If the entertainment industry is any indication, modern man desperately needs to "escape." It's understandable when you consider how bleak things can
appear -- globally, economically, and existentially. What better way to
forget that you don't have a good job (if you have one at all), your
love life stinks, your knees are shot, an asteroid just missed striking earth,
and the nuclear black market is thriving, than to get lost in a good
book or movie? It's understandable that you'd want to escape.
Yes, I realize there's those who've challenged the idea that escapism is fundamentally and exclusively negative. Like, J. R. R. Tolkien who wrote in his essay "On Fairy-Stories" that escapism, in its attempt to understand and envision a different reality, contained an element of emancipation. C. S. Lewis was also fond of suggesting that the usual enemies of escape were... jailers.
At the risk of sounding like one of those jailers, I get that some reading transports us to a very healthy place, one that fires our imagination and inspires us to right living. It just doesn't seem like a lot of Christians read fiction for that reason.
I recently heard a respected CBA agent conjecture that one of the reasons Historical fiction is so popular among Christian readers is that during hard economic times, people want to escape. And nothing says "escape" like petticoats, parasols, and remarkably clean-speaking pirates. But if you're reading because the economy sucks, perhaps you should be reading Making Ends Meet on a Shoestring Budget rather than Love Finds You as Far Away from the Here-and-Now as Possible.
Which leads me to ask,
- Do Christians read books to sharpen their discernment or to give it a rest?
- Do we read books to help us engage the world, or detach from it?
- Do we read books to add excitement to our lives, or stave off terminal boredom?
- Do we read books to help us love our spouses more, or create expectations that will never, ever, be matched?
- Do we read books to think more, or think less?
- Do we read books to enrich our time, or kill time?
- Do we read books to revel in life or forget about our crappy existence?
Mike Duran writes supernatural thrillers. He is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike's novels include The Telling, The Resurrection, and an ebook novella, Winterland. You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.