Is it Wrong to Enjoy Fictional Stories? Pt 1
I have a big imagination. I have always loved stories of grand adventure and excitement! As a young boy, I often put myself in the place of the hero daring to defy evil and save the day! My older sister read all the Chronicles of Narnia books to me and I love those worlds. I would lay in bed reimagining them with myself in the story, hoping I would dream of it. My body has gotten larger but the little boy who loves fantasy has never grown up.
Why do we love stories?
Why do we watch other people act out a story on TV and wonder what will happen in the next episode? Why do some people make a living on YouTube talking about stories and theorizing what will happen next? The Water Cooler discussion of yesteryear is now streamed through the air into everybody’s pocket! I have pondered these questions for many years now. I wondered if perhaps I have been wrong to love fiction so much. Starwars and The Lord of The Rings (yes, the full title is “The Lord of the Rings” thank you very much) have been my top two favorite stories of all-time, but perhaps as a Christian, I needed to give them up. Of the two, certainly, Starwars needed to go; after all, there are scenes you must skip! This led me on a deeper search; What does the Bible say about fiction? Is it wrong to watch sin acted out on screen or read about sin in a book? Who wrote the first story anyway?
The oldest writings we have ever dug from the dirt are perhaps tablets from the Sumerians. Amongst them are perhaps the first written fictional story, The Epic of Gilgamesh. A Biblical perspective tells us that the Sumerians are descendants of Noah and they did not invent writing as some scholars suggest. I believe Adam was writing before he died. (no chapter and verse for that one ;) Did Adam tell Cain and Abel bedtime stories? Did he make up fake stories or did he only believe in historical fiction? We do not know for sure who started it or how many have been written, but Google algorithms suggest there are 130 million distinct Book titles in existence today. In 2013 America published over 300,000 novels, surpassed only by China at 440,000 titles. Today Netflix has over 5000 distinct titles to choose from (not including individual episodes) Amazon Prime Video has 4000. If you sat down and did nothing else but watch Netflix for a year you would still have a lot more to watch. Sadly, American culture today is saturated with entertainment options and it is clear to me that our adversary, the devil himself, is pleased by how distracted the human race has become. Men and women do not have time to ponder where we came from or form a cohesive world view; they need to binge watch 4 more episodes of the Mandalorian!
There is a valid criticism to be leveled at our modern entertainment-driven culture, but I don’t think the answer for Christians is to become monks in the monastery. We are called to be a separated people, but we are also to be bold and ready to give an answer. We are only pilgrims in this world, but we must still engage with this culture to save it. The ungodly have completely taken over storytelling and the worldview they espouse is completely contrary to our own. Perhaps Christian organizations should be putting out stories that promote a Godly worldview to counter the lies and filth of popular culture today. If we do, there needs to be serious discussion and guidelines laid out to make sure we are biblical in our approach.
The Good news is there are plenty of principles in the Bible to guide us, and already there are groups trying to fight back in the culture war. One of these groups is VidAngel Studios. Started originally as a movie filtering service, and after being sued by big corporations for the sin of bringing more customers to see movies they would not have watched otherwise, VidAngel changed business models and now they are a streaming service that continues to filter movies and tv shows while producing some of their own content. Originally Vidangel contracted with clean comedians for original content but since have produced one season of a new show called, “The Chosen.” This show follows the lives of the men Jesus chose as his disciples and so far, I have been impressed. I am planning to do a full review of this show so check back later for that. I will also be researching and writing more on this topic, so click back for "Is it Wrong to Enjoy Fictional Stories” Part 2.