As an author, I am often giving and receiving book recommendations and being asked my opinion about other authors’ books.
I try to be very careful what I recommend particularly to young adults and am often surprised what other people will recommend to me. The content of a book matters a lot to me, I think because as a writer I recognized that stories have the power to teach me things, whether I intended to learn from them or not. For me a good story can’t just be engaging, it also has to have a good message.
However, messages in books come in all shapes and sizes, which is probably why a lot of people don’t really even realize they are there.
Recently, I have been reading a famous series of books. If I mentioned its name, you would recognize it, but my point in this post is not to draw attention to this series but rather to draw attention to what is often missed when people criticize or praise something without fully considering its content.
I avoided this series of books for years because of Christians warning me about the occult content in these books. The more time I’ve spent talking to readers though, the more often I have also encounter Christians who have read these books and think they are great.
Personally, I didn’t care if I read these books and probably would have gone on happily having never read them. But the questions and conversations surrounding them were becoming more and more prevalent around me. Left in the dark and unable to respond in contradiction or support, I finally decided to read for myself what some people despised and other people praised.
What I found astonished me. Yes, they were full of the occult, which honestly should concern any Christian parent, however, as disturbing as the occult aspects of this series are, these aspects are far from the only concerning elements.
Yet amazingly over the years the occult content was the only argument I heard against these books. Christians were either fixated on this issue and determined to hate the books. Or Christians had excused this issue saying the books were dealing with make-believe concepts in a fantasy realm and had embraced and enjoyed these books.
I would say that both sides missed so many other aspects that should have been mentioned about this series.
Remember how I said earlier that messages in books come in all shapes and sizes? Well, in this series, the messages of the occult are the blatant ones (blatant content is much more easily and consciously accepted or rejected), but the more subtle and far more subversive messages in these books are those which imply adults are often just fools, children are the smart ones in the room. Disobeying, breaking the rules, lying, deceiving, etc., are all acceptable and even the right thing to do as long as you’re intending to save the day. And if you do get caught, no worries, it’s just a slap on the wrist, never anything too serious. So go ahead and keep at it, because you’re the heroes and heroes are good, even when they aren’t. These were some of the messages I found.
Now, I’m not telling you the title of this series (though, I’m sure some of you have some strong hunches) because, again, my point in this post is not about this particular series but the fact that we as Christians need to notice and evaluate the big picture elements of a story AND the small content elements that are often actually far more insidious.
Challenge: No matter what it is you are reading, don’t just read it. Consider its content, so that you don’t excuse or condemn a big issue while completely over looking dozens of small ones. And always keep in mind that a non-Christian’s blatantly religious content isn’t the only thing that teaches the principles of their worldview.