‘When is a Good Book not so Good?’ (2015)

Image result for images of the graveyard book

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by claiming that everything I read for pleasure is theologically right. But I do grapple with the notion that all “entertainment” is a form of self-education, and I do think we have to be careful with stuff like this:


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.