This is part of a series. To read “In Defense of Christian Romance,” click here. Check back later for “In Defense of Christian Horror” and “In Defense of Christian Fiction.”
Magic. Dragons. Witches and wizards. Vampires. Zombies. Mythological beings. These words can cause some Christians to immediately write off a book as demonic, Satanic, immoral, or a waste of time. Here’s my defense of the genre.
1. Beyond our understanding lies…
Remember when the earth was flat and we could fall right off?
Remember when flying was humanly impossible?
With a clap of my hands I can make light appear. There was a point in time where that would have been seen as magic. Now it’s called tacky electronics. In fact there’s a lot of things so common now that are beyond history’s understanding.
Similarly, there are things believed in the past (falling off the earth) that seem preposterous now.Some fantastical elements can just be a shift in understanding. Suspend disbelief. This is the world that these people live in.
2. God is into the inexplicable
Do you know how many times God asks us to suspend disbelief in His book? Over and over and over. Dragons, leviathan, Sheol, ghosts, miracles, talking animals, animated detached hands, immortality, the “sons of God” and “daughters of men” creating Nephilim. There’s some weird inexplicable things in there. And God seems just fine with His book having supernatural occurrences we can’t explain.
I especially love that there’s a ghost in 1 Samuel 28, and God doesn’t stop the story to say “Hold it. This is not actually a ghost, but a demon masquerading as a ghost.” That may or may not be the case, but that’s not the point of the story. Sometimes God tells the story and lets the story speak on its own, without worrying about what exactly is going on supernaturally.
Remember when Job is attacked by Satan? What is God’s response. It’s not, “Oh well see here, Satan came to Heaven, I was asking if he’d noticed your righteousness, and he challenged me.” Instead He says, “Where were you when I formed the foundations of the earth?” It seems God’s point isn’t to explain all the inexplicable in the universe, but rather to say that there are things in this life we’ll never understand – and that’s okay with Him, in fact, it’s His plan at least for now. To trust Him despite the weird, absurd, or confusing moments in life.
3. Some books, some people…
I stated this in defense of Christian Romance, and it’s as true a statement in Christian Fantasy. I am not defending every book in the genre, but the genre as a whole. Some books that claim to be Christian are not, and should never be read by a Christian. Also, some people may have personal convictions that cause them to never read Christian Fantasy of any type, and I’m fine with that. In addition, I’m aware that overexposure or worship of the genre can be unhealthy, escapism in the sense of neglecting this world for fictional worlds. But don’t throw out the entire genre quite yet.
This post is not to argue over which books should not be read or which people shouldn’t read Christian Fantasy. Rather this is just some thoughts to start a discussion about the view of the genre as a whole.
4. In defense of magic in fiction
To be clear, I am talking about magic in the sense of witches, wizards, incantations, and the like. Supernatural occurrences that are inexplicable are not magic per se, and are fair game in my book, due to reasons 1 and 2 above.
Here’s my stance on magic. And I know you may disagree with me. Magic is evil according to the Bible. Magic is in the Bible, depicted as evil. I am completely fine with books having magic used by “bad guys.” I’d even be okay with magic being used by “good guys” if it was not the end-all be-all solution. Because that distorts the truth. As soon as “bad magic” and “good magic” are pitted against each other, I can’t support the story personally. If there is magic used for bad purposes, I can totally read a book with that, because if I couldn’t then I wouldn’t be allowed to read the Bible. But I will not personally perpetuate the lie that magic can be good.
5. In defense of dragons
I’d say, “Poor dragons, why do they get such a bad rap?” Except, I know why. It’s the whole Satan is depicted as a dragon in the Bible argument. In this case, it may seem that I would only be in support of dragons depicted as evil, just like magic in reason 4 above. Except….
Instead let me say this. God never created a creature that is purely evil. There in fact, as far as I can tell, is not a single thing on this earth that is evil in and of itself. Everything was designed “good,” and then Satan comes along and messes things up. Humanity. Animals. Romance. Alcohol. Emotions. You may think you have a rebuttal by bringing up Satan and demons, but remember what they once were? Angels. Designed for good, but chose bad.
So don’t count dragons as always evil – give them a choice like angels and humans, or have them live in this fallen world as animals groaning for the restoration of creation, but don’t make them all evil. Or, if you make them all evil, have them be Satan’s spawn or something I guess. But the point is, they don’t have to be all evil. They can be good creatures in story without the story being demonic.
6. In defense of Damon, Klaus, the Byronic Hero, and the Anti-Hero
Vampire Diaries (the TV show) just happens to be one of my obsessions. And who do I root for? Damon and Klaus. There was a point where I wondered if this was a problem. That maybe I liked the idea of having an excuse for evil behavior, a reason that being bad can be acceptable or even justified.
