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Fantasy and Orthodoxy


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#1 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 10:47 PM

God Bless you Alice,

I have to disagree with you. The last post paints a picture that the Russian church is active in protecting its people and yet the Greek church does nothing - which I do not agree with.

The church does address the matter of Superstition on probably the same level as any other Orthodox jurisdiction. Their are many articles discussing superstition and infact it is very proactive in passing this information forward via the internet.

An example, is the article about Harry Potter ... the Greek orthodox church was the first to post this onto the Internet ... the article was first written at Mount Athos (which Greece treats as its Spiritual centre since it is the largest monastic community geographically) and posted (in Greek and translated into English) on the Internet by one of the Metropolitan churches and distributed through other Greek related christian/religious sites.

These same sites evangelise against witchcraft and their are many many podcasts and homilies and sermons with Greek priests who talk about this all the time.

I think for the most part in our churches here ... I know I have heard the priests say on Sunday sermons (on many occassions) that this stuff is not good and they give examples but the people dont listen to them ...

I have a lot of compassion for the priests sometimes because they DO teach this stuff we just dont pick up on it at the time or we forget and then we assume they dont teach it ... but they do - especially the Evil Eye (like you say). How many times have our priests said it over and over and over again and you still will see the regulars wearing around their neck ... a cross and an eye! Do they listen is the question .. how do you get people to ACTUALLY listen to the priests when they DO talk about Superstition not so much how do we get the priests to talk about superstition.

#2 Paul Cowan

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 03:01 AM

An example, is the article about Harry Potter ... the Greek orthodox church was the first to post this onto the Internet ... the article was first written at Mount Athos (which Greece treats as its Spiritual centre since it is the largest monastic community geographically) and posted (in Greek and translated into English) on the Internet by one of the Metropolitan churches and distributed through other Greek related christian/religious sites.


That's funny. (in a humorous way, not a sarcastic way) I know monks read secular stuff because I know someone on this forum who was asked to send a secular book. I just can't see the monks getting hold of Harry Potter when it was first released. I suppose they have more connections to worldly events than I imagined. But of all the things they could have picked to read. Harry Potter? I wonder whos obedience it is there to read all the secular books. Interesting obedience.

Paul

#3 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 03:12 AM

That's funny. (in a humorous way, not a sarcastic way) I know monks read secular stuff because I know someone on this forum who was asked to send a secular book. I just can't see the monks getting hold of Harry Potter when it was first released. I suppose they have more connections to worldly events than I imagined. But of all the things they could have picked to read. Harry Potter? I wonder whos obedience it is there to read all the secular books. Interesting obedience.

Paul


I can not say if it was a monk who wrote it. All I know is that the first source i could locate on the internet for this PDF was out of Mount Athos (an athonite website). The author may just be a civilian like you and me who in consultation with a spiritual father from Athos put together this article.

I am afraid I have to disagree with your point above, however. There are very few Theologians/elders who first through their Orthopraxia reach a level that the good Lord then uses for all sorts of works ... a current example is Elder Ephraim (and God forgive me if I misquote him or the truth) ... I have heard he has read the Protocols of Zion and it has become a point of scandal in America ... why? How can you sheperd your flock if u do not know about what is out there? However, it is only a few who can read these Satanic and evil works and through there prayers and fasting be protected by the Grace of God from being harmed by the content ....

I pray God always gives us these elders and theologians to continue this work and protect us.

As for my original point to Alice - the Greek Orthodox church IS active. perhaps another example is to offer the following proof (still on harry potter for example).

Newspaper article from June 27, 2002!!! "Greek Orthodox bishops denounce 'Harry Potter'.(for encouraging black magic) ... if this is not the Church trying to protect its people ... I dont know what else I can say! The date proves that the church was aiming to teach the people prior to most of the books being made into movies!!! The warning was put out and I am sure if we researched it further we will findmany sources showing that the church warned about the potential harm of reading harry potter and the issues relating to superstitions and witchcraft.

#4 Father David Moser

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 09:17 PM

I ahve copied the three above posts from a different thread as they introduce a topic that I think is much more complex than it might appear on the surface - that of the Orthodox response to literature that involves magical/fantastic beings, powers, situations, worlds, etc.

Harry Potter is a fictional book written as fantasy. It is not so much about spells and witchcraft as it is about the adventures of a young boy and his friends in a fantastical world. This is really little different than the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis or even the Lord of the Rings books by J.R.R. Tolkein (in fact lets take Tolkein as an example since there is no overt "Christian" imagery such as in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. What is the difference between Harry Potter and his magical world and magical world of Middle Earth? Why does one promote such vehement hatred while the other is enchanting and wonderful? I for one do not think that there is a rational basis for such a reaction. Either condemn both or accept both for what they are (fantasy stories). While we are at it, lets also condemn Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty since they also hinge on magic, black and white.

As an alternative view let me offer this essay by an Orthodox Christain author of "speculative fiction" (that is Science Fiction and Fantasy) called "Fantasy and Christianity"

So what are the boundaries of fantasy stories - what makes them good or evil (or is such a distinction possible)?

Fr David Moser

#5 Paul Cowan

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 12:58 AM

Newspaper article from June 27, 2002!!! "Greek Orthodox bishops denounce 'Harry Potter'.(for encouraging black magic) ... if this is not the Church trying to protect its people ... I dont know what else I can say! The date proves that the church was aiming to teach the people prior to most of the books being made into movies!!! The warning was put out and I am sure if we researched it further we will findmany sources showing that the church warned about the potential harm of reading harry potter and the issues relating to superstitions and witchcraft.


Yes, my priest also warns us when potentially harmful things come out in society. Harry Potter included. So I think clergy all over try to protect their flock from evil much like the movie The Golden Compass

#6 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 01:58 AM

A few things: off the main topic, not everyone agrees on the Harry Potter thing, because then you would have to basically not read any fiction. And there was nothing to worry about with the Golden Compass movie, because it was so poorly made, there was no chance for anything to come through, or even make sense.

On topic:

I have recently been very interested in why most vampire legends come from Orthodox countries. I have some research on the legends themselves that I need to read, but I have always found that to be an interesting fact. There are legends from Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and others.

Sbdn. Anthony

#7 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 02:55 AM

Either condemn both or accept both for what they are (fantasy stories). While we are at it, lets also condemn Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty since they also hinge on magic, black and white.

Fr David Moser


Fr. David,
that is the point I tried to make in my latest post on the other thread. I think that other works of fiction would be much worse than some of the fantasy books. I like historical/religious thrillers (Steve Berry, Dan Brown); some of their story lines are flat out anti-Christian, but I understand that they are fiction, and they don't make me question the Church or the Orthodox Faith one bit. I think people need to remember that fiction is fiction. It's not real. You can choose to believe something or not.

Sbdn. Anthony

Edited by Anthony Stokes, 08 January 2009 - 02:56 AM.
added last sentence


#8 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 02:56 AM

A few things: off the main topic, not everyone agrees on the Harry Potter thing, because then you would have to basically not read any fiction. And there was nothing to worry about with the Golden Compass movie, because it was so poorly made, there was no chance for anything to come through, or even make sense.
Sbdn. Anthony

Off Topic:
Are we allowed to create a new thread called "Harry Potter" without it being part of a Book-review thread?

The concern that the Church of Greece has does not relate to the choices adults make to read or not read this book nor is it about whether fiction is or is not good for an Orthodox person to read. That is in an issue in a category of its own, of course.

The concerns that they raise relate directly to the "psychagogia" of "children" (and this is the main target audience of the book not adults):

1) The child is familiarised with evil, witchcraft, occultism and demonology;
2) The true distincton between true good and true evil is blurred;
3) The books cultivate a negative attitude;
4) The messages in the book are anti-pedagogical;
5) They weaken the will to endure natural hardships of life;
6) They undermine traditional family values;
7) They nurture a prolonged descent into a daydreaming mental state;
8) They cultivate thirst for satanic pride.

These are but a few observations that the Church of Greece has commented on in light of psychagogia of children.

The church has always been responsible to nurture and protect its community from potential threats to the pshycological and mental well-being of its members. If the Church of Greece feels that this book could harm the well-being of young children it is acting responsibly by printing this material and giving people then the option to make up their own minds from thereonin.

