Christian Libertarians Need to Stop Ignoring the Persuasive Influence of Fiction

Why Fiction Should Be Taken More Seriously Among Christian Libertarians

“There is a time for stories, and there is a time for rational arguments, and the skill we need lies in knowing which to use, and when.” — Os Guinnesse

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I recently came across an article by Mark Tapson who wrote:

“The most compelling science fiction is that in which the core of the story is not the threat of hostile aliens or Death Stars, but the dangers posed by our own humanity.”

And there are few better examples of such compelling science fiction than the old Twilight Zone series where Rod Serling often used fictional threats—like aliens—to shine a penetrating light on real-life threats. Serling even conceded:

“I found that it was all right to have Martians saying things Democrats and Republicans could never say.”

But where are those storytellers like Serling today? Where are those men and women who are cleverly adept at using the vehicle of fiction to share far deeper truths to a much wider audience who would otherwise not be interested in seeking out those truths?

Dare I suggest, they’re all around us?

They’re the lesser-known Christian and libertarian authors whose books we give little regard to, but whom we should familiarize ourselves with because — after all — who better understands “the dangers posed by our own humanity” than Christians and libertarians?

THE POWER OF FICTION

Non-Christian readers who would never read books such as John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, JC Ryle’s Holiness, or John Owens’ Mortification of Sin, have thoroughly enjoyed CS Lewis’ entire Chronicles of Narnia series. Likewise, many professing Christians who would never read a book on practical witchcraft, happily own the entire Harry Potter series.

So, what’s the common denominator? What would persuade an agnostic to read books with religious themes, and what would attract a Christian to read books with occultic themes? The answer is remarkably simple: a compelling story, well told.

Humans love stories. We’re drawn to them — enchanted by them actually — and although non-fiction books are great, there’s something deeply intoxicating about a well-crafted fictional tale.

And when it comes to changing the world around us, it could be argued that fiction has been more successful at influencing readers than most non-fiction.

Image Courtesy of Tom Hermans via Unsplash

The use of storytelling, be it in books, movies, television, art, or music, has long been a catalyst for change in our culture, because, as Francis Schaefer once observed:

“For many, what they see on television is more true than what they see with their eyes in the external world.”

But why is this true?

Nancy Pearcey, in her book Saving Leonardo, attempts to answer this question:

“T.S. Elliot once noted that the serious books we read do not influence us nearly as much as the books we read for fun (or the movies we watch for entertainment). Why? Because when we are relaxing, our guard is down and we engage in the ‘suspension of disbelief’ that allows us to enter imaginatively into the story. As a result, the assumptions of the author or screenwriter may go unnoticed and seep all the more deeply into our consciousness.”

It’s through the age old art of storytelling that authors possess the power to shape the hearts and minds of others, yet today, this medium is most often neglected by Christian libertarians—if not outright ignored.

EXAMPLES OF FICTION’S INFLUENCE

Consider that two exceedingly popular, best-selling books written in the last hundred years is George Orwell’s 1984 (warning of the evils of communism) and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (often credited as a gateway drug to libertarianism for those who make it through its voluminous pages). And then consider that one of the most widely read and enduring books in the world for over 300 years has been John Bunyan’s beloved Christian classic, Pilgrim’s Progress which has sold over 200 million copies and has never been out of print since its first publication in 1678.

What do these three books have in common? They’re all works of fiction. And the truth is, as much as we may not want to admit it, they’ve all reached a broader audience than the likes of F.A Hayek, Murray Rothbard, and Frédéric Bastiat, or R.C. Sproul, Charles Spurgeon, and John MacArthur.

These three novels alone did more to introduce the world to libertarianism and the Christian faith (respectively) than most non-fiction books advocating the same ideals.

Image Courtesy of Sergio Andre via Unsplash

But why are authors who promote libertarianism and the Christian faith — through the conduit of fiction — so often ignored by those who share these same beliefs? Perhaps it’s because the allure of intellectualism is so great that most don’t feel there’s any value in trifling with fiction, even though an appeal to the likes of the aforementioned Orwell, Rand, and Bunyan would prove otherwise.

Conversely, however, our adversaries have not neglected the persuasive power of fiction, art, film, and music — they’ve actually been exploiting these areas to advance their agenda for decades. In fact, hijacking the arts was just one of their many steps designed to bring America to its knees in subjection to a Marxist dystopia.

This article is continued here.