I regularly hear the arguments that reading fiction can teach you empathy or give you a peek into someone else’s world. In other words, fiction is good for you. Like eating your vegetables is good for you.
Throughout my life at church, I’ve heard the call to seek out things (books, music, TV, etc.) which are lovely, praiseworthy, and of good report. I’ve gotten hammered for writing explicit sex and dropping the f-bomb. I’ve heard all the arguments about why fictional violence is more acceptable than fictional sex. Then there are the above-linked articles that basically say, “Protect deh wimminz anna childrinz cuz dey doan know no bettah!”
Thus, fiction is bad for you. It makes you experience things you ought not to experience.
Well…yeah. That’s the point. Imagine the following conversation:
Bishop X: “Sister Mojo, you said you wanted to confess something?”
Me: “Yes, Bishop. I killed a man and had sex with a woman yesterday.”
Bishop X: [jaw drop]
Me: “And I want to repent.”
Bishop X: “Uh…how did this all come about?”
Me: “Well, I turned on my Kindle…” [insert confession of murder and lesbian action]
Bishop X: [steely glare] “Why are you wasting my time?”
Fiction takes you places. It’s a way to explore things you wouldn’t ordinarily explore without the risks involved in or resources needed to actually explore it. Maybe you don’t have a sparkly vampire handy.
You may or may not want to go there, but if you do want to go there (you dirty-minded perv)…
Well, look. It’s a whole lot easier to ’fess up to reading a murder mystery than it is to ’fess up to homicide.