Sunday, May 30, 2010

What Do Fiction Books Say About Our Culture?

One of the things that reading so many books this year has made me do is to look closer at what I read and what messages it sends people about the culture we live in.  I read a book in which everyone in the book lived with other people before marriage and it was inferred that they had sex outside of marriage.  But, all of the characters went to church and it was never stated in the book that it wasn't a good idea to live with people or have sex outside of marriage.  Does this book send a message to people that it's okay?  Yes.  Do we all sin?  Yes and I didn't expect the characters to be perfect. But, in a Christian fiction book, I do expect for there to be lessons learned.  And to not address that particular issue at all made me very sad about what it would convey to readers.  When we see something in the culture around us over and over, we begin to think that it is normal and okay.

When Jennifer Knapp was interviewed by Larry King, I remember her talking about how God wants her to be happy.  She believed that it is not a sin for her to live in a lesbian relationship.  

One of my friends was recently talking about the Twilight movies with me and she explained the situation with the vampires.  That there were vampires who chose to give in to their desires and then there were vampires who chose to abstain and control their desires because they knew they were wrong.

As a culture we justify things by looking to examples of how we are choosing to live as support for our choices.  We use these examples to justify choices that we know to be unwise.

But, there's another matter that I'm beginning to realize that as a culture we have begun to accept and think is okay.

I think I've read about 25 books this year so far.  I can think of 5 Christian Fiction books that I've read and there was a common thread between them.  It was that the main character dates someone who isn't a believer.  In one of the books, the gal considers dating someone who isn't a believer, but then stays true to her boyfriend who does believe in God.  Of the other four, the people who don't know the Lord do come to believe in the Lord and become Christians.

Is this a new idea?  If you are a Christian and date an unbeliever, then they will be saved.

No, it isn't a new idea.  I remember back when I was in high school and college that it was something that came up.  It came up for me personally when I was about to graduate high school.  The interesting thing is--I had a lot of doubts about God at the time.  Even so, I went on a date one night with someone who wasn't a Christian and the next with someone who really did believe in God.  I felt God made it abundantly clear to me who I should and shouldn't date.  The guy the first night was fake and he was very concerned with how he looked to the world.  The guy the second night just wanted to have the best prom ever with his friends.  And it truly was an amazing date!

Just before my senior year in college, I truly surrendered my heart to the Lord.  I'd always believed in God before then, but had had doubts.  Then, God was gracious to me and washed my heart clean.

After college, I did a crazy thing.  I went on a lot of first dates.  Actually 24 of them.  But, no second dates. And the only guy who stood me up was a guy who didn't believe in God.  (He actually stood me up twice, because I gave him the benefit of the doubt!).  I didn't want to go on any second dates unless I really felt I wanted to date the guy seriously.

After that first year, I didn't date as much.  I had a boyfriend for a few months and then he broke up with me.  It took me a year or two to recover-- my heart hurt as much from what he said when he broke up with me as because I truly had fallen for him.

I remember the Christmas before my husband and I started dating.  My cousins asked me what I was looking for in a guy.  I gave them a list of things and then said... "and he needs to be a Christian."  They looked at me like I was weird.  But, I knew that I felt strongly about that.

Why did I feel strongly about it?  Why did it even matter whether I dated and married someone who was a Christian?  Do I feel differently about it now?  Obviously all of the authors of these books must think that it's okay or that it's a very romantic idea...  The basic plot:  Christian meets non Christian; they start to date; Unbeliever comes to know the Lord and gets saved; Christian is now dating/marries a Christian.

I grew up with a mom who loved the Lord and a dad who told me that religion is the opiate of the masses.  I remember telling my cousins that the reason why I didn't want to marry someone who wasn't a Christian is that I had seen what happened in my parents marriage.  The interesting thing was that my dad thinks he is a Christian.  But, his definition is a little different than mine.  He believe that a Christian is a person who lives a good life--it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ.  I believe that a Christian believes John 3:16.  If they had asked me to articulate more why it mattered, I don't think I could have answered them then.

But, now I could.

Who holds a marriage together?  God.  Not me and not my husband.  Without God in our lives, there are many times that I know our marriage would have fallen a part.  If someone were to ask me why they should or shouldn't date someone who is a Christian (if he or she was), I would say a couple of things.

1) I watched my parents for 18 years live unequally yoked.  There was a constant strain in my parents' marriage because my dad didn't support us going to church or believe in God.  He belittled my mom's belief in God.  My brother didn't go any more to church after 2nd grade, only my mom and I chose to go.  It would be easy to say "Well, that was just your parent's marriage."  True, it was.  But, even in the most congenial of marriages, when you aren't both believers, there is a huge whole in your lives, because the unbeliever isn't seeking God.  So, what's left for them to seek?  Themselves and the happiness of their spouse and family?  The spouse who does believe often has a hard time going to church, whether because of feeling guilty, or wanting to spend time with the other person, or because of actual pressure on the part of their spouse not to go.

2) The first time you get into a big fight--I mean a big fight and you want to walk away--there isn't anything holding you back from not doing just that.  God isn't there to hold the two of you together.  The one who believes might stay, but the other might.  I remember several fights my husband and I have had over the years (we are both strong willed, so it was inevitable) and the tears I've cried to the Lord.  I have been reminded many times of the certainty that I knew my husband was the man I was supposed to marry--that God had made that clear to me in my heart when I prayed about it.

3) It matters in the little things.  What you both think about money and tithing.  What you think about how to raise your kids.  When your spouse wants to sleep in on Sunday morning and you do too, so you let going to church slide.  Fellowship with other believers is important and without it you will slide, too.  Another not so little thing...what you want out of your marriage.  Two months into our marriage, I felt God point out to me that if I was in my marriage for what I "deserved" then that would be a slippery slope headed towards divorce.

As a Christian, we don't get married because of what we "need" and "deserve" (ie.  deserving/needing to be happy).  I think we get married, because it is the path that God has laid before us and he has orchestrated it to bring glory to Him.  Our purpose as believers is to glorify God by loving others well.  I love I John when it says that no one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, then his love is made complete in us.  What I'm trying to say I suppose is that as a believer, getting married isn't just a selfish thing.  It is about God.

A cord of three strands is not easily broken as the Bible says--God, Man, and Wife.  3 strands.  It isn't the same without God in the picture.  2 isn't as strong as 3.

I need to run, but hopefully, this entry makes sense.  I can hear my little two and four year olds crying.

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