I took a couple of vacation days last week. One thing which helped me relax more than anything else was pulling the plug on Facebook for a couple of days. For just those precious few hours, I could afford to have zero online presence. I could remain blissfully unaware of the public outpouring of life’s most intimate details — and better: no belligerent political posts the entire time. My soul was refreshed. In place of it all, I got even more reading done than usual.
Of course, if we are what we eat, then we also think how we read. The ideas we willingly ingest, the ones in which we marinate our minds for hours, eventually become our own. Oh sure, we give proper credit to the originator of those ides, but we still speak them and believe them just the same. Who among us can truthfully say a book, any book, has never made an impact on our lives? Who can rightly claim the printed word, ink on paper in a binding, has never influenced their thinking one jot? Even if we ourselves never pick up a book (the horror!), the people we interact with each day do, and their choice of reading material thus affects us, too, albeit indirectly. Yes, books have nigh infinite capabilities to alter even our paradigmatic beliefs.And that’s what makes them so very dangerous.
For that reason, I, bibliovore than I am, have frequently purged my own library. There have been books I have read and owned which made me a worse human being. Oddly enough, they have always been fiction. I’ve read things as morally repulsive as The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf, for example, without becoming a socialist or a fascist. Such bold claims are easily rejected for their very boldness, just as a woman may smack a particularly lascivious suitor for his brazenness. The ideas which get to me are more insidious, fundamental assumptions made for the sake of the narrative. And once convinced of their truth and necessity (for the book’s sake) to make the world go ’round, it’s difficult to shake the notion those ideas are foundational for the real world, too.
Such is the power and the danger of books.
We’ve all bought into false narratives before. We’ve all had to dispel the errant notions undergirding our thinking; we’ve all experienced paradigm shifts. Sometimes it’s even been because of good things.
As Christians, our lives are Theocentric — God-centered. We organize everything we do around God, around the gospel of Jesus Christ. To do so, however, requires a book. We come to know God first and foremost through the written (and subsequently preached) word of God, the Holy Bible. That word — that book — provides central guiding principles for our lives. It offers a complete worldview, teaching us how to think, how to scrutinize the countervalues spoken to us by the world. It provides something holy and good, and that is what should fill our minds: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellent, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
That’s our guideline for all entertainments (and other things), too, to be sure. But let us apply it especially to our books, to those things which so directly affect our worldview — and which may lead us into the path of salvation.