Framing Shane Walsh

Having recently come down off a Punisher Season Two high and looking for a bit of a Jon Bernthal fix, I thought, hey – why not re-start The Walking Dead? I watched it as a tender 15-year-old back when it first aired, although I never saw it all the way through. I remembered being more of a Daryl fan than a Shane fan – in fact, I remember disliking Shane quite a lot. But hey, Jon Bernthal is Jon Bernthal, and I am writing a post-apocalypse novel.

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I started watching, fully expecting to appreciate Shane’s beauty and dislike his character thoroughly. That’s what I remembered doing back in the day – so I was taken aback to find that Shane was by far my favorite character by episode two. He had a rough start there in the first episode, but as the show picked up, so did his character. And I thought, hmm. I’m generally quite good at being objective, even if my feelings are involved, but maybe I’m too biased. Maybe Frank Castle is skewing me toward Shane Walsh. So, to keep track, I began a list, simply titled ‘Things Shane Does,’ where I listed everything of significance Shane did during the two seasons he starred in.

And the more things I listed, the more infuriated I became. Shane Walsh is literally listed in the Villain Wikipedia.

I’m an empathetic, diplomatic kind of person. And I was agreeing with almost every decision Shane made.

Now here’s the thing: Shane is not a perfect character. As far as I’m aware, nobody likes perfect characters. They’re boring. On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of people adoring characters who are genuinely abusive, like Rhys from A Court of Thorns and Roses, for reasons I can’t fathom. Shane is neither perfect nor a horrible person. He’s a pragmatic one. He knows what needs to happen for people to survive, and he doesn’t need everyone to love him for it. And yet he’s not without empathy, or care – and in fact, he cares a lot.

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Not only does he care, but he consistently puts his life on the line to care for others, is the first to jump into action when things go south, and consistently attempts to do the right thing no matter the personal cost. He’s constantly dissed for a few major mistakes, the only legitimate two of which I find is the time he gets dead drunk and comes onto Lori (although nothing happens and he leaves as soon as he comes to his senses) and leaving Otis for the zombies (which was a h a r s h thing to do, but also in all probability necessary for the most people to survive). People say he left Rick for dead – but we clearly see in flashback that he did everything he could. People say he tried to kill Rick – which he did. And while I don’t condone that, I stand by his reasoning for doing it.

But everything in-between those points is generally disregarded, not only by viewers but the Walking Dead fandom in general. People tend to come away with one of two views: Shane was a badass, or Shane was a villain. And while I agree, Shane was a badass, that’s doing him a disservice. He was more than some guy running around killing zombies. He was making difficult decisions with efficiency. He was carrying out the actions that needed to happen. He was living in the present, post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world and trying to keep everyone safe while they were attempting to live in a vague blend of the old world and the new.

More than that, Shane is framed more and more frequently in opposition to Rick, the main character and the character the show most wants us to root for. But FRAMING a character in opposition to the protagonist does not a villain make. Disagreeing with the main character, even on important life-or-death situations, does not mean you’re wrong.

And in fact, the majority of the time Shane disagrees with Rick – it turns out he was correct. The show frequently presents us with a situation like the following:

  1. Sophia, Carol’s twelve-year-old daughter, goes missing. The group sets out to go find her. After days, that turn into more than a week, they still haven’t found her.
  2. Shane points out that even before the apocalypse, after 72 two hours of searching for a child, you were searching for a body. It’s been well over a week, the rest of the group is in constant danger from attempting to search for Sophia, and by every logical conclusion, Sophia is dead.
  3. Shane is vilainized for pointing this out, despite the fact he does not do it out of some gleeful desire to hurt everyone or abandon Sophia.
  4. They find Sophia, who has apparently been a zombie for quite some time. Shane was correct.
  5. Shane is still villainized.

This touches on a large problem I see this frequently in fiction.

Any character who behaves in opposition to the main character is labeled an automatic antagonist. A character points out the truth and other characters don’t want to hear it because the truth isn’t kind, or nice, or pretty. Would I expect that to happen in the real world? Yes, I would. But that wouldn’t make it any less frustrating. Books, movies, and TV shows love to label a character ‘antagonist’ because that character is practical and willing to do the hard thing. The character often opposes the main character, and the writers assume that because somebody opposes said protagonist, the opposition is now ‘a bad guy.’

