Picture this: a man wrings his hands together, raises a palm, says some words, and expects something to happen as a result. What’s going on here? Depending on the context, it’s either magic or prayer.
How do you define magic? I Googled specifically how fandoms would define magic, since we’re talking about the magic we find in fandoms and whether or not it’s “good.” The Superpowers Wiki defines magic as the ability to use paranormal methods (rituals, symbols, actions, gestures, language, etc.) to exploit or manipulate supernatural forces.
How do you define prayer? Consider how a non-Christian might define it. John Q. Public might not see us drawing symbols or ritualistically sacrificing small animals, but he sees us making actions and gestures and saying certain combinations of words, sometimes not even in English. Then a supernatural force called God is supposed to do something, right?
There are only two or three real differences between these two concepts. One is the specific supernatural force in question. If it’s known as Dormammu, a wellspring found in a country only accessible through magic, or simply “the Force,” we’re clearly talking about fiction. Since we here in the real world have no way to access that supernatural force, there is no inherent danger in watching or reading stories about people manipulating that force or even pretending to be a make-believe character manipulating that force (see Christianity and RPG’s.)
HOWEVER, here in the real world there are multiple supernatural forces, and the countable majority of them are not to be tampered with. The Devil and his demonic forces offer power to people who do the right rituals and say the right words. This “magic” comes with the agenda of the Devil and his demonic forces, and opening yourself up to it will only lead to destruction. It’s important to note that if we absorb magical fandoms without discernment, we make it easier for real-world supernatural evil to trick us.
The one and only real-world supernatural force that brings good things is God. When we access this power, it’s called prayer.
The other key difference between magic and prayer is “exploit or manipulate.” When we make the gestures and say the words we associate with prayer, do we expect God to do stuff because we’re asking him to do it? Or are we demonstrating that our desires align with what we believe His desires to be, and we’re willing to put aside our own agenda so He can carry out His own?
That’s the other thing: magic is a labor-saving device. Prayer definitely isn’t. Properly executed, prayer tends to make our lives a little bit harder before they get easier. God often gives us more to be responsible for as He takes care of whatever request we’re bringing to him. It’s not the nice, easy package Dr. Strange or Harry Potter use to make their problems disappear.
If, after considering these facts, you still see a conundrum, the answer is, funnily enough, prayer. When we ask God for the wisdom to know when to avoid a fictional story about magic or to help us pray the right way, not the way that could be mistaken for magic, He sends his Spirit to convict us when we’re stumbling and inspire us when we need the words to say. It’s like magic.
For more, read the article that inspired this post:
Someone called EmskitheNerd commented on this thing I wrote (which you should read). He told me about the video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and hinted at the moral implications of the main character’s arc. In the process, he spoiled the game’s plot twist for me. I don’t mind, but if you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now.
Also spoiler warning for The Last Jedi.
If you’re still here, hang tight. EmskitheNerd gave me a lot to think about.
So here’s the plot twist: the main character, Starkiller, was basically destined to be a Jedi Knight, but Darth Vader kidnapped him and raised him as a Sith Apprentice. Midway through the game, Vader turns on Starkiller. Then, if the player wants to become a hero, Starkiller turns to the Light side.
At first, I thought this was bad writing. Vader betrayed Starkiller because there was a chance he might become a hero. Starkiller became a hero because Vader betrayed him. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But then I thought about it a little more. Yoda didn’t want Anakin to be a Jedi because there was a very real danger that Anakin could turn evil (see my earlier post on the subject). Luke considered, however briefly, attacking Ben Solo because Luke sensed the possibility of evil in his nephew.
This means the Light Side is willing to do drastic things to avoid the temptation of the Dark Side. Something along the lines of, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29 NIV). The Dark Side would obviously do even more drastic things to keep its apprentices on the “straight and narrow.”
As far as I can tell, the Light Side can tempt bad people just as much as the Dark Side can tempt good people, but neither side can force anyone to join. That’s the way it is in the real world, too.
Food for thought: if you feel like giving up on goodness, God, or something else because your life is screwed up, maybe it’s because the Enemy knows you have potential to do great things for the side of good.
So leave a comment and you could be responsible for the next blog post. Let’s Connect!
Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog
Kind of like my nerdy knowledge of Ragnarok, I happen to know a few things about sirens.
- Sirens are water nymphs. This makes them cousins to mermaids, although sirens and mermaids are different things.
- Sirens are bird-human hybrids. They have no fish parts, because sirens and mermaids are different things.
