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Spiritual writers mix faith, fancy

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"Alice in Wonderland" is back — this time as Hollywood's blockbuster movie of the week.

But truth to tell, Alice has never really gone away. Somewhere, some place, somebody is always reading or watching "Alice in Wonderland."

The book is a self-contained world — rich, wild and magnetic.

People can literally live in it.

They can't put it down.

So it came as no surprise to me when I learned that Lewis Carroll, the author, was an Anglican deacon studying to become a priest.

The world of "faith" and the world of "fancy" often share the same house.

In fact, they're like twin sisters.

At their purest, faith and fancy are alternative realities.

They deliver us from the lone and dreary world.

In Mormon circles, the two most popular writers are Orson Scott Card and Stephenie Meyer — two novelists who create whole, new worlds.

C.S. Lewis, the man who gave us "The Chronicles of Narnia," was a devout Christian.

Ditto for J.R.R. Tolkein, father of "The Hobbit."

Tolkein, in fact, once claimed that people who can't believe in Christianity simply have no imagination.

Such writers have their "make believe" moments.

They also have their moments of "belief."

And the seam between the two is thin indeed.

Why are such authors almost always spiritual?

For one thing, being a writer of fantasy — and a person of faith — means living beyond normal boundaries. Such people don't trust reality. Reality plays too many tricks. The only "real" world is the one you can never see, the one you keep inside of you.

Ask Carroll, Card, Meyer or Tolkein which world feels more real to them, and you might be surprised by their answers.

Almost always, such writers feel the world they hold inside of them is more "true" than anything around them.

So it is with people of faith.

Their faith is more real — more true — than anything else.

For them, failure to see things that way is — to quote Tolkein — simply a failure of imagination.

Believing wholeheartedly in an "inner world" is the only way one could ever create a "Narnia," a "Middle Earth" or a "Wonderland."

Those places live and breathe in your hands.

They are places, dare I say, that achieve, in a sense, eternal life.

As far as I can tell, the same can also be said for truly stalwart souls of faith.

Their hearts, minds and souls are anchored somewhere else.

They may behave like the people who live around them, but the truth is, they actually live someplace else.

Jerry Johnston is a Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears weekly in Mormon Times.

e-mail: jerjohn@desnews.com