Monday, July 03, 2006

The Bible vs. Rock Music, Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Role-Playing Games

By Frank Creed

In my youth there existed a large demographic of Bible-believers who referred to Christian Rock & Roll as demonic. Their argument ran something like this: If you’d lived in the puritanical Fifties like we had, and you saw Elvis-the-Pelvis move like that, you’d have crossed yourself with holy water.

Given the times, I probably would have.

But this is a different millenium. Every television two-minute-commercial-break, North America is spammed with sexually-explicit-cubed. Our animated-G-rated “children’s” movies are seeded with adult comments once-per-minute, yet we’re trying to raise a new generation of ambassadors from Heaven in this place? We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God was making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God (2nd Corinthians five, verse twenty, (NIV)). Me-thinks that if there were a New-World to which we could all sail and start anew, most would be packin’ even as I type. But we’re fresh outta’ new worlds. We can no longer flee the Biblical command to be in the world but not of it. Since we’re stuck here, what do Christian children think when we allow them to watch Cinderella, Snow White, and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, then curse Harry Potter? Why is Star Wars okay, but Isaac Asimov bad, and why on Earth do Christians file Role-Playing-Games in the same mental box as Ouija boards? With this kind of confusion, how will they be equipped to make proper distinctions when encountering the mysterious?

Now back to Elvis. In the late Seventies and early Eighties, when it finally occurred to Christian record-producers that they could imitate pop-music and reap healthy profits (yes, it took some twenty-five years—we are a slow bunch) they met with outcry from old-school Bible-believers. Rightly outraged grandparents argued that rock-music was of Satan, and could not glorify God.

I submit that this was impotent hand-wringing.

Inanimate objects are neither morally Satanic nor Theistic. Art forms may be employed to either worship or blaspheme. The old-school was wrong.

Yet in our new millenium, the people who haven’t figured out how to diagnose sin, still bemoan that which threatens them, that which they don’t understand. Is rock-music inherently evil? What if it’s Christian rock? Have you ever read any Creed lyrics (my personal favorite)?

Are ideas of intelligent alien life-forms blasphemous? Do you believe in angels?

Is magic the equivelant of Satanism? What about Fairy Godmothers and the Good Witch of the North?

I am not saying that morality is shades of grey, it is indeed very black and white. I am saying that we who are quick to judge must not do so from some instinctive and ignorant fear. Our sub-culture is in full retreat from popular culture. Because of this we fall into the Islamic mindset of idealizing an earlier golden-age that never existed: an age when Fantasy (Snow White), was not yet a taboo genre. We protectively cocoon our children, and purchase firearms (I personally have and use an Indiana hand-gun license-to-carry).

With her children’s best interests enshrined, our mother secluded my sisters and I behind a trusty societial curtain. She ignored Second Corinthians: three through six: For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weaopns we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we will take captive every thought to make it obiedient to Christ (NIV). Rather, Mom tucked us safely away within the folds of her Christian subculture.

Her problem was, we grew up, moved out, and faced the world, with wide eyes. She’d not thought that far ahead. Rather than exposing us to limited doses of ‘secular’ and using given opporutunities to discuss current events, Mom forceably stuck our heads in the sand. Without revealing personal demons, suffice-it to say that my siblings and I met the real world naked as a monk on brown-robe-laundry-day.

But Mom got one thing right—the exception to our cultural isolationism. She allowed us to play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

I know, the unforgivable sin; take a deep breath and read-on.

She had faith in her ability to teach us the difference between Biblical reality and magical fantasy. She allowed us to fantasize, and therefore encouraged our imagination (the result is that I’m a novelist and my sister, Lydia, is a Blogging poet). But once Mom had heard the media’s controversial reports on gaming, she became attentive to our past-time, feigning interest, asking confusing questions that had nothing to do with AD&D but everything to do with weirdness. Our being baffled at weirdness convinced Mom that we were just having fun, and in the end she came away convinced that we were safe.

My point is that Harry Potter and The Matrix are discussion-points for Christian families, not taboo materials. Fantasy and Sci-Fi explore human ideas, as will our children. These genres seek answers to important questions, questions to which the Bible contains thunderous answers.