- A siren’s singing voice is so beautiful it can hypnotize people, especially men.
- The most famous sirens are the ones who sit on beaches and use their voices to make sailors crash their boats into rocks. The worst thing a mermaid has ever done is try to drown Wendy in Neverland (unless you count Ursula as a mermaid, I suppose).
- The original sirens were created by Demeter; the goddess gave them wings so they could help her search for her missing daughter, Persephone.
- The original sirens lost their wings when they got into a singing competition with the Muses. The Muses won, and as their prize they plucked the sirens’ feathers.
- Sirens eat people. Mermaids don’t.
- The most accurate representation of a siren I’ve ever seen was in Disney Channel’s American Dragon Jake Long, in the episode “Siren Says.” (Yeah, I know, random, but this is how my brain works.) That show also has mermaids, and mermaids are clearly different from sirens.
- The recent show on Freeform called Siren is about mermaids, except they are depicted as hypnotic and deadly man-eating predators. Although the show is good, it clearly suffers from the common misconception that sirens and mermaids are the same thing.
Look, I’m not saying every story has to get every detail of its chosen mythos accurate to the original subject matter. But this is a pretty basic concept, and so many stories get it wrong. Mermaids are the nice water-related mythical creatures. Sirens are the not-nice ones. There’s no reason to be afraid of Ariel.
We discuss mythos frequently on the Correlation. We’ve pointed out many fandoms that get the facts of Judeo-Christian “mythology” wrong, misrepresenting angels, demons, God, and Jesus. We have high standards for these things because we believe that Judeo-Christian mythology is actually the metaphysical reality of our world. But we should probably hold stories using other mythologies to the same standards; otherwise we’d be hypocritical.
This does not bode well for Marvel. Or other things. That’s an entire sub-section of the blog waiting to happen.
Here’s the premise: In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Peter Parker is a YouTuber. I first heard this theory from Seamus Gorman, an up and comer in the fan theory division of YouTube. It makes sense. Previous Peter Parkers sold photographs of Spiderman to newspapers; putting videos of Spiderman on YouTube is the modern version of that.
I found more evidence for this theory in Jessica Jones Season 2. Don’t worry; there are no real spoilers here.
1) Jessica says, “If you say ‘with great power comes great responsibility,’ I will throw up on you.” There it is. The first time that line has ever been spoken in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (as far as I know, correct me if I’m wrong). And it’s said by the character most likely to disagree with that philosophy. There’s no way Jessica came up with that phrase herself; she is almost certainly referencing something.
2) Another character says, “With great power comes great mental illness.” Again, doesn’t that sound like a riff on some other phrase? Where did it come from?
3) Someone asks Jessica if she has a Spidey Sense. Jessica replies no, she doesn’t, meaning she knows what that is.
Here’s the fan theory part: after posting “candid” footage of Spiderman for a while, Peter made an “interview with a superhero” video. His friend Ned probably convinced him to do it and helped him make it. In that video, Spiderman talked about what he could do, including his Spidey Sense, and mentioned why he’s a hero: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
This video would have definitely gone super-viral. After all, the only other superhero who’s ever available for interviews is Tony Stark, maybe Luke Cage after he got out of prison. Even if Jessica Jones wasn’t interested in superhero news, her sister or her sidekick would probably force her to watch that video.
How else do you explain those three Spiderman references? It’s not like Spidey is likely to leave his friendly neighborhood. Information about him had to get out a different way, and the evidence suggested by Seamus Gorman + this new evidence = good enough for me.
Hello Vlogger Generation. Meet your superhero.
Last time I talked about a Rom Com, it was because I saw the cast list was a Dollhouse reunion. This time, it was partially because of the cast – Alexandra Daddario (one of the only good things about the Percy Jackson movies), Robbie Amell (superheroes, high school jocks, the dude’s everywhere), and Adam Devine (not usually my kind of actor, but this movie proves he’s not always the jerk from Pitch Perfect) – and partially because of the plot synopsis.
Adam Devine plays a guy named Noah (yeah, it was weird for me the whole time) who is in love with a girl named Avery, played by Alexandra Daddario (not a hard thing to imagine). Avery is in love with Ethan, played by Robbie Amell (also understandable). Noah is convinced that if he had done things differently on the night he first met Avery, he wouldn’t have spent three years as a third wheel. The night of Avery and Ethan’s engagement party, Noah goes into a magic photo booth and gets his chance to do that night over.
