Magic, Tech & the line…

(sorry for the lack of posting, been busy with a secret project of late)
(also, I did have a different post planned but as some replies to some comments on a previous post grew, I thought I’d expand it into a full post)

I should just save a lot of this and point out that if you really want to study the history of magic, religion, and more, you should just go to the Hogwarts Professor who more or less has an entire website devoted to these and more topics (as well as several books).  My writings will be more like the ramblings of a graduate student compared to the professor…

.

One of my older articles recently had an uptick in comments and questions about Harry Potter and the fantasy genre as it relates to faith (specifically Christian) as a whole.

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.

Yes, it also depends.  The phrase goes “sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.  Which is why there used to be many distinctions and categories of magic.  Invoking spirits and demons is a definite no-no.  Otherwise using rules of the universe to accomplish feats you couldn’t normally is more or less tech.  About the only real difference – I guess – is power sources.

I’m not being cheeky or insulting here, but think about it a moment.

there are only 2 powers in this world, that of God’s and of the devil

Ok, so does electricity (power/energy) belong to God or the devil?  Is kinetic energy (what makes bullets so deadly) of God or of the devil?  Does the Tardis run on God power or devil power?  Obviously, if a prophet or witch is invoking or calling on supernatural beings to accomplish a task for them, the answer is obvious.  However, in Harry Potter we don’t see them do that.  If anything, it’s just an alternate world with slightly different laws of physics.  Instead of just using kinetic energy to throw a rock, people there can use… let’s call it “magica” energy, to levitate it.  Usually I’ve noticed that the only real difference in people’s minds between levitation and using a forklift, is that we understand how the forklift works in our world.  But wouldn’t it be considered magical to more primitive peoples?  But do you think the forklift is morally wrong?  If you used a light-switch today, you more or less “invoked” a power.

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.

Divination is about the only questionable thing in the book.  On the other hand, it’s a frequent source of punchlines for Rowling.  So I’m not sure I’d count that against the book since the story is mocking the concept.  As for spells: refer back to earlier point about types of magic.  All evidence in the stories points to most spells being morally neutral, not calling on any being to do anything.

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

Since the wands use things like unicorn hair & phoenix feathers (and all magic in HP seems to require wands) and even potions require ingredients like mandrake root, I must respectfully disagree that anything in the books is ‘doable’.  There’s also not much shown in the schools that influences any religion any more than any college prevents religion.  About the only exception would be that we’re not shown any place for a mass or prayer service or synagogue but given the nature of the school itself, it’s not ruled out either.  If anything, should Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or even Christian students need a place for religious gatherings, we know explicitly that the Room of Requirement will serve. 😉

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.

Now that’s a very legitimate complaint.  I don’t have much to reply except that I’ve heard there’s apparently a genre of literature with a long history in Britain of kids (especially schoolboys) breaking “little rules”.  I’m not for certain because I haven’t done much research on that but it could very well be a case of culture clash.  I can certainly understand parents not seeing Harry as a good role-model as a person.  As far as whether that’s Christian or not… well the Bible itself has a lot of stories of lying, cheating, stealing and worse…

Of course, in the end I do defer to Paul’s advice on this, such as Romans 14 and elsewhere.  “But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.”  But this whole debate arose because of my thoughts when I walked into an explicitly Christian store.  Since Christianity itself is a wide umbrella with many adherents, the real debate becomes: what should be in there?  Church of Christ do not like instruments in their worship – for them it could be called “unclean”.  Should the store then not sell instruments for religious services or games such as Rock Praise Band?  There is a wide array of items that obviously we can all agree shouldn’t be in the store (I don’t think it’s going to be selling any of the God of War series anytime soon), but what about the in-between stuff?  Should the store not carry anything that any one might consider unclean?  Or should it carry a variety and we of the faith should learn to tolerate or ignore the parts that bug us?

That’s not rhetorical.  I honestly think that’s something Christians should discuss and talk about.  And if we can figure out where & how we’ll shop, maybe then we can move on to where we find God…

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7 thoughts on “Magic, Tech & the line…

  1. there are only 2 powers in this world, that of God’s and of the devil

    Nice article, except for your comments after this, where you seem to have missed the point(or you’re being sarcastic)

  2. I always found the anti-HP sentiment to be very odd (especially since my Pastor actually debated some other Christians who denounced the books as “Occultist Preparatory Material”).

    While obviously we differ on key points of doctrine and I recognize that I could be wrong, I still wince when I get the brethren who start on the whole “anti-d&d/anti-hp bruhaha”.

    Given the long history of Christian writers in science fiction and fantasy, given the fact that the early Church was not cowed or frightened by talk of pagan “magicians”, given the fact that much of this loathing of “magic” is based on what can be demonstrably proven as faulty exegesis (the Bible doesn’t actually say that magic can ONLY come from the Adversary, and in fact is dismissive of such powers as mere parlor tricks compared to the majesty of the Creator), and given the fact that the books are actually pretyy good….I still shake my head.

    • I doubt that we disagree that much or that the points are that “key” (or at least, when I hear “key points of doctrine” I hear it as “damnable points of doctrine”. I would not be upset at all to meet you some day in heaven and would consider the afterlife much poorer were you not in it. At least until we get to the great RPG game in the sky (where we all know Gary Gygax is the DM and Jesus is playing a min/max level 1 cleric), you are welcome to chill around my table any time (though I make a lousy DM).

  3. No. I agree with you. I was talking about Christians who go down the Jack Chick route (I was trying to say that while I recognize that I could be wrong, I still cant hide my disdain when I hear my brothers and sisters start doing this kind of crap, for the reasons I listed above).

    It’s like I say over and over again:

    On top of having to keep my gaming hobby secret from jocks and other ne’er do-wells, I also had to contend with the fact that many of my fellow gamers looked at me with shock and horror when they found out that I am a Christian. I’ve lost count of how many times I had to calmly explain that Chicky and his ilk represented a very small handful of vocal followers of a splinter Fundamentalist group (yes, you heard that right: a group so radical that even most avowed, and loopy of fundamentalist sects thought they were too bonkers to be associated with) who hated everyone who didn’t follow their specific sect, especially other Christians (for example, according to the tract writing fruitcake, Catholics and Episcopalians are worshipers of Satan who rule the Earth with the aid of the Illuminati and magic) .

    Even to the present day, I still get flack for it and I still have to explain that.

    It’s like my Pastor (who is also an avid tabletop gamer) once said: “When the Good Lord was doing character creation, I think he may have botched a few rolls when it came to Mr. Chick and his ilk.”

    • Oh I sympathize. The gaming group I hung out with before I moved – cool, awesome people though they are – weren’t always sympathetic to Christians (there was one other guy I know of as a brother for sure). It stung a little, but it could always be worse.

      A group of us sort of formed an inner group – a bunch of Christians who gamed. 2 of us have gone home way WAY ahead of their time, but hey, if you joined us we’d be up to… 7 people! 😀

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