Glorious Freedom + The Truth About Magic in Your Fiction


"men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up & hurry off as if nothing had happened"

MY RULES ON THIS VERY SCORCHED + BARREN TURF

The better part of a decade er so has seen a wildfire debate surrounding anything magical in fiction within the Christian community.  Sound familiar?  If you have never heard of this, you are the OPPOSITE of sheltered, because only the mainstreamest of mainstreamers would be in waters too deep for this debate to rock.  Nope, chances are, you've been in the midst of this debate many a'time, and I'm going to lay down some ground rules for my little post here before cutting to my signature chase.

  • i'm not going to tell you which books i think you should read + which i think you should not
  • i'm not going to debate magic
  • i'm not going to talk about narnia, middle earth, harry potter, percy jackson, i don't even know, world without end, amen

MOSTLY THIS IS MIRRIAM'S FAULT

because she posted a really nice, short + sweet article on the subject of magic in "Christian" fiction.  I highly recommend reading it.  I'm going to expound upon it.  She quoted Spurgeon (always a good idea) -

"the word of God is like a lion. you don't have to defend a lion.  all you have to do is let the lion loose, + the lion will defend itself."

The embarrassingly loud, blog-empowered, what-seems-like-often-homeschooled community of very well-meaning Christians consistently, markedly, unconsciously, forget this fact: THE WORD OF GOD IS LIVING + ACTIVE, SHARPER THAN A TWO-EDGED SWORD (and considering the majority of these blogging girls seem to have a penchant for ren fairs + all things medieval, they should get this fact, eh wot!)

THE REAL ISSUE IS NOT BOOKS

What you do + do not choose to read, that is not my concern, nor is it the real issue.  The real problem is that this community is a quaking, trembling, knee-jerk body of people who - I believe very sincerely - profess to adhere to the guardianship of an almighty, benevolent, ever-present God.  It's hard to see your own faults, and it usually takes someone shaking us up to get us to notice where we go wrong, so that's understandable.

but here i am shaking you up

No one exhibits Christ-like behaviour by being too afraid (AFRAID - don't kid yourself, that's what it is, believe me, I know) to read or view a piece of modern magical fantasy.  This kind of behaviour doesn't belie a firm anchour in an immutable + indelible Spirit.  This behaviour says,

"behold! a sower went out to sow, + as he sowed...[some seeds] fell on rocky places where they did not have much soil, + immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. but when the sun had risen, they were scorched; + because they had no root, they withered away."

Is that it?  Are we all, unconsciously, terrified in our heart of hearts that we have no soil + are going to wither at the first expelliarmus?  LIGHT OF THE SUN, HOW ABSURD.  Is that the kind of faith we have in our beautiful + completely perfect God?  Is that the behaviour the sons of God are exhibiting to the scoffing, disbelieving world?  THIS IS GUTTINGLY EMBARRASSING, FOLKS.

Again, I do not care what you read or why.  Let every book blogger be convinced in her own mind regarding the content of the books she reads.  WHAT I AM SAYING IS stop. being. afraid.  Be wise.  Be circumspect.  Test the spirits.  Search the Scriptures.  But for the sake of the dignity of the people of God,

remember you are free.  you are full of the spirit of the living God.  no one can take you from his grasp.  there is nothing to fear.  shake it off.  let the word of God fight your battles.  

These books are not chemical cults which have no choice but to magically react with your subconscious and fizzle your faith away.  No.  Stop being afraid.  That's all I ask.  Stop being afraid.  Our God is an AWESOME God.  What better bulwark could we have for our souls?


image via pinterest

20 ripostes:

  1. ARE WE GOING TO WITHER AT THE FIRST EXPELLIARMUS
    that's my favorite.
    that right there.

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  2. Ah! Yes! Thank you, and thank you. This has been a topic that has hounded me. I grew up in one of those homeschooled Christian homes where magic was banned (but strangely not Narnia). I had never really considered it to be "okay" to read a book with magic until being in a conversation with a Christian editor/writer whom I respected at a writers conference when I was, uh, nineteen. That conversation on magic in books is the biggest thing I got out of that whole weekend conference. I finally read The Hobbit shortly after. Even then I would still occasionally question my book choices simply because my parents raise their eyebrows at my books. But recently, I've been more confident about my reading choice.

