I've just been reading the FAQ on the site of the Fellowship of Christian Magicians, who edited "Magic for Dummies."
Remember the episode of King of the Hill where Bobby Hill played the Amazing Jesus in front of a speechlessly offended group of parents? He was turning water into wine, making loaves and fishes, that kind of thing. If you don't get it already, I'll make it unfunny for you: he was implying that Jesus could have been nothing but a sleight-of-hand conjurer, since he had no trouble doing Jesus' "miracles" of the bible.
Of course, Bobby wasn't "doing" the miracles at all. The job of magicians is to make it look like they are doing something that they most certainly are not.
I recall Penn Jilette talking about his experiences doing his show in Vegas with Teller, and this was confirmed by the personal experiences of Criss Angel. No matter how clearly you explain to the audience that "this is a trick, and this is how it's done," there are always people that believe deeply that Penn, Teller, or Criss Angel have magical powers. Maybe that's why it only took a few cheap quarter tricks for Blaine or Uri Geller to believe them.
But the Fellowship of Christian Magicians knows that this deception is the key to spreading the Gospel. They see that, instead of proving that Jesus was doing cheap parlour-tricks, they are being very much like God:
The second part of a Biblical basis for Gospel magic is God's own use of the spectacular as an attention-getting device. He could have dealt with people without using the miraculous, but with Moses He chose to use a bush that burned without being consumed, with Balaam He used a talking donkey; with Joshua He used a destructive trumpet blast to bring down the walls of Jericho, and with Belshazzar He wrote on the wall with a giant hand.
But perhaps most spectacular of all are the descriptions of the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus. It could have happened without a lot of fanfare, but Christs death was accompanied by darkness and earthquake. The resurrection was accompanied by a blast of light that left the guards stunned and dazed.
I have seen some very impressive and effective use of "magic" to illustrate principles from the Scripture. When sleight of hand and illusion are harnessed for the purpose of explaining Gospel principles, it can be very powerful from a psychological point of view.
The FAQ makes the distinction between the magic gospel-spreader, and the magician-for entertainment:
The Gospel magician could easily be confused with the secular entertainer, or worse, with the occultist, just as the Christian singer could be identified with the acid-dropping Satanist, or the preacher could be linked with the immoral talk-show host.
We would never. But here is the big compartmentalization:
Some Christians are very superstitious and assume that anything they cannot themselves understand and explain must be supernatural. Hence they see negative effects as being produced by demons, and every positive event must be a miracle of God. There is, however, great room for neutral events which can be used either for good or for evil.
See how, instead of calling them natural events, they call them "neutral?" Like I said: someone find the irony switch on these people! Is it possible that they could ever fix that short in their system and realize that the "miracles" performed by "God" are also these "neutral events" and/or "positive deceptions?" (We call that "pious fraud.") I suppose they will--when Uri Geller admits he's using sleight-of-hand. Which will be never.
Thanks for listening, and thanks to Marek for the idea.
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