Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Read and Learn -- Faith in the Secular

Since I answered Miranda's call for help on this blogring more than four years ago, I have been reading a lot of overtly Christian books. Since I bought Kindle almost exactly 1 year ago, I have just been reading a lot -- of everything. I have always been a reader, but my reading had slowed down considerably -- until Kindle. Why is a question with a complicated answer, but it does not appear to be an unusual response to a Kindle.

Anyway, this significant increase in reading first overtly Christian books and then just lots of books made me notice something I wasn't expecting. I almost find the best arguments in support of religion and faith in the pages of books that don't mention either. A few months ago I finished a really good fantasy novel. It was set in a world where faith and religion were simply not players. There was no mention of either in the book. What struck me most strongly about the book, the characters and the worldview was how empty they were; how devoid of meaning.

So, I started paying attention. QG and I both read the same book last summer that was a biography of a woman connected to Pope Innocent X. One thing that really got both of our attention was the complete lack of interest, or recognition, on the part of the author of the extent to which the actions described in the book were antithetical to the teachings of the New Testament. That lack of a Christian perspective in a book that wasn't a Christian book but was closely tied to a religious institution had one effect on QG and me, but it would have a very different effect on someone who was not Christian.

Last weekend I finished a fantasy trilogy that included a religion of its own making. That brings with it its own interesting perspective. Science fiction and fantasy become more than just stories when they use their world building to jolt us out of our established opinions and perspectives to make us look with new eyes at what it means to be human. It is rare for genre books to use that strength to examine the role of faith and religion, but they can do it very well.

Finally, I am currently reading a book with a church group that makes frequent mention of teaching a college religious study course using multiple movies with religious subjects and looking at the different ways those movies tell their stories.

In an increasingly secular world, how do we find new ways to use the secular to help others see the divine?


1 comment:

Quotidian Grace said...

Excellent post, JS.

Another good question is how in an increasingly secular society can we get people familiar enough with basic Christian theology that they can analyze and recognize these themes in secular books and movies?