John had attended a conference on C.S. Lewis most of the day and, after hearing a great deal of hoopla about Narnia, he decided to buy the first book. When he walked into the house that night, he had The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe under his arm. After dinner, he gathered the entire family into the living room and read the first chapter of the book to them. When he had concluded the chapter and shut the book, his wife turned to him and said, “John. Something has been missing from our lives. Something important: the imagination” (Clyde Kilby, Mars Hill Audio Journal Anthology of Lewis).
I suspect that John and his wife are not the only ones who looked in a mirror one day and realized they were starved-their imagination but rags and tatters hanging loosely over an emaciated frame. It bears repeating: the reason I chose to be an English teacher (O, what a strange fraternity) is to feed the hungry with a mouth full of books.
Unfortunately, the western Christian is mired with a thousand different fancies that have a diminishing satisfaction because we live in a culture more and more Huxleyan than Orwellian. George Orwell’s 1984 predicted a world of horrifying oppression where the dominant culture becomes a prison (see Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death), while Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World prophesied a world where the dominant culture becomes a dark carnival, a world-wide Mardi gras, a sweeping exultation of bacchanalia’s soft underbelly.
Orwell predicted book banning, Huxley predicted a world in which there would be no need to ban a book-everyone would be too busy amusing themselves. “Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy” (Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death).
At variance to the fascination with the feelies and the orgy porgy stands the Christian imagination which “gratefully anchors itself in the gift of reality, seeking to decipher its message, not to get drunk on it” (Janine Langan, The Christian Imagination). The enemy knows that to control the imagination is to control the man and what better way to control it than by gorging it on irrelevance and training it from a young age to flirt with three minute bites of stimuli. The Christian must make a stand against such intellectual disengagement because “counter to the Sesame Street culture of three minute bites, the Christian imagination is a storytelling imagination. In every era, in every life, it recognizes the creation-death-resurrection pattern epitomized in Christ’s life. And it interprets every event as an essential moment in the movement of time toward eternity” (ibid).
I have no need to rail against the depravity so barren and naked before our eyes these days. I don’t think that does anybody any good. Doing something constructive, like building something beautiful instead, seems to me the most helpful response to mass moral decay. There are two ways to begin this shift: the first and most important way is to feed ourselves the Gospel. There are plenty of helpful books on this subject and this blog post is not one of them. This post deals with the second way to transform culture: heal our imagination. Feed our imaginations with hearty things, slowly easing our bodies into health until we can handle and enjoy intellectual, emotional, and spiritual steak. Indeed, “has not humanity always experienced creative imagination as participation in divine life? Imagining is an act of hope, a challenge to fate, an effort to take matters in hand and to accept our unique role as human beings…it is the weaver of culture” (ibid).
The world needs hope, the world needs someone to challenge the predominant view of fate that so freezes her blood and to offer her the tools by which to weave a new and a better culture. Only Jesus Christ can heal such a disease as this one, but He uses His children as emissaries and physicians to heal the sick by reclaiming the imagination through Him.
 The temptation to simply list a host of Janine Langan’s quotations and not add a word of my own is a strong one. She has done some wonderful thinking on the Christian imagination.