Q&A: Is "bibbidy-bobbidi-boo" taboo? Magic in children's entertainmentWritten by Focus on the Family
Question: It seems our children are being bombarded with "magic," not only in Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, but even in relatively innocent Disney movies. To complicate matters, our church recently hosted an event featuring a "Christian illusionist." What’s your opinion of this kind of thing?
The Old Testament has some very definite things to say about witchcraft, sorcery, and divination. In Deuteronomy 18:10 and 11 we read, "There shall not be found among you anyone who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist or one who calls up the dead." Satan is alive and well, and the allure of involvement in the occult is an ever-growing danger in today’s society. That’s why it’s so critical to warn kids about modern-day movements like Wicca. Teenage girls in particular are being drawn to Wicca in record numbers. As Christians, we need to be bold about proclaiming God’s truth concerning the perils of witchcraft and Satanism.
At the same time, we believe it’s important to differentiate the very real evil of this type of "magic" from a sleight-of-hand performance by a Christian illusionist. Card tricks and disappearing rabbits aren’t sorcery. Many Christian magicians condemn witchcraft during the course of their performances and use illusion to illustrate Biblical principles and teach kids object lessons about their faith. We’d encourage you not to throw the baby out with the bathwater until you learn more about the performer your church decided to host and what type of "magic" he performs.
Something similar can be said with reference to books and movies like the Harry Potter series. We’d suggest that it is important for parents to pay close attention to the manner in which spiritual power is presented in any story. It’s crucial to ask questions like, "Who is the source of this power? How is it portrayed? What are the results of its use?" Good spiritual power – for example, the power by which the apostles healed the sick and the lame in Jesus’ name – comes from God. He gives it to His people to accomplish His purposes, and it is always used for His glory. Occultic or evil spiritual power, on the other hand, serves the user’s own selfish interests. It is dangerous, destructive and manipulative in nature.
In this connection, it’s well worth mentioning that there are many cases in which the powers exercised by fantasy and fairy tale characters have no spiritual significance whatsoever. Such "magic" is simply a part of the make-believe world created by the storyteller – a world which operates according to principles of its own and suspends the rules of normal day-to-day reality. Even books written by Christian authors from a Christian perspective – for example, C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and the fairy stories of George MacDonald – make use of this device. The ability of Cinderella’s fairy godmother to turn pumpkins into coaches, Mary Poppins’ talent for sliding up the banister, Peter Pan’s aeronautical skills and Alice’s wild experiences with shape-altering mushrooms all belong to this category. Here again, parents must use discernment in determining which stories fit this description and which can be justly characterized as occultic in nature and intent.
With these thoughts in mind, we'd like to suggest the following rule of thumb for evaluating fairy tales, fantasies and fictional stories of any kind. Any story that exhibits a tendency to romanticize the occult should probably be avoided. If, on the other hand, a work of fiction portrays the practice of witchcraft and wizardry in such a way as to highlight its evil nature and make it unattractive to the reader (as in the case of C. S. Lewis’ White Witch), then it is probably acceptable from a Christian point of view.
To learn more about the ways in which a famous Christian author used the device of "magic" to illustrate the very real cosmic battle between good and evil, we suggest you consider reading Finding God in The Lord of the Rings by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware.
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