So it’s kind of like Groundhog Day. Noah pretends to be a different kind of person on That Night and then wakes up three years later to discover the consequences of being that person. If he’s unhappy with the results, he goes back to the photo booth to try again.
The science fiction nerd part of me is a little unsatisfied with how the time travel works, but the storytelling nerd part of me really likes this movie.
The moral of the story is relationships are about intangible things – not the moments you think are going to be important, but the ones you remember the most fondly later because of the people you shared them with. The moments captured by, say, a magic photo booth.
The downside: rom coms have awkward situations. I hate awkward. Awkward is bad enough in real life; manufacturing a fictional awkward situation for the sake of comedy – why would that appeal to anyone? I don’t understand.
Oh well. I guess it’s no more awkward than a normal rom com. And when a rom com is good, it’s adorable, and this one is adorable.
Christian-wise, I would suggest a language warning. There is implied sexual content but nothing overly explicit. Overall it’s just an adorable little romance. I liked it a lot.
This may be the straight-up-nerdiest post I’ve ever written.
In 1644, John Milton wrote a speech called Areopagitica to give in Parliament about freedom of the press. Parliament wanted to censor big sections of literature, some for being rebellious and politically charged and some for being “unclean.” Kind of like the way that many people try to discourage fandoms.
After summarizing the history of censorship vs free press, Milton talks about a guy named Dionysius Alexandrinus. He was basically a pastor in the early church, and someone asked him, “You read the books of heretics so you can talk to them, but isn’t that just as bad as being a heretic?”
Dionysius didn’t know how to answer that, so he prayed about it. And God responded, “Read any book, whatever comes into your hands, because you are sufficient to judge right and to examine each matter.”
Dionysius was pretty sure this message came from God because it seemed to line up with Titus 1:15: “To the pure, all things are pure…” Obviously, no person is completely pure. But the idea is a Christian can have “sufficient” purity to read potentially risky things, judge the risks for themselves, and learn from the experience without becoming less pure.
This is what we’ve been saying on the Correlation since the beginning (mostly me). If you have wisdom and discernment, you should be able to enjoy a variety of fandoms and take Christian compatible morals from them without poisoning your mind or your heart. If anything, the reviewers and critics and bloggers like me, Isaac, and that guy from Plugged-In can judge and examine each matter and pass along the message to all of you.
For more, I highly recommend Areopagitica if you can find it. I’ve barely read a third of it because it’s so dense and old-fashioned, but so far it’s strikingly similar to what we talk about here on the blog.
Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog
Remember when I listed Harry Potter as a character who typifies Jesus? Well, I just found out that there’s another version of him out there who is pretty much the opposite.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a comic book series about the classics of literature teaming up a la Avengers/Justice League/Watchmen. In the movie, Dr. Jekyll is the Hulk, Captain Nemo is Iron Man, Mina Murray-Harker is Awesome Vampire Lady, and Tom Sawyer shot Professor Moriarty from like 300 feet away. It’s a lot of fun.
I don’t know how Alan Moore and company got a hold of Harry Potter legally, but they did. And then they made him the Antichrist. Supposedly, that lightning bolt on his forehead is the Mark of the Beast, and all his magical adventures were preparing him to be a harbinger of the Apocalypse. Somehow.
When Harry finds out the truth, he goes on a murder rampage and then locks himself in his bedroom under the stairs, developing an addiction to antipsychotic drugs. Then he turns into a giant covered in eyeballs and he’s killed by Mary Poppins. I am not making this up.
It all makes a strange sort of sense, in context. We know the actual Antichrist will bear some resemblance to Jesus, enough that he’ll convince a lot of people to follow him and even worship him. Harry Potter has a lot in common with Jesus, and there are a lot of people who think his magical powers are “of the Devil.”
But that’s where the comparison falls apart. I haven’t seen those horror movies about kids growing up with demons in their brains, supposedly destined to be the Antichrist. But I’m pretty sure they all miss the point: we will never see him coming, and when he shows up he’ll take over without much resistance at all.
The actual Antichrist would be the last person to be worried about the Apocalypse. He certainly wouldn’t be afraid of himself. He would probably deny the existence of the Antichrist while also denying Jesus and God. Then, while the world freaks out over the end of the world, he’ll try to steal God’s job. And then Jesus will show up like the superhero he is. It will be awesome.
That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week. What do you want to see me and Isaac tackle next? Let’s Connect!
Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog