Come for the Magic, Stay for the Sermon

| 9/7/2008 11:22:30 AM

Christians are trying a new tactic to pack pews: magic. That's right, pick-a-card, nothing-up-my-sleeve magic. Writing for Mother Jones, Catherine Price explores the world of Christian illusionists, entertainers who use tricks to connect audiences with Christian concepts. For example, “[a] mind-reading trick may illustrate God's omniscience; an escape-artist routine reminds audiences that they can break free of sin; an illusion in which three black rings explode into color is a metaphor for what it's like to suddenly see the light.”

Critics point out that the Bible expressly forbids any type of witchcraft or sorcery (a problem that comes up frequently, most recently in a controversy over Harry Potter), but these entertainers insist that the ban is not an issue. They’re careful not to equate their illusions with the miracles found in the Bible, and claim Jesus’ stories and parables as the inspiration for their craft. In other words, they’re following Jesus’ teaching examples, only with silk scarves and coin tricks rather than walks on water. Replacing fire and brimstone with smoke and mirrors may be effective at drawing crowds, but Price writes that entertainers must not “derive too much pleasure from performing, lest they divert glory from God. Given that most successful magicians (not to mention preachers) are born scene-stealers, this can be tough.”