What Winston Churchill and a Mormon Fantasy Author Taught Me

Over the Christmas break, I indulged in reading an uber-nerdy fantasy book by an author named Brandon Sanderson. He teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University, and ably creates worlds and stories with plain yet concrete language. I wanted to read him to learn how he communicates stories so well in plain language; plus, his stories strike me as having a classic feel: bad guys are bad, and good guys are good. And unlike the a Song of Ice and Fire series where nobody is really good or bad, just shades of grey, Sanderson writes his characters believing that a higher good does exist, and that evil should be laid low. I like that.

My other indulgence over the past few months has been Winston Churchill. From reading about him, to reading him, and listening to him, I have become a church-a-holic. Still, something about the way he lived fascinates me. Like Sanderson, Churchill believed in good and evil. Unlike Sanderson, Churchill lived life like he was in a fantasy novel, fighting a great evil for an even greater good. By using his imagination, by believing that he fought for Western civilization and the British Empire against the perverse and evil Natzi regime, he lived life imagining a great battle between two forces, and that the victor could shape the world’s destiny.

It struck me that the reason why people love to read fiction-fantasy books, and why Winston Churchill stood valiantly against Hitler’s Germany is because of imagination. I do not mean some esoteric long-ranger thinking, but I mean the ability to imagine true things and live fueled by true imaginations. Fiction books help spark our imagination, while Churchill illustrates how living according to our true imaginations shapes the way we live. Paul too lived his life energized by genuine imagination.

Consider how the apostle encouraged believers to stand firm by using true imagination:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph 6:12)

Because we struggle against cosmic powers of evil, Paul argues, we must stand firm with God’s armor fitted tightly.

Look, a key to living the Christian life that we so sorely fail to use is our imagination. It’s the curse of modernism that we only act upon the brute “facts” of life and fail to see the imps behind the tree, the troll under the bridge, and hear Wormwood speak lies into your ears. If we did, just maybe we would have the passion to stand up against Hitler’s Germany; better, the passion to live life fighting an intense war against our sin and toppling evil by evangelizing the nations. We create worlds in our heads, and we have simply chosen to live the one that drains our powers of imagination and therefore our passion for life.

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