Faith & Culture

I’m not sure I could ever find anything more depressing than walking into a Christian store.  Why?  Because it’s like walking into a Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer movie: everything’s a parody, no originality.  Look!  In the window!  It’s a Christian edition of Rock Band.  Why?  Why don’t Christian bands and group sell their music for rock downloads on the regular Rock Band or Guitar Hero?  Why didn’t faithful developers create this play style to begin with?

Once upon a time, men of faith were the greatest innovators the world had ever seen.  The printing press (one of the cornerstones of modernity) was invented by a man who wanted to make the Bible available to all.  Mendel in studying God inside the monastery and in the field laid the foundation for genetics.  Examine some of the greatest works of art throughout time, many of these were made by men of faith – for faith.

Yet today, what do I see around me?  Music copied from other singers with Christianized lyrics slapped on.  Games rehashed with “God” shoehorned into the plot.  Where is the originality?  Where are the Christian innovations?  What’s worse than a lack, is that so many have been shunned.  Tolkien was a man of great faith who revolutionized the fantasy genre and literature (and the movie based upon that work revolutionized some things too). But do you find the displays within the stores dedicated to him like there are of C.S. Lewis? (though I admit being a big fan of Lewis)  Another great, powerful, Christian work of art recently released was Rowling’s own Harry Potter series.  Yet there is no praise or encouragement for this woman from her own brothers in sisters in faith!  Some even condemn her.  Vox Day, a man who’s written three Christian fiction stories and the Irrational Atheist had this to say about his own publishing efforts:

The sad thing is that an author could probably get more press from the Christian media by writing a lousy novel about a transexual serial killer priest who rapes and murders his way to the papacy than he could by writing a good novel written from a Christian worldview that glorifies Jesus Christ. If Christians will not support Christian alternatives, then they had better not be surprised when the alternatives to the worldly things that offend them disappear altogether.

.

Examine the following.

  1. A villain kills an innocent man using a wand.
  2. A villain kills an innocent man using a gun.
  1. A guy uses a crystal ball to see what’s happening in a distant desert.
  2. A guy flips on a TV to see what’s happening in Iraq.

According to some, number 1 in both examples is much worse than number 2.  Why? (answer: it’s labeled “magic”)

In an effort to fight the cultural virus of postmodernism, many Christians have resorted to over-standardization.  They have forgotten that while Jesus might be the only path to God, there are many paths to Jesus (see: the New Testament).  Yet every work of fiction is largely the same.  The same heroes, the same trials… the command to rely upon God has been warped to the point that only Deus ex Machina are allowed to save the day.  The wild, untamed God is made nice and safe while the heroes aren’t allowed to be too imperfect.

The worst of it is that I’d like to be a “real” writer some day.  While I would expect to be bashed and hated by some elites and critics (who take art way too seriously) being disowned and hated by family (as I probably would be by brothers and sisters of faith) is rough.

Still… the best part about faith, is that it reminds you there are some things worth fighting for.

11 thoughts on “Faith & Culture

  1. You mention JK Rowling, and how she’s been shunned by many Christians. Some of them have done this because of the “occult” teachings of Harry Potter, and they are obviously idiots. But some have done so because she claims that Albus Dumbledore, one of the books’ most kind and loving characters, is homosexual. Not that I agree with their point of view, just saying that’s probably a big reason she isn’t winning any “Christian author of the year” awards.

    And as for Tolkien vs Lewis, I never really saw much of a Christian message in Lord of the Rings, personally. Some similar principles, sure, but there’s nothing that really says “This book is about Jesus”. Narnia, on the other hand, wears its Christianity on its sleeve. Then again, I was into D&D long before LOTR, so maybe I’m just seeing it through that lens.

    • You might have a point if Rowling had some store displays or Christian accolades before her revelation about Dumbledore, but the fact is she didn’t (that I ever saw or heard) for several years that she was writing and releasing all seven books. If there were cases of stores removing displays… maybe. But she never even got the encouragement before that announcement.

      The faith of middle-earth is more obvious in Tolkien’s Similarion book but it is there still in LotR and the Hobbit. Yes it is more apparent if you read something like this. But it is even more apparent when you read fantasy books by non-Christians (remember: what you are always works itself into your art). Read something written by an atheist (i.e. Pullman) or a pagan (i.e. Ursula K. Le Guin) and the underlying Christian themes in LotR will jump out at you.

  2. This makes me so dang mad. I hate the use of God as a Deus ex Machina (I only recently figured out that it doesn’t work that way), but the thing is, when writing, I have no idea how to incorporate God in such a way that He becomes part of the plot instead of either a sideline or takes over the whole thing. I want a Christian protagonist who’s flawed beyond belief and a story that is about her interactions with others. But it’s so hard to do.

    I also don’t think I would have pegged JKR as a Christian author, for some reason I don’t fully understand. Probably the Dumbledore thing would be a big reason.

    I also have a Christian vampires/werewolves story simmering in my head, and I’m going to write it and try and get it published once I have enough of a reader base to get it out there (witness the case of Sue Dent, whose own similar book was refused a place on pretty much any shelf in any shop). And I know my mother’s not going to be happy. But, dammit, there’s a story to be told here, and I’m not going to rest until I tell it.

