Magic and things that might as well be magic, like the abilities of the X-MEN like genetic anomalies in the television series Heroes, are everywhere these days. It has been building for a while, but whether you consider the current Lost, Heroes, Charmed, The Dresden Files, Supernatural, and Superman (meteor rock magic) television shows, or movies galore such as Lord of the Rings, the Narnia stories, Harry Potter, the Illusionist, and others, or video games such as Final Fantasy (whatever version), World of Warcraft and others, magic and pseudoscience that is really magic is on the rise.
The foundational lure is power and while the storyline may appeal to noble efforts to fight evil, dark magic (our heroes would only use “white” magic–usually), and an ever-growing assortment of bad guys/beings/entities/demons/whatever, it does beg the question as to where all of this is leading?
I am not a knee-jerk Christian who cannot separate Narnia and Middle Earth or the contrivances of a video game or television characters from those who want to be real witches, warlocks, or wizards in this day and age. But the acceptance of magic or fantastical science that might as well be magic is seeping into every aspect of our cultural mindset. I would venture to say that there are more people 12-30 in the United States who understand the ins and outs of Harry Potter than understand the ins and outs of Jesus Christ, probably way more.
I am not proposing an answer to my question; I have no idea where this is going, but it is going somewhere for some purpose. It is becoming too mainstream, too much a part of our cultural psyche.
But as we contemplate Lent and the love and sacrifice that this period represents, we need to begin asking ourselves and our culture some hard questions about where it is headed, and in this instance I don’t mean sexually or concerning drugs; I mean with all of this magic and extra-biblical supernaturalism.
As the Reformed are wont to say, there are no accidents. So, what, where, and why, dear Lord; what, where, and why?
Part of me wonders if this can’t be a bad thing (besides, magic has always been of interest to cultures going way, way back); it does at least prepare the mind for the idea of the supernatural, in other words, God’s power (and, for the Christians and others who don’t believe in it, the abilities of satan and his minions as well).
Granted, we can’t compare God with the boy wizard or Bilbo Baggins, but it seems to me our culture has, until recently, lost its sense of the mystical (wrong word, but I’m hoping you’ll understand me), the supernatural, the higher and what we cannot see. Considering how quickly we seem to be ratcheting our way toward the end, perhaps it will be easier for people to believe in God Himself as their minds have already been irrigated with the fanciful ideas of dragons, magic rings – and most importantly, quite clearly defined good and evil. I can’t speak for some of the things you’ve mentioned, but Tolkein, Lewis, and even Rowling’s stories all deal with good versus evil.
Frankly, I’m not so concerned about this, considering God’s ability to use such things, as I am the depraved and quickly growing affection for the torture and mutilation of human beings increasingly prevalent in popular films today. There is something very, very sick about our society when movies about abusing human beings in the most heinous manner imaginable is so entertaining. Reminds me of an empire from long ago…
Ashamedly I have to admit that before I became a Christian, in my youth, I took an interest in the Occult and Witchcraft. Honestly, even at this time in the early 80’s, there existed a pretty big occult scene. For myself, it was influences in music; such as, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Slayer; influences in literature, such as, Elric of Melnibone, The Satanic Bible and Carlos Castanada’s, Don Juan the Medicine Man, and then there was the numerous movies and T.V. shows which all involved magic.
So during my young adult years, magic was pretty popular and I was attracted to it. I grew up in San Antonio, Texas; so the popular forms of Occult there were, Voodoo and Mexican and Indian tribal type of magic. There were people that I knew and acquainted myself with who actually ‘practiced’ magic. In other words, they had literature that taught them magic, they bought items from the Occult stores that they needed for spells and as charms and for protection. They preformed actual spells and rituals and they worshiped beings and forces associated with this.
But after I got out of High School, I joined the Navy and left all of that behind and then soon after became a Christian. But I was involved with it long enough to know that there are people in our neighborhoods that are serious about magic and the occult. For them, it’s a serious religion and a way of life.
As you said William: “I am not a knee-jerk Christian who cannot separate Narnia and Middle Earth or the contrivances of a video game or television characters from those who want to be real witches, warlocks, or wizards in this day and age.”
I have a couple of books about Wicca and Paganism. I work at a Christian Bookstore and I bought these books so that I could better identify the signs of someone involved with this type of current mystical practice. I believe that Wicca, Paganism and Mysticism are the leading culprits of magic practice in our schools today.
My daughter’s elementary school had a book fair a couple of years ago and on the rack, I saw a book on Hinduism. I was slightly taken back by this, but there it was, ready for someone to pick up and start practicing Hinduism. This was at an elementary school mind you. There were also books on Witchcraft and Sorcery. Of course, they were fiction and the cover art suggested innocent fun. But they are still a reflection of our cultures interest in the Occult. But this got me to start worrying about my daughters and the presence of Wicca, Paganism, drug use, sex and Mysticism in the public schools they will be attending.
So I now am going to be careful in teaching my children what these wrong practices are and why they are unedifying to the Lord. Granted, we are raising our children up in the Church and we have a very active faith in our Family. So I seriously doubt anything will influence my children like it did me, but I’m not just going to leave them unprepared and unguarded. I feel as though that this is an area, a serious area of spiritual warfare and that it should be taken seriously by all Christians.
So I have found this post very interesting William and I thank you for your thoughts and I’ll just leave with these couple of remarks. 🙂 My oldest daughter and I like watching Harry Potter and Narnia. I enjoy Tolkien’s works and my daughter has even read a series of books about witches. But this is all strictly for entertainment and has nothing to do with actually having a desire to ‘practice’ magic and or being Idolatrous, in my opinion and I know that there are varying opinions when it comes to this subject. 🙂
In His grace,
It is my belief that you are only /perceiving/ an increase in magic in popular entertainment. And sure, there may be a small surge in such things, just as there is a surge in reality tv and are small surges of various other types of shows over time.
However, magic in entertainment is nothing new. Obviously, primitive man told stories of magic and the supernatural around the evening camp fire. But magic isn’t new even within Christian circles. The very first written (Old) English language story was Beowulf, which combined pagan magic and monsters with Christian themes. And Tolkien and Lewis were Christians, among other Christians who have written about “magic” and mystical worlds.
Note that, taken at face value, people like Aaron, with his staff, in the Old Testament were “magicians” of a sort. Indeed, the entire Exodus story with Moses/Aaron pitted against Pharaoh is a story showing that God’s magic is more powerful than that of other gods (who clearly existed, according to the story, as the Pharaoh’s priests could do magic, just not as powerfully as Aaron). I understand that for Christians there is the need to separate Aaron’s magic from that of the Pharaoh’s priests. But it has always seemed to me that if magic did exist (I don’t personally believe it does), it would be like any other natural resource – able to be used for good or for ill.