Electric wires are encased in a material such as rubber to prevent accidental contact with them. Homes have layers of insulation to keep heat in and cold out, or air conditioning in and scorching temperatures out. Under the right circumstances, insulation is good and necessary.
Might the same principle be true in reading? I dare say most Christians would agree that children ought to be insulated to a degree so lies of the world don’t alter their ideas or expose them to “mature” subject matter before they are ready. But what about adults? Is there a proper insulation adults should maintain as well?
Isolation, on the other hand, is viewed as an aberration unless mandated by a doctor. Agoraphobia is an irrational fear of going outside which causes otherwise healthy people to isolate themselves from others.
And what about isolation as a principle in reading? Should Christians cut themselves off from the influences of the world? Should we seek to read (listen or watch) only stories that agree with a Biblical worldview?
I believe many Christians mix up isolation and insulation in determining a standard for entertainment. Others resist isolation but then neglect insulation in the process.
Here are some contrasting points about the two concepts that might be helpful.
Insulation is put in place to protect people from a known danger or to keep out an undesired element. A recovering alcoholic, for example, stays away from all forms of alcohol. A reader coming from an occult background, then, stays away from all stories about witches and wizardry, magic and demon activity.
Isolation, on the other hand, separates people from the good as well as the dangerous, without discrimination. An illustration would be a person fearing electrical shocks, turning off the electricity in a home. For readers, a person who fears exposure to the world system, stops reading fiction.
Insulation targets something specific. For the reader, this would center on personal weaknesses or proclivities.
Isolation spreads a wide net. There is no targeting. There is nothing more than a categorical rule aimed at everyone.
Insulation has a particular goal–the protection of an individual from a known danger. Consequently a book with explicit sexual content might be targeted as one from which readers should be insulated.
Isolation also aims to protect, but the goal is nebulous because the danger is imagined rather than known. In this vein, any story that suggests or implies sexual activity might fall under a ban.
Some readers may wonder if insulation is ever needed or appropriate in conjunction with books. Today our culture seems to agree that ideas aren’t dangerous, that all we need to guard against is physical harm.
Except, some have begun to talk about “cyber-bullying,” a use of words to belittle and control someone else. Put another way, words do have power to influence how a person thinks.
If this is true on the Internet, why would we think it is less true in fiction?
Well, some may say, because it is fiction!
But the truth is, fiction shows us how other people reason, make choices, handle difficulties, interact with others. We are exposed to their worldview which may call into question our own.
So should we isolate from those? Should we embrace them?
No and no. Other worldviews must be examined in light of the Bible and the errors exposed. We can’t expose errors if we are isolated and ignorant. We can’t expose errors if we embrace them and make them our own. Yet Scripture tells us exposing error is part of the believer’s responsibility:
Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them (Eph. 5:11)
The commission Jesus gave Paul doesn’t seem to me to be all that different from the one the angel gave to the followers of Jesus who witnessed his ascension, and ultimately, to us.
‘I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness . . . to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ (acts 26:16-18)
How does this commission apply to readers?
1. We can learn in fiction where light is most needed.
2. We can discover through reading what form darkness is taking.
3. We can formulate a response before we confront someone in real life who holds the views of darkness about which we read.
In short, I don’t think isolation is an answer to the darkness of this world, and that approach leaves our culture without a witness. I’d also suggest that it’s wise to use insulation only as necessary.
Not everyone needs the same level of insulation. I live in SoCal where the temperature is slated to reach 80 today. Home insulation is more or less optional here, but we still don’t run electric wires through our houses without the proper material protecting us from shock.
How about you as a reader? Do you have a type of insulation you utilize? Is this something you’ve thought through and determined ahead of time? Do you agree that it’s important to have this kind of protection when it comes to our reading habits?