Someone once said that Fantasy and Sci-Fi are the handmaidens of philosophy, because they explore the possibilities behind reality. Sooner or later, our children will face these boundaries. They’ll face them either with, or without us. Parents too busy to provide real guidance will be ignored.

Since we have the wisdom of experience, the logical arguments of theologians, and the loving trust of our children, let’s not cement those ill-mannered rascals behind brick-walls. Rather, communicate His answers to their curiosities. For centuries, both believers and unbelievers have tried our own solutions in place of His, and for centuries we’ve failed . . .

When will we learn to trust Him?


Anonymous said...

You pose some very interesting arguments here. I do agree that the media themselves, whethere it be games, movies, books, music, or what have you, are problems in and of themselves. There are both Christain and secular versions of each, and I, for one, love Christian fantasy and alternative rock. In viewing, listening to, and participating in these generes, though, I have one simple test: Philipians 4:8. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.” What we see, read, and participate in is the gateway to our thought life. One of our enemy’s favorite weapons is to use past thoughts and experiences to bombard us with impure, selfish, and immoral thoughts, thus taking our minds captive. If we do not allow these things to be presented to us in the first place, they cannot be used against us. If we fill our minds with things that our lovely, pure, and admirable instead, there’s even less room for the enemy to wiggle into our minds. As such, I personally refuse to watch movies like The Matrix or read books like Harry Potter for the simple reasons that they do not glorify God and do not fall under the guidelines presented in Philipians 4:8. Although I do not have children of my own, I have taught this verse to my grade-school brother and sister. My brother has since told me that he finds it a very effective weapon in spiritual warfare.


Anonymous said...

This may seem a very simplistic view to some, but I had a wise friend who once excused herself from a discussion on predestination by saying,, “I love Jesus, Jesus loves me. That’s all I need to know.”
Thanks for your email, it was very helpful!

Cathy West

Anonymous said...

The problem with Science Fiction, Fantasy, role playing games, etc… never comes from the medium itself. The problem comes from the hearts that create it and the hearts that read it. The Matrix is a discussion point for parents with older teens (there’s some seriously sexual stuff in the 2nd and 3rd movies), but I wouldn’t call it wholesome. Everything in life is a learning experience. My children are young now and just entering elementary school. Our learning experiences are much simpler now than they will be later. But, teaching them that their friend next door only lives with her daddy every other weekend allows early exposure to the pain of the world and helps them learn the sad truths of modern day culture. The balance is to not teach them to be judgmental. It’s definitely interesting raising children.

Blessings! Terri

Ryan said...

I enjoy fantasy and sci-fi books like Terry Goodkind's "Sword of Truth" series, and Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series and many others like Dune, etc... There is magic, fantastical creatures (eg. dragons), politics and religous references (ie Dune) and I believe it is not that it is demonic and grey area when speaking from a Christian point of view. My family is sometimes concerned about what Im reading... it is plain and simple, it is always a story involving Good versus Evil. Even Harry Potter is like this, black and white, good and evil, the struggle of good versus evil. Harry Potter's theme is how Love conquerors evil. Just because there are witches and dragons and magic does not make something demonic or subersive to Christian beliefs, because the love of god itself is magical and miracles do happen and the holy spirit is very magical.

Ginomai said...

I appreciate you post. I plan on citing some of what you said in a discussion on 1 Corinthians 6 regarding Christian liberty, what is permissible and what is beneficial.

Ren said...

The biggest concern that I see is when black is portrayed as white and the lines are too fuzzy between reality and fantasy. I love fantasy, and I write fantasy and plan to write sci-fi. However, there are some subject matters I steer clear of - in writing as well as reading. Witches and Vampires. The intent of the book may not be evil, but when my kids grow up thinking that being a "witch" is cool and that they live among us, what happens when they grow up and they meet a person claiming to be a witch in reality? When they are faced with the satanic cults that ARE out there, how will they judge? Because I assure you that the adversary is an expert at making evil look appealing. Yes, I believe in the power of love, but love is NOT more important than obedience to God, or obedience to the Commandments. Thank you for your comments and things to think on. I have been on both sides and it's a very personal decision.

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