In reality, this is a continuation of the series I started some time ago called “What to Make of Dragons.” This is Part 6, I believe, since my post last week on The Enclave was also part of the same, though I didn’t remember to name it as such.
To refresh your memory, I am addressing some of the criticisms thrown by Christians at fantasy. The booklet “In Defence of Fantasy” by Andrew Lansdown has served as an excellent jumping-off point. Today I want to look at the criticism that says fantasy depicts things that have no basis in reality.
This is a corollary to the criticism that says fantasy is untrue and therefore should not be something Christians waste time on.
This week I went to see the movie Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince so of course this story is fresh on my mind. So, what about the charge that says readers, particularly young ones, will be fooled by fantasy? Aren’t Harry Potter fans led into the occult by seeing Harry and his friends and enemies casting spells and using potions?
Well, let me ask another question. Are these fans fooled into thinking they can fly to school on brooms? Has there been an upsurge of broom sales? Maybe of the toy kind, but are we seeing poor frustrated children astraddle crying, “Up! Up!” as they gently push off the ground? Is anyone buying Nembus 5000’s?
Or how about the really dark magic. Has there been an upsurge of people killing others to stretch their souls, divide them, and store them in a horcrux as a way to obtain immortality?
My point is, regardless that the wildly popular series drew millions of readers, there has apparently not been a comparable wide belief in the actuality of the fantasy elements. By and large, this is so because we humans have the ability to know the real apart from the pretend.
When I was growing up in a Christian home, I remember finding out that Santa Claus was pretend, and asking if Jesus was then also pretend. No, I was told. And I never questioned it. The evidences I had about Jesus and Santa made it abundantly clear that the two were not the same.
In his essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children,” C. S. Lewis wrote some important things on this subject, quoted by Lansdown:
The fairy tale is accused of giving children a false impression of the world they live in. But I think no literature that children could read gives then less of a false impression. I think what profess to be realistic stories for children are far more likely to deceive them. I never expected the real world to be like the fairy tales. I think that I did expect school to be like the school stories … I do not mean that school stories for boys and girls ought not be written. I am only saying that they are far more liable to become ‘fantasies’ in the clinical sense than fantastic stories are. And this distinction holds for adult reading too. The dangerous fantasy is always superficially realistic.
I couldn’t help but think of some of the Christian fiction I’ve read in which a character comes to Christ and all other problems and conflicts resolve thereafter. That kind of “realism” makes people apart from Christ think believers are shallow or deluded, maybe both.
But fantasies promise no such perfect resolutions apart from the fantasy world, though a happy-ever-after ending can be understood within the context of the pretend to point to a right resolution bringing positive change. It is win-win. No false promises, yet absolute truth.
That’s what the Bible offers, after all. We see the ultimate reality ahead—eternal life. But today, a life with Christ means I struggle and hope and believe and repent and pray and trust and wait and watch and obey. I have not yet sat down to the marriage feast of the lamb. I have not yet received my full inheritance. I look forward, and this is the reality fantasy can give readers: the hunger and thirst for the eternal that is up ahead.