We are what we read

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Our primary school had a teacher-only day today. So I took the kids to the library and the book store to get some new books. It’s hard to find good reading material consistent with Christian morals today — both for children and for adults.

We need to be careful of what our children read, what we read and what we watch. There is a lot of conflicting literature out there and something that can look innocent is not. Often it isn’t until we get into it more deeply that we see some of the subtle and not so subtle messages.

I long ago gave up reading gossip magazines. I  never really enjoyed them and it’s unclear how true any of it is anyway. It really reinforces a celebrity worship culture which is akin to false idolatry to me, as well showing us a lot of “perfect” and unattainable physical appearances and wealth that is not practical or
possible for most people.

I do love reading novels. Reading gives us a way to look at different lives and differentperspectives that we otherwise wouldn’t have.

However, storylines often come down to lust or being unfaithful. Common storylines are around broken and dysfunctional relationships — all of which are common in all our lives and can help us to see the role of forgiveness and mercy.

With the kids’ books, we don’t know what they are being read at school and we don’t always know the content of what they are reading intimately.

A family member got our boys a box set of books by a well-known children’s author as a gift one year. We hadn’t really read his books but I’d heard they were popular. When I started reading them aloud I found some of them to be really quite frightening. Some of the characters were entirely evil and some of the events were
pretty revolting.

At what point do you accept these stories as modern pop culture and say it’s “just a book”? I don’t like books about witches and magic and zombies and so on. A lot of debate raged about Harry Potter and to date only one of our children has read any of those books. I feel like one of the few people on the planet who never got into them and hasn’t read the series!

I have this problem at times. I start reading a book and find it takes a very amoral turn. Often these events are presented in a way that normalises them or justifies them.

I’ve read a few challenging books over the last few years. As adults we have the fortitude to work through the issues and reflect on them with a solid background of faith.

Our children are still in formation and the media, including reading material, are presenting a lot of confusing information for them. Once kids start reading by themselves we don’t know the full content of what they are reading.

Including regular Bible reading and prayers and regular catechesis as well as regular Mass attendance will help to keep everyone in our families safe and looking toward the Lord Jesus to help guide us.

It’s a hard road, a hard journey to navigate morally in these modern times. There are a lot of slippery slopes we can venture down. We need to keep talking about these difficult  decisions and difficult situations.
Modelling how we talk and think about difficult moral issues, while remembering to hate the sin and love the sinner, is vital. Keeping judgement out of situations and keeping love and compassion and empathy and forgiveness at the forefront will hopefully stand our children in good stead as they navigate life in
the modern world.

Matthew 4:4: But he answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’.”

Helen Luxford is a physician, working part-time. She is a parishioner of St Michael’s, Remuera. Together with her husband Michael, they are raising their children in the Catholic Faith and reflecting on the challenges and joys that brings.

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Helen Luxford

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