I grew up in a staunchly religious family; a Southern Baptist family to be exact. When I was about ten-years-old I was told that Satan was working through rock and roll bands and that rock and roll was filled with subliminal messaging. Subliminal messaging would turn our nation’s youth into devil-worshiping hooligans and imperil the very souls of those who listened to it.
Among the worst offenders was the band Queen and their song “Another One Bites The Dust.” Play the song backwards and it repeats, over and over again, “It’s fun to smoke marijuana.” I loved Queen, even back then, but I was a dutiful son. My father told me to destroy my 8-track (yes, I said 8-track) of Queen and so I did. I placed it on top of a whole ream of firecrackers and blew it to Hell, where it belonged.
When I was thirteen years old, I was told by my church that my favorite game, Dungeons and Dragons, was responsible for destroying the youth of America, that fantasy role-playing was brainwashing teens, and that it was filled with pagan and sacrilegious references that put my soul in jeopardy. Indeed, if I wasn’t careful, I could actually summon a demon and be possessed! I was older, more skeptical, and I resisted. I knew, in my heart, that D&D was no more dangerous than reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. I had just been betrayed by my church and I was heartbroken, disappointed, and definitely skeptical of pseudo-scientific jargon by church leaders by that time.
Most people don’t spend as much time as I do honing their critical thinking skills. Most people aren’t as skeptical about EVERYTHING the way I am. Most Christians don’t share my skepticism and they have taken Exodus 22:18 to heart; “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”
Admittedly, we don’t have Christians walking the streets with shotguns looking for Wiccans to blow away. That’s not civilized, is against the very tenants of this nation of ours, and would lead to swift incarceration. Christians don’t kill witches nowadays, but they do boycott anything that has the trappings of witchcraft or sorcery in it. Or do they?
The impetus for this blog post is Harry Potter. A discussion of the merits of Harry Potter led one of my wife’s friends to comment that she avoids the series because it has sorcery in it and her personal beliefs don’t allow her to read it, watch it, or approve of it. When she said that, it took me right back to my days a child, where my church dictated the books I could read, the TV I could watch, and the movies I could see. Back then, I was comforted by that protection. I look back now and I, personally, feel ashamed that I allowed it, listened to it, and followed it.
That’s not to say I don’t respect her beliefs. I do. It’s not easy to stand apart, and less so to admit it. I do respect her belief and her right to raise her family as she sees fit. But it did get me to thinking about what fundamental Christians see as a threat and ban-worthy and what is not.
Harry Potter is off-limits because it has witchcraft, sorcery, and magic in it. Never mind the message, which I think any Christian would approve of. Good triumphs over evil. Evil is self-destructive and cannot prevail over Good. Magic is no match for the power of love, loyalty, courage, faith, and friendship. No – this message is lost, because there is sorcery in the book.
But what about C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series? It is, after all, a Christian analogy. Aslan is Jesus. But what about the magic, sorcery, witchcraft (by both Evil and Good) in the books? There is a mixing of Christianity and Greek/Roman mythology in this book (some would argue that much or Christianity is nothing more than Greek/Roman mythology with different trappings). There are magical artifacts, animals, spells, wizards (good and bad) and more. Should this, then, be boycotted as well? And if not, please tell me why because I can’t see the distinction between Narnia and Harry Potter in this regards.
The Little Mermaid should be off-limits as well, right? After all, there is witchcraft, wizardry, sorcery, and fantastic animals in it. Both evil Ursula and good King Triton use magic and sorcery in the movie. If I stop to think about it, most kids see this film when they are about 7 or 8-years-old, a much more malleable and impressionable age than when they see Harry Potter. So why, then, is this movie not banned? Or is it and I didn’t get the memo?
Similarly, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast should be banned. It has magic, sorcery, spells, and so on. Why is it not banned? Why it is not a threat when Harry Potter is?
Let’s think about Cinderella. It has magic, witchcraft, animal transformations, fairy godmothers, and more. Why is it on the allowed list when Harry Potter is not? Holy cow, it seems to me that Disney as a whole should be boycotted because nearly EVERY movie by them is centered around magic or sorcery.
What about J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord if the Rings trilogy? Like Harry Potter, a primary message in this epic literature is one of Good over Evil, of the insidious and tempting nature of Evil, of the power of love and friendship. It is also filled with a lot of other messages and symbolism, not least among them a fear and concern of industrialization, but the point remains – is this book banned because of the sorcery in it? It is, after all, probably the primary driving influence behind Dungeons and Dragons, not to mention many rock and roll songs (think Led Zeppelin).
What about Aesop’s Fables? Holy cow, these things are chock full of witches, magic, supernatural creatures, mythical animals, and more. These are classic literature, though, taught to every child in and out of school. Indeed, it even has a “scripture reference” learning guide for it. But it’s filled with magic!! Why is this not boycotted?
I could take this list on and on and on. We have Percy Jackson, Greek and Roman mythology, Freaky Friday, Escape to Witch Mountain, and so many more. Each of these focuses on magic and sorcery of some kind and the magic is central to the stories, myths, and lessons therein. Why are these not boycotted as well?
Like I said, I completely respect my friend’s beliefs and her right to raise her family as she sees fit. She is consistent in her beliefs and behaviors, which is not something many people can claim to be. But I don’t understand, don’t see the harm, and fail to comprehend the fickle nature of what is protested and why. It seems to me that Harry Potter is a convenient and visible target – and that in itself leads me to suspect the church leaders who call for its boycott and their reasons for doing so.
Like PETA says, there is no such thing as bad publicity. By calling for the boycott of Harry Potter and not all the other works or art, film, or literature mentioned above, it leads me to believe that it is not for religious reasons, but for political and secular reasons that the church calls the boycott.
You can’t suffer SOME witches to live and not others.