Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Christian's Thoughts on The Subject of Magic in Children’s Books

For years, I have been trying to wrap my mind around the objection that some parents have to allowing their children to read books, see movies, play games or anything else that has magic in it. (Examples: not playing Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, no Harry Potter, etc.) Specifically I am also interested in this when the parent is Christian and has religious reasons cited as their reason.

I corresponded with another homeschooling mother named Sonya via email about this topic in November 2006. I met Sonya through an online chat list whose discussion topic is about children’s books. I specifically asked to hear from someone who could explain this objection to magic in children’s literature and other media. Additionally I was curious about objections of some Christians to The Chronicles of Narnia books, while other Christians love the series and the message that the books carry. Sonya wrote and we went back and forth a bit.

Sonya has given me permission to post her long explanation of the topic of the objection she has to exposing her children to magic in any way, shape, or form.

I respect every parent’s right to make decisions that are right and best for their family. I respect other people’s choices especially when they are well-thought out instead of being made willy-nilly. I also respect people’s religious choices as well.

Sonya gave me new insight and some things to ponder. I also appreciated the Bible quotes as I can reference them and ponder them on my own to see if I reach the same interpretation.

With that said I do believe that we all have the right to agree to disagree.

In case you are wondering, at this point in time I still allow my children to read books and access other materials and media which include fictional representation of magic for entertainment purposes.

Sonya’s long note gave me so much to think about that I still don’t feel up to writing a long opinion piece to address all the points that she brought up. I am sharing Sonya’s writing with you in case you are wondering also why some parents have issues with magic and censor magic, in fiction books, other media and in games from their children’s lives.

Editorial note: my spell checker caught a few spelling mistakes and I did correct those. The format and content of Sonya’s writing was not edited in any other way. I left the Bible quotes spelled as Sonya spelled them rather than changing them as the spell checker advised. I did remove Sonya’s last name and the phone number to her residence which she shared with me and invited me to phone her to discuss this further if I wanted.

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My original email to Sonya was this:

Dear Sonya,

I would love to hear your thoughts.

My husband and I were just discussing this last week. We know that while some people on this earth believe in real magic and believe they are truly witches practicing their religion of paganism or Wicca or whatever they call it, we believe they are practicing an unreal and false religion which does not exist in reality. We know the Bible speaks against ‘magic’. While the witch may think what they are doing is real we feel what they are doing is not real, it is not effective, their spells are not doing anything, etc. etc.

We are practicing Christians (me, Protestant) and my husband is a devout Catholic. We just still don’t understand how a make believe story involving magic could be going against the Bible if we feel the magic is fake and not real and is pure fiction.

We also feel that if we were to prevent our children from hearing new and old stories with magic in them (i.e. Cinderella and all the various countries versions of Cinderella that go back thousands of years) that we would be saying that the magic they do in the books is real and therefore magic is a real thing that can happen in life.

One last thing some of my friends believe the way you do, some are Protestant Christians and some are Catholics. I see some of the children becoming very angry and feeling left out and also resentful of their parents for not allowing certain things. For example one mom freaked out when a homeschooled boy came over for a playdate in her home with a pretend magic wand and another time she got angry when guests/children were reciting Harry Potter’s spells. (I wa there and witnessed this.) I know we can’t do things just to please our children but I wanted to just mention that sometimes this can be the first seed of anger in a child’s heart that forms into resentment and I fear later, into rebellion when they are a little older (the oldest that I know in this situation is 10). I see the anger in the children but the parents seem blind to it as their own personal convictions are so strong.

(I did read a long article once on some site, can’t remember if it was Vision Forum or Sonlight, but I still couldn’t get the point of it. I also read some of the anti-Narnia talk by Christians online and still just can’t get it.)

Can you help us understand?

Thanks.

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Dear Christine,

I would be happy to share with you why we believe what we believe. :0)

I suppose the first point would be to address the foundation of what we all believe. It is common in the Christian world to think that "magic" is not real and there is no real power in magic. We know however from the Bible that magic is indeed real and added and abetted by demonic powers. Whenever one is using a power that does not come from God, it is a power that has come from Satan.

