As a Christian who loves to read, I’m often confronted with the choice to read a book that has the potential to offend my faith. I know there are strong opinions about what followers of Christ should let fill our minds: see Philippians 4:8 about dwelling on whatever is good, noble, pure, lovely, etc. But as part of the publishing industry I also feel responsible to read a wide variety of what’s out there. This invariably includes books that at least partially go against the stamp of “good, noble, pure or lovely.”
I’m not writing this post to define another person’s sin, cast blame, stir guilt, excuse or condone what people want to read. But I do think it’s worthy of discussion or at least taking a moment to ponder how we feel about the books we choose to read. For some, staying safely within the boundaries of Christian fiction is a wise choice. Gentle readers know their tastes and I for one am glad there are more choices than ever to meet this particular taste. The faith of a gentle reader is no less real or vital than someone who allows a wider range of reading content.
It’s a bit like drinking wine. There are some households, either by tradition or culture, where wine might be a casual part of a meal. Other households, by different traditions or culture, wouldn’t dream of allowing an alcoholic beverage inside their home. Is one wrong and the other right?
The Bible answers this for us: it’s only wrong to drink or to eat something if we’re in the company of someone who would be offended by such consumption. In other words, it’s all about love. Loving others so much we wouldn’t want to do something that offends them. The Bible doesn’t say drinking wine would offend God so long as we don’t get drunk, but we’d certainly be offending Him if we didn’t have a heart toward those we’re with.
If I’m a Christian I’ve surrendered my mind to a loving God, and my body is a temple. I want to keep myself pure in mind and body, so hasn’t this topic to do with caring for myself properly? That may be why some people neither drink wine nor read books containing “edgy” material. Would reading something that offends God be a sin?
I do think we need to ask God where He wants us to draw the line—I’m not going to draw that line for others. Personally, I don’t read erotica, excessive violence, or anything promoting the occult. While reading such books might provide an education of sorts, it’s not likely to be the kind of education I will want to employ, either in life or in the fictional lives of my characters. But would it be a sin for me to read such things? I suppose that would depend on why I’d be reading them. To understand someone who is interested in such things? Would it honestly be necessary for me to expose myself to something so far outside my comfort zone? If I saw no value in reading such things but read them anyway, it probably would be a sin—for me.
I belong to a secular book club where we often read books that, while magnificently written, include Christian characters that are judgmental, mean-spirited, narrow-minded—so many, in fact, I believe this kind of portrayal is patently cliché in secular fiction. But if I’d excused myself from reading such books I’d not only have missed out on being part of a group of young women I enjoy getting to know, I’d have missed some wonderful books, too. Books that taught me not only how lovely writing can be, but gave me a glimpse into a variety of mindsets I most likely wouldn’t have been otherwise able to explore.
So what about you? Do you have a line as far as what you won’t read? Do you put down a book that wouldn’t likely be something God would read were He to be sitting right next to you? Do you have a limit, and if so would you like to share it with us?