Can a “Spiritual High” from Christian Fiction be Dangerous?

Christian fiction is powerful.

So powerful, even, that it has the potential to become idols of all sorts in our lives.

Last week, I shared six books that impacted me. I’m sure we’ve all experienced a book or two (or five hundred) that left us with the post-Bible-camp spiritual high that inspired us to become a martyr or dragon slayer for a week. In Christian fiction, those books often push us in the right direction — toward healthy things like focus on Christ or growing in our faith.

And yet, that written power can still be dangerous.

Powerful Book

I used to read The Mark of the Lion series, by Francine Rivers every January. It was especially helpful when I was at a spiritual low because, without fail, Hadassah’s story transformed my low into a high. Just like magic.

Inside, it never felt right, because I knew I was turning to fiction instead of God to somehow grow my faith.

“But it’s Christian fiction!” I thought. “It’s written for the purpose of drawing us closer to God. Right?”

Yes, but what happens when it does this so well that we then use that book as a tool? A portal into temporary spiritual bliss? It happened to me several times and I only recently wondered if other readers are affected in the same way. How many of us are blind to this?

This doesn’t just happen with the “spiritual books” by the way. There are some great books on marriage out there or romance that inspire me to be a better wife. Books that inspire me to live a more devoted life. These are all fantastic resources as long as I don’t rely on them for my growth.

I finally promised myself I’d never again pick up a book for a “fix.” If I started allowing myself to view books as a faith tool, then that started turning them into idols. I never thought fiction could be an idol. Never. Until I saw myself using it as one.

In response, I didn’t read The Mark of the Lion series for over five years. Long enough to grow in my faith and get a new perspective on how to deal with the power of Christian fiction. I felt the same tug when I read The Blood of Kings series, by Jill Williamson and had to caution myself on when I read them.

The books God inspires authors to write are potent. It’s important for us, as Christians, to recognize both the benefits and dangers. It’s a wonderful and intense thing to come away from a book energized and in love with Christ. And that is a good thing. But I caution  you (and myself repeatedly) to only turn to God as the base and cornerstone of spiritual growth.

Do you have any books that have given you that positive spiritual/emotional high after reading it?

 

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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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12 Comments

  1. Thank you for exposing something I never quite put my finger on. Very thought-provoking. It is a fine line between feeling inspired and feeling ‘fixed’, it seems. I need to prayerfully keep this in mind when I read!

    I may just need to reblog this one 🙂

  2. Jessica Scoullar

    I get that spiritual high you are talking about after reading ‘The Screwtape Letters’ by C.S. Lewis. I find I prefer reading Lewis to the bible and I know this is a dangerous thing. I also find myself quoting Lewis before the bible when discussing religious matters. I believe Lewis is an inspired Christian Theologian and modern day prophet (in the sense that he reminds us of truths we should already know) but I also know this is a dangerous line to walk and that his words are no replacement for the word of God.

    I think what attracts me to Lewis is that his words are easy for me to understand while the bible can be elusive in its meaning. It makes me work for knowledge. I think the same thing is true for much Christian fiction, it is finely crafted with a Godly message to engage us at an intellectual and emotional level, the message clear and easy for us to understand. It is almost comparable to the sugar rush you get from chocolate compared to the nutrition from good food. Fine as a treat and in small does but deadly if it is your only source of nutrients. Which is a shame, because I love chocolate almost as much as I love reading fiction. God’s word may be harder for us to digest, but it contains a deeper, more real and lasting knowledge.

    Thanks Nadine for reminding us of this truth we are all to apt to forget.

  3. I love this! And how true it is on so many levels! A great reminder to keep our eyes on the One who can fulfill any “fix” or longing. Thanks, Nadine 🙂

  4. Wow! I never thought of this. And I can’t say I’ve ever experienced such a “high” from fiction. (Maybe a couple times from nonfiction.)

    Something to watch out for.

  5. Pingback: It’s a Fine Line | Tethered Together

  6. This is very interesting concept. And I can relate!

    I’ve had a similar experience but as if in a different dimension or reversed outcomes. Before I was a Christian, books were a high for me. I would escape reality and then crash when the book ended. And then I read Christy by Catherine Marshall. Something in that book spoke to me. I wanted what those other characters had, but I didn’t know what it was and I had no one to talk to or ask questions of. A couple of months later I handed the reins over to Christ and didn’t pick up another book for many years later. Partly because I couldn’t handle the “crash” afterward and wanted to keep my emotions on a more even keel. When I started sensing a release(?) to read again (This was after God spoke to me about writing & the parable of the talents), I did not have that problem again. although, I am careful of which books I read. I can see how when we read Christian books, we can come to rely on them for truth. They could easily become a “standard” where we measure our lives on, which could lead to dissatisfaction and disillusionment. Maybe that’s why I don’t read stories set in modern day. There are always exceptions of course. I have been challenged or inspired by the books I’ve read, but I no longer get a high from them.

    • What an incredible story of God’s work through reading in your life. Thank you for sharing this. What strength it must have taken not to pick up a book for years! I especially love how, after all that, God called you to writing. 😀

  7. Oh my goodness! I used to do the exact same thing with the exact same books! Six years straight, without fail, I would read the Mark of the Lion series, except my schedule fell around Fall. 😉 It’s such a powerful story. (And Marcus was definitely my first crush….) But I have to agree, I was turning to that book for my inspiration to be a better person instead of turning to God. It’s kind of like church camp, when it was all over, when I finished the third book, I crash-landed into reality wishing I could live in Hadassah’s world forever. It’s still my favorite series, and was my main inspiration to write, but I try not to turn to it anymore to find that ‘spiritual high’. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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