One of today’s articles at CBN.com features a new series of “Christian fantasy” books, ostensibly offered as an alternative to the (pernicious) Harry Potter tomes. This latest Christian response to the modern fantasy craze is called the Dragons in Our Midst series. When asked about why he wrote the books, author Bryan Davis states, “I wasn’t a fan of fantasy, because it seemed to me that the characters would develop magical powers to get them out of the situation they were in. I wanted my characters to use the gifts God has given them along with strength of character, faith and perseverance to work through their problems. So my son said to write a fantasy like that.”
On one level, I can appreciate what this gentleman is trying to do. His concern about the deleterious effects of paganistic fantasy stories and protagonists (and their apparent widespread appeal to the young reading public) has prompted him to write a myth that evinces a Christian framework of values, ethics, theology, etc. I sincerely hope that his books do well.
Nevertheless, I see a disturbing trend here. This isn’t the first “Harry Potter killer” that has been proffered by Christendom. When the Potter books first came out, I heard preacher after preacher working himself into a lather about how millions of eager children were unwittingly opening the doors of Hell itself just by turning the cover of one of these volumes. So Christian alternatives, borne of angst over the stealthy paganization of our children, began to appear. In essence, Christendom said, “Well, these books may capture your imagination and make you eager to read, but they’re evil, I tell you. EVIL! So here — take this substandard Christianized shadow of the Potter books. It may not be as good or original, but at least it doesn’t bear the mark of the beast.” I saw one of these Potter substitues on display at a Christian book store, and I was appalled to notice how the cover art and lettering were so obviously derivative of the Potter books.
What message do we send our culture when we behave this way? Why are we in such a rut of reactionism? Why do we rest on our laurels until a cultural phenomenon so alarms us that we frantically work to respond with a corresponding Christian anti-culture? As I look at much of the modern Christian media, all I can see is this reactionism — from Christian movies to Christian news programs to Christian music. So much of it is void of innovation. It’s just a cheap, Christianized copy of what’s taking the mainstream by storm. In my mind’s eye, I see a bunch of thin, anemic, squeaky-voiced people standing on the sidewalk as a stampede goes by in the street. They’re sheepishly raising their hands and saying, “Umm, please notice us. We’ve got what you’re running towards too, only with Jesus in it. Much better. Don’t you want to check it out? Hmm?”
The human imagination was made by God. In this world, the creative faculties God gave us have been sullied by sin and darkness. But Christians, according to our own confession, are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ — the same Spirit that brooded over the face of the deep at Creation. We ought to be the innovators, the “imagineers,” because we have the privilege of relating personally to the Most Creative Being of All.
The redemption and liberation of the human imagination is the unique provenance of Christianity. The world ought to be struggling to catch up with us, not the other way around.
aka The MonT-SteR