Book-Ban-Dan: Stranger Than Fiction

Guest Ann Tatlock (left) with host Jennifer Schuchmann and Regular Guest Jessica Quinn after the taping.

Guest Ann Tatlock (left) with host Jennifer Schuchmann and Regular Guest Jessica Quinn after the taping.


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….

-Ann Tatlock

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26 Responses to “Book-Ban-Dan: Stranger Than Fiction”

  1. Fred Larmore July 30, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    Would Jesus’ parables be banned from Dan’s library. Dan needs more education.

    • Ann Tatlock July 31, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

      I agree, Fred. We pointed out to Dan that Jesus taught in parables, but he was unimpressed.

  2. Lane Hill House July 30, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    I’d be glad to send my address for Dan’s Banned Books! Are there any artist renderings of Christ in the church? Will we recognize Him ~ we will upon His appearing! I love seeing the growth in characters as they begin to lean upon the Lord for direction; lifestyle more powerful than “you should” words. I am thankful to the Lord for the talents He gives each one of us. So blessed to be a blessing. He loves us with an everlasting love; we are His. Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House

  3. Lynetta July 30, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    Even if Dan’s assertion had merit (which it certainly does not), he was incredibly rude and overbearing in the way he treated you. Bully is the word that comes to mind. You deserved a respectful explanation (beforehand) and a sincere expression of gratitude for your service, at the very least.

    • Ann Tatlock July 31, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

      Thank you, Lynetta. One does generally expect a little better behavior from those is church leadership. Sadly, this man has been equally rude to others in the congregation, so we are waiting to see how the church council handles this situation.

  4. Karen July 30, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    My goodness, Dad better check all the Sunday School material passed out to adults and children down through the years. I had a story published by a large weekly publication for adults. Got front page. Oops, it was fiction.

    • Karen July 30, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

      Oops! Ha. Not Dad—Dan! :) I’m sitting sideways, icing my ankle…didn’t catch that!

      • Ann Tatlock July 31, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

        Oh my, Karen, I hope your ankle feels better soon! Thanks for your post.

  5. Annette W {This Simple Home} July 30, 2014 at 8:00 pm #


    You must be feeling personally attacked. Maybe you and others in the church can open some little libraries from your home.

    I’m so sorry.

    • Ann Tatlock July 31, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

      Thank you, Annette. I did feel personally attacked. All of the books were from novelist friends of mine, and some of the books were my own. I had thought they were a nice gift to the church and I was glad to donate them. I don’t at all mind the fact that some people don’t like to read novels, but I do think such books should be available to those who DO like to read them.

  6. sally apokedak July 30, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

    Hmm. I was saved while reading a novel.

    And of course, David repented after Nathan told him a fictional story.

    So sorry for poor Dan. Good fiction helps us learn to sympathize with others, to communicate with others, to judge good and evil, and to desire to live bigger, better, stronger, more noble lives, among other things. Dan’s impoverished.

    • Ann Tatlock July 31, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

      Sally, I’m so delighted to learn you were saved while reading a novel. You are in good company. C.S. Lewis took his first step in the faith journey after reading a George MacDonald novel. And William Murray, son of Madelyn Murray O’Hair, was inspired to buy a Bible after reading a novel by Taylor Caldwell. That led to the conversion of the son of American’s most famous atheist. Stories are powerful!

  7. Heidi Kortman July 30, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

    Dan belongs in a book.

  8. Margie July 30, 2014 at 10:29 pm #

    I think this is just wrong….The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia were some of my son Alex’s favorite books and movies….they strengthened his faith and helped him prepare his heart to leave this world and fly to Jesus. I would hate to think how different his life might have been without the influence in these great Christian writers. I have read most all of your books and loved I’ll Watch the Moon. I am thinking that what your pastor sees as “fiction” actually has some basis in fact because most people write from their own experiences and the experiences of those around them. I dare say that many incorporate their testimony into their stories at least on some level. There is so much high quality Christian fiction in so many different genres available to us today…Even Jesus spoke in parables!!! it is a real shame that Dan doesn’t understand this and see the value of a good story…..part of Alex’s eulogy was how every good story had its basis in His-story….and His story leads to our salvation….

    • Ann Tatlock July 31, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

      Margie, thank you for this beautiful testimony about the value of novels in your life and especially your son’s life. I’m so sorry for the loss of your son, but at the same time thankful that Alex knew Jesus and that you can be sure of where he is now. I’m grateful that Christian stories helped strengthen his faith, and yours too. Many sweet blessings to you!

  9. MaryLou July 30, 2014 at 11:11 pm #

    Talk about a closed mind, Dan. How can you judge these books without ever reading one? Ann, I’d ask around church how others feel. Depending on this outcome, I may or may not have to make a decision about remaining at this church or moving on.

    • Ann Tatlock July 31, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

      Mary Lou, others have left the church because of Dan and we may very well too. It’s a sad situation because the former pastor was one of the very best I’ve ever known.

  10. Phyllis Q Freeman July 31, 2014 at 12:06 am #

    I’d hold on to those books…perhaps the next pastor will allow the library. As a teenager I discovered Christian Fiction by Grace Livingston Hill. I read them all. They were mainly romance stories…rich man/poor girl. I was introduced to men of integrity and strength of character. I absorbed expectations for the man I would marry. We’ve been married 55 years and this man is so similar to those heroes in the books. Certainly Christian fiction gives guidance, encouragement, and values. I’ve learned as much about life through fiction as from non-fiction.I think this is a spiritual battle.

    • Ann Tatlock July 31, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

      Phyllis, thanks for sharing your wonderful love story! I’m with you as far as what I’ve learned from fiction. Our brains are hard-wired to learn from stories which is why, as others have pointed out, Jesus taught in parables.

  11. Delores July 31, 2014 at 12:26 am #

    Jesus taught with fiction through parables…

  12. Elizabeth Van Liere July 31, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    What a strange thing to do by Dan!

  13. Sherry Carter July 31, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    Ann, this breaks my heart. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been blessed by fiction. Many of them have enriched my view of God’s grace and mercy.

    I feel sorry for Dan. He is caught in a world of legalism. I pray for God to soften his heart.

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