Years ago, when I was traveling to different churches and seeking a job as a youth pastor, I ended up at a fairly conservative Baptist church. I don’t mean to pick on that denomination, but while there on my interview, I was put into a bit of a bind by a particular question I was asked in front of a group of parents and students. “Do you think it’s OK to watch rated R movies?”

The reason this question proved to be so awkward was that it’s loaded with assumptions, and implications for the wrong answer. It also is the kind of question that makes people look at Christians all goofy. As a guy that wasn’t quite out of college, and a month or so from getting married with absolutely no job prospects, I wanted to be sure to answer in a way that both represented me truthfully and somehow appeased her and any that were listening so I could get the stupid job. Because, hey, we all need money, and making money doing the thing you want to do is preferable.

The funniest thing about that question is that the answer has become one of the things I’ve set my future plans on.

First, let’s back up a bit. I’m a Christ follower. Some of you might not know that, if you only know me from the Intertubes. For better or worse, I don’t make a big deal about it on the Web. This site is an attempt to change that a bit, as I’ve recently made a commitment in my life to draw a line between my faith and my writing. This doesn’t mean that I write cheesy “Christian” stories, if Seven Sons or Web Zeroes are any indication, just the same way that I don’t only read or watch Christian things.

Harry PotterAnd this is where the movie thing comes back in. I’m a heavy believer that all truth is God’s Truth, with a capital “T”. Let me unpack that a bit more: I feel that every story worth reading and writing is one that is a spoke off the hub of the human narrative. And I believe the human narrative is this: that we are a people that ultimately want to be reconciled to God. Packed within that greater tale are stories about redemption, grace, forgiveness, good and evil and all kinds of other things. Now, that isn’t to say that these great stories are “Christian” or “spiritual” stories, exactly, but that they function in a role that connects us to the real story, the one that we are taking part in every day. Knowingly or unknowingly, storytellers have the power to transport us to a realm where we see into the truth of things, and we connect with that at the core of who we are. That’s why movies and books can affect us so deeply.

And really, I think that when you recall the best stories that you’ve seen or taken part in, nearly all can be traced back to the human narrative in this fashion. I’ve always asserted that Harry Potter’s story of redemptive and sacrificial love is one of the most modern Christian tales I’ve had the pleasure of reading, simply because it is talking about genuine love being the power over death, rather than some remote and far off Disney love. Likewise, Star Wars is about the fall and redemption of one Anakin Skywalker. Even tales that dive into the darkest parts of human nature, such as one of my favorite movies Magnolia, weave a story about the idea that when things go to complete crap, there is still hope.

The list goes on and on. Any story worth its weight in gil (that’s Final Fantasy money for you folks keeping score at home) taps us in that place that is most meaningful and mysterious, and stirs something up. Some of you would call that good writing, and it’s that for sure. But it’s also something more, something deeper. The good news of the Gospel of Christ is that our sins no longer count against us, and I think we all yearn to know that. And each time a story taps into that, it’s like an IV line that goes straight to that part of us. To me, it’s why we all get so rattled by universal themes like the transformational power of grace, the struggle against a palpable force of evil and also the idea of reconciliation, whether it be man to one another or man to a higher being.

Because whether you believe that he was who he said he was or not, the idea that Jesus was God in a human suit becomes more interesting when you consider that he chose to tell us about himself and his nature not through a list of dos and dont’s, but through stories and parables. Sure, Jesus did some preaching, but his primary tactic of revealing “things-you-need-to-know-about-me” was done through the use of stories and metaphors. To talk about being kind to others, he spoke of the parable of the good Samaritan. To demonstrate God’s love he talked about a woman finding a lost coin, and a father reuniting with a son that fled and squandered his life and his riches. I think the idea of God communicating through stories is terribly fascinating, and I think He does this everyday through the media we absorb, the games we play, and the things we read.

You may not agree that these ideas mean that there is a capital “T” truth out there, and I’m not really trying to convince you of that. I’m just outlining the reason that I write, and what I feel like I’m supposed to do with my life is tell awesome stories. And hopefully, those stories turn out to be spokes off that hub that I mentioned earlier, stories that make people laugh and think about friendship, sacrifice, love, etc.

I’m sure this sounds a little loopy to some folks out there, but I’m not writing this to defend my faith or even in the hopes that people agree with me. I’m not really looking for that validation. The temptation for me right now is to keep talking about how I reconcile some of the things in what I write with my faith, or about how all this is heavily influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay On Fairy-Stories, in defense of the fantasy genre as a whole and how it most accurately represents reality… But I think I’ll save all that for another post. There’s plenty of time to go into all of that later.

Instead, I’ll ask the question: what are the stories that have affected you most significantly, and why?

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