Should Christians Read to “Escape”?

If the entertainment industry is any indication, modern man desperately needs to “escape.” It’s understandable when you consider how bleak things can
appear — globally, economically, and existentially. What better way to
forget that you don’t have a good job (if you have one at all),  your
love life stinks, your knees are shot, an asteroid just missed striking earth,
and the nuclear black market is thriving, than to get lost in a good
book or movie? It’s understandable that you’d want to escape. 

What I don’t understand is why Christians are in need of doing so. I mean, Christians
are supposed to have abundant life and be fully engaged in the world
that is. So why do they read fiction to “escape”?

Yes, I
realize there’s those who’ve challenged the idea that escapism is
fundamentally and exclusively negative. Like, J. R. R. Tolkien who wrote
in his essay “On Fairy-Stories” that escapism, in its attempt to
understand and envision a different reality, contained an element of
emancipation. C. S. Lewis was also fond of suggesting that the usual
enemies of escape were… jailers.

At the risk of sounding like
one of those jailers, I get that some reading transports us to a very
healthy place, one that fires our imagination and inspires us to right
living. It just doesn’t seem like a lot of Christians read fiction for
that reason.

I recently heard a respected CBA agent conjecture
that one of the reasons Historical fiction is so popular among Christian
readers is that during hard economic times, people want to escape. And
nothing says “escape” like petticoats, parasols, and remarkably
clean-speaking pirates. But if you’re reading because the economy sucks,
perhaps you should be reading Making Ends Meet on a Shoestring Budget rather than Love Finds You as Far Away from the Here-and-Now as Possible.

Which leads me to ask,

  • Do Christians read books to sharpen their discernment or to give it a rest?
  • Do we read books to help us engage the world, or detach from it?
  • Do we read books to add excitement to our lives, or stave off terminal boredom?
  • Do we read books to help us love our spouses more, or create expectations that will never, ever, be matched?
  • Do we read books to think more, or think less?
  • Do we read books to enrich our time, or kill time?
  • Do we read books to revel in life or forget about our crappy existence?

Listen, I can definitely “escape” by reading Buck Rogers and the Venusian Vixens. Question is whether the planet I land on will be any better than the one I’m fleeing.

Mike Duran writes supernatural thrillers. He is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin’ Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike’s novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, and an ebook novella, Winterland.  You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.