Is it wrong for Christians to write about magic, wizards and otherworldly beings?
Surprisingly, some people believe so.
Over a decade ago a fundamentalist church not far from my home made headlines by having a Harry Potter bonfire. Christians from the surrounding area were invited to bring their Harry Potter books to a public burning. The fact that this event conjured images of Nazi Germany didn’t deter the organizers, as they were determined to rid the world (or at least the greater Pittsburgh area) of the influence of J.K. Rowling and her supposed promotion of witchcraft.
Recently this question has arisen in our writing forums, and this has led to a thought-provoking discussion. One of our members eloquently expressed the crux of the issue:
The Bible specifically prohibits magic; no if, and or buts. But because I create a character that uses magic, I am in no way trying to promote my reader to go out and practice sorcery! Look at C.S. Lewis; he was a devout Christian but used magic in his stories. But his stories were also a metaphor for Christ.
I feel somewhat conflicted about writing fantasy. I love mythology and fantasy and in all of my fantasy novels (nearly all of them) they are heavily involved with pantheons that I created and magic systems and lots of war and violence…
I have prayed hard about this for days. It is always on my mind. My stories have angels and demons and gods and divine figures and magic but in no way am I (intentionally) trying to denounce Jesus.
I’m really glad that we’re having this discussion. You see, in my day job I’m a religious studies and philosophy professor. I’m Christian, and my faith plays an important role in my life.
As someone who has spent his life studying these questions, I can say with certainty that there’s no conflict between writing fantasy and being a Christian. Only an extreme misinterpretation of the scriptures could support such a conclusion. The Bible warns against involvement in the occult, but that is not the same thing as “magic,” let alone writing about magic in a fantasy setting.
I became interested in writing fantasy because of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Both of these men were committed Christians whose deep faith inspired their writings. And I owe much of my faith to these two men, as their example and witness has inspired me since childhood.
Here’s the key point that must be remembered: fantasy is not real, nor is it meant to depict reality. Instead, fantasy literature derives it’s power from its ability to tap into the unconscious mind. The realm of fantasy is really the realm of dreams, where magic is symbolic of deeper human longings.
Fantasy is replete with symbols. This is perhaps the main reason why fantasy can engage our mind more than any other genre. Symbols are a powerful way of getting something into a reader’s heart, mind and soul. Fantasy uses symbols that have been around for a long, long time. Many of these symbols go back to deep ancestral beliefs; they go back into history, into legend, into mythology and into the very scripture of the Bible itself.
When well written, fantasy literature taps into layers of the human person that other forms of literature cannot reach. Magic, wizards and supernatural beings are all archetypal elements that are deeply rooted in the unconscious mind. We, as fantasy authors, explore these themes in order to craft stories of great resonance and power. And in doing so, we can help the reader to understand greater truths that would otherwise be inaccessible.
There’s nothing unchristian about that. In fact, If you are a skilled fantasy writer, you can actually be a force for good.
How do you feel about Christians writing fantasy? Have you personally wrestled with this question?