    Thank you for this post! I definitely agree.

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    1. "MAGIC IN FICTION" is essentially a strawman for Christians. It makes me so sad to see Christians hurling themselves hell-for-leather against something //so//. //silly//. because we have such a poor, shrunken view of what man really is. HE IS AWESOME. He was once pure, undefiled, lord of creation, and I firmly believe the "gods" we know of today were actually the muted oral accounts passed down about the antediluvians, WHO WERE PROBABLY FREAKIN' AMAZING. There is a huge difference between exercising a man's God-given power over creation, and conjuring spirits through wickedness. It's a big ol' fat clear line. So we can stop going crazy about it and tackle some REAL issues, like, oh, hey, I don't know, delivering justice, exhibiting mercy, + walking humbly with our God.

      whaaaaat. that's crazy talk.

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  3. Wrote out a long thing and posted it. Let's see if I can get the gist of it again.

    I know that books can definitely affect your thinking. Aren't we as authors always saying that a book can change your life, change your mind? If for good, then why not for bad?
    Stories can make us identify with, and root for, the characters. A story makes one person unlikeable, another person likeable.
    For instance: a book about a man with a mean wife. He meets another woman, she's super sweet, they fall in love. The characters are well done. Before I know it, I'm pulling for them to be together, hoping the wife doesn't find out and that against all odds they'll be able to find true love together. Despite the fact that I am totally against adultery and know that it is against God's law.

    I have actually watched Harry Potter and read a bit of the books. It's very fun and entertaining. I enjoyed them. But therein also lies the problem. Here we have, not just unnamed incantations practiced by ancient wizards who may or may not even be human, but we have spells that are (pardon the pun) spelled out, and the main characters actively being sought out and taught the magic.
    Is it OK to read Harry Potter? Maybe, for someone who's mature enough to walk away at the end; but really, I find myself disliking the Dursleys for being against magic, when ... wait a minute, I'd be right in their shoes if I found out my sister was a witch! I might not be as nasty about it, but I certainly wouldn't be hobnobbing with her when I know that the Bible condemns witchcraft. Yet here I am, hating on the Dursleys and cheering Harry on as he finds out about his hidden powers.

    I do think there's a difference between books like Narnia and LotR, and Harry Potter and other magic-apprentice books, too. There's actually an article here which goes into depth and is very good: http://www.decentfilms.com/articles/magic

    So, while I can read and even enjoy those books, I don't make them a steady diet for sure, because books are powerful (like we're always saying) and I'd prefer not to sympathize with someone who is breaking God's law. Especially if they're written by someone who has no problem with real-life witchcraft, as apparently most modern day fantasy writers don't. Lewis and Tolkien, being Christians, were able to set clear boundaries with their magic, which is why lots of Christians let their children read those, while not letting them read other books with magic. There is a difference :)

    //end speech

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    1. Basically you just expounded on lines out of my quick post - which is great! because I don't want to do all the thinking for you, I want to spark thoughts in you. That's totally awesome. You took my comments of "be wise - be circumspect - test the spirits - search the scriptures" and basically exhibited in your comment how our faith helps guide us through this life. You feel the pull of fallen-human-nature-sin, and you recognize it because the Holy Spirit has sharpened your conscience to recognize it. THIS IS WHY YOU DON'T NEED TO BE AFRAID!

      I don't know if I should do a full-on post about this, but just right now I have to say, probably the biggest danger that faces Christian readers is not from stories like Harry Potter - it's from the miasma of crappy, shallow, diluted "Christian" fiction in which HORRIBLE, UNBIBLICAL choices are made. But because they are labelled "Christian", the reader lets down her guard. WHYYYYY do you think the devil is portrayed as an angel of light? He and his cohorts know their time is limited, and they would, if possible, even the elect. They don't come at us with secular fiction and silly spells. They come as christs and prophets.

