Christian fiction writer, Ann Tatlock, was featured on Right Now to talk about “Novels Worth Reading.” When she returned home, she found the book shelves at her church library were empty and the books were banned. Here is her guest post about how one church is trying to take the fiction out of faith.
The novels in my church library have been banned, boxed up and carted off. They have been banned not because they are racy or profane, as I doubt there is a single steamy sex scene or swear word in the whole lot of them. Rather, they have been banned simply because they are fiction. Let me tell you what happened.
Sometime in 2012. I join this particular church and wonder how I can best get involved. Noting the couple of half-filled bookcases in the upstairs hall that are supposed to be a library, I ask Pastor Claude if I can become church librarian. I tell him I can ask my novelist friends to donate books. He enthusiastically agrees.
Sometime later in 2012. My home office is piled high with books donated by my novelist friends from around the country. I take them to the church and shelve them in the new bookcase Pastor Claude has bought for the library.
2012 – 2014. Every Sunday I go to the church library to re-shelve the books that have been brought back.
Sunday, June 29, 2014. Pastor Claude has been reassigned to another church. This first Sunday after he’s gone, I go to the library as usual, only to discover the novels packed up in boxes and their bookcase gone.
Sunday, July 6, 2014. I am out of town, but when my husband Bob goes to church he asks Dan, director of administration, why the novels have been packed up. Dan’s response: “Fiction books don’t belong in church libraries.”
Monday, July 7, 2014. I post on my writers loop, telling my novelist friends what has happened to my church library and the books they donated. Responses come pouring in, reflecting shock and dismay. Why would he ban the books? Doesn’t he know the influence stories have in people’s lives? Doesn’t he know that novels change lives? We begin to tell our own true stories of the feedback we’ve received from readers who tell us how our books have inspired, influenced, and encouraged them. The stories are many, seemingly endless. And on the loop, Dan becomes Dan the Book-Ban Man.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014. Bob and I sit down in Dan’s office to ask whether he won’t reconsider having the books in the library, or at least allow the church to vote on it. No, novels don’t belong in church libraries, he repeats. We talk with him about the power of stories, how even C.S. Lewis began his journey from atheism to belief while reading a novel by George MacDonald. Stories don’t just entertain; they baptize the reader’s imagination! They make people think. They help people make sense of the world. They can be—and often are—a first step in coming to faith. But Dan is not impressed. Bob asks him if he has ever read a Christian novel. Dan says no. And there will be no vote by the church body. Bob and I put the boxes of books in our van and bring them home. We plan to donate them elsewhere.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014. A man named Doug and his sister-in-law Janine are with me in my home office. They have just driven 1,100 miles from Minnesota because Doug, who has read some of my books, wanted to meet me. When Doug’s wife Mary died of cancer a couple years ago, his already frail relationship with God was shattered. He was angry over Mary’s death and he couldn’t get past the anger. Then Janine gave him my book “I’ll Watch the Moon.” That’s when he began to understand that God has reasons for what he allows to happen in this world, and we as humans don’t always comprehend those reasons. But still, God can be trusted. Reading that novel was Doug’s turning point. He started going back to church and his relationship with God began to be restored.
Today. Dan, would you mind explaining to me one more time why novels don’t belong in church libraries? Because I don’t understand your reasons. Honest, I’m trying really hard to understand, but I just don’t get it….
Comments? Leave a message for Ann below or visit her website at anntatlock.com