1. Very interesting post. Thanks, Chawna!

  2. Travis Perry says:

    Hi Chawna. I don’t know if you’re familiar with me from articles I’ve written for Speculative Faith previously. I think is my first time seeing anything you’ve written.

    I like the overall tenor of the article but there are a couple of points that might require a bit of clarification. Starting with omnipresence–yes, God is everywhere and the Bible declares it. But that means God is present where evil is taking place as well, where there’s great evil even. Death camps, human trafficking, torture, mass rapes, etc. God being there therefore isn’t the same as “there” being good.

    Anything generated by human beings (as opposed to nature untouched by humans) can have the purposeful intent of being anti-Christian or anti-God. Such as Robert A. Heinlein (a sci fi writer I eagerly read as a teen) portraying religious fundamentalists taking over America, with the intent of showing belief in God that Christians have is dangerous (The Handmaid’s Tale is a more better-known example of the same thing). Or stories can use God’s name exclusively as a curse word, or can portray beings who are clearly not God as false or substitute gods. Or stories can glorify or normalize sin, which of course, God doesn’t favor. A list of five ways to corruptly or falsely portray God in stories or to attempt to eliminate God from stories could just as easily be generated as a list of five positive ways to find God in stories.

    Can we find elements that point to God even if those works of literature that go out of their way to be anti-God? I would say that yes, we can. Even the Satanic Bible, by saying “Thou shalt commit adultery!” is bearing unwilling witness to the fact that the Bible says the opposite. (But that doesn’t make the Satanic Bible inherently good…)

    But such a process of truly finding God requires us to become critical, to at least at times suppress enjoyment of a tale and take an honest look at what it’s really saying. As per the story Jesus told with a purpose in Matthew 13:26-30, there are “tares” (or weeds that resemble wheat) planted in with the wheat (planted by an “enemy,” who Jesus said in verse 39 represents a specific dark spiritual power). The weeds or tares are false believers in that parable but the same thing applies to false beliefs–since false, poisonous beliefs do exist, we therefore are required to sort out the two things as best we can. Though the ultimate sorting of people is done by God in judgment at the end of the world.

    In relation to that sorting process, if a particular message or story is poisonous for us in a way that we are for whatever particular reason vulnerable to personally, we may do better to chose to avoid it altogether. Rather than engage in a sorting process that may do us harm. And we should be bold in admitting that some kinds of things are a problem for us, since proclivities to sin really do exist among God’s people (though I do recognize most people aren’t inclined to admit their own shortcomings–but if you wanna hear about some of mine, I’ll tell you 🙂 ).

    But other than me feeling the need to point out in clear terms there is Evil as well as Good in stories and making it clear that we need to actively identify and minimize evil things, I am fully in agreement with the idea of looking for what is good as well. Yes, looking for where God can be found is half of a necessary process that we ought to engage in as we read or otherwise consume entertainment.

    You of course did reference dealing with some stories with “extra care and discernment” but I felt it necessary to point out that the sorting process applies to all literature and that looking for potential harm is as important as looking for good.

    So thank you for some specific suggestions on how to look for and find God in stories. Taken with a grain of salt, what you said was very good!

  3. Love this, Chawna, and thanks for the shout-out!

    I’d also add George MacDonald to the list of authors who’ve used metaphorical types in their fantasy, as that seems to have been his favourite approach — and interestingly, all of his are female: the Wise Woman in THE LOST PRINCESS, the Queen Irene in the CURDIE books, and the North Wind in AT THE BACK OF THE NORTH WIND. If readers take these types as exact or allegorical, it would indeed lead to some strange ideas about God, but read metaphorically they’re perfectly orthodox*, and full of beautiful truth. It’s one of the things that emboldened me to write a similar metaphorical type character (Valerian) in my faery books, in addition to the allusions to direct God- and Christ-parallels like the Great Gardener and Rhys the Deep.

    * Which is not to say that MacDonald himself was perfectly orthodox, since he believed in universal salvation. But that’s not really touched on in any of his children’s fantasy, at least not as far as I recall.

What do you think?