There’s a scene where Shane decides to kill the walkers being kept in a barn near their camp before the walkers can harm anyone. Dale – an excellent man, but whose views tend to rely on the world revolving like it used to – threatens to shoot Shane if Shane tries to take the guns. In response, Shane walks up against the barrel of the gun and tells Dale he’ll have to shoot him. Dale, unable to shoot anyone, relinquishes the guns but delivers this line – “This is where you belong, Shane. This world, the way it is now. This is where you belong.”

He says that line as if it’s an insult, something Shane should be ashamed of. One can see where Dale is coming from – but in the end, ‘this world’ is the only one they have. Shane didn’t make it what it is, but he’s the only one willing to accept it for how it is, and act accordingly.

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I don’t know about you, but during a zombie apocalypse, I wouldn’t want the man ignoring reality to lead my team. I would want the man who acknowledges what’s happening and does his best.

Does Shane always make the best decisions? Not always. He can seem cold-hearted, but he is never without sympathy or empathy. The decisions he makes are never about keeping himself alive. They’re about keeping others alive. Shane has very little regard for himself, and there’s the irony – people often come away from The Walking Dead with the concept that Shane is a terrible person. A selfish person, because he always angles to get what he wants.

They tend to disregard that what Shane wants is to keep everyone alive.

My fury with the general concept of Shane as a terrible person (including my own past belief that he was) was the culmination of years of frustration with ‘that character.’ The one unfairly framed as a villain for trying to do the right thing – and for not doing it ‘nicely’ enough.

(And if I may go off on a brief tangent, Shane actually does even the most pragmatic things with as much obvious care and empathy as possible. It takes a lot to push him to a place of harsh behavior, and it’s clear that every time he would rather go the path of least-resistance and keep everyone happy as well as safe.)

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So this is my plea – please don’t unfairly frame your characters. Don’t treat your characters like The Walking Dead treated Shane, unless you have an intentional reason for doing so. Allow characters to do the hard thing, to disagree with the main character, to act on what they believe is right, without being automatically viewed as some kind of monster for doing so.

Because if the apocalypse happens, apparently you may not like me very much. Yikes.

If you want to read the 95% unbiased list of Things Shane Does, I’ve uploaded it so you can read it here and see that what Shane does doesn’t always align with how he’s framed by the show.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN – who is your favorite widely-misunderstood character, and why?

 

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Ye Stars That Shudder | snippets

It’s been a hot minute since I posted anything about novel-writing (which is usually what I do around here). I took Ye Stars That Shudder, my post-alien-apocalypse retelling of King Arthur, back to the beginning and re-started it, as pieces had come together and the tone had shifted into ore of a finalized form. So, since I have almost three chapters completed in the new version, I thought I would post some pieces and re-introduce you!

Note: I get asked about the who’s-who re: casting choices and so the dramatis persona in these snippets include –
Arthur: Cole Sprouse
Hec: Jon Bernthal
Kay: Jai Courtney
Gareth: Charlie Hunnam
Archer: Garrett Hedlund

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Kay jogged down the stairs, his boots heavy on the bare wood. “Jackpot.” A dozen orange pill-bottles nestled in the crook of his arm, and he dumped them into the canvas bag on top of the gold necklaces.

“Guess it wasn’t a total loss,” said Hec, hitching his gun over his shoulder by the strap.

“Except they don’t have anything in there for crazy,” said Kay.

Hec gave him a questioning glance, but it was already fading into a knowing expression as Kay added, “Sorry, man; maybe next time we’ll find something to help you.”


After a few more seconds the door opened the rest of the way. The woman in the doorway was younger than Arthur expected; early twenties, his age. She was dressed in boots, jeans, and an oversized plaid shirt, like she had raided her father’s closet, but her hands holding the gun looked steady.

“Leave your weapons outside,” she said. “But you can come in.”

Kay got out of the van and walked up behind Arthur.

“Sorry,” said Arthur. “She said we had to leave you outside.”

Kay shoved his head forward in response.


“You hanging in there?”

“You bet I am. Don’t worry about me, kid, I’ve had a lot worse. You know that.”

“I know, you’re a badass,” said Arthur, with an extravagant roll of his eyes. “But you’re bleeding all over that girl’s couch, so I figure it’s an okay time to ask about your welfare.”

“You weren’t always sarcastic,” Hec remarked, a faint grin playing on his face. “Kay’s being a crap influence on you.”

“Oh, I don’t think we can blame Kay for that,” Arthur retorted.

“Heh.” Hec grinned wider, without looking up at Arthur. “Yeah, that’s all me. Do me proud, kid.”