Let me give some references for this. First, we know that magic works because when Pharaoh’s magicians met Moses, they "copied" all of the initials signs of power that God had given to Moses. When Moses threw down his staff and it became a snake, Pharaoh's magicians threw down their staffs and they became snakes, etc. Now of course their power was limited and not nearly as powerful as God's power....hence Moses snakes ate up their snakes, and they could do nothing against the plagues that the Lord brought.

Exodus 7:11
Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.

Exodus 7:22
And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said.

Exodus 8:7
And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.

Here is where their powers began failing
Exodus 8:18
And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.

Exodus 8:19
Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

These magicians were not powerful because they merely preached a false religion.

These magicians were powerful because they showed signs and wonders to the people. They were not "all powerful" but they did exhibit some form of power in the form of magic.

In the New Testament we can look at this scripture is Acts 16

16And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
17The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
18And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
19And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,
In Acts 8
9But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:
10To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.
11And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.

When one looks at these scriptures one notices several things. In the first, by casting out a demon, the "power" of this woman to practice divination was gone. She had no power of her own, it came from Satan. That she DID have power is evident in the fact that her masters were angry at Paul and Silas because now they could not make money from this woman.

And in the second story in Acts 8, Simon the sorcerer was very highly regarded and listened to because they thought he had power from God. In fact, he had "bewitched them with sorceries." He was a powerful man. He was using Satan's power to create "magic." He was, as the definition of the word "magic" implies, "using various techniques, as incantation, to exert control over the supernatural or the forces of nature."

So for this discussion, it is first necessary to establish the fact that magic is real. It has power and its power is evil.

When I was in my early teens we knew a youth who was very into the Tolkien series as well as Dungeons and Dragons. He told us that as he got into the higher levels of Dungeons and Dragons, that demons began appearing to him. He thought this was very cool, until they began to try to take his sanity and his life. He was not a believer of Jesus of course and had no idea of how to protect himself from them.
My husband and I know that demonic forces are real because we have both had personal attacks. In my husbands case his parents called him after he was moved away from home, because there was an indentation of a body (no real body that they could see) rolling around on his bed. He went into the house and cast the demon out and it left.

Remember, it is Satan who has rule and authority in the present world because of the Fall. He even tempted Jesus by offering to give him back the world if Jesus would just fall down and worship him. He could never have offered it to Jesus unless by rights it was first his. Satan loves to be worshiped, to be feared and to show off his power...limited as it is compared to God's.
When we were in Haiti for our honeymoon, my husband and I both felt the spiritual oppression of the entire island. Haiti is known for its witchdoctors and sorcery...and believe me...the people are scared. The witchdoctor’s spells are REAL. The produce REAL results. And they kill people who do not know how to fight this unknown enemy. Yes, it is false in the sense that they are not worshiping God. But the thing they are worshiping does have some power. Now, Jesus said that he gave US authority over all demons and principalities and power of this present age.

Luke 9:1
Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.
Ephesians 6 says
11Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
If spiritual wickedness was not real, if Satan's power were not real, why would the Lord warn us that we are in a battle? That we will have to fight with the powers of darkness in this world.

Now, over Christians, I do not believe Satan has any power other than his "wiles..." which if you research that word would be "mind games," or a "road to the mind." If he can get us to think that what is good is evil and what is evil is good, he has gone a long way to conquering us. Indeed in the last days it says that people will call what is evil good and good evil and we see it happening right now. Homosexuality is "good" and those who want to display the 10 commandments are "bad." We are not doomsdayers, but we do see this type of thinking increasing.
I myself could easily have been snared with magic. I remember one day I was reading one of my favorite Dragon series (I loved fantasy) and I heard a voice in my spirit say "Sonya, I want you to look at the cover of this book you are reading." What? I thought? So I looked. Evil personified was the picture on the front of the book. I thought, this is silly, I've read these books for years, why I am being so creepy about this? Again, the Holy Spirit said "Just look at it again...do you think this is what I want you to focus on? The word says..." and something like this scripture came to my mind:

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I argued with the Lord for some time. But Lord, these books all have the good person overcome evil...isn't that good? And He responded "...by whose power are they overcoming evil?" This went on and finally, as I looked at the book I was halfway through reading one last time, I went and got a box and put every fantasy book I owned into it. The next day they were out of my house. Now, this may have just been the Lord's word for ME, not other people. I do not condemn those who read fantasy or watch magic movies or read magic books. I will tell them why I believe what I believe if they ask me though.

