Let me start off by saying this: magic is a part of Christianity. In fact, it’s a part of every religion. Special prayers, powerful objects like crosses or holy water, and even the Church building itself all are seen to carry some sort of supernatural power. These things contain not only God’s power, but also are meant to protect us from evil. These are all magical elements.
Christians don’t have a good history with magic. All the way back in the Old Testament magic and sorcery are condemned as evil, but like many things in the Bible, this is also contradictory with other teachings. In a book not included in most Christian biblical canons, The Testament of Solomon, is actually a magical textbook. Solomon, the wisest of all the Old Testament kings, learns magic that allows him to summon and control demons (and angels to some degree). It’s a fascinating read and I suggest that everyone pick it up at some point. Just be wary about trying anything you learn in there, as it might not go so well for you.
In some ways I actually think whether magic is good or bad isn’t contradicted in the Bible. Magic is good if you learn your skills from God or the angels and honor them for that accordingly. Magic only becomes bad if it’s learned from devils (or evil spirits), if it’s used for your own selfish purposes, or if the user starts to believe the power they have is their own and not God’s. If you still don’t believe that magic is a part of Christianity, then I offer you this example: almost all Catholics I know, when attempting to sell their house, will go out and buy a statue of St. Joseph and bury him upside down in the backyard. This will supposedly help your house sell faster and many Catholics I met swear buy it. I have no idea where this tradition comes from, but if this isn’t an example of magic in faith, I don’t know what is.
So yes, magic is a part of Christianity. I have no problem with that. What does drive me crazy is when characters in TV shows or movies use these Christian objects and attribute nothing back to Christianity or Christian magic. This object banishes demons, because… well, it does. No one thinks about why.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
Buffy is guilty of this particular issue though I usually tend to give the show a pass. Buffydoesn’t have any particular mythology that it is drawing from. It’s one of those shows that constructs its own mythology from various other mythologies. The only time I ever get annoyed with Buffy is when they interpret Bible passages, because they usually interpret them so wrong that it kind of makes me laugh. That being said, they do interpret biblical passages in a way that fits their own personal mythology though. So again, Buffy is really more borrowing from various mythologies than being true to just one.
What really bothers me is their use of crosses and Halloween. Really all vampire movies and shows that employ the cross mythology does this, but it still bothers me. The cross repels vampires. Why? Nobody knows or at least no one explains. Buffy always wears a cross, but only as protection, not any real belief. I think I would be okay with the cross repelling vampires if all holy symbols did the same thing. Like if the Star of David, or a statue of Krishna would also repel and burn vampires, it could be viewed as a sign that all the good forces in the universe condemn the evil vampires. But this only works with crosses, which is never explained and no preference for Christianity is ever expressed in the show. To me this just makes it confusing. Just because there is magic in a show doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be rules. The magic should at least kind of make sense.
Halloween is another thing in Buffy that bothers me. The supernatural takes a night off on Halloween, but this is never explained either. I have a theory that it is because Halloween is actually All Hallows Eve, which comes before All Saints Day, a Christian holiday. Halloween, whether Pagan or Christian, has some religious significance, but any connection to those faiths is swept under the rug, leaving those of us who pay attention to things like that perplexed.
Until season four and the introduction of beautiful, perfect-in-every-way Castiel, Supernatural would often annoy me. Supernatural draws on Pagan and Judeo-Christian mythology, but I would argue it draws more on the Judeo-Christian mythology (especially in later seasons). What would drive me crazy wasn’t so much that they used these magical Christian objects to fight evil, but that they would use them and then assert that not only was there no God, but there was no good higher power at all. What?! Okay, Sam believed in God and angels, but Dean never did. Dean didn’t even believe in Lucifer until season four. And while this may be in character for Sam to believe and Dean not to, it drove me crazy that Dean wouldn’t believe and then use a Latin exorcism, invoke the name of Christ to reveal demons, use rosaries, holy water, and devils traps to fight off demons. Where do you think that stuff comes from, Dean? Why would invoking Christ’s name work on demons if there is no God? Why would holy water work if there aren’t any good forces in the universe? Did the demons get together with the hunters one day and just agree that certain things would be allowed to hurt them? While the show eventually fixed this with the introduction of the angels and revealing that God does exist, those first three seasons will always be endlessly frustrating for me because that.
There are more shows like this, but this is all we have time for right now. Feel free to tell me about other shows, movies, books, etc. that do this. And feel free to point out how pop culture does this with other religions besides Christianity.
And as always, tune in next time and get some religion!