I went to see Doctor Strange when it opened Friday.
Does that mean I’m a bad Christian or I risked my spiritual life by setting foot in the theater for that particular movie?
Doctor Strange hasn’t even been out a week, and already the clash has begun. Will watching Doctor Strange open the door to the occult, to dangerous Eastern mysticism and New Age beliefs, to things Christians should never associate with?
Then again, maybe not.
I don’t mean to turn this post into a debate of verbal fisticuffs. The discussion among Christians about what counts as quality entertainment has already made its rounds more times than a Star Trek spacecraft circling a planet.
But the fact that said debate exists begs the question. Where do we draw the line? Clearly Christians are divided on this topic. I happen to fall into the “read Harry Potter, Marvel is awesome, take me to a magical fantasy world” camp.
I believe there’s room for that without excluding a Christian worldview, and that those whose insistence falls solidly on the other end of the spectrum may be missing the point.
As I sat in the theater, entranced by the visual spectacle before me, the “dangerous influences” tossed out at me didn’t pass over my head. They went right in.
And that’s a good thing.
Not because I’m now off to Katmandu to learn magic or join an occult group. Rather, because the emphasis should be on paying attention to the content you’re taking in and engaging your mind through the process.
The movie itself is fascinating, stunning, riveting. This isn’t a review so I’ll leave it at that. I’m more interested in the philosophical, worldview aspect. Ted Baehr’s Christian review site gave Doctor Strange a hearty smackdown, with a -4 “Abhorrent” content rating. Mainly due to the magic, occulty stuff.
It’s a valid concern and one I don’t want to ignore. That’s a real danger for people. Yet I think in most cases such concerns are overemphasized or misemphasized.
The question I wonder is, “Is this need for Christians to bash magic and all other forms of less-than-pure content actually indicative of a problem?”
From my experience, us Christians who promote magical stories and the like are viewed with skepticism, as if our worldview is flawed. Perhaps that’s framing the issue from the wrong angle. What if it’s the opposite? Not due to a compromised worldview, but because of an unshakable worldview, we can watch movies like Doctor Strange and not rush headlong into occultism.
It’s not due to spiritual blindness or apathy that we don’t flee from these “dangerous stories.” It’s because our eyes are open, because our minds are actively engaged with and processing the content of we take in. We don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.
If the pillars of our beliefs are anchored in the solid foundation of unwavering truth, then astral projections, multiple universes, or magical powers become not a crack that undermines our foundation but aspects of a particular story and world. A world that, though reflecting ours, is not our world.
That’s a key distinction to make.
Last time I checked, our world doesn’t have an Avengers team. We’re not endangered by interference from Asgardian demigods. So while many elements are mirror images, the story is just that—a story.
Viewing it as such, we can be more objective.
- What parts of the story can we enjoy for the sake of being entertained, having our imaginations sparked, and our minds stimulated?
- What parts do we see as presenting dangers, yet not something that can ultimately ruin our faith?
The story included plenty of positive elements, even though not presented from a Christian standpoint. It also included the suspect stuff. Guess what? So does life. Stories that deal with the full spectrum of experiences, beliefs, opinions, thoughts are more grounded in reality. More believable.
We don’t face issues like occult practices by burying our head in the sand or saying it’s untouchable. Granted, stories take place in a fictional setting, but a story done well reflects reality in meaningful, moving ways.
Someone may not agree and prefer to avoid Doctor Strange and such magical things. It’s not for us to judge. As soon we take a step down that road, we’re no better than the people we call out for imposing the thou-shalt-not rules of entertainment on us.
Returning full circle to the original question: Is Doctor Strange dangerous?
Not from my perspective. However, two dangers do exist.
- Condemning it for everything you disagree with, thus removing the ability to enjoy an excellent film and ponder the thought-provoking questions it raised.
- Throwing your mental arms wide and accepting everything without discernment.
Do you think Doctor Strange presents a danger to Christians?