Sunday, August 28, 2011

Witches, Wizards, and Elves, Oh My!

We are a literary people. We are this way by design. For whatever reason, God designed us to have a written version of our spoken languages, and subsequently to use that medium to publish thoughts, ideas, and even stories for our fellow man to use. Why else would God have used the medium of a book to propel His Word down through the history of mankind, if we were not meant to be readers.

And yet, every time a good book comes along, Christians always manage to hack it apart and demonize it.

I am speaking of the Harry Potter book series. I recently completed it and loved every minute of it. But with the final movie adaption about to exit theaters and move on into the local Red Box, the religious publishers are still taking pot shots at it. I find this irritating and disrespectful. And it also reflects the state of the Church in its current understanding of Satan's tactics. Allow me to explain.

Obviously, the Church's objection is the idea of wizards, witches, and the use to "witchcraft". The problem I have with this is that the depicted magic in the Harry Potter books bears little to no resemblance to real witchcraft. In fact, the closest it comes is Divination, which even the primary characters of book condemns as bogus. Rowling loosely based the magic of Harry Potter on magic as it is depicted in the Arthurian legends. In fact, the interjection "Merlyn's Beard" is often heard, as well as prominent characters are often members of the "Order of Meryin". Arthurian magic is based on the idea that the magic of one generation is the science of another. For example, in both Harry Potter, and the assumed magnum opus of Arthurian Legend, The Once and Future King by T. H. White, there is a satchel that has had a charm put on it so that it can contain a room full of items in spite of its small size. Sound outrageous? My Amazon Kindle, smaller than a single book in itself, contains 500 books, which is 20% of its claimed capacity. Doesn't sound so outrageous anymore, does it?

In Arthurian legend, Merlyn lives backwards, from future to the past. He had already seen things like airplanes and trains, and was mesmerized by them. Rowling continued this with some characters' fascination with what they called "Muggle artifacts".

This depiction of magic in Harry Potter bears no resemblance to true magic, as is condemned in the Scriptures. It is far too pedantic. Witchcraft is often defined as an art that any human can undertake to learn, that uses the power of a supernatural entity to perform in the real world actions that would otherwise be impossible within the parameters of our normal physical laws. Real witchcraft is coercive and controlling. A smooth tongue that can use words to manipulate a person to do one's will. And just to further show how hypocritical the Church has been in condemning these books, the transliteration for the original Greek word for "witchcraft" in Galatians 5:20 is pharmakeia. That is the same root word from which we derive our word "Pharmaceutical", "Pharmacy", and "Pharmacist". That's right folks! If you want to see honest and biblically condemned witchcraft, one really needs to look no further than their own medicine cabinet.

Of course, no one wants to hear that. Everyone likes to think that they are immune to the really heinous sins. They enjoy believing that the sins God hates the most are the ones most distant and foreign to their very lives. Ever notice how most Christians strongly condemn the sins they themselves are not generally tempted to? We need to honestly reread the "mote and beam" story in the Scripture again. We love defining our point of reference for moral fidelity in such a way that puts us in good moral standing with God. How quickly we forget that our moral standard, the epitome of holiness, is Christ. Who can measure up then?

Of course, the magic in Harry Potter is different than the magic of other books, like The Lord of the Rings and Narnia. In those two books, firstly, it is an entirely different world. Magic comprises part of the natural landscape to those worlds. It is as commonplace as the Sun and Moon. Second, not just anyone can undertake the learning of magical arts in those stories. Either you are, or are not, a being who can use magic. For example, the wizards in The Lord of the Rings, like Gandalf and Saruman, are not human, but rather, they are the Istari, or divine beings sent by Iluvatar (the world's deity) for a particular purpose. The elves are also magical, but not in the same way as the Istari. In Narnia, the magic was there, almost a person in itself, defined and written by that world's deity. In fact, Narnia, being patterned after Christianity, one might say that the magic that pervades the book is the Narnia version of the Holy Spirit. The atonement of that world is called "Deeper Magic". The magic of Narnia are the governing laws of the world, including the laws that govern Aslan Himself, written by Aslan's father.

In fact, consider this. If magic can indeed be defined as the presence of a supernatural power performing actions that would otherwise be impossible within the parameters of our physical laws, then wouldn't some of Christ's actions appear as magic to those who had no theological background? Raising the dead could be construed as necromancy, Turning water into wine could be construed as transfiguration. And obviously, there had to be a transcendence of our physical laws that made Christ buoyant enough to walk on water.

Sorry if I have gotten your ire up. That might have been a tad too much for the constrained minds of modern Christians.

I suppose this has turned into a rant. But magic, as depicted in literature, equals power. And too much power always defines a good antagonist for the protagonist, typically outgunned and weaker, to overcome. In other words, magic makes a good story.

Finally, having said all that, do I think Harry Potter is the work of the Devil? Well, probably so, but not for the same reasons the Church is popularizing. Growing up around raccoon hunters, I learned a little about it. The only defense a raccoon really has against the sensitive noses of the coon hounds is the clever tactic of throwing them off the scent. Use rivers, creeks, and trees and march them north while the raccoon is safely heading south. That is precisely what Satan has done with books like Harry Potter. As long as the Church is looking for children playing Quidditch or taming Hippogriffs in an enchanted forest, the real witchcraft continues unchecked and unchallenged by the Church.

Honestly, when was the last time you saw a fourteen year old buzz down the street on a broom, or brewing polyjuice potion in their basement, or sending friends messages by using an owl? And yet, these innocuous activities, only found in literature, and foreign to those who practice genuine witchcraft, are ripped apart from pulpits and Christian publications as if they were fundamental dangers to our societies. The Devil laughs at the Church's utter lack of understanding. The hounds are heading north, while their quarry heads south.

It is yet more condemning evidence as to the current atrophied and emaciated state of today's established Church.

My message to the Church is, leave good literature alone. Know what you're talking about before chopping away at it. It is not the time to go on a demon hunt where no demon exist. There are more pertinent things out there. Outside the Church, pornography has become rampant and easily accessible. Divorce rates continue to climb. Joblessness is on the increase, and people are hurting now more than ever. Within the Church, rampant humanism continues to pervade the doctrines and orders, seemingly without resistance, continuing to erode the fundamental truths of Christianity. In truth, all you really have to do is preach the Gospel... The GOSPEL!!! You do not really have to worry about keeping the moral alignment of the Church in tow if the genuine Gospel is preached with the unction of the Holy Ghost. Christ said that He would draw all men to Him if He is lifted up. If men are drawn to Him, and are standing at his feet, moral misalignment becomes a moot point. Stop trying to define what has already been defined. Quit attempting to fit people into your moral molds. Take people by the hand, and lead them to Jesus. Not much can go wrong after that.