If they did not do this, then they would be seen as irresponsible for not being proactive.

So, Anthony, I can see your point if you were to approach the matter as an adult having the maturity to make informed decisions with the hindsight of experience, personal development and so on and so forth but a child is a child and must be protected by "Adult Issues" since at a young age they do not have the skills to descern what impact these adult issues will have on them.

#9 Vasiliki D.

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 03:01 AM

The concern that the Church of Greece has does not relate to the choices adults make to read or not read this book nor is it about whether fiction is or is not good for an Orthodox person to read. That is in an issue in a category of its own, of course.

The concerns that they raise relate directly to the "psychagogia" of "children" (and this is the main target audience of the book not adults):

1) The child is familiarised with evil, witchcraft, occultism and demonology;
2) The true distincton between true good and true evil is blurred;
3) The books cultivate a negative attitude;
4) The messages in the book are anti-pedagogical;
5) They weaken the will to endure natural hardships of life;
6) They undermine traditional family values;
7) They nurture a prolonged descent into a daydreaming mental state;
8) They cultivate thirst for satanic pride.

These are but a few observations that the Church of Greece has commented on in light of psychagogia of children.

The church has always been responsible to nurture and protect its community from potential threats to the pshycological and mental well-being of its members. If the Church of Greece feels that this book could harm the well-being of young children it is acting responsibly by printing this material and making it available so that people can then make their own informed decision to allow their children to read or not read the books. However, if they did not provide this material, they would then be seen as irresponsible for not being proactive with such clearly satanic content.

So, Anthony, I can see your point if you were to approach the matter as an adult having the maturity to make informed decisions for yourself with the hindsight of experience, personal development and so on and so forth but a child is a child and must be protected by "Adult Issues" since at a young age they do not have the skills to descern what impact these adult issues will have on them.

Again, Everything is permitted in Orthodox but not everything is for your benefit (can the person who kindly pointed out the Scriptural reference for this statement do so again!).

Here is a quote from a girl aged 12, after reading the book:

"I have read all the books at least three times. Every time I do so I find myself in a magical world and I immitate the three friends. I would like myself to become a witch."

#10 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 03:21 AM


The concerns that they raise relate directly to the "psychagogia" of "children" (and this is the main target audience of the book not adults):

1) The child is familiarised with evil, witchcraft, occultism and demonology;
2) The true distincton between true good and true evil is blurred;
3) The books cultivate a negative attitude;
4) The messages in the book are anti-pedagogical;
5) They weaken the will to endure natural hardships of life;
6) They undermine traditional family values;
7) They nurture a prolonged descent into a daydreaming mental state;
8) They cultivate thirst for satanic pride.



Having read all of the books, I'm not sure I found any of these, except the daydreaming, which can come from reading any fictitious book, like Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys.

One way to ensure a proper understanding might be for parents to actually take part in helping their children understand what they read. I think we try to blame others, like authors, for writing certain things, when all it takes is a little parenting to help a child understand things. The book "Finding God in Harry Potter" is actually written by an Orthodox author. We will probably use it when we have our children read Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings, or many of the other wonderful works of fiction that are out there.

Sbdn. Anthony

#11 Paul Cowan

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 03:47 AM

One way to ensure a proper understanding might be for parents to actually take part in helping their children understand what they read. I think we try to blame others, like authors, for writing certain things, when all it takes is a little parenting to help a child understand things.


Not likely to happen anytime soon. I work closely with the schools. If I had nickel very time and administrator told me, "if only the parents would help"...

Parents have taken a hands off approach to raising their children. Let the schools do it. Let the neighbors, but don't bother me, I am sleeping in today or going out with MY friends. You stay inside and just watch TV till I get back.

Please don't say I am suggesting all parents are this way. I do first hand knowledge of the parents that could use some parenting classes.

