Arts, Media, and Entertainment

Stories Are Light, Ranting Is Arson


S. D. Smith

“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.” Kate DiCamillo, “The Tale of Despereaux

You could write another angry update and post it like a swinging sword, hoping to nick the ear (or better) of your Facebook frenemies. Or, you could do something that helps.

You could record a video of yourself in your car, eloquently ranting about the damage that some damnable government or business policy does. Or you could help build something.

You can grumble and moan, echoing the angry orators on TV and radio, and follow them in their campaign of impotent, self-satisfied rage. Or you could engage in the cleverest act of treason against the Spirit of the Age.

What can you do? You can invest in Beauty. Invest in those things that reveal the image of God in us, move us, and shape us. You can invest in stories.

Chuck Colson wisely said that “politics is downstream of culture.” And what feeds the ecosystem of culture more than anything else? Stories. Stories. By the time the election comes, it’s too late. It’s been too late for a long time. Our hearts were already won over by the stories we loved as children, the tales that shaped us as profoundly as anything else in life. Likely more.

Think of the stories (on TV, movies, and in books) that paved the way for the widespread reordering of our culture and, hot on its heels, our civil life. Effective? Powerful?

Stories matter. Stories shape. More than video selfies in the car. More than malignant memes. More than self-assessed technical victories in the comments section.

I absolutely understand the anger, and how fitting it can be in the face of moral collapse. But rage is like arson. Stories are light.

This is why I do what I do. This is why I believe my vocation as a storyteller matters. Because children should be more than pawns in a socio-political experiment played out by entrenched elites bent on fashionable and elusive notions of justice. And our answer to these outrages should be more than foolish and feckless.

We likely agree on the problem. Shouldn’t we be welcoming, honoring, and protecting children? Isn’t that an easy one?

I’m not saying, “Don’t pursue civil justice and virtuous laws.” I’m not advocating silence when speaking up for the defenseless is demanded. Do it! Please! But wake up to the reality that stories shape culture and culture shapes politics. D.C. follows Hollywood, Hollywood does not follow D.C. How much time and money do we invest . . . and where? How much time do we invest in murmuring and worrying, to no avail?

So how do we love children well and honor them as fully human, made in the image of God?

In an era marked by hostility to children, from slight regard to real abuse and violence, sharing soul-shaping tales can be a profound act of hospitality. And what’s more, it can offer a kind of armor of the heart for the battles ahead of them.

I see storytelling as a vocation rooted in love. I love, and want to serve, young readers.

I want to light a candle, and commit my life to an energetic insurrection against the Darkness.

Arson results in light for a while, and we can sometimes confuse it for something that is helping. But its brightness is a furious flash; its anger ends only in ashes.

But stories are light. We can see a light from afar, and it may guide us the right way. But light is also that gift by which we may see, or see more clearly, what is really there.

The very best stories reveal reality; they illuminate the world God made. Heidi Johnston has said that the best, most faithful stories are not an escape from reality, but an escape into it.

Our children need light along that path. We do too.

What is one thing you can do today to “save the world?” Read your children a good story.

It may seem unsatisfying when compared with gearing up to blast the internet in a fever of pyromaniacal rage. But it will do a lot more good.

It may seem harmless, but it is a noble act, greatly dreaded by the Darkness. It is an act of war.

Image courtesy of dan at

S. D. Smith is the author of “The Green Ember,” Children’s Book of the Year Finalist at WORLD Magazine and Audible, and “Ember Falls,” on Kickstarter till June 11. A sometime sojourner in southern Africa, he lives with his wife and four children in his home state of West Virginia.

Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BreakPoint. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Have a Follow-up Question?

Want to dig deeper?

If you want to challenge yourself as many others have done, sign up below.


Short Courses

Related Content