Missions Misunderstood » Blog Archive » You Are What You Read

Posted September 6th, 2006 by E. Goodman

A couple of weeks ago, David Rogers tagged me with a game that asked me to list some books I’ve read recently. It sort of made the rounds through the blogosphere (again), and many of my fellow bloggers had played along. There are categories, such as “One book that changed your life” or ” One book you’d want on a desert island.” I posted my answers on the Stepchild blog, but that’s not the point. The point is that it took me a very long time to decide what books to list, and not for lack or plenty of recently read books.

At first, I filled out the questionnaire without putting too much thought into it. Nobody really reads that blog anyway. It was while I was proof reading that I hesitated. Every book I had listed was “Christian.” Every one. I stopped to think for a second. Was “Searching For God Knows What” my favorite book ever? Would I really want to read “A New Kind of Christian” over and over if I was stranded on a desert island? Had any “Christian” book made me laugh (on purpose), ever?

My mind flipped through the pages of some of the great literature I’ve had the privilege of reading (and -in the case of university- skimming): Dickens, Hawthorne, Steinbeck. These guys wrote books. Most “Christian” books are glorified how-to manuals or sermons I’d never sit through. They don’t really move you, and if they do, it’s likely because you’ve been lulled into a “Christian” coma by the garbage they sell in the local Bible bookstore.

How else can you explain 16 books in the “Left Behind” series?

So I went back to the book list game, and I filled in the blanks with non”Christian” books. Real books. And while I admit that I left out my favorite C.S. Lewis title just out of spite, I like to think that my “secular” list is more honest. Those are the books that have affected the way my imagination works. The best part about them, Poe and Salinger, is that they changed the way I think without actually setting out to do that.

When I think about it, nearly every “Christian” book I’ve ever read was written in an attempt to influence the way I think. It’s evident by the text (no matter what the genre) that most of the authors are trying to teach me something. From the beginning, they set out to change my mind about something. Instead of telling a story for the sake of the beauty or honesty of it, they start with an agenda and go from there. How to have a better understanding of ministry or steps toward the full Christian life. Even the biographies are trying to convince me that so-and-so was a good man or that what’s-his-name was what a Christian ought to be.

Beauty. Good story-telling. True creativity. These things, if you can find them at all in “Christian” literature, are accidental.

So I think I’m happy with my list as it stands. I did include one “Christian” book after all. Sure I’ve read some great religious books. Some have influenced me quite a bit. But despite all their zealous attempts at making me a better Christian, they remain largely forgettable compared to truly good books.

Filed under:Books, Subculture