“I try.”


“My name is Gwen.” She took a pair of scissors from her back pocket and began to cut at the shirt, pulling it away from the quills puncturing Hec’s side. “What about you two?”

“Hec.”

“Kay.”

“Your mothers were very original.” Gwen picked up the tweezers as soon as she had the blood-stained fabric out of the way.

Arthur pointed down at Hec. “Hector Vance, but he doesn’t really look like a Hector so nobody bothers.” He pointed at Kay. “Kay Sawyer. Don’t call him Sawyer.”

“He’s right,” said Gwen, looking briefly at Hec. “You don’t look like a Hector.”

“’Preciate it,” he replied.


Arthur obliged, backing up a few steps, lifting his hands in surrender for the second time that day. This woman wasn’t much older than Gwen, but she looked a lot more likely to do damage.

He didn’t need to turn around to sense Kay had appeared behind him. “Lower that thing before I shove it in your eye.”

The woman raised an eyebrow. Instead of lowering the arrow, she only shifted it again, pointing it at Kay this time. “Gwen, who’s the guy with the attitude?”

“I don’t know,” Gwen called from the other room, “I think they all have attitude. That one’s Kay. He’s my least favorite.”


‘Control’ was the Vees’ name for the large, square building that took up a half-mile of Seattle. The building was five years old – one of the Vees’ impressive overnight additions to various skylines. It was nothing fancy to look at, but the inside was a different story. The first time Gareth had walked in, he’d felt like a comic book character, suddenly transported into superhero headquarters.

Yeah, that feeling had faded pretty quick.


“All Metroids are armed,” said the Vee flatly. “He is Zi-Class. He is, of course, deadly.”

“Right on, right on. Anything I need to know?”

“He stole a piece of our technology when he left. We require both the technology and the Metroid fully intact.”

Well, that made things more fun. “Understood. Any chance you’re gonna tell me what the tech is?”

“A sword,” said the Vee.

Gareth blinked again, but this time it wasn’t to clear his vision. “Right,” he drawled. “Robot with a sword.”

“Zi-Class Metroid.” The Vee sounded almost indignant, which amused Gareth. Of course calling a Metroid a robot was like calling a megalodon a goldfish, but as far as he was concerned, a robot was a robot.


The rogue Metroid’s designation was printed at the top of the page: MR-1-LN. “That’s a mouthful,” Gareth muttered, his eyes drifting down the page. It didn’t list the Metroid’s strength, everyone knew it was that of five or six men, if not more. They could use guns – any weapon they wanted, probably – but they came equipped with a weapon unlike anything Gareth had ever seen.

He had seen a Metroid corner a civilian before; the robot had clenched its right fist and pulled its hand back. The civilian’s body had gone from standing and alive to dead on the ground in less time than it took Gareth to draw in a breath – no visible weapon fired, no nothing.


| to be continued |

Recovering Mysticism: Part Four

A friend asked me the other day why. Why did I suddenly get all metaphysical? (Although I’d put forth it only SEEMED sudden, this has been building for quite some time.) The answer is pretty simple – I knew there was more. I knew people weren’t leaving Christianity for other more ‘mystical’ religions for a reason. People were lacking something, and here’s the deal – God doesn’t lack anything. If the God we’re following is leaving us unsatisfied, unfulfilled, ‘lacking,’ then we’re doing it wrong. God has provided everything we need, everything we could want. God created our souls. He knows what they need. And if we come to know God and feel like we’re missing something, then we ARE missing something – but it isn’t God’s fault. It has to be ours, and we have to figure out what we’re doing wrong.

Someone on Twitter reposted my Mysticism series and someone commented about how it was good stuff, but they’d say ‘mystery’ was the word I was looking for, not ‘mysticism.’ Well, with all due respect, no. I meant mysticism. Here’s the thing – while we cannot fully, one hundred percent bask in God’s glory until heaven, He doesn’t make himself a mystery. He tells us absolutely as much about Himself as He can. The Bible is full of everything about Him, everything we need to know. It’s not ‘mystery’ we’re looking for – it’s answers. Not questions.

God, who God is, is clearly evident on every page of the Bible, a book we all have the incredible blessing of access to – but we’ve become so familiar with it that we can’t see the forest for the trees. We read words and we know things, but we don’t see. The word ‘Behold’ is all throughout the Bible, and as Jared Wilson points out in his book ‘The Imperfect Disciple’ (which I HIGHLY recommend), some translations do not include the word ‘behold’ and instead use the word ‘look.’ He encourages us to reread verses like Psalms 63:2 and Ezekiel 44:4 and John 1:29 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 and read them without the ‘beholds.’

