Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Should Christians read YA?

There is a debate among Christians to whether their children and teens should read YA fiction. Because of appropriateness most Christians have said no to this. This is also something, I've debated in from the very beginning. Yes, this does mean I'm a Christian. I've been going to church since I was born. And, my parents let me read anything I want. Which leads me to the debate should Christians read YA?

My youth pastor specifically told my youth group that we shouldn't read Harry Potter, Twilight, etc. A few days later, I caught a member of my youth group at B&N looking through the selection of books. Of course, I didn't tell anybody. So, there are many who have decided it is okay.

Christians believe that believers shouldn't be exposed to witchcraft, sex, violence, and more in order to be pure or holy. Well, we all know there's this and more in books nowadays!

It almost seems pointless to debate in this. I agree we shouldn't practice murder, suicide, violence etc. in real life. But, in books is it okay? How far does can it really affect me? I know I won't go murder anybody cause I read about it in a book!

The positive side of reading YA (for everybody):

  1. It gives a picture of good and evil.
  2. Teaches virtues of compassion, loyalty, and courage.
  3. Can even teach you friendship.
  4. Give you courage to try harder.
  5. They give us a positive aspect on life. (most books)
  6. Teaches character to teens.
  7. Some even help you solve life situations.
So, we can see they're not completely bad. Yes, there are some aspects of "evil", but we see those in everyday life. In my opinion, reading something not necessary Christian wouldn't influence us to do evil things, rather learn how to cope with good and evil by being the good character in real life.

Personally, I believe children should be thought by their parents not to give try the things they see or in this case read. There have been some children who have been tempted to trying occult practices they've read about in books books. That type of person should avoid books. But, a mature person with knowledge of good and evil might as well be safe to be exposed to these things.

Verdict: While there is no final answer to this debate, we can all agree that it has its pros and cons. I know if I read about suicide I won't try it. If I read about murder I won't. And so on. I will however, say that we must be very cautious about what we put in our minds and hearts.

As for me, I will choose wisely what I read and handle reading books without giving into occult practices and doing something immoral, that I might have read about in books.

On the plus side there are a variety of books with Christian themes and values.
To name a few:
  • The Dark Divine
  • Twilight (hard to believe, but yes)
  • Harry Potter (again hard to believe)
  • Once was Lost
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth
All with Christian themes in some way!
Note: I'm in no way bagging on non-christians. It's personal choice. Even if you have no religion upbringing, you still shouldn't try occult practices that you may read about in books like witchcraft.


Kelsey said...

Great post. I myself am from a Baptist upbringing, but I read a lot of "non-religious" book, like Harry Potter. My pastor has multiple times included in his sermon the cons of reading Harry Potter or books like it. I DO NOT agree with him on that point at all. I love the HP series, and in no way am I going to go out and join a spell-casting cult.

Just out of curiosity, though: Do you think Harry Potter and books like them cause people to have a greater tolerance for witchcraft?


Hull.Margaret said...

Sorry to say this, but for me reading Twilight may be an age issue..I tried reading it and couldn't finish it...but my daughter liked it..and we both love Jesus.
The bottom line for me on whether to read or not read, is it is a personal choice.

Arya said...

I agree with you completely. The thing that gets me is when people you are friends with who are religious (even the same denomination as yourself) try to act like your some kind of satanical freak for reading certain books. Books they've never cracked the cover on. Its frustrating but I think you just have to figure out what YOU in particular believe, another wonderful thing books can help you decipher.
As for the books you mentioned, I'm not an HP fan but Twilight is a bit of a guilty pleasure. I think the Twilight values sort of depend on what kind of Christian you are, but there's nothing demonic really about it. Even though some churches try to portay that.
Teen need to be exposed to different things to decide who they want to be in life. Sheltering someone won't make them a more moral person, just a flat character.

Great post!

Becky said...

My comment is purely from the perspective of a librarian. In my experience the more sometimes tells a young person not to do something, they instantly want to do it. Ban books and you can bet your bottom dollar that people will go out of their way to get their hands on them. I personally think that no book should be censored. We have a human right to read and use our imaginations.

Dani. said...

You like to debate things dont you:p

Ruthann said...

