Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Spoiler Alert: Santa Claus is Dead...I Think
When I was 5 years old, my neighbor friend Tommy and I often discussed weighty childhood subjects around the flagpole in my yard. On one occasion the discussion turned to Santa Claus and I, in a very matter of fact tone, told him Santa Clause was dead. He promptly ran home, crying to his mother.
I felt bad, but it was true. My parents told me about how St. Nicholas had lived centuries ago and was the inspiration for the modern Santa. My parents accepted Santa as a fun story, but wanted their children to understand the difference between the story and reality. Like my parents, I did not intend to shatter my friend’s childhood belief in Santa, but merely expressed the truth that the story of Santa Claus and flying reindeer was just that…a fictional story.
I know this can be a controversial subject. Even in my house my wife and I don’t exactly see eye to eye on this, so I am going to drop it here. But this subject ties in to another question I’ve been wondering about lately.
What is the relationship between truth and fiction? Or put another way, does fiction have some responsibility to be honest?
With Santa Claus, we repeat the story over and over and expect that everyone now, or someday will know that it is just a story. But what about when fiction ties closely to real events or history? Should we assume that readers would be able to draw the line between the truth of history and the fictional premise or relationships posed in the writing?
For example, I love the Kingdom and the Crown series, which fictionalizes events and relationships surrounding the life of the Savior. These books paint the picture of the time and circumstances in which the Savior lived during his mortal ministry. In these books, the things that really matter regarding faith and the life events and mission of the Savior are presented as historical truth and the fiction merely surrounds the true events but does not attempt to alter or stretch the truth.
I also love the Left Behind series, which fictionalizes the events leading up to the end of the world as interpreted loosely from the Book of Revelations. How many readers know the difference between the doctrine regarding the end of the world and the fictionalized account of what might happen? I suspect that there are many who believe the fiction of the Left Behind series to be truth.
I pose these questions, not because I have answers, but because I’m curious and hope to learn. Is there a line we should not cross in mingling fact and fiction for the sake of honesty and truthful representation? Whether its fiction based loosely on church history or the Civil War, or the life of Christ or end of the world scenarios, should we worry about honesty, or simply call it fiction and hope readers can tell the difference?