Another reason the Lord showed me to get rid of "magic" things was because it created a longing in me to have a power that I do not possess. An almost coveting and wishing that I could have these things happen, that a fairy godmother would come and make it alright, that a good witch would come and destroy all my enemies. For me, I needed to look to the Lord for my salvation. I needed to be reading about how the Lord redeems and saves his people. And instead of dreaming for power, I needed to walk in humility so that I would be ready when He wanted to work through my life or touch someone else's life. I needed to study the real thing, not a fake thing. Now, that doesn't mean that I read no fiction. I read Christian fiction that will uplift and encourage me to be of more excellent character, to be kinder, to be more loving, to withstand trials, etc. And I might read a fiction from a non-Christian perspective these days, but not very often. More often than not it saddens me.

And then one more thing. Sometimes, the books/movies with magic give Satan way too much credit and make it way too scary. The "Lord of the Rings" is an example. The creatures in that movie were terrifying! I saw it because I enjoyed it growing up, but could not watch the second film. God says that Satan is an angel of light. He is beautiful (or once was and still can appear that way). If our children are always looking for evil to be ugly and easily recognizable, they will be led astray much more easily. Even sin is not always ugly. Sin can be filled with pleasure...hence why so many fall into its trap. I did not really know this growing up. When sin came to me, looking like pleasure, I did not recognize it as I should have. I knew right and wrong but not WHY to do or not do things. I really made some heinous mistakes and fell into many ugly sins.

Now, to address your concern about children being angry that they are not allowed to do some of things that other children are doing. Yes, it is very sad that some families have an overreaction to various issues. I would imagine this family may possibly have anger issues in their home in other areas also. And if their children are angry, it may be they are being authoritarian. (Which one has to be when they are little, but as they grow, one can move to influence through their relationship and not just authority. Not that one never uses authority, but just less as they get older).However, there will be many issues in every home where parents must take a stand, regardless of what the world does. Would we let our children be intimate with the opposite gender just because "all the kids are doing it?" Of course not. But we must let our children know "WHY." Giving them the moral reason why helps them to reason it out themselves, rather than just making it a command (authoritarianism) from Mom and Dad...because I said so. It helps them to think morally as opposed to just acting morally. I would not expect my children to be upset about this issue because they know why we believe what we believe. But if they do at some point in the future get upset at some rule we have made for our family, it is important that they know that we love them, that our rules don't always have a logical/moral reason but we try to not be unreasonable. And that some things are just our preference, but they still are part of our rules. And when they have their own family, they get to make their own rules for their family.

So how would I handle it if a child came over to play and began to recite Harry Potter spells? Well, let’s see. First, depending on the child, I would sit down and discuss with him/her why we do not do that in our home. Why we believe the bible says that even pretending to practice magic is not a good thing. (would we want our children to pretend to be drunk, or pretend to kill someone?). And I would let that child know that when they are in my home, they must follow my rules. That I love them and would like to let them have the freedom to play. That every parent has different rules and if my child went to their home, I would expect my child to follow their parents rules.

Now, I have nephews who Looooove Harry Potter. I have a sister-in-law who is a white witch and say she works with "Jesus Christ" to heal people. (now she thinks she means our Jesus, but she really works with a spirit/demon, whose name is "Jesus Christ.") So do I get angry at these people? Of course not. I love them dearly. Nor am I afraid of them. I do have the responsibility to protect my children though. My girls do not play with the nephews out of my sight and everyone is fine with that. It is just wisdom anyway since they are boys and mine children are girls. We would never let my sister-in-law baby-sit the children (she's a couple hours away anyway), but we don't freak out if she wants to hug and kiss them at family gatherings. The love my girls can give her may someday bring her heart to Jesus. If she gave them a talisman for good luck or health or something we would thank her and then go home and throw it away. We are not here to offend, but to love and speak truth in love if someone should want to listen.

