by Mike Duran
One of the most common reasons evangelical readers give for reading Christian fiction, is that they want to read something "clean" -- that is, something that does not deride their values, offend their moral sensibilities, and undermine their parental objectives; something that is free from profanity, gratuitous sex, excessive violence, and spiritual garbage.
This desire is not without Scriptural grounding. For instance, the Bible commands us:
So there IS a legitimate biblical basis for avoiding "crap" and taking heed to what we read, listen to, and view.
But just because someone reads Christian fiction or watches only "family friendly" films, does not automatically make them any more holy, healthy, or happy than someone who doesn't. In fact, the Bible warns that there may be a subtle danger in consigning ourselves only to what is "clean."
In Jesus' day, the Pharisees followed the Law to a "T." You could say, they were "clean freaks." They washed ceremonially before meals, said their prayers at the precise times, and stoned those who required death. You'd think Jesus would applaud their righteousness. But He didn't. In fact, He called the Pharisees "children of the devil" (Jn. 8:44). And if that weren't enough, Christ told a story about those who would stand before God pleading their good works -- "Didn't we heal the sick and cast out demons?" -- only to be told they were "workers of iniquity" (Matt. 7:22-23). In both these cases, it was the "clean," the seriously religious, who were deceived.
In light of this, Reading clean fiction doesn't necessarily make us clean. In fact, the notion that it might, can actually deceive us and distance us from God!
Here's seven ways that "clean fiction" can harm us:
- Clean fiction can harm us if it replaces actually living good -- It's like the person who thinks that going to church on Sundays gets them off the hook the rest of the week. Just because you read "clean" fiction does not make you a good Christian.
- Clean fiction can harm us if it causes us to be self-righteous and holier-than-thou -- We think reading only Christian lit earns us brownie points with God and makes us better than the masses of dumb, indiscriminate, consumers. "I thank Thee, God, that I am not like those general market readers..."
- Clean fiction can harm us if it disconnects us from the real world -- We become so enamored with the world as we want it to be, that we disengage from the world as it is; it becomes an echo chamber of escapism.
- Clean fiction can harm us if its theology is askew -- Just because something is G-rated does not guarantee that its worldview is biblical; after all, the demons believe in God (James 2:19) and the devil appears as an "angel of light" (II Cor. 11:14).
- Clean fiction can harm us if it limits our appreciation for other art --If the absence of nudity is all we're after there are many classic paintings we must shield our eyes from; if the absence of profanity is our standard of measurement, then there are many classic novels we must shun.
- Clean fiction can harm us if it causes us to look down upon those who don't share our values -- Choosing to avoid R-rated movies or books does not make you morally superior in any way to the brother or sister who chooses the opposite.
- Clean fiction can harm us if it becomes an idol -- We worship the thing God uses, rather than God; we defend the genre as if it were "God-breathed"; being "clean" becomes our god.
(II Cor. 11:14). In other words, Satan is more likely to deceive us with something that looks good ("clean"), than something that looks evil. Just because some stories are free of profanity, violence, and nudity, does not make them impervious to spiritual deception. In fact, the desire to read only what is "free of profanity, violence, and nudity" may itself be a spiritual deception.