“…he’s not merely saying ‘look at him.’ He’s telling us to look with consideration, with appreciation, with fixation and transfixion. To behold something is to ‘hold’ something in our vision, to let the weight of it rest on our mind and heart.”

We know how to look. Looking is second nature. But we have forgotten how to behold.

Jared Wilson continues, “The problem is that many Christians have stifled their ability to behold the glory of Christ without realizing it. They have stunted their capacity to see some measure of his all-encompassing excellencies, not because they are generally disinterested in him but because all of their other interests have dulled their spiritual senses. All of the other things they look at dull their vision. They struggle to behold Christ’s glory because they have a generally decreased capacity for bigness in the first place.

But we can work against this. We can do some simple things that help us behold better. What efforts can you make to help yourself behold the glory of Jesus? Well, maybe you want to start by going outside…. Truly, I think one reason we aren’t captivated by Christ’s glory is because we have a diminished capacity to be captivated by anything big. We are preoccupied with small things. And, in fact, we somehow have an inverted sense of measurement in that big things seem to us small or familiar while small things become big to us, at least in terms of our time and attention and energy.”

John Piper said, “Do you know why there are no windows on adult book stores? …Because they don’t want people looking out at the sky. …The sky is the enemy of lust. I just ask you to think back on your struggles. The sky is a great power against lust.  Pure, lovely, wholesome, powerful, large-hearted things cannot abide the soul of a sexual fantasy at the same time. I remember as I struggled in my teenage years and in my college years…one way of fighting was simply to get out of the dark places – get out of the lonely rooms…Get out of the places where it is just small – me and my mind and my imagination, what I can do with it and get to where I am just surrounded by color and beauty and bigness and loveliness. And I know that when I used to sit in my front yard at 122 Bradley Boulevard with a notepad in my hand and a pen trying to write a poem, at that moment, my heart and my body were light years away from the sexual fantasizing that I was tempted by again and again in the late night, quiet, secluded in-house moments. There is something about bigness, something about beauty that helps battle against the puny, small, cruddy use of the mind to fantasize about sexual things.”

Jared Wilson continues, “Do you want to see glory? ‘The heavens declare the glory of God.’” (Psalms 19:1) Resting from the spaces, then, where you are an acting sovereign and instead getting out into the spaces where God’s sovereignty is more palpable, believe it or not, will help you see Christ as bigger. See, what you’re focused on will shape you, lead you. The spiritual dynamic the apostle Paul is employing in 2 Corinthians 3:18 – how beholding Christ is in a way becoming the likeness of Christ – works for almost anything else we’re intently looking at. What we behold, we in some way become…Want a heart as big as the sky? Behold the sky. Want a soul as bright as day? Behold the day.”

“What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.” — G. K. Beale

When I was in my early teens, I heard a sermon preached on Revelation. That book of the Bible had always terrified me – I found it full of horrifying imagery and vague, dooming prophecies that seemed very out of whack with the rest of the Bible (or at least the new testament). But that sermon had a huge impact on me – the only sermon I’ve heard in person to date, in fact, to affect me in such a way. It changed the way I saw – and see – God. It’s where I learned God breathes in our prayers like incense. (8:3-4; 5: 8)) It’s where we see John comparing God to every jewel and precious thing available in a puny attempt to say ‘LOOK AT HOW INCREDIBLE. HOW BEAUTIFUL. HE’S BEYOND ANYTHING WE HAVE IN COMPARISON.’

It’s where God says ‘I am the bright and morning star.’ (22:16) The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and last. It’s where we get a truly awesome look at angels – who, contrary to Renaissance art, are not voluptuous women and chubby babies with wings. They have multiple eyes and multiple wings and are all kinds of shapes and sizes and are freaking incredible. I think Guillermo del Toro gave the most accurate portrayal I’ve ever seen of an angel with his Angel of Death in Hellboy 2. It’s no wonder angels always have to preface their words with ‘DON’T BE AFRAID.’ Because who looking at one of them wouldn’t be afraid?

John uses all kinds of immense, terrifying, awesome, inspiring imagery in an attempt to show us what he saw. You can feel his urgent desire to compare something incomparable to things we understand – frustration, as well as awe, flow through the pages. That day, I began to see God not as some pale, emaciated white guy gazing heavenward with doe-eyes, but as God.

