Katherine Paterson’s words

Apr 18, 2007Archive

The March 2007 issue of Christianity Today has a wonderful article entitled “Deeper Into Terabithia” about novelist Katherine Paterson. I love what she says about the beauty and fluidity of story:

“That’s what a story does. It’s inviting you to identify yourself as part of it and to come into it from where you are–and if you hear the same story after a period of years, you’ll be in a different place, and the meaning is going to be different.”

CT asks her this question:

There’s a trend lately to provide books and films for Christian audiences that are “safe for the whole family.” Perhaps your books have been challenged because they’re not necessarily “safe” for children.

Her response:

“Well, don’t give them the Bible, because it’s certainly not a safe book. Safety and faith are different things. If you want everything to be safe, then you can do without imagination. If you’re so afraid of your imagination that you stifle it, how are you going to know God? How can you imagine heaven?”


I recently chatted with my friend Sandra about this very issue. The Bible is not safe! It’s full of murder and yuck and sin and all sorts of strange things. Even Jesus’ stories weren’t safe. The prodigal son squandered his life savings doing, no doubt, naughty things. He’s contrasted with his proud brother who actually is farther away from God though he did the right things. The Samaritan stoops to help a person beaten. The laborers get what seems like unfair wages. Coins are lost. Servants and sons are harmed and killed.

There is power in a well-told story, and its power is felt over the years. The first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird, I marveled at Boo, felt sorry for him. The last time I read it, I wondered about Atticus, how his actions affected his children’s lives. That’s the importance of a good story: it beckons you to see different nuances.