Why Lies Are Good For Me

Credit: kmgsuidoo on Flickr via Creative Commons

Credit: kmgsuidoo on Flickr via Creative Commons

The show Supernatural is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. When I first got into this show it surprised me. Not that long ago I rejected the anti-science fiction and fantasy genre doctrines I’d been handed when I first became a churchgoer. These fantastic stories were seen as portals to the demonic. The dark side. The devil. If we allowed him a “foothold” in our minds, we would be giving him full access. We never explicitly said this meant possession (or oppression for those who believe the devil can’t invade a Christian), but that was the logical conclusion to the equation. Fantasy books, movies, or art = foothold = devil infestation. And unless we are talking koala bears, infestations are never a good thing.

So as a newly converted teenager I participated in burn-all-the-things rituals of feverish youth group commitment, trashing CDs and movies and posters and books. I spent years trying to believe that those things had been evil, that my openness to myth and fantasy was the reason I struggled with depression and suicide and self-hatred. If I just closed the doors on the devil he would stop influencing my soul and I would be free and happy. Even as a young child I’d been fascinated by the stories of Icarus and his wax wings, Native American stories about the Great Spirit, and Sarah’s perilous journey to the center of the Labyrinth. Slamming these doors would clear out all the darkness that had collected all around me, right? 

The problem is, well, that there’s not just one problem with that line of thinking. There are a dozen problems with it: bad theology, worse exegesis, even more terrible interpretation, misuse of Scripture, the destruction of imagination, damaging psychology. My journey to the other side of that struggle is discussed here. As I started reading Salvatore again and watching those Henson films from my childhood, I felt a part of myself coming back to life. It wasn’t an evil or dark part of my personality; the darkness was vanquished by therapy and education and Scripture and prayer. It was the creative part of my brain, the part that thrives on story and imagination. I often trap myself with my own logic; fantasy releases the gate and allows me to explore the seemingly unbelievable. The truth is that as a Christian I believe some pretty fantastic things; we are at our cores supernatural, spiritual people. We can never divorce our religious piety from our spiritual faith. Belief in God alone crosses us over the line.

My thirst for myth has only grown over the years. I love learning about the worlds opened up by everyday people through RPGs, LARPing, fan fiction, and graphic novels. It’s amazing and beautiful to see the longing in humanity for adventure and spirituality and nobility and even carnage, because we can learn so much about ourselves through all of those expressions. I recently heard the thought expressed that the beauty of fairy tales is not that dragons exist, but the belief that dragons can be vanquished. Story gives us hope in the deepest darkness.

The reason I worried about watching Supernatural is that the mythology includes angels and demons, God and the devil, entities that I believe to be actual and real. But the writers first delved into myriad other mythologies: Greek, animistic, Celtic, Hindi. They dealt with vampires, werewolves, witches, and fairies. I can respect that the show’s writers spend the bulk of their energy “playing with” the myths that would be most familiar to their audience: the myths of the Judeo-Christian faith. I actually came to appreciate their take on many of these admittedly mysterious facets of the faith, not because I believe they are factual but for the very opposite reason. By recognizing that what they are writing is fiction I am better able to focus on what is true. Their God has none of the nature or character of the God of the Bible. Their angels and demons are completely different from the ones I know to be concretely true in the world. Their heaven, hell, and purgatory have different purposes and origins than those in which Christians believe, starting with the fact that in the show they are places you go.

I am fascinated by the world that’s been created by the Supernatural mythos. I’ve learned beautiful things about loyalty, sacrificial love, duty, morality, judgmentalism versus acceptance, and community during the eight seasons of the show I’ve seen. Many of those lessons I could never have learned through a doctrinal statement, sermon, or lecture. I, for one, require myth and story and imagination and fantasy. The lies lead me to truths hidden deep below the surface.

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2 Comments

  1. October 16, 2013 at 12:34 am

    Back in the day, I was part of a group online called the Christian Gamers’ Guild. As a result, the issue of magic in gaming and the like would come up regularly. One of their members (a gentleman by the name of M.J. Young) made a fascinating argument during these discussions. He would say that he thought that Christians should prefer Lord of the Rings to (say) Star Trek because Lord of the Rings is more realistic.

    Because, in the world of Star Trek, there is no God or angels or supernatural of any kind, whereas LotR has all of those. Which makes LotR more realistic.

    • MandyK said,

      October 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      Interesting…though I will say that playing with concepts of God through the use of Alien cultures (which is done quite a bit in shows like Star Gate) is fascinating to me as well. I am not super familiar with Star Trek lore so I’m not sure if they ever touch on those themes.


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