A God. The God of Gods. The King of Kings. An image flashed through my mind – a giant, humanoid figure towering among galaxies and nebula. Instead of flesh, a deep blue marble; a lion’s mane of hair (if you could call it that); instead of a face or genitals, clusters of stars because we’re in His image but He is so much more, so many things. (No, I’m not saying God is a woman. I’m saying God is God, and both men and women are made in His image, and He’s far above + more than what we can envision. Even John had a hard time describing him, and he saw God.) Is that really what God looks like? Probably not. But that image pulls me out of my tiny view of God and into something huge, cosmic, bigger, all-powerful.

Too many of us see Jesus, and only Jesus, when we think of God, but here’s the thing: Jesus was God in human form. Jesus was God packaged into a tiny little finite meat suit, bursting at the seams. God looked like Jesus on earth for thirty years, but Jesus is not what God exists as.

God has wrath. God has jealousy. God is righteous, God is kind, God is just, God is merciful, God is peaceful, God is a warrior, God is our friend, God is our King. God is so, so many things, but we’re so ‘used to Him’ that we don’t see him. We don’t Behold.  

I hope this maybe helped shake up your ‘familiar’ view of God – I urge, urge urge you to open your Bible back up. Read the old testament – it’s ignored far too often, and yet it’s where every thread ties through to Jesus, shows us who God is. The uncomfortable sides of God we don’t want to talk about because it doesn’t fit with our wishy-wash, fluffy God. ‘He is not a tame lion.’ But he is Good. He is the ultimate Good, in fact. He is Love. He is Love. But Love, real Love, true, deep, sacrificial Love, is not weak. Love is the ultimate Strength. And it doesn’t always look pretty.

There are some things that really helped pull me out of my ‘familiar,’ dull view of God into something bigger – although looking at the sky, I have to admit, really was one of them. I recommend Transformation Church services (you can watch them on Youtube – I can’t recommend them enough. Pastor Mike Todd is incredible at taking the familiar and showing it in new, real perspectives).

I recommend reading The Celtic Way of Prayer by Esther deWaal, Re(Union) by Bruxy Cavey, The Imperfect Disciple by Jared Wilson, Love Does and Everybody Always by Bob Goff, Found by Micha Boyett, Mere Christianity and Miracles by C. S. Lewis. I recommend, above all, reading the Bible as it was meant to be read – as history and poetry and revelations and proverbs and essays, God-breathed to tell us about Him, with illustrations using imperfect people, holy people, people doing their best (and sometimes, their worst) and God in all.

The point of the Bible is God. It’s not about how many verses you can memorize (although memorization is great). It’s not about answering study questions. It’s about getting to know the God of the Universe. When you pick up a Bible, you pick up the key to everything – and God has given you the ability to unlock that Everything.

How can you not be excited?

 

Recovering Mysticism: Part Three

As of the last post, the general consensus seems to be: ‘Mmmmmmm I’m not sure, but I’m still interested.’ Believe me, I know. That was me a year ago. The wariness is real. On the bright side, I didn’t get pitchforked, which is a good boost to carry on to part three!

ASTROLOGY

I bet the first thing that comes to mind is a horoscope. Some kind of fortune-telling sketchiness, whether it’s in a newspaper or pops up on your Instagram feed. Astrology, in our modern minds, is associated with divination – groundless, generally speaking. ‘Oh, you’re an Aquarius therefore if you were a tea, you’d be English Breakfast!’ or, ‘If you’re a Libra, today is a Good Day to Pluck Your Eyebrows.’ But here’s the thing – until the 16th century, astrology was just as respected and valid as astronomy. Why? Because it wasn’t the ‘astrology’ we know of today.

NOTE: Most of my notes on ‘astrology’ here are derived from Hillsdale University’s EXCELLENT lecture (and my favorite lecture in history), ‘C S Lewis on Medieval Cosmology.’ It’s the seventh lecture in their series on C. S. Lewis and I HIGHLY recommend the full lecture series to anyone. So if you want to have someone far more professional than I am, discussing someone far more intelligent than I am while covering the same subject matter, head on over and give it a listen!

Okay, back to the 16th century. For most of history, astrology (I’m going to call it Original Astrology, or OGA for short, because I know how hard it is to separate the conception of something from a different idea) was considered completely Biblical and valid by everyone, Christians included.

