I watched the last couple episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Season 3 today. What an epic story. There are for sure stuff I don’t agree with in the story and it might not be a good show to watch, but at the very least the arcs of the story and the finale are impeccably done and so, so epic. Does that make it okay to watch? I don’t know…. That’s a whole issue I haven’t figured out yet. But, here’s a thought: what are my influences? Am I getting my ideas and how I think about things and come up with action or storyline from a pagan, antichrist show, or am I getting them from God? What goes into a man comes out; the seeds you plant will bear fruit. What seeds am I planting?
Eesh. I don’t know. What am I planting in my heart? More than good or bad (which is an easy decision when it’s clear), how do I decide when things are perhaps more in the gray? Or when I happen to really like something? The line for me might be what I struggle with. If I was very tempted by eastern thinking and magic and what-not, then Avatar would be something I would probably cut off. But if I’m not, is it still okay to watch? Or does it in the end come down to what I’m letting into my heart and mind?
I remember reading Harry Potter back in high school. After reading for a while, I wandered upstairs and sat down to write something on the computer. What did I begin to write? A story about a kid who had powers – magic, basically. Of course I wouldn’t call him a wizard or magician or witch, but he was definitely using magic, based on the inspiration of Harry Potter. Witchcraft is directly condemned in the Bible, for the reason that I think it gives me the strength. Why have God when you have magic? You survive on your own strength instead of leaning on him. I sat down once and tried to figure out why magic was wrong (it is, I know it is, it’s in the Bible), and that’s the reason I thought of. Because it gives me the strength to overcome my problems and leaves no room for God. It makes me into a god; thus, it is antichrist.
With this decided: is it okay to watch stories involving magic? Harry Potter I’ve decided is something I can’t watch or read, because I know the mindset it puts me in. Those days in early college when I sat in the book store and read the books have such a strange feeling, much akin to when I’ve spent time in Barnes & Noble reading comic books. There’s this strange sense of…I don’t want to come back to the real world. I like the power in those stories, even find it tempting, you might say. Both Harry Potter and superhero comic books leave me with an ‘off’ feeling that I’ve decided isn’t good, and so I just don’t think I can finish reading the Harry Potter books or watch the movies.
What of Eragon, then? Or even Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia? Or, returning to the initial subject, Avatar? Just because the magic (power, ability, what have you) isn’t called witchcraft like it is in Harry Potter, it’s still called magic and wizardry. How do I justify those? I think…I avoid the issue. I just go ahead and watch them or read them. In the case of Tolkien and Lewis I feel safe reading them because I know they were both Christian, and even when magic is used it’s not a means of empowering the individual. Reliance is still dependent on an outside source: in Narnia that source is Aslan; in Middle-Earth it is…unexplained? There is power, and it’s attributed to an old, ancient source, fate, if you will. But knowing the heart behind the stories I feel safe reading them. And of Eragon? Or Avatar? Again, I think I push the issue aside because I enjoy the story so much.
But does that make it okay? I’ve come up with excuses in my mind, but that’s just skirting the issue. And of course it comes down to how I as a writer will deal with power. Will my characters have magic? I don’t know if I could call it that in my own stories, but if they wielded a supernatural power at will – wouldn’t that be magic, by definition? Obviously the genre doesn’t require it, but how can I justify writing fantasy? And I will not make God into a dispenser of power whenever we need it. How can I write of supernatural power that doesn’t act…tamely? The stories that blow my mind are stories where people move decidedly in the supernatural, where they with purpose move with power from God. Can you do that? Isn’t the power of God like a wind that flitters around, something that can’t be “relied” upon but is up to His will to demonstrate? Did Elijah strike the water with his cloak because it was a power he could always do, or because he knew God would act somehow; he walked in confidence, not necessarily control?
I don’t know. I haven’t found an answer. But I have to find it if I’m going to write the supernatural-dependent stories that I have in my mind. A story about a prophet? How are you going to decide when God moves and doesn’t? He acts with perfect wisdom, searching mind and heart, but me – I’m just a man trying to write a story. Am I the god of the universe I’ve created? And how I depict God acting in my stories directly influences how people view God. I cannot show Him as operating every time a character prays and asks because He doesn’t operate every time we ask. (Granted, not always in the way we ask. He moves, just not necessarily how I specifically ask.)
As a Christian this is the biggest question I have to answer, especially as someone who wants to write fantasy. Not…ah! what a stereotyped word! I want to imagine! It is so much fun to sit and imagine a whole entire world from scratch, coming up with people and places and events; history is so much fun to write and think up. It’s great! I want to write fantasy in the sense that I make everything up! I don’t have to follow the rules of this world, but can have that supernatural element closer, or at least more evident. But can that supernatural power be directed? If I need a fire and I’m out in the woods, can I utter some phrase and fire appears? It seems my loophole is praying and having God do it, but how do I judge when and why He does it? People not having power: I can do that. Deciding when God acts and displays his power: that is a hard thing to figure out, and I don’t want to come up with bad doctrine that leads people astray and gives an idea that He always acts when we ask. He of course does act – heaven moves when we pray – but to say that he will always answer by fire is…can I say that? I don’t know.
If I am going to write fantasy I have to figure out this issue.
I don’t know if I’m going to write about a word today. This is taking up a lot of space. But these are the things I have to deal with. I want to be a scribe trained for the kingdom of heaven; I want to tell stories that move the hearts of men toward God. I want to display God through writing and through film, and I want to do it accurately. Oh! How my heart longs and yearns to reach and create! Which is what He did! It’s no surprise, since I’m made in His image. But I want display Him correctly, accurately. Not wholly, since I obviously don’t know all of Him, but the parts that I do understand and grasp I want to show correctly. “God, help me. Lead me to be a writer that honors you and leads people to Jesus.”