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The Sacredness of Stories in the Modern Age

I recently attended a conference called Doxacon Prime. It is an annual conference that explores fantasy and science fiction from a Christian perspective. The Doxacon organizers bill the event as a place where “Faith and Truth meet Science Fiction and Fantasy.”

I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with author John Granger, an Orthodox Christian and a leading authority on the Christian elements within the Harry Potter series. We had a fascinating conversation about stories, our consciences, their relationship, and the overall importance of stories in today’s culture. So much of what we discussed got my synapses firing and I mention John specifically because this blog and its content are based largely on ideas he either shared or we jointly discussed.

Stories are just as important in today’s culture as they have always been and perhaps even more so. They are often how we learn truth - not fact, but truth. Much of the deeper truths of Christianity come to us through stories. Christ taught primarily through the Parables. Even prior to Christianity, much truth was conveyed through story. So much so that the Church did not reject pagan myths and stories as much as it illuminated and completed the elements of truth in them in light of the fullness of the truth of Christ.

For nearly two centuries, most English literature was based on Christian truth. It is only fairly recently that literature (if you can even refer to some of today’s fiction as such) became simply intended for entertainment. Books, movies, television, and the Internet are all mediums now where stories are provided and the sheer amount is overwhelming. Yet, the truth still often comes through in today’s stories. But it takes discernment to see and experience the ones that still point to truth.

I wrote in my book Sacramental Living, and also discussed on my podcast Myth and Truth, how the movie The Titanic by James Cameron, one of the highest grossing movies of all time, is so much more than about a great ship sinking. It is about how Jack’s unconditional and sacrificial and redemptive love of Rose saved her, in her words, in every possible way a person can be saved. He saved her physical life and her spirit from wilting due to the hell like bondage of misguided society she was immersed in. This element of the story, the core element, is a version of the Gospel story. Cameron is not Christian nor was it likely his intent to tell a version of the Gospel story. However, if the Gospel is true, than it is true for everybody whether they are Christian or not. That means the Gospel will often shine through in stories whether the creator of the story is Christian or not, of whether he or she intended it or not.

Just like The Titanic, this holds true for another popular set of movies, the Star Wars saga. George Lucas was raised Methodist and is now Buddhist (if articles about him are factually correct). However, the Star Wars saga also has many Christian elements not the least of which is Luke’s redemption of Anakin through love and resistance to evil. These movies move people’s hearts tremendously. Many books do as well. For example, The Tale of Two Cities, The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series regularly top the lists of the best and most popular books of all time. Each of these books is often re-read by millions. The reason why people (myself included) re-read these books is again because of how their hearts are stirred. That deep stirring of the heart is something that is important for us to understand and goes beyond mere emotion.