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Is The Use Of Stage Magic
Wrong At Christian
Events?

I have found that some Christians are afraid of the use of “Magic” for ministry purposes because they believe it to be “Satanic” or “Witchcraft”. I would like to address this and to assure them that everything a Christian magician does is nothing more than the use of clever natural methods, gimmicks or sleight of hand combined with misdirection and audience control to make the impossible appear possible. No one is trying to emulate Jesus or make claims that Jesus was nothing more than a stage magician. No-one is summoning evil spirits to make the “Magic” happen. It really is a simple matter of terminology.

 

A matter of terminology

 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of magic is:

 

1: a power that allows people (such as witches and wizards) to do impossible things by saying special words or performing special actions and incantations.

 

2: tricks that seem to be impossible and that are done by a performer to entertain people

 

The English language can be tricky language to learn. For anyone learning the language, it's difficult to grasp all the drastic differences a single word can have.  

People most get tripped up on words that are too similar. When words are spelled the same and sound the same but have different meanings, then they are called homonyms. When they are just spelled the same but sound different and have different meanings, then they are homographs. 

 

Here are some of the most popular homonyms and homographs in the English language. 

 

The word "minute" can be a measure of time or a measurement of how small something is. 

 

Like the word "minute," "second" is another measurement of time, while it can also denote the placement of something after the first.

 

When pronounced slightly differently, the word "entrance" has multiple meanings. As a noun, an entrance is a point of access and entry. It could also be used to describe a dramatic arrival, like a bride at her wedding. However, as a verb, to entrance means to bewitch and delight. Would a Christian not go through a door marked “Entrance” for fear of maybe being bewitched?

 

To overlook means to fail to notice something, but when the word is used as a noun, it is a place where you can look down and see from a higher vantage point.

When used as a noun, a bat could be a winged, nocturnal animal or a piece of sporting equipment used in baseball. It can also be used as a verb when a player goes up to bat during a baseball game.

 

There are also commonly used phrases that do not mean what they at first appear to mean. “Shoot the breeze” does not mean taking a shotgun to the breeze coming through your open window. The term “Bat out of Hell” means that something or someone is travelling extremely quickly and not a demonic winged rodent from the depths of Hell.

 

Here are a few more English phrases to try and wrap your brain around (yes that’s one of them):

 

  • To kick the bucket.

  • Wrap your brain around.

  • What's that got to do with the price of onions?

  • To drop the ball.

  • A different kettle of fish.

  • Happy as a pig in muck.

  • Barking up the wrong tree.

  • Born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

  • Wild goose chase.
     

So, when we speak of “Magic” we are not referring to spiritual rituals, spells, incantations and demonic communication but rather of tricks that seem to be impossible and that are done by a performer to entertain people.

So, when a Christian believer challenges me about using “Magic” in my ministry I ask them what that has to do with the price of onions and assure them that they are barking up the wrong tree. Satan would be as happy as a pig in muck if I was dabbling in supernatural magic. I tell them to get real (are they not real), wake up and smell the coffee (what coffee?) and there is not really an elephant in the room where magic is concerned (Elephant?).

 

Deception

One of the criticisms laid against Christian magicians is that they are “deceiving people” and since a follower of Christ should not deceive, therefore magic is wrong for a Christian to perform or watch. If I perform a coin trick and say “my hand is empty” when in fact I am palming a coin, am I not lying? 

 

I do not believe that there is any deceit when a magician performs a magic trick. When you watch a magician, you KNOW that he is skilfully manipulating objects, misdirecting you or directing your actions and thoughts in order to mystify you. You have bought a ticket to watch a person deceive you. Therefore, by paying to be deceived for the purpose of entertainment, you are getting exactly what you paid for and therefore not being deceived. If you buy a ticket to see a country artist play and a heavy metal band take to the stage then you have been deceived and lied to. Are you not being deceived when you watch a drama? Is a British actor playing an American with a fake Southern American accent not deceiving you? When you watch a movie with special CGI effects, are you not being deceived? Is a woman who wears make up not deceiving people? True (harmful) deceit is undertaken for underhanded purposes rather than to entertain and astonish.

 

But what about an appearance of evil?

 

Many Christians assume that to "abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22,) is to avoid any behaviour anyone might perceive as being evil. Not only do we flee from that which is evil, we flee from that which appears to be evil.

 

For instance:

A pastor should not be seen frequenting a bar because someone may think he is getting drunk. A Christian should not be seen speaking with drug addicts or dealers in case they appear to condone the use of drugs. These assumptions and many like them do nothing to support those with a call to reach out to the lost but rather forces them to having to look over their shoulders in case they are being watched by those who feel the need to judge and condemn.

 

One of the problems with talking about an appearance of evil is that it can easily place us in bondage to the perceptions and desires of others. There will always be someone who thinks that what we are doing is wrong or that at least in their eyes, it looks wrong. So, we have a choice to either use the gifts that the Lord has given us for His purpose or to not use them in order to satisfy the fears of those who do not understand. We should be spending our time getting to know God better and learning how we can serve Him rather than worry that how we serve him may upset someone who is either living in fear or simply does not understand. Our goal is to live righteously before God, not to comply with others’ arbitrary standards of conduct. To use 1 Thessalonians 5:22 to attack those who are serving in the way they feel called to serve would be to admonish Jesus for speaking to prostitutes, adulterers and sinners.

 

To avoid the appearance of evil, or every form of evil, means to stay far away from evil. We need not become legalistic regarding what others may perceive to be evil. But we do need to remain aware of our witness to the world and of our duty to support fellow believers. One pastor may be perfectly capable of drinking alcohol in moderation and therefore have no problem frequenting a bar. Another may be prone to alcoholism or drunkenness and should therefore avoid bars. Avoiding the appearance of evil, or abstaining from every form of evil, means to live by the power of the Holy Spirit. We "take no part in the works of darkness, but instead expose them" (Ephesians 5:11). We don’t worry about the perceptions of others but about the integrity of our own walk with Christ.

 

So, in using your magic to enhance your Christian messages make sure that it is Jesus or the message that is central. Your magic is an enjoyable and memorable visual aid to help the telling of the story. Be aware of any issues that may become a stumbling block, such as the use of playing cards. Many Christians don’t like playing cards due to the link they have with gambling. I personally have no issues with using playing cards and I use then all the time but I rarely use them in a church setting.

For me, performing stage magic is not a problem at all but this does not mean that I have not faced opposition from a number of Christian people for doing so. Many Christians are afraid and use their fear to condemn and judge whenever they can. These people are also irrational and only see the devil where they fear that he may be. They are afraid of playing cards because they can be used for gambling but will happily play Monopoly using dice that are also used for gambling? They may also avoid playing cards because they can be used for fortune telling but will enjoy that nice cup of tea after which the tea leaves could be used for the same purpose. I have had a Christian ask me if I use red concerts lights, because if I do he could not attend the event, because red is the devils’ favourite colour. You can use a coin toss for gambling yet the very same fearful Christians will have no worries carrying loose change. Harry Potter movies are evil because there are witches and wizards but Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is fine even though one of the central characters is a witch. We could go on forever finding conflicting behaviour but at the end of the day you have to decide to do what YOU feel comfortable doing before the LORD and DO IT. I have been admonished for using magic even after lost souls have come to salvation after my message (which used a magic trick). Some folk will see evil even when the victory of Christ is evident. We either allow these people to stop us or we ignore them, bless them and continue our service to the Lord regardless. Me. I ignore them and carry on.

 

“Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks [and honour and glory] through Him to God the Father.”

Colossians 3:17