Professor of Apologetics Michael Ward says, “Astronomy and astrology weren’t really distinguishable until the Copernican revolution. And no Christian theologian before that time denied the general theory of planetary influences, or the significance of constellations. The planets obviously weren’t to be worshiped, and their influences were not to be regarded as determinative – overruling your free will and your responsibility before God; and the lucrative and politically undesirable practice of ‘astrologically grounded predictions’ was also to be avoided, but within these parameters the Christian church was quite content to sanction what we would now call Astrology. After all the Bible itself appeared to support the belief that there were seven planets, and that they possessed influences. The author of the book of Judges in the old Testament, for instance, chapter five verse twenty, records –

‘They fought from heaven, the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.’”

He continues in the Cosmology lecture, “The author of the book of Job as translated in the King James version of the Bible, mentions the ‘sweet influences of Pliedes.’ (Job 38:31)….And throughout the Bible the stars are seen as signs; most notably at Bethlehem of course, signifying the birth of Christ, in Matthew’s gospel, and sometimes as a celestial court or angelic choir. Christ Himself is shown in the book of Revelation holding the seven stars – that is, the seven wandering stars, the planets – in His right hand. A vision which Austin Farrer, Lewis’s close friend and an expert in apocalyptic imagery, understood to be a portrayal of Christ’s lordship over time. For it’s after these seven planets that the weekdays are named.”

And yet modern Christianity has very little to say on this subject. It seems to think of it hardly at all, if ever, and I think that’s a great sorrow, and a great loss to us. In shunning ‘astrology’ as it is now known, we have also shunned OGA – which could be called a study of God’s heavenly workmanship. After all, it’s commonly known that a full moon affects people. If the moon has enough energy to draw the tides of our ocean, and if we ourselves are energetic beings, it’s downright irrational to claim the heavens have no affect on us whatsoever. Can the stars predict the future? I don’t know, but I DO know that predicting the future isn’t something God wants us to do. He says that multiple times in multiple ways. That’s for Him to know and us to find out, as it were.

But in shunning a word with bad connotations, we’ve also shunned a huge part of His glory and majesty as everyday knowledge. We’ve reduced the Heavens to mere ‘space’ with no intent or purpose other than to ‘be there’ and keep us hot or cold. We’ve removed the glory and majesty, the sheer magic, out of the whole idea and in doing so, we’ve lost something that Christianity accepted as important and part of daily life until the sixteenth century. And I believe we are the poorer for it.

The modern church has thrown the baby out with the bathwater in big, big ways – ways that affect how we perceive reality, how we live, and – most detrimental of all – how we know God – the Heavenly Father and the Morning Star.

And that baby-bathwater scenario is what I’m passionate to change, and what I hope to keep discussing through the rest of this series. Thank you all for sticking with me and listening to some ideas that probably sound crazy – I’m LOVING your IG messages and emails! If you have any questions, I can absolutely do my best to answer them!

See you all in the next post – whether it’s tomorrow or three days from now. I’m writing this series as the inspiration hits, so – stay tuned!

Recovering Mysticism: Part Two

NOTE:  I was seized with the need to write part two this morning and impromptu sat down and wrote all of it in half an hour. It’s terribly long for something written in thirty minutes, and I considered splitting part two into – well, two parts – but I decided against it. Make a cup of tea (or coffee) and settle in for a bit of a read, which I hope excites you.

It wasn’t a straight line, getting from St. Cecelia’s to here. It’s been nearly two years, in fact, but they haven’t been two idle years. I began slowly, the equivalent of peeking around corners and under rugs, just barely dipping my toe into studying ‘other’ things. Not because I was afraid of Delving Too Deep, as Saruman would say, but because somewhere I’d picked up the misconception that to look at other religions was somehow betraying the one I followed. (Where did I pick up that idea? I honestly don’t know. It’s nowhere in the Bible.) I was nervous, and I never really talked about it. I began to read, here and there. I began to follow a few crystal-oriented Instagram pages, then a few more because a) crystals are beautiful and b) it began to make sense. Crystals /are/ extremely high-energy. They /are/ extremely high-vibration. Everything around us runs on energy and vibration, and also hey, colors! Colors are a big thing. Did you know that the colors we vibrate at are, in fact, chakra points? That when God gave Noah the rainbow, that promise literally lives inside us as the color of our own healthy vibration?