I know even some of my family members who love the Lord dearly allow their children to see Lord of the Rings, watch Mary Poppins, and other various things. And some think that if one does not read the literature that is "classic" then ones children will be deemed not well rounded. We will surely read some of the classics, but there are some that do not sit well in my spirit and I believe are unnecessary. I remember when I was in school I refused to read a book in which the children are shipwrecked on a desert island and cannibalize each other. The book was about 1/4 inch thick. My teacher instead gave me Moby Dick to read, which was about 1 inch think. I didn't care. I had stood up for my beliefs and I felt the Lord's approval for my decision.

Another lady from this list emailed and asked me how I could possibly deny my children the delight of reading the "Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe." Yes, I did read this growing up. It might be some day we will decide that this alright, but for now, I remember my great fear at knowing the Witch had the power to turn people into stone. At the same time, I remember walking into closets for years and hoping that I would walk into Narnia. It created a desire that could never be fulfilled. What I want my children to long for is Heaven and the recreated earth as it will be when the Lord returns. I don't need the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe to teach them that, although I am sure the Lord uses what He wants to in people's lives.

Satan has been telling us since Eve "oh, it's not that bad....that's not REALLY what God said/meant." And we believe he still does that today. Many will say, "Oh, but it's a GOOD witch and that makes it okay," or "it's not really real, so that is alright," or "it's just using their imagination." All children have an incredible imagination if given love and the right environment. I don't mind if my children imagine, as long as they don't desire things that can never be obtained.

I'm sure there is more to be said on the subject, and I am certainly not an expert by any means. Just a mom wanting to follow the way I feel the Lord leading me to the best of my ability. I may be wrong. If I am, I pray that the Lord will show me and His grace will cover my children. In all of life however we must above all know WHY we believe what we believe and seek and pursue that which is excellent and that which is right. Most things do have a moral implication and a right and wrong attached to them. If I am right, then the fruit of these decisions will be known in about 15-20 years. If I am wrong, I pray the Lord shows me long before then! :0)
Thank you for sharing with me your beliefs in such a gracious and non-judgmental way. I hope I have been able to reciprocate. May God lead you in the way He would have YOU to go. :0) Feel free to call me anytime...agree, disagree, or ask more questions. It really does help me to talk to others, even when they are not of the same viewpoint... it makes me examine my why and I am always open to listening to opposing viewpoints. (I removed Sonya’s home phone number from this spot.) Although this was probably waaay more than you really wanted!

God Bless you Christine,

Sonya S.

PS...a few more verses below

2 Chronicles 33:6
And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.

Micah 5:12
And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers:

Deuteronomy 18:10
There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.
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I then thanked Sonya for her long and thoughtful response. I then asked her if I had permission to post what she wrote on my blog and she did grant it. In closing she wrote this:

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Dear Christine,

I am so glad that you were willing to write and share what was on your heart.

I don't think I've ever written it all out before and it must have been the Lord that prompted you to write.
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1 comment:

Carrie said...

I recently read a book by John Granger called Looking for God in Harry Potter. In my opinion, it has the best explanation as to why the magic in Harry Potter (and other fantasy books, games, etc.) is not the magic that the Bible speaks against. The difference is between incantational magic vs. invocational magic. To put it in a nutshell, incantational magic is when a person uses a certain spell, potion, etc. to have a desired effect. Almost like mixing up a recipe. The person is not asking for outside help from spirits - that is called invocational magic. None of the magic in Harry Potter is invocational magic - not even the evil characters call on evil spirits to give them power. It's all a matter of learning certain spells. I'm summarizing greatly, but the book is very much worth reading. I'm a Christian by the way, and I have had many discussions about this on my blog and in real life. I've even had friends tell me that I'm a bad mother for exposing my kids to satanic influences because we love the Harry Potter books and movies.

http://carrie.homeschooljournal.net