Why Our Faith Needs Imagination & Stories

The whole HP saga coming to an end last weekend in the 8th movie has made me nostalgic. I didn’t want the magic to end. I remember seeing Lord of the Rings for the first time in theaters (when I was in eight grade,  maybe? yikes…) and being so caught up in the wonder, the drama, the urgency and the awe. I remember The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and getting chills when Aslan spoke, majestic both in strength and tenderness.

Why do we love these stories, this magic?

(Note: Sorry, Twilight doesn’t get a mention, because it doesn’t count.)

I have to tell you about something that happened to me when I saw Voyage of the Dawn Treader when it first came out. When the movie was over and the credits started scrolling, a little girl ran down the aisle until she was right in front of the big screen. She just stood there, staring up into it, transfixed, and I thought, She wants to jump into Narnia through the movie screen just like the children were swept up through the painting! 

Maybe she wanted to rescue the seven lords, ride on Aslan’s back, or fight bravely for something good. Sooner or later a parent called out to her, and she trudged reluctantly back to reality. But the scene impressed on me how important imagination is to faith. C. S. Lewis is well-known for his spiritual parallels woven into his literary works, and I believe that telling the gospel through stories is not only good for the creative life, it also enriches the spiritual life.

Maybe because stories bring out the child-like awe in us, sharpening our senses to better understand the world. Maybe because, as Jesus once amazingly said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Matthew 11:25).

Madeleine L’Engle was another such writer whose redemptive imagination shines through works such as the beloved A Wrinkle in Time series. In her nonfiction book, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, which I highly recommend she says, “Christian art? Art is art; painting is painting; music is music; a story is a story. If it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject.”

But if it’s good art, it stands to reason it is also “good religion.” Perhaps this is why the Narnia epics are so well-loved, even by people who do not know Aslan “by another Name.”

What do you think about this idea of good art as good religion? 

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  • http://twitter.com/joshnewsom Josh Newsom

    I wrote a post about Harry Potter last week because I’m one of those Christians who absolutely loved it! But of course you have those haters who say things like “God hates Harry Potter; witchcraft, wizards, sorcery!” When those things are just a vehicle to say something about life, friendship, love, and in Harry Potter…. redemption!!! When I watched the movie, there was a point where I said “Jesus, I love you!” That may sound wierd to alot of people but art that squeezes out thoughts of Christ and what He has done is good art. Loved your post!

    • http://shequotes.wordpress.com stephindialogue

      Fortunately for us, I think the “haters” are simmering down a bit. I seem to remember a lot of that years ago when the books were still coming out, but I’m read some really encouraging articles recently about the spiritual truths that shine through the Harry Potter story. I think you’re also right, Christ is the author of the best themes in great literature: life, redemption, sacrifice, etc., and even if the work does not name Him, we can praise the source.

  • http://twitter.com/LoveLifeLitGod Karen Swallow Prior

    Good grief! How do you manage to write so many excellent and insightful posts/!?!

    I just included Walking on Water as a required text for a class I’m teaching in the fall. Good call.

    • http://shequotes.wordpress.com stephindialogue

      Ha! Thanks Karen! And I loved Walking on Water. It’s a modern classic for anyone interested in the arts! Good for you for introducing it to your students :)

  • Megan

    I’m so glad Medeleine L’Engle was included! Her writings have shaped my idea of God and the universe since I was a child. The God reflected in her creative work (and she became a Christian after she was a publishing writer) is so much larger than most of the overtly Christian fiction and non-fiction that we see carried in faith-based bookstores.

    • http://shequotes.wordpress.com stephindialogue

      I agree! She had such a beautiful vision of faith that seamlessly worked itself into her art. I really loved Many Waters by her…a novel with fictional characters but set in the time of the biblical flood, fascinating and beautiful.

  • http://lindsay-alogofmylife.blogspot.com/ Lindsay

    I can’t wait for our worship and creativity to finally be free together when we are perfect on the new earth!
    I’ve done a lot of research and many college papers on Christianity and the Arts, and I resonate and really appreciate your post. Thanks for sharing and for reminding me of how this is worth the effort.

    • http://shequotes.wordpress.com stephindialogue

      Hi Lindsay, thanks for sharing your thoughts here! If you love Christianity and the arts, I would highly recommend reading “Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts”….amazing stuff, you’ll probably appreciate it :)

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