Religion

The Debating Society, part 2.

It’s fitting that a post I’ve been planning for a few months should be written now, a week after a certain Christian-bashing bill is passed and on the day of St. Valentine’s annual visit.

That being said, the last thing I want to get bogged down with here is romance. That doesn’t really matter (yeah, I did just say that). In the grand scheme of things, romance is simply a feeling, and an incredibly fickle one at that. On its own, it’s fine. But with the stressful amount of time people have spent debating and adding things to it over the years, it’s no surprise that homosexual marriage should make such big headlines in a world that is full of persecution on all sides.

I have a couple of questions for all you Christians out there. Are you offended by the passing of this bill? Do you feel others should know how offended you are; that you, as a Christian (and therefore representing Christ), deserve more respect and better treatment? If so, there you have your first potential barrier, separating you from the very people that Jesus would love first, and ask questions of later. He didn’t spend his time asking for what he deserved because he knew that, in our flawed nature, it was a reverence we couldn’t have given Him while we were in darkness. He loved, and taught us how to love in return. It is precisely our love for Him that convicts us to live a holy life; no other reason for doing so can be satisfactory.

Do you expect anything different from a society, a people, living in darkness for quite some time now; one that would be any closer to God without this development? There is your second barrier. You are living in the world, but you are not of the world – John 15: 18-19. You should stand out like a sore thumb. It will do things that you find greatly offensive, things that you find shocking because you haven’t prepared yourselves for the worst. If Christianity was suddenly outlawed in this country, and we were sent to prison for even so much as holding a Bible, I’m sure many of you would find that very offensive as well. You would feel it was “against your human right” to worship. You would be shocked that such a thing should happen (as it does, elsewhere) because, perhaps, just maybe, you associate that kind of thing with Jesus’ time. A time when it was common to be put to death for saying and doing things that didn’t fall in line with how others perceived things should be said and done. His death then becomes, for you, simply a consequence of the time in which he was living; nowadays, the worst he would probably face is confinement to a psychiatric ward, and even that, people would frown at.

Do you see what I am trying to illustrate there? How what we call our ‘human rights’ change with the times, and to rely on them for your security is to rely on the wisdom of man. Anyway, I risk getting off point, so I’ll cut that one short.

A few weeks back, I spoke about Richard Dawkins and how he, along with other atheists, seems to like debating with various religious leaders to try and prove ‘the truth’ that God does not exist. His evidence for this is almost amusing, as it rarely gets past human failures – but it is this point that I would like to (sort of) focus on this time around; how we, when we argue amongst each other as Christians, give atheists like Dawkins exactly the kind of ammunition they need to argue against God’s existence. We may be able to pick (many) holes in the subsequent argument, but the opinion still holds a lot of influence, as the success of a book like The God Delusion shows.

In my short years on this planet so far, I’ve seen enough to know that people love to be right, and in their love of being right, they can cling to pre-conceived notions they believe to be absolute truths. They’ll take one example of something going bad and use it as a case against the collective whole. Innocently, perhaps, all they wish is to use their experience to help others (which I’m supportive of – when it’s done in an appropriate fashion). Or maybe they just don’t want others to like what they don’t like, out of a self-righteous sense of spite (which I’m not so supportive of… as you’ll find out by reading on). Either way, these types of people rarely take into account a key element of human psychology, which ironically forms a major part of their own opinion: context.

You know about the kind of thing I’m referring to, right? For example (and I could use many, but for the sake of space I’ll use one I like): those who think video games should be banned because, in the words of Boris Johnson, they “rot the minds” of children. In reality, the experience of these people rarely gets past Call of Duty or World of Warcraft, and if those games were representative of all video games then I’d certainly want them banned too. But that is not the point. The point is that I appreciate video games as an entertainment revolution (come on, they are), despite being aware of certain developers’ disregard for the social lives of their consumers – and yet, doesn’t that responsibility lie with the consumer (it does), or at least the family/ friends of said consumer (yes)?

