Discernment Or Christian Cop Out?
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“Harry Potter? Stephen King? No, I don’t read them! Why? Why? Because when I walk by them in the bookstore, I get an evil feeling from them. That’s when I know they’re of the devil.”
Heard it? I have. Said it?
That’s what I thought. Would you believe me when I say it doesn’t sound any more convincing in person? Too many times, walking in Christian circles, I hear a discussion come to a screeching halt when someone defends their disapproval of a bestseller or blockbuster with a claim of emanating evil. Rather than an explanation, feigned discernment and unsubstantiated experiences trump logic and reason.
As for the mechanics of such a phenomenon, there are two typical definitions. For some, there’s a demon directly attached to the item in question. I, for one, am not too fond of the idea that there are demons out there whose sole purpose is to inhabit three or four hundred pages of prose. Do the math. King and Rowling—to name two—have sold millions, if not billions of books. To put a demon in each one, requires astronomical (not astrological, mind you) numbers of fallen angels; that’s not even taking into account all of the demons that don’t live between the pages.
Other deeply spiritual Christians believe that it’s not a demon that does the haunting, but a spiritual residue. In Romans, Paul gave Christians permission to eat food that had been sacrificed to pagan idols. If Lucifer Goo exists, pagan sacrifices would be a prime medium for it, yet Paul says, “Eat up!”
But for the most part, all of this is understandable, I suppose. After all, Stephen King isn’t exactly an evangelist, and Harry Potter, be he hero or devil, isn’t an intrinsically Christian figure. For some, however, it doesn’t stop there. Attachments of the demonic sort don’t exist solely in the secular world. Christianity, it seems, has its share of evil spirits, as well.
Several times, I’ve heard some insightful discerner of demons say, “I just had an evil feeling about it,” applied to various Christian novels. They return them to the bookstore without reading them, and do their best not to touch them more than they have to, lest they too be contaminated. Not long ago, an essay that I wrote elicited this response: “I don’t know...something about it just doesn’t sit well with my spirit.” Good catch, Nancy Drew; the essay was written in the style of The Screwtape Letters, with the perspective of a villain. You weren’t supposed to agree with it.
This is where a second favorite phrase gets added to our cop-out now: “We all know that the devil comes as an angel of light, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we find him in Christian books, too.”
Tricksy isn’t he?
I suspect that the evil feeling is due more to the dark cover or twisted font, than to a wicked, albeit camouflaged, spirit. Add to that, a human desire to be superior to other Christians and a need to spiritualize everything. What happened to the good old days, before we Christianized things that should be a simple matter of taste?
Next time, try this: “This doesn’t look like my kind of book. I’d like to return it for something else.” Sure, it lacks that Old Testament flavor of brimstone, but I guarantee you’ll feel better knowing that, when you see me in the back of the store with my nose stuck up and my arms outstretched with prophetic flair, it’s not you I’m mocking.
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