Lately I’ve been thinking about the angry Applebee’s lady.
It was my first week at a new job, and it happened to be someone’s birthday. To celebrate, the entire office went out to Applebee’s. I didn’t know a single soul, so I sat silent, observing, honing my people watching skills. It wasn’t long before one rather feisty individual demanded the table’s attention. Oh, she didn’t tap her water glass with a fork. She didn’t need to. Her voice carried throughout the entire room as she ranted and raged.
You see, her son’s teacher was reading Harry Potter to the class.
Now, I’m not here to make a stink. I know some folks have problems with the books, and I think you have every right and every responsibility to monitor your children’s reading and to encourage the healthy stuff. And certainly, to be concerned about age-appropriateness. But I do think we—as Christians—also need to have the wherewithal to discuss our opinions rationally and with some semblance of education.
My plate of food went cold as I watched the angry Applebee’s lady tell the story. She was just so proud of herself for marching into her son’s classroom during reading circle and pulling him out. By her own admission, she planned the moment, waiting until the teacher had brought out the book before entering and causing a scene.
I was mortified. Mostly for her son, but also because she and I both serve the same God. And because, also by her own admission, she said an awful lot about Him to that teacher as she marched her son away. She waved her belief in the faces of elementary school students, using it to justify her bad behavior.
I said nothing, but another brave soul next to me couldn’t resist. “Just what is it about the books that you object to?” he asked.
The lady sputtered, her face all red, but she said nothing. Eventually, after several gulps of water, she was able to convey that she’d heard about them on a radio show. She hadn’t read the books. Not a single word.
I was in my early twenties, and the Harry Potter phenomenon hadn’t yet reached its fever pitch, so I knew little about the books. But you can bet I walked out of Applebee’s with a mission. I needed to know: are these books about a boy wizard going to have the same effect on me that they did on her? It had been some time since I’d read a children’s book, and I just had to know.
For the record, no, they didn’t. In fact, they reminded me just why I like make-believe, why I put so much stock in story. They reminded me that imagination has value.
I’ve never understood the animosity toward fantasy or speculative fiction. I think it’s the use of words like ‘witch’ and ‘wizard’ and ‘magic’ that does it for most folks, but as the fabulous bloggers here at Speculative Faith have so articulately pointed out, we need not fear words. We can—and oftentimes should—examine such writings ourselves. We should consider the good and the bad they offer. We should consider the lessons they teach and the journeys they take the reader on. And whatever our prayerful conclusions, we must acknowledge that the printed word is always a perfect springboard for discussion. Educated, rational discussions. Conversations that aren’t motivated by fear, but full of words that pull others toward the light of God’s goodness.
Jesus told the truth. Boldly. Without shame. Without fear. I’ll even maintain that He used a bit of speculative fiction to make a point time and again. The Rich Man and Lazarus, anyone?
I want to be like that. To be so grounded in truth that I don’t fear words. I want to know who I am in Christ so that I can accurately decipher just where He is in the fiction I’m reading. And I do see Him there more often than not. Even His absence in a story lights a path to Him if we’ll take the time to see it.
I suppose I owe her a thank you. Her angry words were a stepping stone—one of many—that led me to penning my first novel. A novel of speculation and adventure. Of angels with fiery swords, demons who use fear as a weapon, and a girl who can see it all. It’s a story I believe in and am excited to share.
So, thank you, Applebee’s lady. Thank you for sharing your opinions so brashly. For terrifying a room full of diners with your tale. Thank you for being a part of my journey. Thank you very much.
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Shannon Dittemore has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. The daughter of one preacher and the wife of another, she spends her days imagining things unseen and chasing her two children around their home in Northern California. Angel Eyes is her first novel.