Mary DeMuth has a really good article in the current issue of BreakPoint WorldView Magazine on how fiction can bolster our faith, make us think about eternal truths, and generally be in step with a Christian approach to life. Mary just happens to be one of those rare individuals who can successfully write both fiction and nonfiction. I have a copy of her novel Daisy Chain on my reading pile right now and can't wait to get to it.
I thought about this topic of fiction's impact last night as I finished up a Jodi Picoult novel, Perfect Match. The story involves a parent who kills the man she believes has molested her young son. Picoult manages to walk the reader through the process of thinking about whether something could be morally just and legally wrong at the same time without coming off as preachy and while resisting the temptation to spoon feed the answers. She does this by using a lot of first person narrative and showing her characters wrestling with their decisions.
I picked up Perfect Match because my library didn't have Picoult's book My Sister's Keeper, which is hitting the big screen later this month. My Sister's Keeper tells the story of a girl who was genetically engineered to donate any number of possible things (platelets, bone marrow, a kidney) to her older sister who is battling cancer. It looks like a tear-jerker of a movie, but it also looks like the kind of story that will find moviegoers leaving the theater to find a good restaurant where they can sit and talk for hours about ethics and family and love.
And that, to me, seems to suggest another reason why fiction is important. Imagine debating the topic of medical ethics with your neighbor or co-worker or friend who rejects the notion of a just and good God. Now, imagine how that conversation might be different after reading a book like My Sister's Keeper in your neighborhood book club, or watching the movie with a group of friends.