      TAKEAWAY: If I were to recommend a healthy fear of anything, it would be Christian fiction.

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    2. (one teeeeeeny weeny tiny note: not "hobnobbing" with someone, like, I don't know, your sister who may or may not be a witch for this exercise (sorry, dude, I didn't label you a witch, let's be cool here), that's just a hard line for me to draw because non-hobnobbery is so very pharisaical and hobnobbery is so very Christ-like. gotta have a pure heart behind your ribcage for sure, but - just sayin'. hobnobbery is what Jesus did.)

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    3. I dunno ... I guess I am a bit afraid :) Not that truth will become untruth, but that I might be led into accepting things I shouldn't accept.
      Well, I wouldn't say Jesus hobnobbed with sinners. He ate with them and preached the gospel to them. To me, hobnobbing means more than just being a friend. It means ... having a good ol' time, having fun, joking, that sort of thing. I mean, I doubt Jesus was joking with adulterers about their adultery, or with tax collectors about how they got a kick out of their theft.
      But yes, definitely Jesus was the friend of sinners, which I think is beautiful! And I would never be hateful (I hope) but I also wouldn't just accept something as serious as witchcraft without trying to win my sister to Christ :)
      Erm ... what else?
      Ahh yes, the horrible Christian fiction thing. I do agree, yes, totally! Christian fiction often sets my teeth on edge, but I don't talk much about it around family and friends because that's seen as almost heresy, lol. Generally the story is thrown aside in favor of 'the message', whatever that message might be, and it ends up being dull and formulaic. Of course, I also like to point out that most secular books are also dull and formulaic, and have just as many stereotypes of Christians as we have of non-Christians. It's just that we're more used to seeing their stereotypes as normal, so we accept them more easily. Basically, I'm not impressed with most anything written by most anyone (which is why your books are pretty special, actually!).

      Ummm, wow. That was a lot! I don't talk a lot, but I can really ramble on in print.

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  4. Thank you, Jenny. I've been working through this issue in my own mind, and it's so good to hear someone's opinion that is actually well-informed, unafraid, and not of the "magic is of the devil, therefore I shall not even read or research this thing but warn people of it like the plague and judge you if you read it" mindset.
    On a different note, I really enjoy your blog. I have been reading it for a while, but just subscribed earlier this year. I bought "Plenilune" and "The Shadow Things" for my Christmas present last year and read them both over my Christmas break and a snowed-in weekend. I loved them! The stories pulled me in, with your beautiful writing style and so different, but so amazing, descriptions. I am looking forward to your other books, and I'm enjoying your "Snippets." I'm also trying to take your advice and comment more. :-)

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    1. AWWW, THANK YOU. I'm so hugely peached that you enjoyed my books - especially "The Shadow Things," because it was one of my early works and could definitely do with more work. XD

      I firmly believe that we should be wise and studious to guard our hearts, because this world is against Christ and his people with all teeth set. But the Scriptures give me very little reason to be //afraid//. Even when the devil struck at the Shepherd and all the twelve sheep scattered, denying him and running away, he had prayed for them! and they returned whole to his hand. That's pretty awesome. Not gonna lie, it makes me cry to think about it. Even when the Son of God had delivered himself over to Satan and it looked like everything was falling apart, //he still held the souls of his loved ones safe//. We can take enormous comfort in that. :)

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    2. Oh, yes! It's one of the most beautiful truths in the Scriptures. In the words of the bumper sticker, "ain't skeered."

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  5. Thank GOODNESS for this post. And thank goodness we have been given a "spirit not of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind."

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    1. That verse sums the WHOLE THING up: no fear, just power, love, + a mind awake + sound. Good gifts. Good gifts to God's children. :3

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  6. I've seen more articles on Magic and Christianity than I can shake a stick at. So many angles, pros, cons, and extremes on both sides.
    This article ranks among the better ones!
    I'm noticing now that more writers are bringing into the debate the points of discernment and God's authority. That's great to see.

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  7. Two things stand out to me as I read this post.

