When I watched the delightfully absurd Witch Craft Works, one surprisingly thoughtful scene stood out amid the convoluted hilarity. I don’t dare attempt to explain the whole story, but at this particular point, protagonist Takamiya Honoka and witch / bodyguard / love interest Kagari Ayaka have come into conflict with Kagari’s mother (an extremely strong witch). This means they have potentially voided the protection from other evil witches that the elder Kagari had been providing them.
When Takamiya suggests leaving town to get away from the trouble, Kagari responds, “What are you talking about? Leaving town is not an option.” She goes on to explain:
“Listen. There is a power inside you. And there are witches who want that power. Why should you have to run away? You just happen to possess power, so you must live in hiding? That’s wrong. They’re evil, and you must never give in to evil. I won’t let you run away or hide.”
She concludes with a promise to fight for Takamiya. I can’t speak for Takamiya, but I was impressed by this rousing call to resist evil.
Pondering what broader truths might lie behind Kagari’s words, we might quibble with her insistence on fighting. Sometimes flight is a valid form of resistance to evil. As the great Jedi master Obi-wan Kenobi once observed, sometimes “You can’t win, but there are alternatives to fighting.” Joseph’s hurried departure from Potiphar’s wife springs to mind. Particularly in the face of temptation (as with Joseph) escape may be our plan (1 Cor. 10.13). But this is indeed quibbling. While a strategic withdrawal is occasionally in order, we must distinguish between such a move and the kind of retreat that embodies capitulation to evil. Escape can be prudent, but it can also be cowardly.
Kagari’s larger point is entirely true. We must never give in to evil. Sometimes that means taking the “way of escape.” And sometimes it means steadfastly refusing to back down and turn tail. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4.7). Evil should be fleeing from us, not vice versa. If we are the light of the world, as Jesus calls his followers (Mt. 5.14), we should be in the business of dispelling the darkness, not hiding from it. As the apostle Paul puts it, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12.21).
I can’t recall any instances where I “fled” in the capitulate-to-evil sense – evil witches have never been a problem in my life as they were in Takamiya’s case. But there have certainly been times where I “fled” from an opportunity to do good out. That’s part of what’s powerful about Kagari’s little speech: she doesn’t mean merely to resist evil herself, but to keep Takamiya from giving into to the temptation to run away. Whatever the enemy and whatever its objective, I suspect we all need Kagari’s exhortation that we must never give in to evil.
Proclaiming the superiority of courage to cowardice is easy – as C. S. Lewis observed in The Screwtape Letters, cowardice is one of the few vices even wicked people never fail to recognize. It’s just so self-evidently despicable. But practicing courage in the face of evil is a good deal more challenging. That’s why we continue to need inspiring examples, both real and fictional. Like every other virtue, courage is no accident – we won’t be courageous unless we intend to be. The ultimate display of courage in the face of evil is surely Jesus going to the cross, but history and fiction alike yield countless examples for our edification. Evil must be opposed, and many metaphorical Kagaris stand ready to bolster our courage.
I’d like to conclude one of favorite examples of defiance to evil in the Bible: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When the most powerful man in the world threatened them with fiery doom unless they worshipped his shiny statue, they responded thus (Dan. 3.16-18):
“We have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Featured illustration by 水薙竜 (reprinted w/permission)