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In the Christian world, stories laced with dark content—especially for children—will always spook whole flocks of eyebrows into concerned flight. The "content" of a book or film is parsed out, every bit of shadow flagged and sniffed at by mothers like they've discovered a malicious growth hormone in a suspicious chicken nugget.
As an author who writes novels for children, I am often questioned about my choice of ingredients. A boy discovers and opens dozens of tiny magical doors. Should be a lark, right? Why does it need to be dangerous? Why include loneliness, father hunger, and a terrifying enemy?
Two functional orphans living in a roadside motel are taken to Ashtown, a place where many of the world's wildest secrets have been kept for centuries. Sounds like a great little slumber party. So why include pain? Why must the children face hardships? Why must the villains be so, well, villainous? Wouldn't it be better for everyone if the evil was jokey? Lighthearted? More like a school rivalry than a matter of salvation or damnation?
Yipes. No. Wrong. F.
Think on this: God's artistic choices should govern our own. More than any other type of artist, Christian artists should be truth-lovers and truth-tellers. More than any other consumer, Christian readers— and parents of young readers—should be truth-seekers.
I would understand if hard-bitten secularists were the ones feeding narrative meringue to their children with false enthusiasm. They believe their kids will eventually grow up and realize how terrible, grinding, and meaningless reality really is. Oh, well—might as well swaddle children in Santa Clausian delusions while they're still dumb enough to believe them. But a Christian parent should always be looking to serve up truth. The question is one of dosage.
Shelter your children. Yes. Absolutely. But use a picnic shelter, not a lightless bomb bunker, and not virtual reality goggles looping ...