By Amanda Pizzolatto (Rated G)
‘Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”. This is the seventh Commandment, and it is the one often used by those who believe that all fiction are works of the Devil. They also take it to mean that God never wanted us to write or read fiction to begin with and the stone cold truth is all that we should expose ourselves to. After all, God is all we need. But a creative God who created mankind in His image would not stop us from continuing to create, as long as He is part of the equation. This then calls to mind one of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, that of discernment. In order to find out if something is truly good or evil, we must take the time to discern its purpose as well as what we take from the product, for sometimes what is put out doesn’t end up being quite the same when it is received. This is a common occurrence for all art forms. There will always be a danger of someone misinterpreting something, or someone wanting to change something about the interpretation because they want it to say something else. It’s why having the knowledge or the tradition of an interpretation is so important so there is less confusion as to what the symbolism means.
Symbolism in art has been used for centuries to convey ideas to those who cannot read or do not have the time. For those who do have the time, reading has been a means of both knowledge and of entertainment. Gaining knowledge from books is good, and practically necessary. So then, is entertainment wrong? Yet allowing a child to play games where they pretend that they are jumping over waterfalls, battling pirates and dragons, and searching for a lost treasure is quite healthy as it promotes teamwork and learning to see things from another’s point of view.
The real issue is not that fiction itself is bad. Like every other kind of art, it is nothing more than a tool. How it is used, both by the author and the consumer, is the problem. To be used as a mere escape, as a means of relaxation is good. But there are some books that are meant to take the reader into a dark world that’s not as good as one would suppose at face value. People say, “It is just fiction, right?” Yet, though it is fiction, it does have an effect on the thought process and, to an extent, the moral compass. It’s easy to normalize sickening violence and dehumanizing people in the name of the story. While some do it to show the horrors of such evil, others do glorify it. “But it’s all fake! So what’s the problem?” One problem is that people are using fiction to normalize horrendous acts in the mind’s eye.
Another is that many readers are not well enough adjusted, well enough taught in separating fiction from reality, to be able to tell when a symbol is being used or when someone is trying to push for hate. While these are problems, that does not mean fiction should be banned nor that it is downright evil and a tool of the Devil solely. God is the sole Creator, and only good can create; evil takes what has been created and distorts it. The battle is laid before us. All creativity must be fought for, to be used for the glory of God, as it should be. To look at it another way, there is a balance to everything. Goodness upholds that balance, in alignment with God’s law, while evil tilts the scales and upsets it. If you read anything that disrupts your conscience or makes you feel icky, more than likely it was written with an evil intent. But if you read something into a story that was never there to begin with, that’s on you, and you need to take a step back and reevaluate how you look at things. The point is, as with dealing with any tool, one must be taught how to use it properly. There are bad people who will use any tools they can to achieve their goals, which is why fiction might be viewed with suspicious eyes. But again, as with any tool, it is neither good or evil, only the intentions for which it is used or consumed.