  3. Why is Harry Potter Ok to watch? I’m seriously ignorant of this whole subject. I mean instead of bashing Christians and referring to them as idiots (Miles) why not explain why it is OK to watch and why the biblical ban on witchcraft doesn’t have anything to do with Harry Potter. I’d actually like to watch it but I don’t see how it’s OK. I love fiction and would love to watch more things if I understood from a biblical standpoint why it’s ok and where I might be off in my understanding of witchcraft.

    I’ve had other Christians tell me that Harry Potter doesn’t use witchcraft , at least not according to the Biblical definition. So I looked up the definition (can’t remember what source off hand) and it said one who utters spells. Which I thought is what Harry Potter does. Also the bible speaks against divination and doesn’t Harry Potter go to a divination class? If someone would like to explain why it’s ok, I’d love to hear it as I really would like to watch some of the movies.

    • The exact answer is long and drawn out, worth an entire essay to itself. Let me sum it up this way: in HP, magic serves the same function that technology does for us. Reread my examples, that should help understanding a lot.

      Ask yourself this: if Harry Potter was moved to a sci-fi setting where the students rode shuttlecraft instead of brooms or fired rayguns instead of wands, would that make the story “ok” or not? If yes, why? Why is a “sonic screwdriver’ inherently better than a wand? Or are they?

    • Harry Potter doesn’t practice occult magic; he doesn’t go to Hogwarts to learn how to be a wizard, and he doesn’t make a Faustian deal with a demon to acquire magical powers. Harry himself is a magical being (like Tolkien’s elves). He goes to the school to learn how to harness his inherent power so that he does not become a danger to himself or others.

      If “uttering spells” condemns one, then Lucy Pevensie is surely damned, for she casts two spells from a book in “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”.

      Divination is considered “quack magic”, sort of like patent medicines and bleeding people with leeches is considered today. The first divination professor is definitely shown to have no powers of divination whatsoever, and the second divination teacher pretty much says that divination (as in, telling the future) is impossible.

      The power of the Harry Potter books isn’t in what it teaches about magic, however; it’s what it teaches about power–political power, especially. It’s a very intense read from the fifth book on.

  4. I see your point. Except my problem is not with the wands or broomsticks. The reason I do not watch it is because of spells and divination. Spells usually involve invoking some other being to do your will, at least that is how I understand it and divination is frowned upon in the bible. When doing those things it involves being involved with demons. (I’m not saying that is what Harry Potter is doing, I’m actually quite confused about that) and God says he hates witchcraft. Like I said in my above post I looked up witchcraft and it said the definition was to utter spells. I can’t remember the source where I found it but I know it was a religious source. So from what I can tell Harry Potter utters spells. So therefore wouldn’t that meet the biblical definition of witchcraft?

    Anyhow, don’t take this as a debate. I’m just here to learn.

  5. I guess another way I look at it is this, in the bible it is OK to eat meat sacrificed to an idol. The meat is just food and when taken out of a religious ceremony where they sacrificed to an idol and instead just brought into your home for the purpose of sustenance then it is just that, food. Nothing more and nothing less. So the broomsticks and wands that people may find offensive is like the meat. However when you take that meat into a temple and they are sacrificing to a deity and you take part in the supper and ceremony (even though you realize an idol is nothing) you are taking part of a ceremony where demons are involved. God forbids this. That is like the divination and spells. There are only 2 powers in this world, that of God’s and of the devil. If you are doing a spell or partaking of divination, that power or information that you get doesn’t come from God so where does it come from?

    I’m not saying I’m right about Harry Potter just trying to show you where my thinking is at.

  6. After much thought about this (and so I’ll probably contradict some of the things I’ve said before about HP), I kind of have to side with Sandra here, Nate.

    Changing a gun to a wand or a tv to a crystal ball doesn’t just mean changing labels. It means changing implications. The concept of magic is then involved, and it’s how that concept is handled that makes all the difference.

    JKR’s magic is very grounded in the occult, and very ‘doable’, and while I admire Doing The Research, the fact still remains that this magic is based on real magick–spells, ingredients, etc: an actual anti-God religion, rather than vague abilities like Gandalf and many of the Chrestomanci books. How that can glorify God takes a rather large stretch of the imagination…

    Not to mention, the divination, medium stuff, and the use of spells in general, all of which are presented as having nothing wrong with them when done by good people–even when the kids use them against each other (like poor Neville Longbottom getting frozen or Harry and co. changing themselves to look like Draco’s buddies).

    There’s also the thing about Harry and his friends constantly lying, cheating, stealing, etc, set up as ‘good’, just because there’s a bigger evil in the shape of Voldemort. It’s kind of the same as Stephenie Meyer setting up Bella and Edward to be Teh Wuvness even though we all know their relationship is unhealthy.

    (I’ve also read Wild at Heart, and, well… while it had its good points, and I can appreciate what it was trying to do, some of its doctrine was very very unsound.)

    Sorry to be so totally against your view here. I personally will continue to read Harry Potter, but I wouldn’t call it a Christian book.

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