months later, at a local Billy Graham crusade, I went forward at the preacher's call and made my conversion "official," though I knew that salvation had already happened to me.

Through what, my good readers? Through a fantasy story. That is, a fantasy story rich with truth at its core. Does God mind if read fantasy? Mind? He smiles as I wipe tears every time I read or see where Sam carries Frodo. Every time. What's more, He delights to give me His ideas and His words. He helped me write my tween fantasy Children of Angels. The awe of His inspiration is almost as great as the awe I felt when I first realized Who Aslan was.

The moral of the story: whatever age of reader/watcher you are, delight in the imagination God has given you, but use your gift well, for it's powerful. I say choose those things that are rife with truth.

To quote Aragorn, son of Arathorn: "What say you?" I'd love your comments.