Godless Fiction

This is one of those things which, once you see it, you can’t stop seeing it.

The absence of God, and the non-acknowledgement of any kind of religious concept or practice, sets modern fiction apart from several millenia of story-telling. We visit the fiction shop every day, consuming books and stories, movies, television shows, video games, comics, etc.–and there’s hardly a trace of God in any of it.

In a lifetime of consuming fiction in its many forms, how many fictional characters do we “meet”? Tens of thousands, certainly–maybe even millions. How would you even begin to count them?

How many of these fictional characters pray? Go to church? Read the Bible? How many of them ever think of God, talk about God with other characters, or try to please Him, or avoid displeasing Him?

Yes, there is a category of books on the market labeled “Christian fiction.” In some of these, regrettably, “Christianity” is just slapped on, like a decal: the story could just as easily roll on without it. And we have “Christian” stuff that simply imitates the secular world’s popular arts–Christian rock, Christian rap, the Left Behind books and movies, and so on.

All well and good, but this is only a very small share of the market. Most people can go to the movies every week and watch TV every night without stumbling over anything “Christian.”

I wonder what’s the overall effect on our culture of a steady diet of God-free fiction. (Note that I’ve left out the sub-genre of fiction that is explicitly anti-Christian.) To what degree do people learn from TV and movie characters how to behave? There’s a frightening thought. Add to this our totally God-free public education, and flavor the mix with feel-good-about-your-all-important-self churches and quasi-pagan social-justice “mainline” churches, and you’ve got a popular culture that’s in deep, deep trouble.

But then who would ever worry about none of that religion stuff being in our entertainment media, anyhow?

6 comments on “Godless Fiction

  1. You make a very valid point. I’m reminded of what an eleven year-old girl once said when someone came in and shot/murdered multiple people in her black church. When she was asked by a reporter if she was scared she answered, “No, I thought it was just a movie.” Originally, our public schools taught children to read right from the Bible. At some point, along the way, we forgot the original intent of having the common man know how to read. Now, our schools have our children enter a fantasy world as part of learning to read. It’s a huge mistake and it isn’t good for our country.

  2. Cherrill, you are right as rain. The public school establishment has always boosted the Harry Potter books. Scholastic Press and the public schools also promoted Philip Pulman’s atheistic fantasy trilogy.

    Fantasy is very powerful stuff, and very easy to misuse. But the time has long since passed when we could trust public “educators” to do anything right.

  3. I don’t know which is more galling to my sensibilities, the lack of God in everyday life, or some of the people proclaiming their Christianity loudly, while living lives which seem to be at odds with biblical principles.

    As I recall, there is supposedly a Christian porn actress out there these days. Considering the moral standards of the Bible, I find this a bit difficult to reconcile.

    Some of the Christian entertainment out there strikes me as questionable, at best. I recall seeing an interview with a Christian Rock performer whom looked and sounded about the same as most secular Rock musicians. Christianity has always been known for its transformative power, but this guy didn’t strike me as having been transformed or having left the Godless World behind.

    I will not mention any specific names, but one secular performer who was in the news recently had made a big deal of his conversion and promoted a set of beliefs which include very strict moral guidelines. Yet he lived an obviously immoral lifestyle and was known to abuse drugs frequently.

    Sometimes I get the impression that religious leaders are so eager to accept someone famous into their midst that they cast a blind eye towards the moral conduct of such converts. I can’t help but wonder if copious monetary donations don’t play a role in this matter, as well.

    Movie makers recently discovered that there is a vast market for movies labeled as being Christian. Some of these may well be fine movies, but just because someone slapped a label of “Christian” on a movie does not mean we should automatically accept everything in that movie as being acceptable Christian behavior. There is no better way of subverting beliefs than to portray a character as a positive Christian example while they are engaging in conduct which is antithetical to Christianity.

    The Amish, for the most part, will not allow their homes to be connected to the outside world via a wire. They is why most orduns do not allow telephones inside a home, although some allow telephones in a detached “phone booth”. Their reason for this is to maintain separateness from the World at large.

