The Danger of Mixing Fantasy & God

Mixing fantasy and God can have disastrous consequences.

Introduction

Photocredit: Cover of the first book in the series
I read The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare a while back (before they announced the movie). I was so engrossed that it probably only took me two days to read 3 of the books. I enjoyed it, and looked forward to the movie. The movie wasn't perfect, but I liked it well enough to buy it. Last night, I was surprised to see that I couldn't enjoy the movie for noticing what was wrong with it—not the cinematography, but the spirituality.
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The Concept

The Mortal Instruments follows a group of half human, half angel teens known as shadowhunters. They battle demons and evil (such as werewolves and vampires). The idea of the shadowhunters likely stems from the idea of the Nephilim (see the section on the Nephilim in Genesis 6: Noah & the Flood); the shadowhunters are even referred to as "children of the Nephilim" throughout the book. Top

The Spiritually Unsettling

What's wrong with the concept? Initially I thought nothing of it. While I don't think the Nephilim are actually the children of angels and women, I didn't see a reason why I couldn't suspend belief for 2 hours (or 24 hours in the case of the book). After spending immense time reading the Bible this year (or walking with the Lord as they would say in Biblical times), a lot stood out to me on the re-watching of the movie.
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The Appearance

The first thing that stood out to me was the appearance of the shadowhunters. There are several occasions in the Bible where angels appear as humans and it stands to reason the human portion of their genetics would take priority (after all, Jesus was fully God and fully man). Yet, the shadowhunters are portrayed as bad boys and girls in all black, leather, tight fitting clothes, and tattoo-like markings (we'll come back to the tattoos). They are portrayed as "ultra sexy," frequent raging parties, and pack a ton of weapons—knives, vampire stake-guns, and swords but no actual guns. The scene that stuck out to me, is when the female shadowhunter lends the main character (who is also a shadowhunter) a dress that is super short (the main character argues it should be a shirt) and super tight.

Is this how followers of God would adorn themselves? While there is certainly is nothing wrong with black or leather, the New Testament tells us that we are not to cause our brethren to stumble. This means that tight and short is probably not what God expects us to wear. In Genesis, an angel is given a flaming sword to protect the garden from man's re-entry, so I don't think the weapons are a problem. I was more taken aback by the overt "sexing-up" of the characters, who are supposed to be teens at that. Sure, the shadowhunters were to be half human so perhaps they would not be above reproach, but surely they would be closer to perfection than us full humans. I probably would have overlooked it if the problems hadn't continued.
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The "Tattoos"

So, back to these "tattoos." The shadowhunters draw marks, called runes, on their body. The runes are symbolic of the angels' language (as told in the book) and allow the shadowhunters extra abilities, such as invisibility or miraculous healing. This is more of a problem than how the shadowhunters dress, as the clothing choices can be blamed on their human nature. The runes and their abilities, however, would be something passed down from the angels and not a product of their humanity. Leviticus 19:28 warns us not to print marks upon ourselves, so why would we believe angels' power was in such a thing? Also why wouldn't their power come from God?
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Beliefs

Speaking of God and angels, one of the shadowhunters states that not only does he not hold any religion (suggesting that the shadowhunters are not products of angels from the God of Israel), he doesn't believe in angels either! This character believes the story of their creation is actually a myth and that only demons exist, which would exalt the shadowhunters to the highest creation. There's no need to expound on why this is problematic.
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Creation

There is also the matter of how they are created. The author stole the word Nephilim from the Old Testament, suggesting Christian origins, which is later eschewed with the shadowhunters' rejection of any particular faith. Per the legend of the Nephilim, they should be the offspring of angels fathering children with human women. Under this circumstance, the angels would have to be fallen angels, particularly since angels were not created to have fleshly desires (see Matthew 20:30). Perhaps to remedy this idea Ms. Clare concocts a new mythology. The shadowhunters aren't the product of intermingling; instead, they are created from drinking out of a chalice known as "the mortal cup." The cup contains the blood of an angel called Raziel. The Bible also tells us not to consume blood, so this still seems like the act of fallen angel, but why would God allow this to continue? Also, if the angel was a fallen angel, why would his "descendants" or "creations" fight demons?
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Relationships & Homosexuality

One of the shadowhunters is revealed to be gay and crushing on the leading man. Obviously God doesn't approve of homosexuality, and angels who are not concerned with flesh at all can't be gay. Perhaps, being born of two shadowhunter parents instead of a product of the cup, this character's "angelic blood" had been diluted. If it's not questionable enough that a part-angel human is gay, after realizing it's never going to work with his crush, he ends up in a relationship with the resident warlock. Exodus 22:18 further confirms that these supposed part-angels are not playing by God's rules.
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What's the Harm?

What's the harm in a little fantasy? That's what I thought the first time I read through the books. After a closer walk with God, I've realized its more complex than that. The first issue is that it's a form of adding to and taking away from God's word (as we are commanded not to do in Proverbs 30:5-6 and Revelation 22:18-19). The second issue stems from the first: these additions and subtractions subtly change the way we view God and His world. From the assertion that Adam and Eve ate and apple, to depictions of angels and hell, the liberties people took in the middle ages made their way in to people's actual beliefs. Distortions of the Bible are always dangerous, they've been used to kill and enslave people, but long term, distortions are also leading people away from God and endangering their very souls.

I love fantasy, but I worry about these dangers in my own writing. It's one thing to create alternate realities and fantasy creatures, but its something entirely different to start mixing these things with God. On one hand there is the danger I mentioned above, but there is also the fact that it comes across as though God and His angels are myths and folklore to be tampered with like Greek Mythology, vampires, and the like. When I craft worlds for my stories, I struggle with how to handle this aspect.

As believers, we should be conscious of what we read (and write). The last thing we need is to be daydreaming of a tatted-up, leather-clad, sword wielding angel sweeping us off our feet. This depiction is no better than babies with white wings, or men with halos (which has roots in paganism). I'm not saying to throw away your entire fantasy collection. I'm saying we should be aware of what we're feeding our brain, in some cases this may mean discarding or passing up on a book/movie. For those with children (teens specifically), maybe it means having more discussions about what they're reading since we're much more impressionable at younger ages. The issue isn't that God would create other creatures or worlds or realities, but that in this new world the morals and rules don't follow the ones God has set, therefore this book boasts of another god. And therein lies the danger.

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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