I began to discover more and more, picking up speed. But I know myself – I have a tendency to get stars in my eyes for something, run after it, and then realize wait, I should have probably thought about it more. So, in order to make sure I didn’t accidentally wind up three hundred miles from my original goal, I determined to get serious about pursuing and practicing my own faith. I’d always found it strong, if not particularly interesting, but I can’t tell you what getting up earlier and setting aside actual time has done for me. Reading the Bible, reading books, praying – spending time just listening. Just spending time with God. Yesterday I sat at my window with a cup of coffee and just talked to him – not ‘Father in Heaven/Amen’ praying. Just talking. It’s incredible.

And I found that as I grew more and more excited about my faith, God kept giving me more things to be excited about. Even if sometimes my knee-jerk reaction as, “Um, excuse me?” because let’s face it – there are a bunch of adults my age out there who – if Christian, especially if homeschooled – are going to be extremely startled by the concept of someone being a ‘Christian witch.’

I bet you just had a visceral reaction and if I were sitting there, I’d probably go, “Right!?” It was on a blog, and I remember thinking the person writing the blog was misguided and my goodness, probably into some dangerous stuff. That was probably a year ago.

This year? I know what she meant. I don’t even disagree with her. That sounds absolutely bonkers, right? Probably even totally unbiblical, because after all, ‘thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’ But see, here’s the thing –

I dove into Etymology studies. After all, we all know the word ‘wizard’ wasn’t even around until post-Jesus, and all it meant was ‘wise.’ Turns out the word ‘witch,’ while laden with all kinds of connotations – some true some not true – wasn’t around either. God condemns those who practice divination and spirit communication. The future, and the dead – those are His realms. He doesn’t want us messing with them.

Not because they can’t be done, either. They can. We can read about that in the Bible, too. The Christian church has a long history of starch anti-magic, but here’s the thing – many, many things that fall under the umbrella term of ‘magic’ today, I firmly believe God created purposefully to give us to use.

Use of herbs? Magic. Use of crystals? Magic. Even – get this – astrology? Was sanctioned by the church, and until the sixteenth century nobody questioned it as being ‘anti-God.’ It seemed to them to fit perfectly with their conceived notions of who God was, and I believe they were right. Probably not in the way you think, but I’ll get there in part three.

According to Philip Carr-Gomm in The Book of English Magic, ‘Historians now believe it is highly unlikely that organized groups of people met as witches in covens to pass on traditional lore and to carry out rituals….It seems more likely that what we think of as the witchcraft of earlier centuries was a type of folk magic practiced by individuals. To stave off illness and starvation, bad weather and harvest failures, people have always turned to the supernatural – using chants and dances, blessings and the ‘sympathetic magic’ of ritual enactments of success, in an attempt to attract beneficent forces and to repel malign ones. Beliefs and practices of every age – of the Druid and Anglo-Saxon wizards, of every kind of pagan and even Christian practice – were included in this folk magic, which was not termed ‘witchcraft’ by its practitioners, since it was designed to repel the magic of witches, who were believed to be evil and the cause of misfortune. It was only in the twentieth century that a reversal of meaning occurred, and the term ‘witch’ started to be used in a positive sense to designate followers of the ‘Old Ways’ who used folk magic for benign purposes.’

I’m not using that paragraph to say you should drop everything and cast a spell, but rather to illustrate how often we take at face value something that may not be what we think it is. Even the history of magic, witchcraft, etc. itself is fairly complicated and has changed to mean something often very different from our preconceived notion.

I follow many Christian Instagram accounts because not only is it encouraging – a bit of long-distance fellowship, even – but, well, I’m a Christian. A devout one at that, so I want to be encouraged and challenged in my faith. I also follow the Instagram accounts of quite a few practicing witches. It began because nobody else was talking about crystals in any kind of grounded way – the rest were more akin to that one woman I met in a crystal shop who kept talking about envisioning your roots wrapping around mother earth and shooting energy back into the sky. (Did I have a hard time not laughing? Oh, very. I’m sorry. I’m sure she was a wonderful person.)

Did a few of you cringe when I said I follow some witches on Instagram? Did I lose my Christian Credibility? Hopefully I’ll be able to clear it up for you, but I’m going to do it in very simple terms because otherwise this post will be freakishly long:

– the modern concept of ‘magic’ is an umbrella term under which fall many wonderful, good, God-given holistic practices with scientific basis such as the energy of crystals, color theory, vibration-raising, manifestation, and intent. Things I DO believe are wrong to practice also fall under the concept of magic – divination, for example. Ancestor worship. Shamanism. Contacting the deceased. The thing is, you can pick and choose which you do. You can collect crystals for positive energy. You can use herbs for healing. You can use the energy God gave you to raise and lift and direct toward things – and much of the witch community would say you were one of them. You can also do those things and be a completely devout, Biblical Christian believer. It makes the concept of ‘Christian witch’ seem not quite so far-fetched, doesn’t it?

