Thursday, October 25, 2007

Good, Evil, Imagination, and Sparkle

I'm finally reading Harry Potter (I'm just starting book 6 now, so PLEASE no spoilers!) which has me thinking about good & evil. Rowling's depictions of this ongoing battle resonate in a way I haven't found since I read the Chronicles of Narnia. The whole idea of a personal evil--an actual being who takes the time to get to know us, feels out our weaknesses, and dreams up temptations specially designed to get us off course for God's best for our lives--is a profound one, and pretty accurate, in my experience.

I'm also reading this book, in which the author--a longtime Harvard professor--inadvertently offers an interesting battle plan to fight off these temptations. He writes about the class he developed for a program Harvard started back in the 1980s to make sure all students had some basis in moral thinking (I guess the faculty was a little upset that so many alums were ending up in prison, which probably cut down significantly on annual giving). This prof was asked to guide students through what Jesus offers along these lines. Some of his conclusion are surprising.

He points out that there aren't all that many do's & don'ts in the New Testament (the second half of the Bible, where Jesus comes on the scene), because most of the rules for daily living were already established. What Jesus does, he argues, is press us toward a more creative way of thinking that enhances our ability to live within those rules and resist the temptation to veer off on dead-end adventures. Jesus, he claims, challenges us to develop our imagination, which is the key to not just knowing what we should do, but actually pressing through to do it; to walk away from the bright shiny opportunity that is actually a pair of golden handcuffs in disguise.

He says that stories, like the parables Jesus is so famous for, teach us to use our imagination, stretching our brains in new directions that might just come in handy later.

I know many of you are writers, so I thought I'd run this by you: how do the stories you read influence your thinking? More importantly, what do you think of the idea that as a writer, you are a KEY PLAYER in the battle against evil?

What if you're a SUPERHERO???

(And yes, for those of you who are wondering, this is all part of the grand strategy I alluded to earlier this week to make sure we can all wear sparkly costumes to book signings)


Angela WD said...

What a profound post. I feel a huge responsibility when writing fiction to not lead anyone astray or introduce temptation into their thoughts. I think that so often fiction, TV, and movies show the shiny opportunity but don't follow the story through to the often sad consquences. For example, they so often show how glorious premarital sex and casual sexual relationships are, but don't show the common conclusions - heartache, pregnancy, and health or emotional problems. I try to address that.

I'd be interested to hear what others do with their talent as writers to uphold God's goodness.

Patti said...

in my battle against evil i hope i am the unsuspected foiler of temptations. the one who does good and disappears back into the night.

JenKneeBee said...

I'm not much of a writer, but I do feel like the stories I read have a profound influence on my life. Not all of them do of course, but many do. I'll often find myself thinking back to incredible stories and characters, even when I'm just going about my daily business.

ps- Are you planning on doing a signing in Colorado? Because I think that my fellow Coloradans would really love the sparkly outfit :)

ellesappelle said...

Great post, Trish! I have never thought of it like that before but that just rings so true. I feel very strongly that sometimes Christians make the mistake of focusing on the obvious and forgetting the veiled evil. Harry Potter would be a prime example - it must be evil because it has witches and wizards. But Harry Potter teaches us to think in a certain way that can only complement Christian beliefs, as you say, in terms of good and evil. Whereas a book that breaks no taboos may be teaching people to think in a way that is wholly opposed to God - eg, I can do it on my own, my happiness comes first, etc etc. Subtle but I would say much more damaging.

Off topic a little there - but yes, authors do have a huge responsibility. Sometimes what people take from their books can't be blamed on them - but it's important to think about that I guess.

And I am totally in favour of sparkly costumed book signings! Can you come to New Zealand for some?!

LEstes65 said...

Well, if a non-writer can flap her gums here...

I don't care if you're a writer or you work in the unglamorous line of life insurance (to randomly select a profession): we're all key players in the fight against evil.

And I think wearing a tiara while fighting said evil is within my rights.