    First is an elaboration on what I seems to be the main point of your post. There is a difference between being wise, discerning, and on your guard, and being afraid. I am a great proponent of the truth that ideas have consequences. Ideas shape the world and change the course of history. This is why books are important (as another comment pointed out). However, often times ideas don't become truly powerful until they become invisible. That is to say, the most powerful ideas are often those that people accept without thinking about them. It is the things we believe, but are not aware of, which have the most power to throw us off course. This is why it is often said that intellectuals rule the world from beyond the grave. They come up with the ideas that shape the course of history, but those ideas don't become truly powerful until the masses have accepted them without even being aware that they have done so.

    For this reason, something like magic in fiction is very unlikely to truly corrupt someone or convert someone to paganism etc. Precisely because we are so aware of it. As long as you are aware of the ideas and you can judge them rationally, they pose no real danger to you. (unless maybe you happen to already be irrational and deceived)

    The irony of this conversation is, in a very real sense, the ideas that we are unaware of are like a kind of magic. They work like an evil enchantment.

    In my opinion, most of the world including most Christians, have been essentially put under a real spell, an evil enchantment because their worldview is totally infected with modernist philosophy. They are concerned about a kid with a wand saying "Expelliarmus" but their own worldviews are primarily materialistic, reductionist, subjective/relativist and so on.

    That brings me to the second thing. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the kind of fictional works they did precisely because they recognized that the "modern" world was basically an evil enchantment that was holding Christians (and everyone else) under it's thumb. It was preventing them from seeing the world as it truly is. They recognized that modernism was creating a false reality, a false vision of the world. Their fiction was meant to be a direct answer to that, not by rational argument, or by philosophical debate, but by an imaginative counter-spell. The evil enchantment that shows a false vision of reality, can only be countered by a re-enchantment through showing as opposite a vision of reality as possible.

    When people talk about the dangerous of mythology etc, I am always struck by the irony that it was not Christianity that de-mythologized the world. It was the materialist, atheist, moderns who de-mythologized Christianity. Lewis and Tolkien were deliberately trying to re-mythologize the world. In order that they might undue the damage done by modernism.

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  8. I'm always happy to see someone writing from the "magic is not evil" perspective! Every time I read a post about how terrible books containing magic are, I feel guilty for reading them. Yet, at the same time, I also gain a lot from those books, because they often have wonderful messages woven in. As with many things, I just don't think this is a black-and-white issue.

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  9. Oh yes, this dinosaur. As an author of historical fantasy, I sometimes feel a bit outrageous, you know: here I am, I *could* have stuck to writing straight historical fiction, and I would have been perfectly acceptable to all the non-magic folks, or I could have written non-magical fantasy like so many do, which also would have made me acceptable to the non-magic folks...

    ...but noooooooo, I had to go and put magic in my historical fiction.

    My parents got a lot of flak while we were growing up, for letting us read (actually, reading to us themselves) Lewis and Tolkien. It wasn't fun. But they kept right on with it because they knew it was good stuff. So I know all about this debate, and here are some things I've noticed:

    - not all magic use in books is the same. Charles Williams vs Narnia vs Harry Potter - magic use in each of them are three WILDLY different things that symbolise three WILDLY different things.
    - the people who fear reading Tolkien or Rowling will tempt their children to dabble in the occult aren't fearing nothing at all. I've heard even sincere Christian Tolkien fans mention that they've met a remarkable amount of pagans/Wiccans/witches who started their fascination with occult power through reading Tolkien. !
    - but of course, sinners gonna sin and only God Almighty can change the human heart, so that's really not Tolkien's fault. Nor Rowling's (she doesn't really believe in magic).
    - and yet, despite how over-argued and crazy the debates over magic can get, here's one thing I've found: I've found that a LOT of Christians--even the crunchy homeschoolers whom are my own peculiar people--actually don't have a huge problem reading and enjoying good fantasy. Going into publishing my own magic-featuring fantasy, I thought my story would be basically rejected by my own homeschool-based community. Not so! I think the majority of us don't have a problem about it (we just don't protest as loudly as the ones that do).

    Which is to say, Jenny, that not only do I think you're right, but I think there are more people out there who agree with you than you may imagine :).

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