What if they were wrong about this, too? (part one)

Growing up I was immersed in the world of fantasy and science fiction. When other little girls were watching Disney princesses and Bambi, I was lost in stories full of light and dark, good and evil, heroes and villains. I remember Tom Cruise before he grew into his nose as Jack, who naively led Lily to the unicorns. She couldn’t resist reaching out a hand to touch the animals of purity, and she started a chain reaction of evil and darkness in the land. Jack fought to rescue her, but she was also brave and strong and saved the realm along with him. I remember the Gelfling Jen searching for the crystal shard that will restore the balance of good and evil, and I remember hiding under my bed whenever the Skeksis took the screen. I was enthralled with the weirdness, the creatures, the visual craziness. I remember sobbing when Atreyu’s steed Artax drowned in the pit of despair, being terrified of the ancient turtle, and my first experience of being both drawn to and afraid of greatness in Falkor the Luck Dragon. Bastian’s “Neverending Story” is the reason I am still a little freaked out by any Sphinx, and I would pay good money to ask the author what the hell the Empress’ name is already. My first nonhuman literary crush was the redeemed drow Drizzt Do’Urden, my first female hero was Lily, and my first exposure to nihilism was the Nothing.

When I became a Christian, I learned that fantasy and science fiction were evil. The devil was behind such things, so we held a cleansing. Music, movies, posters, books, games, stories I’d written filled a few large black garbage bags. We anointed the walls with strong scented oil and exorcised the room. I was free from the demonic influence of fantasy and science fiction.

Fast forward five or six years and the people who’d taught me about the evils of my stories discovered I wasn’t pure enough either. Apparently there was still a trace of the dark stuff in me, and rather than try another cleansing they just made it clear it would be best for everyone if I was to leave. Tired of fighting, I did. I wandered into the big, scary, sinful world all alone. And I got mad. I started to question their labels of good and bad, started to push the envelope of what they’d called sinful to see for myself if these things and places and people were really so bad. And I discovered God amongst them. I found love among the sinners, beauty amidst the death, light shimmering in the darkness. I bought some silver rings at a Renaissance Faire. I reread some old favorites (and discovered I still love that drow). I watched all the films again, listened to the music. I realized some of it was too dark, too twisted from the good the story tried to tell. But for the most part the stories were inspiring. I felt my imagination coming back to life. I remembered what heroes look like, what valor means, what fielty and courage and love can do.

In believing the lie that these stories were bad, I’d cut myself of from a source of life. These stories, so far removed from reality, open my soul to the possibilities of the supernatural, of kingdoms and kings, of spirit and the best of humanity. They challenge stereotyping and racism, they call upon us to do good and sacrifice in the face of evil, they reveal space for hope in the triumph of good in the kingdom. In short, they help me grapple through fiction with the very real but very foreign world of Christian spirituality, the lordship of Christ, and the presence of spiritual reality in a material world. By rejecting this part of myself, much of my spiritual insight died off. Now, many years since my return to the realm of fantasy and fiction, I can’t imagine life without the power of such stories. This was the first lie I believed, the first lie I took the risk of rejecting, the first lie from which I became free through the journey of rebellion.

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2 Comments

  1. November 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Back in the day, I was on a Christian gaming email list. One of the members maintained that Lord of the Rings (and other fantasy-type stories) were fundamentally more realistic than Star Trek (and other science fiction). His logic was that Star Trek has a closed, atheistic universe, making it less realistic, while Lord of the Rings has an open, theist universe. He may have been putting out a reductio, at least in part, but the idea has stuck with me.

  2. October 14, 2013 at 8:40 am

    […] of imagination, damaging psychology. My journey to the other side of that struggle is discussed here. As I started reading Salvatore again and watching those Henson films from my childhood, I felt a […]


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