The Self-Distancing Christian

I was reading this blog post from a friend of mine and it got me thinking. Why are Christians (including myself, of course) so ready to completely distance ourselves from society? If we are to make a difference, it will not come about as we rush into evangelistic conversations with people completely uninformed about the most popular movies and novels of the day.

She writes, “So far I have heard interesting reports of DaVinci Code, but after watching the preview and reading reviews, I would never go see it. It is heretical, false, and blasphemous.” All the more reason that you should go see it. If you are discussing this with someone and they bring up something from The DaVinci Code and your response is “oh, I didn’t see that, since it’s full of lies,” you are not going to impress anyone, and they will rightly dismiss you as closed-minded.

I don’t see Jesus separating himself from popular culture. If you want to make the case that Harry Potter is filled with witchcraft (something I am not convinced of since I haven’t read the books myself) please explain to me where that says that Christians shouldn’t read it. In fact, I believe that calls for more investigation on our part. So I am going to give some advice here.

Christians, all across America: read Harry Potter.

You will have one of two reactions to that suggestions. You will think that I am a blithering idiot, suggesting that you practically throw your soul away, or you will understand the case I am trying to make.

In order to be effective witnesses we must know what our culture is doing. We cannot hide behind the shield of protecting ourselves from evil; God will take care of that part. Now I don’t believe that we should be careless. But for crying out loud, Jesus cast out demons. In case you missed it, that means he was in the presence of demons. He wasn’t at his friend’s house telling everyone how evil and nasty demons were, and how he wasn’t going to go near them and corrupt himself.

Now I’m not suggesting that reading Harry Potter or watching The DaVinci Code will place you in the presence of demons. But, since it’s not, what exactly is your excuse?

15 Replies to “The Self-Distancing Christian”

  1. I have read Harry Potter, and actually… I burned them recently, the same way the people in the New Testament burned their spell books. I have researched a bit about the books, and yes, J.K. Rowling DID look up Druid rituals and such before writing her books. Yes, some of the things are just plays on Latin words, but there is a lot of stuff in her books that is real. I believe reading and watching things like that not only fills your mind with junk, but it is a channel for the enemy to mess you up. You may not believe in spiritual warfare, but I do, and we are in a BATTLE.

    I will not see the DaVinci Code because I will NOT support something that blaspheme’s God. I love my God and His Name too much. I rather send up praise to Him than to fill my mind with sin by watching it on screen.

    It is not distancing myself from society, but simply trying to live a Holy, set-apart life. You can be in society, but no OF it. I don’t want to be OF this world, my residence is Heaven. I am very much “with it” when it comes to friends, society, trends, etc. So what if I don’t care about latest movies or music? If the movie has bad language, too much violence, or nudity in it, I try not to watch it, and the same goes with music. That rules a lot out… but I prefer to keep those things out of my mind, to be protected from sin than to expose myself to it.

    Its quite simple and its NOT WRONG.

  2. I forgot to say something… do not underestimate the enemy and his influence over this world, and his influence over Christians.

  3. Of course I believe in spiritual warfare. (I did mention demons, after all.) Indeed I even said we shouldn’t be careless.

    My reasons for advocating the study of these materials specifically is because they have a pretty large following in the secular world, and without knowledge of the topics, you will be at a loss how to defend when they are brought up. In my opinion, the phrase “in the world but not of it” is too frequently used to excuse isolationism from society.

    Regarding movie content, I do agree with you. Sensationalized action films and movies containing nudity I would not suggest that people see.

    But I fail to see how reading something with the intent of figuring out its message is a sin.

  4. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

    This verse tells us that we should keep our minds on what is holy, not things of the world. I know some people do take this too far and become isolationists, but I do not think I am such a person.

  5. Lord of the Rings delves heavily into Norse Mythology, While the Cronicles of Narnia blatently use stories and concepts from other Mythos (Especially the greco/roman tradition). Does this mean that they are a pathway to evil as well? Or do we acppet these as harmless references ONLY because the author is Christian? Stephen Lawhead, perhaps one of the greatest Christian fantasy/historical fiction writers alive today, borrows heavily from dozens of mythologys, including the druids and other faiths that generally are labelled as “occultic.” Does this mean that the stories are evil? And if not, WHY are they fine but Harry Potter (and many other modern fantasys) considered evil if they draw from the same background?

