Speaking (or writing, rather) as someone who has both grown up an area of heavy Christian fundamentalism, and also currently resides in an area of Christian fundamentalism, I am absolutely no stranger to the distastes of the concept of witchcraft and magic. Dungeons and Dragons, Harry Potter, and Oujia boards were all equally condemned, though condemned in different contexts by different people.
The reason these topics have been brought to my mind, and consequently to paper, as of late comes in the form of the currently-airing series entitled, you guessed it, Witchcraft Works. Although it is still too early to tell what sort of quality the series will ultimately show itself to be, I have been constantly reminded of the “demonic” content that it includes that tends to drive Christians away from what is an otherwise entertaining romp in high school romance and fantasy. All of this culminates in this article today.
First and foremost, I must make mention of the fact that, whether or not you believe in witchcraft or magic in the literal sense (I can’t say that I do, personally, but I’ve been known to be wrong before), the existence of witches themselves is an unmistakable fact. However, Christians must first make a distinction between real, physical witches, and unreal, fictional witches.
Let’s first take a look at what the Bible says about witchcraft, shall we?
“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.”
-Leviticus 19:31 (ESV)
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
-Revelation 21:8 (ESV)
“Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
-Galatians 5:20-21 (ESV)
I could go on, but I think you get the point. The Bible speaks volumes agains the practice of magic (i.e. witchcraft), however not simply as witchcraft itself, but as a means of attempting to seek power and divination apart from God, which could also be considered idolatry.
Before moving on to the real topic at hand of witchcraft in fiction, it must be noted that witches as real people within society are a people to be dealt with as any other non-believer: someone to be loved and understood. As with many people of different beliefs through history (homosexuals, Muslims, and so on), Christians have had an awful track record of attempting to love and understand these people, instead opting to take the easy way out of hate and disdain (which does absolutely no good for any party involved, I might add).
Throughout the centuries people have been accused of witchcraft and executed thanks to poor biblical understanding and great amounts of political and social corruption, a la the Salem Witch Trials which so plague the history of the United States’ New England region. For a lesson on how to interact with witches in a friendly and Christ-minded manner, this group has done quite a lot of good over the years.
Moving on, though, I can recall throughout my years of childhood and adolescence constantly running into friends who were prohibited from reading books, watching movies, or playing games that involved witchcraft. Some of the common offenders were especially Harry Potter and Sabrina the Teenage Witch (the latter of which was actually a rather wholesome children’s show, the cartoon anyway). Although it is a parent’s right to raise his or her children in the best way he or she sees fit, and it is the Christian’s obligation to not cause another to sin in his or her conscience (as stated in Romans), I always questioned the boycotting of magic-involved fiction.
I recall relatively recently having had a conversation with my own father when I asked him why he and my mother allowed me to consume some of the content that a lot of my Christian friends were not allowed to see. His response was much more simple than I anticipated coming from a theology scholar and (former) pastor: “They’re great fiction.”
Despite God’s distaste for witchcraft through the Bible (which I am convinced stems more from the concept of idolatry), we must remember that we need not agree with everything that occurs in literature, nor even acknowledge it as anything more than a storytelling medium. If Christians were to block literature with any amount of material that could be considered offensive, fiction or non-fiction, the Bible, filled with disturbing tales of intrigue, incest, murder, and just about every other despicable behavior you could name, would be the first to go!
To take the more conventional and (perhaps) more applicable route, the works of C.S. Lewis should be examined. The Chronicles of Narnia, heralded by Christians as one of the greatest fantasy sagas showcasing Christian themes, is absolutely chock full of examples of sorcery. Witches, warlocks, sorcerers, and numerous other “magical” creatures abound, and nary a Christian even blinks at them.
At this point it may sound more like I’m ranting about my frustrations with what I see as Christian cultural influence superseding Christ’s influence, which I may be doing, but the point is this: the concerning factor in any piece of media is not the individual pieces of content, but what you get out of it by the end. Examples of this vary. The Bible, to start, taken piece by piece can come across as rather offensive, but as a whole tells the story of a monotheistic God who loves and saved His people by sending His son to die for them. Game of Thrones, perhaps one of the most controversial contemporary shows (and before that, books) thanks to its questionable content, can still sit within the realm of redeemable media because, as long as it is watched for the right reasons, it can provide an entertaining experience that need not hinder someone’s religious faith.
Witchcraft Works is the same. At only two episodes, it is near impossible to say if it is actually worth watching to the average anime viewer, but the inclusion of “witchcraft” in the name is no reason to avoid it.