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

Image Courtesy of Patrick Fore via Unsplash

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.

Book recommendation: “The Giant Killer” by A.L.O.E.

I recently finished reading an intriguing story by ALOE (A Lady Of England) to my children entitled, The Giant Killer (1856).

This allegorical tale (told in a fashion similar to Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress) is about a noble knight named Fides who battles giant sins such as Giant Untruth, Giant Hate, and Giant Pride. Reading this to my children gave us much to talk about and helped them understand the battles with sin that we all face.

Lamplighter Publishing describes the book as follows:

The battle continues to rage, day by day and moment by moment. But must we meet the enemy blindfolded? In order to subdue, we must see the real foe; in order to conquer, we must face the true enemy. Through this allegorical tale, we will be better equipped to recognize, then to effectively slay, the many Giants who confront us. We will break through the web of Sloth, struggle out of the pit of Selfishness, choke up the fount of Anger, flee the secret lurking-place of Untruth, and triumph over our most malicious enemy—Pride. The Giant Killer is the tool to reach for if you or your loved ones need encouragement or confidence to enter into the battlefield once again. If you feel that you have nothing firm upon which to lay hold, this book will help you to grasp the strong cord of Love as your means of safety and deliverance.

And here is a reader’s review:

Another wonderful book from Lamplighter Publishing, The Giant Killer is an allegorical story of Christian warfare. Constantine and Adolphus, twin brothers, are sent to live with the Roby family to have Mr. Roby educate them. The spoiled 10-year-olds have much to learn about kindness, thankfulness, and manners. Mrs. Roby teaches these children and her own about godly character traits through stories about “The Giant Killer.” The Giant Killer must fight and conquer the Giants of Sloth, Selfishness, Untruth, Hate and Pride with the sword and armor given to him by his King. Your children will learn as these fictional children did to fight the enemies of the King that are in their own hearts.

Although this is not the best Lamplighter book I’ve ever read (The Basket of Flowers still holds the position of number one for me), it is still a good book that I recommend, and espeically for Christian parents to read to their children.

Book recommendation: “The White Dove” by Christoph Von Schmid

I recently read this wonderful story to my kids. The White Dove is another great book from Christoph Von Schmid, the author of The Basket of Flowers

And although I believe Von Scmid’s The Basket of Flowers was better than The White Dove (in fact I consider The Basket of Flowers my favorite piece of Christian literature, even above that of  John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress), Von Schmid did not fail to deliver another great tale steeped in Christian truths.

This book, written in 1841, is filled with Scripture, and is a testament to God’s sovereignty (both of which is rare to find in today’s modern Christian literature market).

You can find The White Dove here at Lamplighter Publishing where they describe the book as:

“Filled with the intrigue of knights and nobles, thieves and robbers, this is a story of friendship and sacrifice. A little girl agrees to give up her precious white dove to prove her friendship, and lives are miraculously saved.”

And here are some reviews:

White Dove
I just wish the book was longer. Thats how good it is.
– Deborah Ong, CA
We read it in one sitting!
I wondered that my eight-year-old wasnt understanding the plot with the rich language of the writing, but she could recite it all back to me. We both loved this book! It was so full of Gods love and promises to us. I highly recommend it!
– Daphene, NC
Friendship and Love
This is a tender story of love, friendship, and Gods faithful provisions. My children begged for another chapter. A beautiful story.
– Becky Emerick, IN
Gods Great Providence
When Agnes finds a dove she mercifully spares its life and in turn it saves her and her entire family. This is a book about sacrifice, mercy, compassion, selflessness, love, and adventure.
– A. Ray, NC

Book recommendation: “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom.

I recently finished Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place (the audiobook version) and was left shaken.

From the depths of human depravity to the heights of human compassion, the love of God and the gospel of Christ permeates our fallen world but we oftentimes fail to see it until we are under intense suffering (and even then we often miss it).

This book is bursting at the seams with biblical truths. One example is when Corrie refuses to accept her sister Betsie’s admonition from 1 Thessalonians 5 (to give thanks in all things) when it came to the fleas infesting their prison camp barracks. Corrie simply could find no reason to be thankful to God for the biting insects. That was until she discovered that the Nazi guards refused to step into their barracks because of the fleas, providing them the ability to hold daily Bible studies with the other prisoners without fear of being discovered.

The fact that this book is a true story makes it even more powerful. I was moved by it and enjoyed it even more than The Diary of Anne Frank. I highly recommend The Hiding Place and it is now on my required reading list for my children.

My only regret is that I never read this book earlier in my life.

Redeeming a vampire?

Vampire Not satisfied with the drivel that is known as the majority of what passes as Christian literature today, (obviously a reflection of what’s oozing from most pulpits), the Christian publishing world has long abandoned classic Christian literature like that found in the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s.

Today, the Christian book publishing world is moving in directions that begs the question how they can still use the name “Christian.”