    Harry Potter does not encourage children to practice witchcraft, it presents it as “You have it” or “You don’t” and NOT something that can be learned, sacrificed for, or attained through worship. This is quite different from the modern occult in many, many respects. In fact, the ability to do magic is treated as a NATURAL ability, which would put it in line more with the X-Men than it does any book on magic. The kids, for lack of a better term, are mutants who, through birth, are able to control their surroundings in a way that others (normal humans, or in HP language, ‘Muggles’) are unable to even know the existance of. This is NOT magic. In fact, if you read the books further on (specifically book 6) you will see that the spells are more “focusers” and not incantations. They are a mental aide so that the person can focus their inborn power (again, it is not some external force) and control the reaction, just as an “x-men” would need to practice for a long time before they could master their abilities.

    I am not saying the series is without danger, but there is no more danger in that series than there is in LOTR, Narnia, or any other fantasy novel that we grew up loving as children. So if you are burning books to keep you mind pure, you must add the following to the list, or risk inconsistancy:
    The Divine Comedy: Dante’s vision of Hell is not what Hell truly is, and it pays homage to several greek figures and mythological creatures.
    Narnia: Borrows heavily from Greek Mythology, going so far as to pull whole gods/goddesses out of context and placing them in the story.
    LOTR: HEAVILY related to Norse Mythology, with references to gods, places, and struggles that are found throughout the Norse and Druid Faiths.
    ANY Other Fantasy, really: Every fantasy, in one way or another, references other mythologies and does so in a way that makes them real and gives them power.

    See the problem? We are condemning Harry Potter, not because of the plot or research, but simply because the author doesn’t share the same faith as we do. Is that truly noble? Is it right? Is this form of bias to be admired, one where we will accept or reject anything, not on it’s content, but on who pens it? If you want to avoid fantasy because it causes you temptation, then by all means do it, but be consistant with your boundries.

    I don’t want to start a huge argument over this, as flared tempers accomplish nothing. But if anyone has any questions, feel free to leave a note on my site.

  6. What I am about to say is not meant to be an argument of anything that has already been said here. I just have to leave my piece about this subject, as I feel that God is leading me to do so.

    Having been a Harry Potter “fanatic” since the eighth grade, and only just recently turning away from it, I feel that I know quite a lot about the subject. I hope to inform you about what Harry Potter is, and why I take a stand against it. (I burned my books and movies at the same bok burning [redacted] mentioned.)

    First of all, let me share what I feel about Harry Potter. Not only do these books portray witchcraft, but they are simply a bad influence, especially on children. Harry Potter is a young boy who is rewarded for breaking rules – ALL the time, not just occasionally – and that is hardly harmless. By allowing children to read these stories, we are saying, “Oh go ahead, do whatever you please. We are going to make rules for you, but you don’t have to follow them. You just do what YOU want to do, and nothing bad will happen in the end – in fact, you will be rewarded for your wrong behavior!” This is the message children are being sent by these books, not to mention the occult side of it.

    Another reason I am against Harry Potter is because of the good vs. evil side. Evil triumphs more often than not in these books…even though it appears that good wins in the end of each. In a way I guess you could compare Harry’s struggle against voldemort to our struggle with Satan…except we have power over Satan that Harry doesn’t have over Voldemort. Truly saved Christians have the power of Jesus’ name – we can call upon it at anytime and demons are beaten. So what power does Harry have against his enemy? In all the time I read the Harry Potter books, I did not once see him call on someone’s name and wipe out the enemy…in fact, he has not succesfully stopped his enemy yet. I wonder why.

    I also wanted to comment on something Jason said about the spells and other witchcraft-related things in these books. He said that Harry Potter doesn’t encourage children to do whitchcraft because of the way it is portrayed in the books. However, I think he is wrong. JK Rowling may have written the books so that it seems like the magic is a genetic trait to adults, but children do not have the ability to see that. This is what children see when they read the books:

    “Ooh, ooh, magic! I love magic! I want to be just like Harry Potter and do magic and go back in time and ride flying horses and make Billy’s teeth grow really fast!”

    They don’t see the harm in it, just the fun. And that is where the trouble lies. I was able to read the books and not think that i could become a witch, because I can think abstractly. I can see that this is a world of makebelieve – children can’t. In fact, children think that the books are teaching them the magic – I have had children walk up to me with a stick, say “swish and flick – leviosa!” and expect me to float off the ground. And they weren’t just playing, either. Children’s minds simply cannot see what ours can – that Harry Potter is not real, nor is it something that can become real.

    OK, one more point than I’m done. Jason also said that we are discriminating Harry Potter because the author isn’t Christian – I say that’s ridiculous. I persona;;y feel that there is a huge differnece between HP and the CHronicles of Narnia. That difference is that there is a Christian theme in Narnia – that theme is no where close to being in HP – and that means a lot. You can see the good in the Narnia books, wether they are fantasies or not. It is easy to see how good wins in these books, whereas you are left unsure in HP.

