Last week my boyfriend Jonathan and I forked over $6 apiece for a copy of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It was our second joint purchase after the recent Bob Dylan edition of Rolling Stone.
One-and-a-half million copies of Wallflower in print! Our generation is reading this little book. We’re both writers. Jonathan’s also a musician. If we hope to reach out and touch our generation, if we want them to hear us, why shouldn’t we read Wallflower, too?
So we began. We liked the book. We liked the way it fit in our hands, the way it was made up of the letters of a high school boy to an unknown recipient, the way “#1 New York Times Bestseller” trailed itself across the minimalistic cover. The book came with recommendations from Christian friends. Maybe it would tell the truth and help us feel the pain of the people around us, and in that way give us nourishment.
But Wallflower didn’t taste good. It made us squirmy and gave us a pain-in-the-conscience. We stomached the first few yucky-tasting, explicit parts. We glanced over them silently instead of reading them aloud, or skipped them.
Sometimes I find myself tested by my own desire for insight. Like Eve:
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and the that tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate …”
What will I wade through for the sake of good-tasting wisdom?
We hoped the book would get better, that the distasteful thread would either disappear or remain skinny enough to ignore. It didn’t.
“That’s the end of this book,” Jonathan said, even before we finished part one. And we closed it. “I don’t think reading it is wise.”
And I wouldn’t call Jonathan a prude. He donated $6 to the venture. He loves The Beatles. And I heard him cuss last Friday when a raccoon hunter almost shot us. When he said we had read enough, I knew he was right.
But others would not have come to the same conclusion we did. Every Christian seems to draw his or her line for proper cultural intake at a different place. And for many of us, when conscience raises its fist in our hearts, we struggle against it.
How often have I been guilty of scorning fellow Christians because I considered their convictions prudish? I have perceived the more stringent persuasions of others as inhibitors to outreach or as symptoms of underlying cultural contempt. But God, not me, judges the way they wrestle. God, not them, judges the way I wrestle. We all have reason to rejoice because we’re wrestling. It means we are on the wrestling team. Our consciences and the Spirit of God work within us.
We do not regret the times our conscience wins the match. We closed Wallflower and read Rolling Stone instead.