According to this news article, meet the new face of “Christian” literature:

Other Christian fiction shows growing sophistication. No longer must characters follow a predictable path to salvation, for instance. The heroine of Nicole Baart’s “The Moment Between,” published by Tyndale, is not a conventional believer but a spiritual seeker; the novel is set in a vineyard and deals with a suicide.

And as if it couldn’t get worse . . . it does:

Even as Christian publishing suffers during the recession — one study found net sales for Christian retailers were down almost 11 percent in 2008 — several publishing houses are adding or expanding their fiction lines with both the tame (Amish heroines) and boundary-pushing (Christian vampire lit).

You heard right: “Christian vampire lit.” I never dreamed I’d ever in my life use those words in the same sentence.

More on “Christian vampire lit”:

On Sept. 15, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group will release its take on vampires in “Thirsty,” by Christian chick-lit author Tracey Bateman. Not surprisingly, the marketing material mentions “Twilight,” the hit vampire book series and movie whose abstinence message resonated with many evangelicals.

Bateman’s vampire, Markus, is a character but also a metaphor for demons anyone must overcome, said Shannon Marchese, an editor at WaterBrook Multnomah who sought out Bateman for the project. The object of his obsession, Nina, is a divorced alcoholic dealing with addiction.

“These are themes that work in the Christian life,” Marchese said. “You have to fight to say, ‘Am I going to choose unconditional love and redemption or a life of following obsessions, a life with holes in it?”

Still, challenges exist beyond what to do with dripping fangs (they were edited out). On the theological front, questions lurk about whether a creature both alive and dead has a soul that can be saved.

“I think we can redeem a vampire,” said Bateman, adding that she won’t be a spoiler and disclose her character’s fate. “I don’t think this is a despair too dark to pull out of.”

The problem in the world of Christian publishing and bookstores can be summed up with the last line in this quote:

“If you look at ‘Left Behind,’ the moon turns to blood and one-third of the people die,” said Karen Watson, associate publisher, fiction, for Tyndale House, which published the series. “Or you have people with bonnets on drawing water from the well. It just tells me there are a wide range of things you can talk about, and Christian books can be a lot of things.”

It seems “Christian books” are a lot of things, but Christian.

If you enjoy good Christian fiction (without vampires) but cannot stand the garbage that passes as today’s Christian literature, I cannot recommend enough the book Basket of Flowers by Christoph von Schmid. And needless to say, you probably won’t find it in your local Christian bookstore!

Book Review: “The Basket of Flowers” by Christoph von Schmid.

the-basket-of-flowersWhat can I say about this book other than I absolutely loved it. This was the very first book published in the Lamplighter series and was the Lamplighter series “book of the year” in 1996. This continues to be my favorite Lamplighter book (see all Lamplighter books here) and is easily one of my favorite books of all time. I couldn’t put it down and now I can’t stop raving about it.

I was skeptical at first–reading a book first published in 1878 with the title The Basket of Flowers tends to lead one to believe it’s chick-lit (for lack of a better term). However, was I very, very surprised.

This is Christian literature at its finest. Each chapter imparts lifelong lessons and leaves you feeling like you just received a doctrinally sound sermon. The gripping story drives home the lesson to remain faithful and thankful to God even in the midst of great trials and especially when standing in the face of false accusation and persecution for crimes you didn’t commit. I cannot recommend this book enough for the Christian reader and even Dr. Tedd Tripp (who wrote Shepherding a Child’s Heart) wrote an endorsement for the book on page 4.

This book needs to be on the bookshelf in every Christian home and read by young and old, boy and girl, mother and father. You and your family will not be disappointed.

The publisher says:

This first book of the Lamplighter Rare Collector Series continues to be a best-seller. James, the king’s gardener, teaches his 15-year-old daughter Mary all the principles of godliness through his flowers. She is falsely accused of stealing, and the penalty is death. Mary remembers what her father had taught her: that it is better to die for the truth than to live for a lie, and that the worst pillow to sleep on is the pillow of a guilty conscience! This story will change your life forever!

Vision Forum says:

Within this simple, unassuming book is an inspirational story for young ladies not to be rivaled by any of the novels currently circulating in Christian bookstores. Set in Germany 100 years ago, The Basket of Flowers is the tale of a godly young woman and her father who wrongly suffer great persecution, but who learn to trust the sovereign hand of God through every difficult circumstance. My wife was so transfixed by this story that she read it in one sitting.