    I hope that this has cleared some things up for some people…and I hope it hasn’t sounded like I am arguing what Jason said – I am merely giving my opinion.

  7. I don’t suggest that we allow children to read them. That would certainly be a bad idea; maybe I should have explicity stated that.

    By reading the books, you now say that you “know quite a lot about the subject.” This is the goal I expressed for reading the books — to understand them, to be knowledgeable about their contents so that if a non-believer brings something up you are prepared to discuss it.

    Oh, I’ve had kids *in church* come up to me and block my way declaring “you shall not pass!” and expect me to be unable to get past them. The imagination of kids is not limited to Harry Potter, and I fail to see how such imagination with one mythology can be considered harmful while with another it’s okay.

  8. First of all, I would like to make it clear that I read the books before becoming a Christian. After I had become a Christian I still read them, but knew that I should not be doing so…therefore my decision for not reading HP is a personal conviction, but discouraging others from doing the same is also a conviction.

    I fail to see how a child saying “you shall not pass” can be compared to a child trying to cast a spell on a person. I understand that children have imaginations, believe me, but do you honestly think a seven year old has the ability to come up with a spell, as well as the way they need to move their hand in order to cast the spell? What I described was something that a child mimicked directly from the pages of Harry Potter, and I highly doubt that, without prior influence, a child could come up with something like that on his or her own.

  9. If you watch LoTR, during the confrontation against the Balrog on the bridge of Khazad-dum, Gandalf is using his staff and creating a magical barrier while shouting “you shall not pass.”

    Seems like magic.

  10. Sandy, you are proving my point when you say that the Christian worldview is what makes Narnia and LOTR acceptable while other fantasies (Harry Potter) are not. You are using your worldview as a litmus test, and if something doesn’t line up, it is cast away. I’m sorry, But I can see no wisdom in that. We need things that challenge our worldview if we want it to mature.

    People take LOTR and Narnia just as seriously as some people take Harry Potter. The “You shall not pass” line IS a spell (I’ve read the LOTR and the Simerillion multiple times, as well as the unfinished tales). And there are other evidences for this as well. In europe, there are entire academic cultures that consider Sindrian to be a real language and converse in it often. They treat the history of middle earth as real history. And let us not forget that Narnia and LOTR have always been known as “Gateway fantasies” in that they were the books that, for years, children got their first taste of fantasy in and if they liked it, they moved on to other titles (including some that are FAR darker than Harry Potter will ever be. HP is NOTHING compared to some of the stuff out there, stuff that IS popular with fantasy readers)

    With any fantasy, the problem IS NOT what the story is about. The problem is with the reader, and if they are able to distinguish between reality and fantasy or not. If they are, they could read R.A Salvatore (considered by many to be the master of dark fantasy) and get something meaningful out of it. Fantasy was NEVER intended to be for everyone. It is a challenging genre, which is why pulp writers (people who write mass appeal books) generally steer clear of it. Fantasy is about clashing worldviews, problems blown out of proportion to an epic scale so that you can clearly see what the two sides are.

    I don’t get where you say that evil triumphs more often than not in HP, as the books are almost always lighter and leave you with a more precise sense of victory than other fantasies do, especially LOTR. In LOTR, it seemed as if there was no hope whatsoever, and even when they did win, it was at great cost and there wasn’t the celebrations that you would expect from “happy” stories. Fantasy, especially good fantasy, is by its very nature Bittersweet because Life is bittersweet. Again, I fail to see how you draw the distinction between HP and any other popular fantasy novel, save that it comes from a different worldview.

    Which brings me to the problem of book burnings. I think this is the WORST thing group (especially Christians) can do if they want to draw people to their cause because of the stigma associated with it. When people think of book burnings, they think of Hitler burning anything he deemed ‘Inappropriate’ for germans to read. This included fantasy, philosophy, fiction, and non-fiction. Basically, he said “Anything that doesn’t line up with my worldview, and anything I deem to dangerous for others, I will destroy rather than have it question my power.” If they do think of book-burning in a religious context, they’ll think about the Christians who burned the library at Alexandria, destroying hundreds (if not thousands) of years of human thought in mathmatics, philosophy, science, and the arts. An act that helped plunge us in the Dark Ages, putting us centuries behind where we could be if those manuscripts had been aloud to survive.

    Our actions as Christians are supposed to draw people to the Cross, not drive them away. But participating in an act that pretty much everyone rightfully sees as negative will drive people away from any message that we want to present. Disagreeing with a book is fine, and even deeming it evil and banning that you or your family should read it is acceptable, but BURNING a book, pokemon cards, rock records/cds , a piece of art, or anything that you deem unacceptable or dangerous, ALWAYS will send a negative message.