Wow! I guess I'm the odd one out for this discussion. I'm an agnostic leaning toward atheism. So I found the comments about avoiding occult books bothersome because there are so many people throughout the world that believe in that stuff and just because it doesn't fit with your view means it is wrong is, in my view, wrong. If they aren't breaking any laws or forcing someone against their will, I don't care what they do. So, in a way you are bagging non-Christians. Honestly, what Christian's do by drinking wine/water/whatever as the blood of Christ is gross and completely weird to people who are not Christian. I may even go so far as to say that in some cultures - that could be considered a type of witchcraft. I took an anthropology class last spring that was all about other cultures and that was something the Christian professor brought up. She just wanted to make people think about how one practice in a culture/belief may be seen differently to another.

As to the main topic of discussion for this post, I believe that what a child (or young adult) is reading should really be in the hands of the parents. If your religious beliefs say that reading about the occult is wrong but you aren't so sure for certain books, read the book before you let your child read it. I think teaching a child the difference between fantasy and reality are important. In the Twilight books, there is a moment when Edward goes into Bella's room and watches her sleep - which is a very stalker-ish type behavior to me and is not appropriate. If a child knows that vampires don't exist and reads this book I don't see anything wrong with it. Where I see a problem is with behavior like a 200 year old vampire falling for a 16 year old girl and other content is really where the problem is.

Don't want your children to read books with sex or swearing or any of the other thousands of things that you make take issue with? I think it really starts with reading it first yourself. And if I was a parent, I think it would then be important to explain to your teenager why you don't want them reading the book. I think take a stand that because any religious organization says no is a weak reason on today's young adults. I think even books that have witches or occult behavior in them should be seen as teaching moments for your child too.

Well... I hope that is all understandable. :) Great discussion by the way!

Amber Skye said...

As a strong Christian, I have to say that I agree with everything you said. I too have wondered about reading YA, but reading is one of my greatest passions. It helps me to put my life into perspective, not to mention that it allows me to unwind at the end of the day.

Obviously, I'm not going to go around preaching about witchcraft and murder. It's simply fantasy. What is so wrong about that?

When reading, I make a point to avoid books that contradict my faith. This doesn't mean that I don't enjoy paranormal romance or anything of the sort. In my opinion, it's ridiculous that people don't realize it's fiction. If teens read about sex in a book, that doesn't make all of them think it's acceptable.

After that little ramble, I just want to say thanks for bringing your opinions to the table. You voiced my thoughts perfectly.

Chaltab said...

It seems to me like a sort of thought control. If the would-be censors and youth pastors who try and make you afraid of Harry Potter books can convince you that reading these things is harmful, then they can suggest alternative reading material that present the point of view they agree with--and only that point of view.

Kari (Flamingo1325) said...

Okay I have to admit... I don't see the big deal about not reading YA because you're a Christian. Its fiction- it isn't something trying to sway you to do that stuff. And I'm also willing to bet that half the teens at any church are dealing with the issues in a lot of these YA books. Christians have bad parents too. Christians have sex before marriage, they drink and they do drugs. It's prevalent in teens for a reason. If someone reads a book and gets all these ideas, that isn't a Christian issue. That's a personality issue. That's the same as saying I'm Christian so I can't watch TV and movies and I need to just sit in my room and experience nothing. Books aren't asking you to shuck your beliefs out the window. In the same way I think its stupid that everyone makes a big deal about YA books having sex and drugs in them, I think its stupid that Christians debate whether or not they should read it. I have a strong Christian background- but that doesn't mean I live in a monastery.

Bookworm said...

Since when does the church have power over what we read? And as for Harry Potter promoting "witchcraft"--oh, PLEASE! It's fantasy, people! Not real life (:

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Christina T said...

I think Christian teens should read YA in general. There is a huge variety of YA fiction out there so it isn't just paranormal or fantasy. For those with really strict Christian parents who feel they should obey them and not read YA, there are Christian YA authors like Melody Carlson, G.P. Taylor, Donita K. Paul, Frank Peretti, and others whom you could read. Unfortunately by limiting themselves to only Christian YA authors they would be missing out on a lot of good literature.

I was raised in a pretty strict Christian household but thankfully my parents didn't always pay attention to what I read when I was a teen. By the time I was a teen I was mature enough to choose my own reading material. If I only read Christian fiction I would have been limiting myself and as an English major in college it would have been a really really bad thing to have read in such a narrow way.

