The Giver: a Christian perspective

I‘m not sure why I missed seeing the movie, The Giver, but I will try to see it soon. I remember seeing the trailer in the theater and thinking I needed to see it. Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges and Katie Holmes seemed like a promising cast, and I remembered that one or both of my sons had read the novel when they were in school.

Recently, I was in a bookstore looking for another book when I saw The Giver, by Lois Lowry, on the same table. I picked up a copy and decided to purchase it. I read The Giver on a recent flight and barely noticed the four hours pass. If you have been reading my blog posts for a while, or if you know me, you know that I love a great book. A great book should be entertaining, but it should also cause a person to think.  Lois Lowry won the Newberry Award for The Giver because she wrote a great book.

After I finished reading the book, I did a little research. Spark Notes described Lowry’s inspiration to write her novel:

“She was inspired to write The Giver—which won the 1994 Newbery medal—after visiting her elderly father in a nursing home. He had lost most of his long-term memory, and it occurred to Lowry that without memory there is no longer any pain. She imagined a society where the past was deliberately forgotten, which would allow the inhabitants to live in a kind of peaceful ignorance. The flaws inherent in such a society, she realized, would show the value of individual and community memory: although a loss of memory might mean a loss of pain, it also means a loss of lasting human relationships and connections with the past.”

The Giver is not a Christian novel, but if I were doing a review, I would be able to point out what a Christian should learn from the story.  When I finished reading the novel, I couldn’t help but compare the colorless, or boring, society that allowed individuals to live in “peaceful ignorance” to the untrue perception many non-Christians have of those who live in faith.

Christianity is often described as a “crutch” or a way some people choose to avoid dealing with the realities of life and death. Non-Christians often believe a life of faith to be rigid, routine and restricted—often colorless or boring. I can see how someone could read The Giver and believe it was a condemnation of religion while another might read it and believe it to be supportive of faith. I can see others read it and believe it has nothing to do with faith at all.

In the introduction to the latest edition of the novel, Lois Lowry describes some of the comments she has received from people over the years. She said a Trappist monk had written to say he considered the book a sacred text. Another man had escaped a cult that he had been raised in and his psychiatrist recommended he read The Giver. One mother read the book because it had been assigned to her child at school. She wrote to tell Lowry that she was clearly a disturbed person and she hoped the author would get some help.

I liked what Lowry had to say about the multitude of comments she had received over the years. She wrote, “A book, to me, is almost sacrosanct; such an individual and private thing. The reader brings his or her own history and beliefs and concerns, and reads in solitude, creating each scene from his own imagination as he does. There is no fellow ticket-holder in the next seat.” I would agree with her words as they apply to every book except the greatest book in history, the Bible.

The Holy Bible had a holy Author, with a perfect purpose. Billions of people have read its pages and been able to come to the same, important conclusions. We read the Bible with our imaginations, but the words we read were not imagined. Scripture was creative, but each truth was created. The Bible was not written to describe a “peace filled life of ignorant bliss.” The Bible was written to guide people to the peace filled life that will certainly exist for all eternity. We don’t live with full understanding. In 1 Corinthians 13:12 Paul writes, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” We live with hope because we live with God’s promise of eternity.

The Giver ends with the main character escaping the created utopia because he discovered that even though the real world had suffering and pain, it was better than a world with no joy.  Joy, as the novel teaches, cannot exist without the understanding of pain and suffering.  Success in The Giver is described as choosing to live in the real, yet fallen world. Success in the Bible is described as choosing to live in the fallen world for the sake of heaven.

The Giver is a great book that makes a person think. It is written for young people, but it was meaningful to me, a “not-so-young person.” I love a great book, but I respect and do my best to govern my life by the only perfect book. Paul taught his young protégé, Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The Giver is a great novel but the real “Giver” is the One whose breath created your Bible. Enjoy the novel, but live by God’s Word.

This blog post was originally published on November 18, 2014.