    You can think what you want about Harry Potter, fantasy, rock music, etc. But you have to carefully think about how you (especially if it is with a group of people) will react to your thoughts, and how those actions will affect those who observe them. As christians, we will always be misunderstood, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do what we can to remove ourselves from being compared to the Nazi’s, Over-Zealous Crusaders, and other groups that will make people immeadietly ignore what we have to say because we partake in evil actions.

  11. Jason, you said that the Harry Potter books are lighter… I can agree with that just because its a childrens book, but I’ve read all of them to date so far, and they get darker and darker as you go along. Each book ends with a sense that there is something worse to come. The end of the 6th book is actually showing evil triumphing over good.

    I would NEVER reccoment Lord of the Rings to children. It is much more detailed, it was written by a superior writer, and it written in a way that most kids won’t understand or would get bored. Adults can distinguish between real and unreal (most anyway). The reason why I felt convicted long ago against Harry Potter and not LotR is because it is about a fellowship set out to destroy evil – values such as love, cooperation, and respect are promoted throughout the movies. Evil, greed, etc. is looked down upon and punished. Harry Potter and his classmates get AWAY with breaking rules, even when they aren’t trying to “save the school” or “defeat evil” but simply because they are being mischievous.

    You have a point when you say that someone saying “You shall not pass” is similar to someone waving a stick and saying “Wingardium Leviosa” or whatever. However, I would say that Harry Potter fans are much more known to “pretend” to do witchcraft. It is much more common to find children whose hero is Harry Potter and they run around in a cloak waving a stick than children trying to be Arwen or Gandalf and saying “You Shall Not Pass”. Does that make sense?

    As far as I am concerned I really don’t really think Chronicles of Narnia should be a part of this discussion because its a completely different series altogether. While it is a childrens book, it promotes good values over bad ones and the bad is always punished and good always wins. There is a moral to each book.

    I’m at work so I have to go…

  12. And frankly I don’t care if you think book burning is negative. It was done in the Bible, and it was positive. If worshipping was seen as negative, would you stop doing that too?

    I personally think that our enemy is very very powerful (even though we have power over him) and that the enemy has influence over those books and many of the readers. I think the enemy wants people to read them… draws them closer to the occult and him. That is MY opinion, and you may disagree. I just think A LOT of people don’t think about the spiritual side of things and forget that we are in a WAR.

  13. Harry Potter also teaches good over evil. And, in the end, good wins. Harry DOES, indeed, have power over Voldemort — and if you’d read the books you would know that the power he has over him is the “greatest magic of all — LOVE.” That’s a quote from the book :). The love of his mother who gave her life so that Harry would not die. Sound familiar? These books are great children’s books full of imagination and fun. I had a discussion with my son a few years back — he’s 7 now — (who loves HP, X-Men, Transformers, etc.), and we were teasing about magic. He asked me if I believed in magic and I said, well of course! Don’t you? (We were talking about the tooth fairy or something, I think). And we teased and laughed, and finally he said, “Mom, the only magic I believe in is God’s magic.” So then we stopped playing around and had a serious conversation about how he was absolutely right and why!! This from a 5-year old (at the time), who watches all of these “evil” fairy tales of magic and wizards and adventure! You don’t have to stop your imagination in order to know the truth of Christianity and teach it appropriately to your children. Stop with the legalism already and realize the truth of your freedom in Christ. God Bless.

  14. LOL!

    I love it how people are always b*tching about how in HP, the kids get away with breaking the rules, yet they seem to conveniently forget that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and the rest of the Founding Fathers also broke the rules and got away with it when they went up against the English in Revolution

  15. Yeah I don’t have a problem with fantastical-type creative writing stuff. You know, just keep it in the fiction basket.

    I mean it’s just good entertainment.

    I guess it’s kind of a post-modern thinking, but I think you have to get a personal sense of what is right and wrong for you and yours in terms of what is ok and what to stay away from.

    If you’re in a position of authority, leadership and influence, I guess it’s more important for you to have a stronger understanding and conviction of why and how.

    But for the most-part I think it’s pretty-much in the realm of personal opinion.

    And hey, if there was any kind of doctrinal teaching on the issue, I’d think it should be more likely in the area of how to get along, and how to make the best of your situation, rather than being a condemning message.

    In closing, if these things are a problem for you, stay away from them. If they’re not, enjoy them for what they are. In neither case should you be attacking other people about it.. That’s my two cents worth 🙂

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