You may have a similar issue with this new anti-hero fad (Wicked, Maleficent, Once Upon a Time, and other villains’ stories explained) or with vampires or creatures that go against a certain moral standard. I prayed about this and even stopped watching Vampire Diaries for a time.
I received my answer a few different ways. Here’s a new perspective of this phenomena.
• Hurt people hurt people
• The Misty Edward’s song: “For all men are broken/And broken men break their children/Who grow up to be broken men”
• We all have a fallen nature in us, we all have a tendency towards wickedness until redeemed
You see, the reason I root for Damon and Klaus is because they own their bad choices. They aren’t afraid to admit it. Stefan, Matt, Caroline, Elena – often they act as if their choices are good when they’re just as broken as the rest. My qualm was not with them choosing good, but with them pretending to be better than they are.
Just something to think about when you encounter a fallen creature in a story. What is this story saying? Could the theme actually be Scriptural, even when the character is not?
7. Speaking of vampires….
Funny how some creatures get special dislike from Christians. Not just that it’s a waste of time to read about them because they’re fictional, but that they’re inherently evil, perhaps even demonic.
I’m speaking specifically of vampires with this defense, because that’s where the dislike most commonly manifests right now, but this can be the case for many a mythological creature.
The mythology of vampirism is that they’re humans turned immortal surviving off of the blood (life) of others. We can see why this is unScriptural. I would not argue that this creature is holy and pure by any means. But there is a Christian perspective to this mythology that can bring clarity and depth to these stories.
This is what I think is the strength of vampire stories. A new way of seeing the Romans 6 struggle. For instance, my favorite vampire fix would be Vampire Diaries. On the show, some vampires drink animal blood, some drink “fresh” human blood, from the vein. Others only drink from “blood bags,” taking from blood donation locations and hospitals. Some vampires have embraced this part of their new life, while others are wracked by shame and contempt for the very nature they can’t seem to escape.
Just as humans daily have a struggle between their sin nature and the glory God has designed us for, vampires have a struggle between their vampirism and their humanity – restoring what was lost in them. You see, vampires for the most part have NOT chosen this lifestyle; like humans are born with a sinful nature and choose to sin, vampires are forced into a vampiric nature and must make their choice from there.
Each of these “dietary” choices come with their own dilemmas at different times. The shame and guilt of breaking your own standards. The problem of stealing blood from hospitals. The manipulation of drinking from the vein. And what if the strength of animal blood is not enough to fight off an enemy, and the friend tells you that you should drink from their vein – is it okay then, to save your friends? You see what I’m getting at – no longer black and white issues, but daily areas that appear so grey at times.
It’s easy to say “Thou shall not steal” and the set standards of living for God. The day-to-day living gets harder to see where the black and white is. I thought of this when I read “The Land of Stories” and the brother lies to his teacher to help his sister. The narrator says “it was the wrong thing to do as a student, but the right thing to do as a brother.” I won’t say whether that is justified in God’s sight or not. I’m just saying getting into the gnitty-gritty of life, sin gets a little confusing. And vampirism shows this struggle with a new perspective – a little more distanced, but also a little deeper. Vampirism is an analogy for humanity’s inward life in many ways.
8. I’m so lost I don’t like Lost anymore
And herein lies so many people’s problem with the tv show Lost. Let me be clear – I am obsessed with Lost. I’m completely fine with its unanswered questions and layer upon layer of what’s really going on. Because that’s the point of Lost. That there’s always something you can’t understand, there’s always more going on than meets the eye, there’s always unanswered questions (see my reason 2 above.)
Switch to something more Scriptural. If you recall, there’s this thing where we’re supposed to worship God for eternity and never get bored, because there’s always something more to discover. And the apostolic prayer from Ephesians about “knowing the love that surpasses knowledge.” Some things aren’t meant to be explained. There’s always going to be something more. So in the case of vampires, zombies, mermaids, faeries, hobgoblins, will-o-the-wisps, time-travel and parallel universes – just enjoy the mystery. Don’t explain away how they aren’t real, because yeah, that’s not the case (or is it? Muahaha.) Enter the story and enjoy the inexplicable for what it is. Or don’t read it, if it’s not your thing.
9. We don’t fight against flesh and blood
Ephesians 6 describes a supernatural war that is going on that we are a part of. This can be seen all throughout the Bible, I would say especially in Revelations, where crazy crazy stuff goes down. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, to forget the battle that is going on around us that we can’t see. More importantly, it’s easy to forget about the battle that we are constantly a part of. We’re called to something great and epic, beyond this flesh and bones daily living stuff.
I don’t know about you, but reading a story so much bigger than one character – especially if it includes elements I don’t see in daily life – reminds me of the life I’m called to, the life I’m daily living and so easily forget about. It sparks the need to be a part of this invisible supernatural battle – because we are natural beings, but we are also supernatural beings. And it’s war time.
What do you think? Tell me in the comments below.