There were certain rules we had growing up. As children, we didn't watch questionable movies. We didn't discuss certain subjects. And we didn't read any fantasy.
Fast forward about two decades, and I'm now the mother of an avid bookworm who recently discovered the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. This series, if you're not familiar with it, is Disneyland for mythology lovers. My son Nate has read about a modern-day, turban-sporting Medusa; a son who rescues his mother from Hades; and a god of revelry who now only drinks Diet Coke as part of his twelve-step program.
I've asked myself several times how I feel as a Christian about fantasy novels, and I usually end up answering myself with, "I have no stinking idea," or something equally as helpful.
I recently read a novel by one of my cyber writing buddies. First of Her Kind by K. L. Schewengel is exactly the kind of book my father would have banned when I was growing up: the heroine's aunt is a devoted servant of The Goddess, the heroine herself possesses magical powers beyond her control, and the hero possesses many "out-there" talents like miraculous healing and mystical telepathy.
I read First of Her Kind and enjoyed both the writing style and the plot line. Nothing in the book threatened my faith or shook my relationship with the Lord. But it was still a stretch for me -- both as a reader and as a Christian -- to read something so drastically different from my typical weekend book list (which lately has included Les Miserables, a Christian historical fiction novel by the Theones, and a mystery set in turn-of-the-century New York City).
Positive arguments could be made for Christians to read fantasy. The characteristic good versus evil motif was strong and kicking in First of Her Kind, and I'm sure if I wanted to I could find parallels between how Christ helps deliver us from evil and how the hero defends the heroine in Schwengel's novel. (For the record, I was much more into enjoying a fun weekend fling with a good book than I was expecting to delve deep into theological matters.)
I think an even more convincing argument for fantasy is exemplified by my son Nate, the fantasy fanatic of our household. Nate has a colorful, vivid, beautiful imagination, which has been nurtured by years of reading. Nate can dream up masterpieces of imaginative creativity because his mind has been stretched by all the books he's devoured in his short lifetime.
As I've grown in my gifting as an intercessor (one who prays passionately for certain people or causes), I've discovered that the most powerful prayers require an awful lot of faith. And faith, in my opinion, can be bolstered, encouraged, and nurtured by an active imagination. My times of deepest intercession have involved vivid mental pictures of how God might answer my prayers. What else could you call that besides imagination?
So if prayer is bolstered by imagination, and if imagination is inspired by works of fantasy like my friend's novel, could devouring fantasy like my son Nate does end up boosting someone's prayer life?
Who knows? I have no idea if Nate is going to develop the same heart for prayer as I have, or if his love for fantasy will enhance his prayer life or not. But it's at least given me something to think about and chew on over the next few years as I watch how he grows as a Christian ... and how I grow as a reader.
And by the way, I think First of Her Kind is definitely a book worth reading, regardless of your spiritual background (or lack thereof!). So I'm setting up a giveaway over the next week. Just check out below to see how you can enter to win K. L. Schwengel's novel. (Sorry, US shipping only.) And if you'd rather just grab the ebook, I highly recommend it!
Random Fact #15: The Red Violin was the first R-rated movie I ever saw. I was 17 and watched it with my mom.
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