I don't read horror books. I don't watch horror movies. I get scared really easily. But some of the scariest books for me aren't horror books. They're "realistic fiction". I read one recently that friend gave me to read called The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle. It's a secular fiction book that was published a few years ago.
It made me pause. It scared me greatly because of a story I'd heard from a friend a few months ago. Let me explain why. The Kindness of Strangers isn't really about kindness. In fact, it's about the opposite. It's basically the story of the discovery a neighbor's predatory behaviors towards neighborhood children and the sexual abuse of their own son. The book was well written as far as the actual writing goes. The characters were well developed and believable. But, at the end of the book I felt sick. I felt sick over what the bad characters in the book had done. I also felt deeply saddened about the worldview of both the characters in the book and the author.
Basically, God definitely isn't a part of the picture for the characters and I also suspect for the author as well. A few months ago, Ken Myers wrote about how Deism is the greatest threat to Christianity-- not atheism. Basically, people like the idea of believing that God created the world and even created us, but then he checked out and it's up to us. We can do whatever we want and have the good feeling that someone is watching out for us. After reading what Myers wrote, I increasingly became aware of how much we hear this message: "The truth and wisdom is in you. You have the strength that you need. You can be whoever you want to be. All that you need is in you. Everything will work out in the end."
The characters in this book endure immense suffering and in the end survive and are okay. Life's not perfect, but it's good. Yet, God never entered the picture. The characters mention going to synagogue a few times several years before the story takes place and the belief that they should do good to others if they are able. I believe that what an author believes shapes what they write. That's why I look closely at the dedications, forwards, and acknowledgments that they write. My husband thinks I'm silly for doing this. In this case, the author mentions thanking a woman for affirming her belief that there are angels watching over. I feel like the idea of "guardian angels" is really people wanting some idea of God that feels good without the idea of sin or any consequences when we do something wrong. I know that the Bible says there are angels and I do believe there are angels, but I also think that the way our culture portrays "guardian angels" isn't biblical.
A few months ago, our pastor started preaching through the Psalms. I remember him preaching on Psalm 2 and talking about what it means to rage against God--to take Him out of the picture. The sermon articulated something I'd been seeing in a lot of books I'd been reading. One of the books that particularly stood out to me was "Eight Keys" by Susanne La Fleur (http://lovetopaint.blogspot.com/2011/08/well-written-but.html) I wrote this sentence in that review "But, these keys all point to one truth that the author puts forth--that the answers to life were all inside of her. "
Since then, I feel like I've been seeing this message everywhere. The message that the answer are in you--you have the strength you need. God's taken out of the picture. And that's a really bad thing. It's like opening a present and not thanking the person who gave it to you. Or It's not, "God gives us wisdom" or "We can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" or "God is our strength". My concern is how this affects us as adults when we're bombarded by this message, but also how it affects our children when they're bombarded in it--in very "kid friendly" language. It seems so benign! But, really, it seems to be an offshoot of the idea of self esteem. It's the message that kids can do anything they want to--and God's just not mentioned. And by not not mentioning Him over and over, the message is sent to them that they don't need Him.
As parents we want to shelter our kids and hide them from these messages, but that won't work. We can't live in fear of the world and what it says. After really struggling with The Kindness of Stranger, I went to my pastor to talk to him about it. He said that we can't live in fear--our culture is built on fear. So, instead, we must love God and love the people in our lives. We need to know the people in our corner of the world, but we can't take on the world's problems all by ourselves.
So, instead, we take one step at a time. We remind our children daily of what God did.
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.[a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
We share with our children that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. We remind them that sometimes people forget God and it's important that we not ever do that. We help them see what the world is telling them and learn to discern the truth and the lies. At least this is my hope. This is what I want to do with my kids.
Recently a friend asked me about how a dear Christian lady I know is doing. One of her children is going through some hard things right now and making some choices that have horrible consequences. I explained that she isn't worried about the physical consequences as much as she is about the heart of her child that has turned away from God.
It has taken me several years to understand this, but I think I'm coming around. Another friend shared a story with me about some young adults who are on track as far as the world is concerned--doing well in school and their jobs. But, then stories of how they saw others crept in and I saw that what I had thought was most important for so long really isn't. A man can have everything the world sees as valuable, but without God, it's nothing.
And now I really must end because I'm afraid I've rambled on again far too long. If you made it to the end of it, I hope it made some semblance of sense, but if not, please accept my apologies.