Is Sorcery Entertaining?

Today, Marvel’s latest superhero debuts in North America–Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme! Should Christians find this movie entertaining? Should we support it with our money and time?

Everybody likes a card trick, or another sleight of hand. We marvel at a “magician” who can swirl rings in a glass, appearing to link and unlink them. Or, make a bottle cap suddenly appear inside a bottle from the bottom. We’re astounded when some guy appears to get numbers at random and they all match the sequence on a lottery ticket he purchased earlier that day. But, most, if not all, of our entertainment is derived from the obvious understanding that a trick is involved. These entertainers are known as illusionists.

Granted, there are some of these folks who actively encourage the idea that they’re performing true sorcery. It’s part of their schtick. One such entertainer apparently freaked out some of the judges on America’s Got Talent because he convinced them he was performing true Voodoo.

So, the line can get blurry, even when we know that an entertainer is doing tricks.

Because of this blurry line, many Christians will think that a movie like Doctor Strange is just fine. We know it’s all movie magic and none of the so-called real magic.

Being a Marvel fan, I’m attracted to the movie. I enjoy the shared universe of heroes. I grew up with those comics. And while I never collected any Doctor Strange comics, he would show up in some of the comics I did read–because of the shared universe.

For those geeky folks like me, the purpose of this movie is to set up the Infinity War movie, which is the next installment of the Avengers’ franchise.

But, what makes this film concerning is that Marvel has deviated from their science fiction base and have embraced the idea of actual sorcery.

While Odin declares, “We are not gods!” in the Thor movies, Doctor Strange is told that he can manipulate spacetime and the fabric of reality.

The movie portrays some good, hero-like things. The good doctor is arrogant, rich and has need of nothing … until an accident deprives him of the use of his skilled hands. In this sense, he’s humbled and soon impoverished as he spends his vast fortune looking for a solution to regain the only thing that gave him purpose in life.

It’s a compelling narrative. Stan Lee, who invented the character, is well-versed in dramatic tension and good storytelling.

The problem is that Doctor Stephen Strange finds his salvation in the form of mystical sorcery. The movie–to its credit–emphasises hard work and diligence to succeed (as opposed to the J.J. Abrams model of young heroes who can suddenly do amazing things without training).

The underlying lesson in this movie, though, is that we can tap into God-like powers on our own. It reinforces a lie that our flesh is all too willing to embrace. We can be like God!

To underscore this lie, there’s a villain who misuses the power and is thus evil.

In other words, so long as we are good in our heart, we can employ magic for good uses … which sounds like what everyone intended when they saw the ring of power in the Lord of the Rings.

The fact is, God has forbidden us from practicing or engaging in sorcery, necromancy and divination. See Deuteronomy 18:10, or Galatians 5:20. There are far more references, too. King Saul sought out a medium and paid the price for his rebellion and presumption against God in doing so.

But, you say, what’s the harm in watching Benedict Cumberbach waive his hands around and bend images on the silver screen? I know it’s not real, and I’m just being entertained as I would be with a David Copperfield show.

I’m not going to say it’s “sin” to go see a movie. After all, most movies portray some godless idea or another. Star Wars is VERY pagan, steeped in Eastern religion. But, I do think we need to consider whether it’s helpful to find that entertaining.

All things may be lawful for us, but not all are beneficial. What if, by finding sorcery on the screen entertaining, we’re just watering down acceptance of the mystical teaching of the false teachers out there? What if we subconsciously find that sort of stuff attractive?

Isn’t that the same sort of thing that watching movies with couples ‘hooking up’ with no consequences does? We see the Hollywood version of sinful indulgence and we begin believing that it’s all harmless fun.

We’ve got so-called Christians who employ sorcery and claim to talk for God. This is no different from those against whom Ezekiel spoke in the Old Testament. We’ve got false teachers who make whole groups of people believe that they have some direct access to God, who tells them things about the upcoming election, about other future events, etc.

How many TV frauds are out there claiming to be healing people with their hands (though they never set foot in a Children’s cancer ward!)?

Those are real-life sorcerers. They’re not romantic and don’t wear a fancy cape with the all-seeing eye of Ra on their chest. They don’t have awesome computer-generated special effects to make them appear more wow-some.

But then, neither do the millions upon millions of people whose lives are destroyed by STIs and broken relationships when they buy into the casual sex lifestyle advanced by Hollywood.

The reality is, when God says something is evil in His sight, it’s evil. Should we find any of it entertaining?

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7 Comments

  1. I actually ended up renting this last night and there is one sorry if it that totally makes it work for me. You have one character in the movie, a “good guy”, who taps into something dark but justifies it as being for the greater good… and it is ultimately their undoing.

    Not sure that everyone would get that message, and magic is clearly presented as not being all evil in this fantasy setting, but having that one aspect of the plot play out as it is, I think, gives us a good analogy of what real wielding of “magic” would entail. No matter how good your intentions or otherwise high your character, attempting to harness darkness who taint and ultimately destroy you.

    Now the shallow… took me a long time to get used to Cumberbatch with an American accent.

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  2. Frankly, I think most movies out there today have one thing or another (at the very least) that would be considered objectionable. I think increased exposure to such content kind of desensitizes us to those negative things. We may not dwell on them as a result of seeing a movie, but we may excuse them more easily as a result. People today are fairly gullible as it is: “Google said so, therefore it must be true…” Now factor in all those Christians who gravitate toward the emotional/supernatural God “experience,” and you have the set up for blind emotionalism and the great desire for everyone to experience such a thing. The only thing I see a movie like this doing is making the supernatural perhaps seem lighter than it really is; harmless. It might cause some to be intrigued and get sucked into something they weren’t planning on ever being involved with. But as a general rule, I would say the content of this movie is not any more objectionable than the content of all the other mainstream movies out there. People are going to see it for entertainment purposes and not much more will come of it beyond that.

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  3. I think that it’s one of those “if it is sin for you” don’t do it kind of situations. For that matter, if it might cause your brother or sister to stumble, then don’t do it. I probably wouldn’t have made it out to see this anyway (I’ve only manage one movie in the last two years) but my wife has been wrestling with these types of questions lately, so it would probably be best to avoid.

    In the end I think that for most people it really is just harmless fun (without seeing it, it’s pretty hard to say what subtle messages might be included but that is true with most things). I would imagine that by and large we as a culture don’t take the supernatural seriously enough for a movie like this to do a lot of harm. Could be wrong though.

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    1. I totally agree. It’s akin to the meat sacrificed to idols. My fear is that there are lots of weak Christians who think they are strong. They think this doesn’t affect them. Personally, it wouldn’t make me believe in sorcery, but it also doesn’t appeal to me as entertaining because of how harmful real “sorcery” is. And I happen to believe that all magic is an illusion. It doesn’t actually do anything. People are simply deceived into thinking it does.

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