    Our modern world is a world of connectedness. With a 9″ x 7″ tablet computer in my hands, I am connected to almost anyplace on earth. I can send or receive email from pretty much anywhere at any time. One of the biggest challenges of our day is finding a way to escape being connected. Cell phones, tablets and the Internet keep us connected 24x7x365. While I’m not advocating the Amish/Mennonite approach to life, I have to admire the fact that they, at the very least, seem to remember that Christians are chosen out of the world (John 15:18-19).

    I enjoy comfort and security as much as anyone, but we are living in a world which is not friendly to Christianity. Years ago, I remember speaking with a fellow that spoke about his reaction to the Beatles phenomena at the time. Beatlemania was a perfect way to undermine Christian values, packaged in a manner that was appealing to a lot of people. The Beatles were great musicians, affable, funny when interviewed and seemed pretty harmless at the time. But they proved to be the first wave of a form of entertainment which was devoid of spiritual values, apart from vague Peace & Love messages, which once again, had mass appeal.

    When entertainers claim their product to be Christian, yet it imitates this world, is there not a fundamental conflict? Most of the Christian Rock I’ve heard is sonically indistinguishable from secular Rock. My point here is that the mood is not really any different. Much of Rock music trades in anger; is this the stock and trade of Christian music? I’m as outraged by the evil in the world as anyone, but the answer to these problems comes from Above, not from human efforts. It’s a slippery slope when we try to imitate this Godless world.

  4. I used to half-joke with my students that as far as I was concerned, drama ended with the closing of the theaters in England in 1642, fiction ended with the death of Dickens in 1870, and poetry ended at the beginning of World War II. Notice that I was only half-joking. Since most of my reading stays in those earlier periods, though (except for mysteries, which now seem to me to have ended in 1990), I’m usually in a Christian environment. 🙂

    Speaking of mysteries, more and more I find myself taking home a sack of them from the library every week or two and returning most of them only partly read. Sometimes the problem is just plain bad writing — what could their editors have been thinking? — but often it’s that the characters seem obnoxious to me, even though they’re apparently supposed to be charming and/or “enlightened.” (In fact, the “enlightened” ones are the most obnoxious.) And I read mostly “cozies” or classic whodunits, not hard-boiled detective fiction.

    But even in the ones I pretty much like — well written, with enjoyable characters — I often find disturbing things. For example, two series that I’ve followed all the way through have heroines who go to church and even get involved in church fundraisers, but both of them have had affairs. They’ve wound up, many books later, marrying their lovers, but they’ve still been sleeping with someone they’re not married to through most of the series. And one of them is a widow who still has all three of her children living at home, and at least the oldest two must have gathered what was going on all that time. And all the other ethical decisions the characters make seem to be based on some nebulous idea of what’s nice rather than any love of God or knowledge of sin. So it’s possible to have church present in a novel without having God there. In these cases, church is merely a social activity or a place to get a good feeling.

    Anyway, I still do like several of these older series — at least they don’t have any graphic sex or violence in them — but I do get disturbed every time a churchgoer runs off to go to bed with her boyfriend or breaks into someone’s property to find a clue.

    1. That’s quite similar to my experiences. Even the most innocuous fiction, these days, seems to be rooted in immorality. I avoid the immorality of this fallen world in real,life, why should I read about it in fiction? At the end of the experience, whether reading or watching a movie, it’s tiring to have to fend off the torrent of Godlessness.

      Perhaps a month or so back, I mentioned a CBC program called Anne, With an E, a modern “rethinking” of Anne of Green Gables. While the actress portraying Anne brought amazing charm to the role, the modern rethinking burdened the story with the negativity of modern notions. It wasn’t a delightful story of a plucky orphan girl so much as that of a traumatized PTSD survivor. It was no longer uplifting or inspring, in my eyes. Instead, I found it disturbing and wearisome.

      The problem is, much in the way of modern entertainment is likewise disturbing and wearisome. There seems to be no comic relief, no lighthearted moments, no refractory period for the emotions of the audience. The consumer is not likely to find much in the way of recreation (think about the base meaning of the word) in today’s entertainment.

    2. Well, Miss Marple would never do that!

      My rule is simple: if the story can stand without “the religious stuff,” then all you’ve done (as a writer) is to slap some Christian decals onto your work.

      We read a lot of mysteries here at Chez Leester–but they’re all oldies.

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