– I don’t recommend walking around calling yourself a Christian witch, however. I remember my first reaction to it. Your first reaction to it might have been about five minutes ago, and we don’t want to be a stumbling block to our fellow believers even if we’re right. That said, if you told me you were one, well, okay. I’d be considered one, too. But being a Christian also means respecting where your fellow Christians are, and not bulldozing them.

Remember in the paragraph from English Magic where Philip Carr-Gomm said some Christian practices also fell under the umbrella of folklore magic? I’ll give you an example. One of my favorite books is The Celtic Way of Prayer. The Celts were an extremely imaginative people, but also incredibly grounded. They were fully aware of the spiritual realm all around them, and they were also very ritualistic – they loved song, they loved recitations, they had a different prayer, chant, song, or ritual for nearly everything. Listen to this passage from The Celtic Book of Prayer.

‘The day starts with three palmfuls of water splashed on the face in the name of the three members of the Trinity, and from then on the Trinity is never far away. The day will end with the ritual of smooring the fire at night…The embers were spread evenly on the hearth in the middle of the floor and formed into a circle with a small boss, or raised heap, left in the middle. This circle was then divided into three equal sections with a peat laid between each section, each peat touching the boss, which was called the Hearth of the Three which formed the common center. The first peat was laid down in the name of the God of Life, the second the God of Peace, and the third the God of Grace. The circle would then be covered over with ashes sufficient to subdue but not extinguish the flame in the name of the Three of Light. Then the woman would close her eyes, stretch out her hand, and softly intone the following prayer, which opens:

The sacred Three

To save,

To shield,

To surround

The hearth,

The house,

The household,

This eve,

This night,

Oh! This eve,

This night,

And every night,

Each single night.

Amen.’

That, my friends, is a prayer. It is also a ritual. Sounds kind of like a spell, doesn’t it?

And yet, can you find any good reason (aside from the fact in our modern homes, the whole fire ritual thing might be kind of impractical – which is genuinely sad) to say, ‘You shouldn’t perform that ritual? You shouldn’t pray that prayer?’

NOW before I get a ton of comments and messages telling me I’m giving into the lies of the devil or that I’m going to lead other young adults astray etc. (which yes, I’ve had said before – mostly after I wrote a defense of Harry Potter) let me just say: there is more to come, I have more to say, please don’t take THIS part two like that’s the end and I’m finished talking. I’m not. There’s a good deal more to say, and I probably said something here that could be misconstrued or taken out of context (if you’re so concerned you can’t sleep, then okay, ask me what I meant, but chances are high it’ll be cleared up in one of the further parts of this series).

ONE MORE POINT:

I realized, as I began to really ponder, study, and pray about all this some time ago, that I was walking around – as many people do – with double standards. I’ve always hated double standards and have a kind of hissing, wet-cat reaction to them, so when I find them in myself I grab them by the root and do my best to yank them out. My double standard here was that I’d always found it all right to study some religions – Buddhism, for example – and not others. Wicca, for example. Why? Well, Buddhism seems safer. ‘Safer’ from what, I then have to wonder? Am I afraid that knowing about a religion is going to somehow mysteriously suck me into it and I’ll have no say? If that’s the case, my faith isn’t terribly strong. Am I afraid I’ll be ‘betraying’ God by searching for truth? I don’t think God’s afraid of truth, or looking for it. He kind of invented the whole concept. Do I think it’s ‘unchristian’ to know about other religions? If that’s so, Paul probably shouldn’t have quoted a poem about Zeus during his sermon on Mars Hill.  (See Acts 17:28.)

I realized that the faith I was holding to was, in fact, a scaredy-cat, trembling faith, afraid of challenge, afraid of knowing too much, afraid of other religions, afraid of – well, you name it. And here’s the thing – God doesn’t ask us to be afraid. For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and of a sound mind. He asks us to be bold. Paul says it’s ALWAYS good to be zealous of good things. The entire concept of Christianity is based around power, boldness, faith, fearless love; of right and wrong. We know what Right is. We know what God we follow. And if we think He’s afraid of – well, of Wicca, for example – then friends, we’re worshiping the wrong God.