#12 Father David Moser

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 05:02 AM

So I think clergy all over try to protect their flock from evil much like the movie The Golden Compass


Actually I gave an interview that was published in Orthodox journals both here and in Russia about "The Golden Compass" in the larger context of popular culture and Orthodoxy. In that interview, I suggested that while the G.C. books and movie are particularly problematic as they are driven by an anti Christian and anti Church agenda, the film could be watched by children along with their parents so that the parents could respond to some of the images and events in the film. I do not believe that we should shield our children completely from the antagonistic or even tempting forces of the world, but as parents and pastors we need to experience these things with them so that when they encounter those things (or similar things) on their own, or as adults (and make no mistake, they will) there is an Orthodox context by which they can judge and evaluate what they are seeing or reading or hearing.

Fr David Moser

#13 Rick H.

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 12:18 PM

The question is not to let one's kids read Harry or not.

This is what it all boils down to:



I do not believe that we should shield our children completely from the antagonistic or even tempting forces of the world, but as parents and pastors we need to experience these things with them so that when they encounter those things (or similar things) on their own, or as adults (and make no mistake, they will) there is an Orthodox context by which they can judge and evaluate what they are seeing or reading or hearing.


Otherwise through isolation and separation we perpetuate the cycle of dysfunction.

In this case, separation breeds ignorance. Ignorance breeds dysfunction. Dysfunction breeds dysfunction. A hands on approach with our children, just as Fr. David says above is the answer here.

The question is not to read or not to read in these cases, but one of training up our children. We are to teach our children when sitting, standing, or lying down. Either we teach and train or we allow the world to shape and mold and build character in our children. The fact that most parents today do not teach and train via a hands on approach is exactly why so many children of the present generation are so screwed up. We can consider the upbringing of the parents of today and allow room for the fact that they were not trained and taught through a hands on approach . . . but this only reinforces the point about separation, ignorance, and the cycle of dysfunction.

The question is not to let one's kids read about Harry or not.

Hat's off Fr. David!

One free cup of coffee for you today [please see the administrator for your voucher, all normal disclaimers apply].

#14 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 02:42 PM

The question is not to read or not to read in these cases, but one of training up our children. .


Exactly what I was trying to say as well. Like I said, with Harry Potter, you could also read "Finding God in Harry Potter" which is written by an Orthodox author.

As an aside story, just this morning, my 22 month old daughter pointed to her icon of Theophany on her wall calendar, and said a long, incoherent sentence that ended with Jesus, without any prompting.

Sbdn. Anthony

#15 Alice

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 03:22 PM

I have to disagree with you. The last post paints a picture that the Russian church is active in protecting its people and yet the Greek church does nothing - which I do not agree with.


Dearest Vasiliki,

You misread my post, or I did not express myself correctly in writing.

I am frustrated that the Greek church in the U.S. and Greece does not sermonize about this stuff *enough* or at all from the best places for everyone to hear, whether people want to hear it or not: the television and the pulpit.

Ofcourse, it is our tradition to stick to a certain gospel topic at sermons, I know...but since here in Greece, world politics are often brought up in this venue, I would think that maybe addressing these evils might be beneficial. Don't forget that the liturgies from Athens Metropolis and Thessaloniki are also televised every Sunday. Also, priests are often on Greek talk shows and television shows where they could discuss these dangers of the occult and witchcraft which have become so prevalent to our young (and not so young) through new venues of the internet and leisurely pass times such as tarot cards, fortune tellers, horoscopes, internet sits on vampirism and such, books for teenage girls on how to tie knots of witchcraft to get boyfriends, oiuja boards, and God knows what else.

I speak from certain of my own experiences at how little people are aware of the dangers, which I have tried to express in a post twice to respond to you, but twice they disappeared and could not post...so I will accept that perhaps it was God's will because I am too tired to write all about them again for a third time anyway! :-)

Please know that I did not mean any offense...because I am just as Greek as you. :-)

With love,
In Christ,
Alice

#16 Father David Moser

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 04:22 PM

One free cup of coffee for you today [please see the administrator for your voucher, all normal disclaimers apply].


I am, in fact drinking Christmas blend coffee (from All Mericful Savior monastery) today which was received as a gift. It is one of the highest quality coffees I have ever tasted (but then I'm prejudiced as I am a good friend of the monastery). A very happy and blessed Christmas to all.

Fr David Moser

#17 Christopher Grant

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 04:44 PM

Father David, St. Theophan advised extreme caution and very small portions in consuming secular works in his "The Spiritual Life". How would that apply to this discussion?

