Sunday, November 6, 2016

Demonic Occult Deception

That's the phrase used by one Christian movie reviewer to describe the new Doctor Strange movie, now in theaters. I have yet to see the film myself, but I have heard from a number of friends who liked it. For anybody who doesn't know, Doctor Strange is the Marvel superhero whose powers stem his mastery of the magical arts - as they exist in the fictional Marvel universe. So of course this reviewer hated the film, because in it the wizard is the good guy.

Marvel's Doctor Strange will finally be released in U.S. theaters this weekend, and so far, it has been well-received by both fans and the critics, and doing well at the box office overseas (You can read our full review here), but as the saying goes, "you can't please everyone." One critic decided to label the film "abhorrent" and cites Biblical passages in his review to prove his points.

Dr. Ted Baehr, the chair of the Christian Film & Television Commission, has given Doctor Strange a painful -4 or "Abhorrent" rating. “[Doctor Strange is] a dangerous introduction to demonic occult deception,” Behr wrote in his review. “The Bible clearly warns against the kind of occult practices and sorcery the hero in this movie learns to do, in Deuteronomy 18:9-12 and Galatians 5:20. Also in the movie, the hero’s New Age, occult guru teaches there may be no afterlife, that death is truly the end, and that this is a good thing.”

One of the odd commonalities between fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist atheists is their shared hatred of imagination. Does anybody seriously think that comic book characters like Doctor Strange practice anything even remotely resembling real magick? He's a superhero; he's totally not real, and the comics in which he appears are works of fiction. Which is what we humans do to entertain ourselves - come up with imaginary situations that we know full well aren't real. Why watching a fictional movie would be dangerous to anyone is entirely beyond me.

And in case you're wondering, no, Doctor Strange does not perform real magical rituals, or use real magical techniques. I say that as an actual magical practitioner, just the sort of person that this reviewer likely believes to be irredeemably evil. There's absolutely no way anybody can half the stuff that Doctor Strange does with spells, but that's okay. We like the story because it's fun, not because it has anything to do with real life. It seems to me that if fundamentalists of both stripes would quit freaking out about fiction, their worldviews might be more compelling to more people.

But the idea that if you're exposed to a piece of fiction with the wrong protagonist, or a story involving the wrong paranormal elements, will somehow harm you is so silly that it shouldn't be taken seriously by anyone with even rudimentary critical thinking skills. Sometimes fiction is just fiction, and with the possible exception of people suffering from severe mental illness, nobody out there honestly believes that any of it is actually happening. You might as well complain that Marvel's Thor doesn't correspond to real Norse mythology, or for that matter, that in detective movies the heroes aren't solving real crimes.

Why shouldn't we enjoy the depiction of imaginary stories, anyway? Do the folks who are against all this want us to wind up like the Thermians in Galaxy Quest, an alien race so confused by the idea of fiction that they can't comprehend even the idea of a television program, instead referring to the broadcast of a television series as "historical documents?" That doesn't sound anything like a world I want to live in, especially as a writer. Without fiction, our world would be far more drab and dull. That's a world the fundamentalists can keep to themselves.

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Bruce Petersen said...

Dr. Ted Baehr, like many Christians, read the bible from a perspective handed down to them that falls in line with their theology. This causes them to miss some obvious facts that are easily recognizable to anyone with a good dictionary that has the archaic definitions. In the book of Matthew chapter 2 the Magi come to worship/pay homage to the young Jesus (age 2 or under). The word worship is used in Protestant bibles and Homage is used in Catholic bibles. They are synonyms. Both are references to a public display and formal utterance of a pledge of allegiance to either a sovereign or another country's sovereign. The giving of gifts is a part of this ceremony. The greek original is proskunew (in one way of spelling it) and references the oriental way of paying homage. The word Magic was derived from the name of the Magi, pretty generally known. More info can be found in places like: My understanding is these Magi came from the Parthian empire, a competitor or Rome. But my basic comment is that according to the bible, Jesus had a formal alliance with these Magic practitioners. One man's miracle is another's magick. As in accord with the times, the alliance would be spiritual as well as secular. To my mind this negates Dr Ted's assertions.

Dacia Pacea said...

Dr. Yes would've been one of those who said that Jesus cast out demons by the Prince of the demons :))

Dacia Pacea said...


Scott Stenwick said...

Yeah, one of the reasons I did not last at the fundamentalist church I attended for about six months back in high school was that I had actually read the entire Bible, and knew it better than the preacher did. So whenever he said "this means that," I kept telling myself, "no, it doesn't!"

I eventually figured out that the point was to change the interpretation to match their worldview, not the other way around - which never made sense to me. You know, if what you're reading is theoretically the Word of God and all that.