Other reviews:

“I am giving The Basket of Flowers to my grandchildren. I have no doubt they will devour it.” -Elisabeth Elliot

“I would like to express my thanks for printing The Basket of Flowers. It is a wonderful book with many virtues we need today in this world. The The Basket of Flowers has given me a new perspective of the Bible and at the same time making a better Christian out of me and my family. Thank you so much!” -Carissa

This is the touching story of a young girl and her father. Originally written by a french author, and later translated into english, this is a book that is sure to be passed down from generation to generation. I am 12 years old and my mother just recently purchased this book for me. I wish every girl could have a copy of this book!Also recommended: The Elsie Dinsmore Series, any books by Martha Finley, any books by Oliver Optic, C.H. Pearson, or Horatio Alger Jr. Please, if you want your daughter to read wholesome, enjoyable, thought-provoking, and character building books I suggest you purchase A Basket of Flowers immediately! (Reviewer unknown)

When I fist read this book I was only 9. Having been taught to read by my great grandfather, who embodied education. This was one of his favourite books. I found it very sad and at times depressing however, it teaches one that goodness always prevails even in the shadows of death. One learns courage and the depths of love that one can have for their family. This is a book that I will forever share with my great grandfather even though he has left this earth 13 years ago. I could still smell the old hard cover text with the neat engraving on a small basket of flowers. ( I had a very old version). It’s a book that I will always cherish. – Andrea Paul McPherson

I found this book on the library shelf. It caught my eye because it was small and old looking. (I like vintage things) The first chapter into this book I instantly knew it was going to be one of my few favorites!
This tale is about a father teaching his daughter about her Heavenly Father. I am seventeen and found this book as intriguing as my favorite classic Pride and Prejudice.
What this book has to offer is character building, and a learning passion for the Lord our Father in Heaven, who always hears our prayers and cares for us far beyond our understanding! – Alli

You can purchase this book at Family Faith Books by clicking here.

What are the two most influential books in the last 500 years?

whole-lot-of-books

I’d like to pose the following question: What are the two most influential books–one for good, one for evil–from the last 500 years?

There is no right or wrong answer necessarily, but I wish to hear the opinions of DefCon readers on this query.

– What book written in the last 500 years was most influential for good, and why?

– What book written in the last 500 years was most influential for evil, and why?

I look forward to your answers.



Book Review: “Buried in the Snow” by Franz Hoffman.

buried-in-the-snowI recently completed the book Buried in the Snow by Franz Hoffman; part of the Lamplighter series of Christian literature. This is the first one of these books that I’ve read and found it to be really good. Written in 1879, it is a gripping tale that teaches great truths of the Bible and reliance upon God no matter the circumstance and to do it all without murmuring about your present trials.

The first three chapters are hard to get through. Hoffman’s use of sentences as long as a mid-summer’s day as he sets up the story made it hard to read (especially when doing it out loud for family reading time) but chapter four begins the tension and the story really unfolds from that point and becomes much easier to read. I’ve reprinted two separate book descriptions below along with a reader review comparing this book to the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away:

A boy and his grandfather come face to face with their own mortality within a tomb of snow. Reliance upon God is their only option as escape is impossible. But the story does not hinge upon the question of their rescue; what captivates is the response that each has to the circumstances that God has placed them in. When death is a constant companion, how does one view life? The ebb and flow of emotions are captivating as the boy and his grandfather fight off predators and the terror produced by the uncertainties of their snowy grave. I know of no other book that so delicately prepares children to face the death of a loved one than ‘Buried in the Snow.’

Full of twists, turns and unsuspected dangers, this book will cause you to see life from a different perspective. You will be blessed by the gentle wisdom of an old grandfather and the unconditional love of his grandson as they come face to face with one of the most difficult decisions of their lives. From the depths of despair to the pinnacle of blessing, this dramatic encounter will surely elicit a full spectrum of emotional responses.

Reader Review:

Buried in the Snow vs. Cast Away

After I read Buried In the Snow, which I greatly enjoyed, I watched the movie Cast Away starring Tom Hanks. It is a very powerful contrast. Both stories are about individual survival under desperate circumstances but the world view between them is diametrically opposed. In Buried In the Snow, Jacques becomes completely dependent on Jesus. He learns from his trials and is made stronger by the experience. Through his grandfather’s instruction and through his faith, he has the ability to deal with his grandfather’s death and burial, receiving solace in the fact that his grandfather goes knowingly and willingly to a better place. Contrast this to the “god-less” movie Cast Away in which Tom Hanks repeatedly demonstrates the humanist’s view that self is all there is – we only have our personal faculties on which to survive. Hanks never even alludes to a “highter [sic] power.” When the body of a dead pilot washes up on shore, he buries the body, then steps back and you assume he is about to give some type of blessing, but no, he simply brushes the sand from his hands and says “Well, that’s that.” Wow! Life is tough and then you die – that’s that – a worldview absent of God. I had never noticed how intentionally “absent of God” this movie was until I read Buried In the Snow. Insight is the power of well written Christian literature, always confirming that Jesus Christ is the difference between light and dark, hope and despair, truth and falsehood, life and death – just as he told us. Another note about this contrast is that Hanks has to talk to a volleyball to keep his sanity.
Jacque and his grandfather talk to a Saviour.