Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It Just Can't Be

I wrote yesterday about how a Christian book should allow a Christian reader to learn from the failures of the characters so that the Christian will know how to stand when his faith is tried. I can’t help but think of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. That book showed us some very great failures that were happening in America. Uncle Tom was a Christian—a Baptist, if I recall—but he was a slave. He had a good master, but his master had to sell him. Throughout the book, Tom moved from plantation to plantation, sometimes treated well, but frequently mistreated. He eventually made it back to the good master, but it was too late and he died from mistreatment. People who read that book were able to learn from the mistakes that were made and it helped to bring an end to legal slavery in America.

Some of the slave owners back then were not bad people. Some treated their slaves well. Though we remember the mistreatment of the slaves, many of the people of that day saw nothing wrong with what they were doing. It took a book like Uncle Tom’s Cabin to help people see that even though they thought they were doing okay, they could do better. Just because some masters treated their slaves well didn’t mean that obedient Christian slaves like Tom wouldn’t die under the yoke of slavery.

We need novels like that. We need novels that work like a mirror to show us things about ourselves that are uncomfortable for us to admit. The beauty of fiction is that it doesn’t come right out and tell us how the author thinks we ought to be, but it shows us characters who are copies of ourselves and through their lives it shows us the problems we may face if we continue on the path we are on. It may be a warning to turn around and go back or it may encourage us to continue in the way we are going.
Someone said that a novel must have something that just can’t be. When the thing that just can’t be in the character’s life is something that is in our life or will be if we’re not careful, fiction can show us how to fix that thing in our own life and world.