Thursday, October 18, 2012

Super Powers and Magic in Christian Fiction

On Tuesday we took a look at Heather Rhodes, a main character from my Black Earth series. Today we'll take a look at one of the themes surrounding Heather - super powers. Or magic. They both kind of go hand in hand, because both seem to have origins in the mysterious or impossible, and both give one the ability to use these powers for good or for evil.

The Bible is very clear about God's stance against divination, witchcraft, or sorcery, but the Bible also promotes the gifts of the Spirit. I'm not promoting divination or sorcery. I'm not promoting witchcraft or other satanic taps into the spiritual realm. But what if instead of just spiritual gifts - such as love, peace, paticence, kindness, etc - God granted humans special powers, almost magical in nature, both to defend from and attack the forces of evil? It's an interesting concept that can easily be explored within the boundaries of fiction.

When I was growing up, magic was heavily frowned upon in all forms of entertainment. Magic was, by default, assumed to originate from Satan himself. Mirrors were evil portals that stole people's souls, magic wands were the devil's utensils, and viewing anything to do with witchcraft had the uncanny ability of turning viewers into witches or warlocks themselves. Now, it's true that much of the magic I experienced through screen or books growing up did have strong elements of witchcraft and the occult, which is clearly in opposition with Christianity.

Our culture has changed somewhat since those days, though. Harry Potter brought the theme of magic into a more innocent  and dazzling realm, showing how magic could be used against the forces of evil as well as originating from them. Although if one stretched it, one could find minor themes of occultism in the Harry Potter films. That's probably one reason why everyone went up in arms over the movies when they first come out, because young folk can't always discern between fantasy and reality. But the themes weren't strong enough to cause kids to go out and begin chanting to the devil to have him grant them special incantations.

In the same token, super powers have grown wildly popular with the slew of super hero movies that have graced the screen and comic book shelves in recent years. Maybe there's just a feeling of heroism going around lately. Strangely enough, super powers were never frowned upon the same way magic was while I was growing up. Maybe there's just something more innocent about a man in a cape flying through the air, shooting lasers out of his eyes than there is with a decrepit old woman sailing around on a broomstick shooting magic beams from her wooden stick. 

In End of the Innocence, the first novel in my Black Earth series, Heather Rhodes realizes she has the ability to create a shield or barrier made of light. She questions this ability at first, wondering if it is something Satan has granted her. Little does she know it is a gift bestowed upon her as a Wedge, triggered when she hit puberty, the time when all Wedge gifts become apparent. Later in the series, it is revealed that Wedges believe their powers are bestowed upon them by the Ravencroune, a sort of deity among Wedges, when in fact it is God who has bestowed the gifts upon them and the Ravencroune is simply a mortal worshiped for her martyr death.

Throughout the series, Heather uses her light shield to protect herself, her friends, and other innocents from Legion's dark attacks. She uses the power for good. But what if she were to use it for evil? What if she were to use the gift for other means - either to protect evil minions, or protect herself after committing heinous crimes? What if she could find a way to use the light shield to harm others?

The parallel here is that God has given everyone specific gifts. Yes, He doles out and cultivates fruits of the Spirit, but He also gives us gifts. The gift of writing, of eloquent speech, of technical prowess. Some of these things come naturally to us, others are traits or skills that we have to work harder to perfect, but benefit us and others in the long run. Translating gifts to fiction and terming them as powers or magic isn't too much of a stretch.

And each character is given the choice to use these powers for good or evil, just as each of us are given gifts to use for the Kingdom, ourselves, or the powers of darkness. It takes discernment to look at something and decide if it has origination in darkness or light. I already discussed something close to this in my post about entertainment and exploring great movies for the themes they present, even if they might have content questionable to Christian prudes.

In fiction though, I think magic and super powers and the like can be conveyed in a meaningful and responsible way that portrays evil for what it is, good for what it is, and fantasy elements for what they are.

I was going to add Heather's profile to the Compendium on Friday, but I'm a little behind on my design goals, and the Compendium's new look won't be ready until next week. So her profile will go up sometime next week. I'm also going to be running a side series next week that explores the last 7 years of my NaNoWriMo adventures. Each of 7 posts will explore the projects I did for NaNo each year and maybe give some hints as to where these projects fit into my writing portfolio in the future.

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