I spent this past weekend at Comic Con - specifically Wizard World in St. Louis, Missouri. My children, ages 3 to 14, also attended.
I have received criticism in the past for exposing my children to the worlds of Science Fiction and Fantasy. I have been told that exposing children to stories about demons and witchcraft opens a door that could lead them down a dangerous path.
Maybe it's because I was raised on it myself - my father began reading C.S. Lewis aloud to me before I started kindergarten - but I never thought of it as a problem.
Yet by the time my first son was born, Harry Potter was just becoming popular in the United States. By the time he turned 10, the Harry Potter books were the most banned (and burned) books in the country. Why? Because they “encouraged witchcraft.”
This weekend, my nine-year-old (Christian) daughter dressed as Hermione Granger, a character (a witch) from the Harry Potter series and had her photo taken with actors from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
So how do I square the tales of demons, dragons, witches, and wizards with my own faith in a God who condemns sorcery?
Often, I've found that those genres actually give a clearer picture of real life than more “kid-friendly” genres. Disney's Maleficent is a great example. Instead of the evil fairy depicted in the original animated feature, the one who simply delighted in her own wickedness, she was a good fairy who had only turned to darkness when she was betrayed by a lover.
It's meant to show kids the power of redemption, but instead it introduces nuances that blur the lines between good and evil to the point that children might not be able to see the distinction.
Only in Science Fiction and Fantasy do you truly see evil that has no back story, no explanation - the line between good and evil is far less blurred. Kids need that, and these genres deliver. They create worlds where evil is evil and good is good, and truth is not subjective.
- Voldemort (“Harry Potter”) wasn't evil because he wasn't hugged enough as a child.
- Sauron (“The Lord of the Rings”) wasn't beaten by his parents.
- The First Evil (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) was so ancient and primal an evil that no one even knew its origin.
And that idea prepares kids for a world where not every serial killer is acting out of some childhood trauma, and not every terrorist is acting out of a desire to “be understood.”
It prepares kids for a world where there are objective truths that don't change depending upon how people feel about them, something that our family pastor, Michael Walther of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, agreed was absolutely necessary:
“When we give up on the idea of Truth, we can no longer discern between good and evil.”
And being able to discern between good and evil is vital in a world where evil exists - and occasionally needs to be fought.