This brings me on to another point. In thinking video games are “for children”, Boris Johnson makes a fatal error that is largely the cause of many problems to begin with. There was a time when video games were simple enough to be regarded as nothing more than a playful pastime in the afterschool arcade. That time has been gone for around 20 years now. Although there is still a place for it, the medium has moved on. When you see a game rated ‘18’, the label is there for a reason. The ratings board are not putting it there because of a little cartoonish gun that your 10 year old son will find funny. It is there because there is likely to be sex, blood, murder, hard-hitting themes and complicated storylines contained within the disc. If you still wish them to be banned in that case, having not bought this game for your child and eradicated the problem from the start (i.e. taken responsibility), that is fine, as long as you expand the idea to include all films and literature containing the same thing*. What are you left with then? Where do you draw the line? Or do you see films and literature in a different light – are they something that can stay in society because you’re more comfortable with these issues when… well, when you enjoy them? When they are, to put it more objectively, part of what you know?

Yes, my Christian friends, where do you draw the line? I say this not as an accusation, but as a personal conviction. Let’s look at witchcraft next, as I know that’s a favourite theme for a few of you.

I personally enjoy Harry Potter (not Daniel Radcliffe, but that’s a whole different issue). It’s a great story and a fine example of good, uncomplicated writing. While being its biggest strength, this is perhaps what some may see as its greatest danger. It is, after all, aimed at a young audience (11-18 year olds primarily). Do you know what else is aimed at an even younger audience, and in its time was even more popular than Harry Potter? Disney. Witchcraft permeates the very core of Disney culture. Reverse the word ‘Disney’ and you get Yen Sid, the name of the sorcerer from Fantasia (1940), who directed Mickey Mouse in all manner of ‘magic’.

This continues into (what I believe to be) Disney’s 21st century masterpiece; the Kingdom Hearts series, in which magic plays a vital role in the combat and overall story of the game – indeed, you get your first spell from Master Yen Sid himself in Kingdom Hearts 2 (2005). In the same game, he is named as Mickey Mouse’s original ‘teacher’. Who do Disney collaborate with on production of the Kingdom Hearts series? Square Enix; one of Japan’s major video game companies and makers of the Final Fantasy series, which has more false deities and blasphemous themes than I would dare to list here. Not to mention magic in abundance.

An in-depth study of Final Fantasy would inevitably lead me to look at Japanese culture, the spiritual side of which presents itself perfectly in Japanese horror films such as Ring (1998). Many of the spiritual elements of Japanese culture are very far from being biblical (I did my dissertation on this very subject). But I don’t think I need to go into too much detail for you to see what I’m saying. To warn people of something as ‘simple’ as Harry Potter with conviction, you’re going to have to look at these other things and ask how similar they are. How much of a bigger problem could they potentially be?

You can begin to systematically shut all of this out of your life, and tell others to do the same. Or you could come to the same conclusion that I have: it’s about context. I believe it is only when reaching this conclusion that we experience freedom from worrying about the aforementioned stuff. This is a very biblical notion, for it is only in the context of our salvation that we are set free from sin, is it not? It is why we, as Christians, remind ourselves of it every day, because our lives, when viewed outside of that context – outside of our relationship with God – don’t present very pretty pictures at all.

Every person will have their own weaknesses, and it makes sense to distance yourself from something that appeals to your respective weakness. If you find yourself under spiritual attack from a particular thing, do the same thing you would do if you saw someone approaching to hold you at gunpoint, for they are just as real as each other: flee (1 Corinthians 6: 18, 10: 14-15 – verse 15 is particularly relevant here! – 2 Timothy 2: 22. In fact, I find 2 Timothy 2: 23-25 to be particularly relevant for this entire post).

And remember:

If you see a tall man murdering someone but you don’t see his face, suddenly every tall man becomes a suspect. That’s a lot of groundwork to find the right one. In order to save time (a vital commodity), and to be sure this doesn’t happen again (so important in a society of absolutes), why not just order the execution of every tall man?

The next day, you could see a short man murdering someone as well. But you don’t see his face…

*Just to clarify, I am NOT speaking against those who buy ‘18’ rated products for underage people here, only those who do that and then complain about the effects that video games can have. I am completely supportive of a parents’ prerogative, and I think it’s great if your child is mature enough to handle 18-rated content before reaching that age (I know I was). That would be, actually, a fantastic compliment to your parenting. Remember that the ratings are a guideline, nothing more. Think of this blog post in the same way. It is not absolute truth. It is only the spark that makes you frown.

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