Get A Myth

The age of myth seems to be returning. Consider the theme of Highlander, an immensely popular film and television series: The hero everyone believed was dead has come back to life. He leads the forces of good in an apocalyptic battle against the forces of evil, promising a new age of peace and harmony. It’s the outline of the classic myth of the dying god, who miraculously returns to conquer. The modern age was supposed to get rid of myth and teach us to live by the bare truths of science. But as the Highlander craze proves, the myths are returning with all their power over the human imagination. The film version of Highlander tells the story of a sixteenth-century Scottish warrior called Connor McLeod. While fighting a rival clan, McLeod is mortally wounded in battle. But instead of dying, McLeod discovers that he’s a member of a clan called “the immortals.” Good immortals like McLeod are destined to spend the next several centuries fighting evil immortals. Highlander has attracted a huge international following since the release of the film a decade ago, followed by the beginning of the television series five years later. Highlander fans can chat with other devotees at internet sites based in Norway, England, Italy, and the U.S. Devotees can immerse themselves in complex role-playing games with strict rules, noble quests, and supernatural enemies. What makes supposedly modern, up-to-date Westerners gravitate toward retreads of ancient myths? In the view of cultural critic Neil Postman, the answer is: We all need a narrative to make sense of life—a story that tells us where we came from, where we’re going, and how to live. The scientific age didn’t wipe out the deep human need for a story. All it did was undercut the traditional story embodied in Christian teaching—the drama of sin and redemption. Deprived of the true story—the Gospel—people desperately search for any story to make sense out of life. This explains why dramatically rich stories like Highlander can become obsessions, with on-line games that give people an active role in the story. In themselves, fantasy and creativity are good things—gifts from God. The great Christian fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien explained that when we create imaginary worlds, we’re simply copying our Maker. Tolkien called this “refracted light”—a human reflection of the creative impulse first exercised by God when He created the world. Many Christians, including C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Dorothy Sayers, have used stories—including fantasy and science fiction—to teach Christian truths. If you see your own kids or grandkids playing on-line fantasy games, take the opportunity to discuss the right use of imagination and stories. And then you can explain the greatest narrative of all—the one that has, as C. S. Lewis put it, the great advantage of being true.


Chuck Colson


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