I think parents should trust that their teenagers are mature enough to read a variety of fiction even if the characters do not behave according to Christian beliefs. Think of all the classics you wouldn't be able to read such as Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, even Shakespeare's plays!

Teens are being prepared to go out into the world and so they should read widely to understand people of different views than their own.

I was so incredibly sheltered when I was growing up and it was not until I went to college (a Christian college too) that I really began to expand my views and think for myself. It is good that you are thinking about this and I hope you will continue to read a variety of YA literature.

By the way I really enjoy reading your blog. Here is an award for you.

Cleverly Inked said...

I personally don't care what others do...if they choose to read it fine. If not thats fine too. No harm done either way. As it's a personal decision.

librarypat said...

As a children's librarian in a conservative, small southern county, I have dealt with this problem for 8 years. We have suffered from censorship by theft by self-righteous members of the community who feel it is their right to protect everyone from Harry Potter and Charles Darwin. Every year during Banned Book Week when I put out out my display, people are surprised by the books that have been banned and challenged over the years. Too many people tend to forget they have the right to read what they want but have no right to tell me what I can read. I had one board member tell me I couldn't put anything with dragons on the shelf because it would make kids commit suicide. No witches or magic, either - good-bye Snow White, Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel.

Yes there is a lot of fantasy and paranormal out there right now. It is what teens are reading and there are a lot of excellent authors out there. It comes down to parent supervision. I've tried to talk 3rd and 4th graders out of checking out Twilight and the Vampier Academy books, if only because they are too young for them. It is not much different from mothers checking out explicit romances for their 14 year old daughters. There are good age appropriate romances for them, why the rush? Teens need to learn about the world. Parents may choose to raise them in a bubble, but they do them no favors. Expose them to a variety of things and guide them in their choices. If you are unsure, read it yourself first and judge it. Not only will you be familiar with the book, you will be able to discuss it with your child. If you have objections, tell them why you don't like the book. That is how they learn to be discerning individuals. A young adult learns nothing from "I'm the parent and I said so." Give them a reason, show them. If you want them to avoid pitfalls, you have to teach them to recognize them.

These ministers need to remember that they are preaching to their church, not the whole community. Their congregants need to remember that they are making choices for themselves and their families. They have no right to impose their reading preferences on anyone else. They like christian fiction, I have made it available. Someone else likes fantasy and paranormal, that is available too. If you don't like it don't read it. But don't condemn me because I like or believe something different. Christianity is not the only religion in the world. As several priests in our church have said over the years "This is our path, the one we have chosen. It is right for us. There are other paths that others have chosen that are right for them. They are not right or wrong, just different." It is too bad that more people don't see things that way.

Elisabeth Marie said...

As long as you can accept it for what it is (FICTION), then I see no reason to read about such things.

Jennie Smith said...

Great post! The age old debate will continue as new things are written every year. I am a preacher's kid, but I am lucky in that my parents completely supported me reading whatever I chose to because they believed that how they lived their lives and taught me should be the basis for how I lived my life. And they are AMAZING parents. People like to place blame on something and literature always seems to catch it. I love the fact that I had family members who told me not to read HP because it was evil and then I sent them books like The Gospel According to Harry Potter: The Spiritual Journey of the World's Greatest Seeker by Connie Neal and that shut them up! Again, great post!!

Patty said...

As a Christian, I have to get into this debate. I want to first tell everyone reading this that this is not to offend anyone or the Church itself but here are my thoughts.

I personally find it ridiculous that the church tells us to read or not read certain books. These are FICTION books and there are worst things in real life.

Those kids who are influenced by these books to make decisions such as joining a dark cult, is not because of the books or MATURITY. It's about the parents. The kids have probably been surrounded and pushed into a religion and they feel like they need to rebel. Their parents have NEVER taught them otherwise. It's not their or THE BOOK'S fault.

Maybe you can tell but I'm not a hardcore religious person. I believe that people can think their own way and that real faith lies with God, not the church. Anyways, thinking this, I have my own ideas and values that are in no way 'wrong'. I have learned many things from books, including about sex. I don't believe in telling some one to read or not to read a book. That should be the person's own choice.

Great post! I'm always very opinionated in these things so I hope my opinion came through without offending anyone.