#18 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 08:29 PM

Father David, St. Theophan advised extreme caution and very small portions in consuming secular works in his "The Spiritual Life". How would that apply to this discussion?


One obvious thought (at least to this bear of little brain) is that time spent reading Harry Potter is time not spent reading St. Theophan. If our time is limited, making the best use of that time is important, and reading spiritually edifying material might be more important than reading secular literature. Another obvious thought might be that a reasonable compromise ought to be able to be achieved.

There is a story from the Desert Fathers, I forget which one, but it tells of a hunter that comes across a group of monks, and finds them actually sitting around and laughing! He is, of course, scandalized and tells the abbot there so in no uncertain terms. The abbot asks the hunter: "I see that your bow is unstrung, why is that?"

The hunter replies, "If I keep the bow strung all the time, the string will weaken and stretch or break if I do not give it some relief."

The abbot replied, "So too it is with the brothers in their spiritual struggles. Do not begrudge them unstringing their spiritual bows?"

Or words to that effect. I'll see if I can find the exact story when I get home and see if I made any serious errors.

Herman the Pooh

#19 Father David Moser

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 08:30 PM

Father David, St. Theophan advised extreme caution and very small portions in consuming secular works in his "The Spiritual Life". How would that apply to this discussion?


This would apply quite in synch with what I said. In our overall reading, the large majority should be the scriptures, lives of the saints, writings of the fathers and other spiritual material. Only a small proportion should be given over to "secular" reading - and even that should be taken with caution, that is filtering the ideas presented in these works against what we have learned from the other part of our reading. We should also I believe, be selective in our choice of reading material. If something is worthless, then don't waste your time. An example for me would be the "Golden Compass" trilogy of stories. I read the first book, or at least a portion of it, long ago and although I do love the genre (F&SF) and read probably more than I should, the G.C. was so off putting to me that I didn't even waste the time to finish the book and never sought out the sequels (for me a very rare occurrence). OTOH, I used to have a friend, a monk-priest, who chose to read Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land every year during lent because of the way it reminded him of certain spiritual principles (not a practice, btw, that I follow or recommend - I found "Stranger" to be an enjoyable read, but not that profound)


Fr David Moser

#20 Anna Stickles

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 05:30 PM

I used to have a friend, a monk-priest, who chose to read Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land every year during lent because of the way it reminded him of certain spiritual principles (not a practice, btw, that I follow or recommend - I found "Stranger" to be an enjoyable read, but not that profound)


This book is full of all kinds of anti Christian principles. I read this once a long time ago and I can't imagine rereading it much less during lent.

George MacDonald's are good if one likes fantasy. At the Back of the North Wind, Lilith, The Princess and the Goblin, and my all time favorite of his The Wise Woman.

These last two are great for everyone, children through adult, and the last which I gave a link to the online version is in the tradition of the wonderful little child's story "From I-ville to You-ville" but much deeper.

It starts

...something happened. It was not a great battle, nor an earthquake, nor a coronation, but something more important than all those put together: a baby-girl was born-and her father was a king, and her mother was a queen, and her uncles and aunts were princes and princesses, and her first cousins were dukes and duchesses, and not one of her second cousins was less than a marquis or marchioness, or of her third cousins less than an earl or countess, and below a countess they did not care to count. So the little girl was Somebody; and yet for all that, strange to say, the first thing she did was to cry! told you it was a strange country.
As she grew up, everybody about her did his best to convince her that she was Somebody, and the girl herself was so easily persuaded of it that she quite forgot that anybody had ever told her so, and took it for a fundamental, innate, primary, firstborn, self-evident, necessary, and incontrovertible idea and principle that she was Somebody. And far be it from me to deny it! I will even go so far as to assert that in this odd country there was a huge number of Somebodies. Indeed, it was one of its oddities that every boy and girl in it was rather too ready to think he or she was Somebody; and the worst of it was that the princess never thought of there being more than one Somebody-and that was herself.


L.B. Graham, and L.A. Kelly are two other Christian fantasy authors that my kids enjoy.

Edited by Anna Stickles, 10 January 2009 - 06:07 PM.





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