When is a Good Book not so Good?

I doubt there is another author living who has won the Nebula Award (best science fiction published in the US), the Hugo Award (best science fiction published anywhere), and the Newbery Medal “for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

In 2009 Neil Gaiman won the Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book. I have just read it. I found it to be highly creative, expertly written, a fast read, and very interesting. It also won’t bring you one inch nearer to Christ’s throne, and I cannot recommend it to young readers, or to adults whose minds are easily unsettled.

In accepting the medal, Gaiman told his audience that he’d patterned his book on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books. That’s easy to see. One can also detect borrowings from Dracula, from H.P. Lovecraft, and from other sources. That doesn’t make it unoriginal. No one ever wrote a worthwhile book that wasn’t inspired by another book that the writer found well worth his while.

In a nutshell, here’s the story: A serial murderer tries to wipe out a family, but the baby boy escapes miraculously and is “adopted” by the ghostly inhabitants of a nearby cemetery–just as Kipling’s Mowgli was adopted by the wolves. A vampire becomes the child’s guardian, just as Bagheera the Panther guarded Mowgli. They name the baby “Nobody,” Bod for short, and he can never leave the graveyard because the murder is still out there somewhere, waiting for him.

This is a fun read, no doubt about it. But it’s also 100% pagan. I wound up asking myself, “How could someone born and raised in a country that’s been Christian for 1,500 years write something like this?”

I mean, dude, check out your theology! No mention of God, no hint of salvation. You die and you become a ghost and you stay in your graveyard for all eternity. Whether you’ve done good or evil, the outcome is the same.

To the pure all things are pure (Titus 1:15). If you are firmly established in your Christian faith, you can enjoy something like The Graveyard Book, get some nice cheap thrills out of it, and go on to something else. It won’t hurt you. But there’s no way I’d give it to a youngster still in the formative stages of his faith (but aren’t we all?), because it’s so easy to get deflected and bamboozled by a lot of wow-i-never-thought-of-that! that wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow of anybody over 40.

O Britain! Whose missionaries carried Christianity to the ends of the earth! Is this what you have come to–cheap thrills dressed up as literature? St. Alban and St. Patrick and St. Bede, St. Edmund, St. Oswald, and St. Kentigern–behold your children in a Godless age.

We here in America pray for Britain, Lord, our mother country: knowing that things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

5 comments on “When is a Good Book not so Good?

  1. While I eschew broadcast television, I have always been up for a good novel and a quality movie. In the last few years I find it increasingly more difficult to find contemporary fiction that is not so filled with gratuitous violence, sex or paganism that I feel uncomfortable. I don’t condemn others for enjoying such materials, but I sometimes feel that I’m happier just letting it pass my by.

  2. I’m finding similar problems with mystery novels, even the so-called cozies — or maybe I should say especially the cozies. I never had much trouble with the novels in which religious belief was simply ignored, so long as the characters weren’t jumping in and out of bed with each other and/or using filthy language (both of which began happening with increasing regularity). But in recent years, I’m having to search hard for mysteries — ESPECIALLY the “cozies” — that don’t include ghosts, psychics, magic animals, witches, vampires, and other occultic characters. Apparently, it’s infra dig to believe in God, but de rigueur to believe in ghosts, psychics, witches, etc. (Hey, I just used three languages in one sentence!) Chesterton was right: To disbelieve in God isn’t to believe in nothing but instead to believe anything.

  3. You can throw in St. George also (who now is considered too militaristic so maybe the English flag should be redesigned). Ghosts don;t interest me, but i do remember enjoying Topper as a kid.

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