That’s what Tessa said last Sunday. She never called me back, though she’s texted me a couple of times since then.
My voice shook as I responded to her question. She’d been ranting for probably forty-five minutes. Her foster child had come home with some “magic” cards. So that’s how the conversation started out. Those magic cards, it turns out, are game pieces as best I can tell for a game called Magic: The Gathering. Perhaps it’s similar to Dungeons and Dragons. I’m not really sure.
But Tessa had taken the cards from her foster daughter and informed her she couldn’t participate in that. She’s fourteen and I’m not entirely sure it’s appropriate for that age, myself. At any rate she continued on that this child’s father, with whom she’d been having weekend visitation, had introduced her to what my friend is calling “Black Magic”. I don’t think the two things are related at all but I could be wrong.
Then she told her fourteen-year-old foster child that she might be the only Christian that her father knows; that it was her obligation to abstain from playing that game and “witness” to her father; that if he died without knowing Jesus his blood would be on her hands.
She didn’t take a breath. I hadn’t interrupted nor interjected. Continuing on she relayed a story about our former pastor. She’d approached him in the church parking lot because she was upset about the school mandated reading list for her 6th grade child. So that would put her child around twelve years old. The concern was over the Harry Potter books. He told her that he’d read them, his children had read them, and that they all loved the films. “What would be your issue with them,” he inquired.
“Well, I’m pretty sure that your Bible reads the same as my Bible and I’m also pretty sure it says that dabbling in witchcraft and sorcery is a sin.” That was her response. Why did she ask his opinion? I’m not sure. Clearly she didn’t need it, she’d already made up her mind about it. This is the same friend who threw out Disney’s Fantasia and forbade her children to watch it because Mickey was a sorcerer’s apprentice. It featured a magician.
“Can you believe that? The pastor endorsing Harry Potter?” Then she took a breath. Oh, crap. This isn’t a rhetorical question. She’s expecting an answer.
“Well, you’re probably not going to like what I have to say about that but here goes: I think that Harry Potter is complete fiction. J.K. Rowling hasn’t purported it to be anything other than complete fiction and since there’s no such thing as magic and I don’t believe witchcraft to have any actual power I don’t see a problem with it. I think you have to be the one to teach your kids the difference between fiction and reality. I know there are people who engage in witchcraft but I don’t think it has any actual power. I don’t believe that spells work. I know that those who engage in it do, but that doesn’t make it true.”
She cut me off, telling me that her sister had once said she wasn’t ready to give her life to God because she knew she was rebellious. “Get your Bible out and read it. Rebellion is a form of witchcraft, I told her. She got over that real quick and got right with God. There are demons and the devil is roaming around to see who he can destroy. I firmly believe that anybody who isn’t covered in the blood of Christ is leaving themselves WIDE OPEN to possession. My friend, Deliverance*, got invited by a new friend she’d made to a dinner party to meet some other new people. The minute she walked in she sensed it. They were witches and they just wanted to attack her. If she hadn’t known what it was she might have been susceptible, but since she knew what to look for she was keenly aware. And all this stuff that’s happening in the Middle East with ISIS. They’re cutting little kids’ heads off and putting them up on a stick and making a mockery of Christianity. They’re taking the girls and raping them and selling them off as sex-slaves. It’s nothing less than demon possession. I love you and I want you to get your Bible out and read what it says about witchcraft and demon possession because I don’t want you to be caught off guard.”
Now it was my turn to cut her off. My voice shook, “Tessa, I know you love me and I love you, and you know that I know what the Bible says about this. I just don’t believe in demon possession. I don’t think we’re doing the mentally ill a service when we write them off as demon-possessed. They’re sick, for sure, but they aren’t possessed. They need proper medical treatment, not exorcism. Exorcism doesn’t work. Why do you think the Catholic Church doesn’t perform them as a general rule anymore? And all this stuff in the Middle East? Religious extremism is definitely at the core of it, but it’s more about power. They aren’t representing any God. They want power and control and the are using religion to get it. Christians are no better. They’ve had their share of dark history.” And this is where she cut me short.
My voice shook, not in anger, but in fear. This is the first time I’ve been this vocal about my disbelief in certain things. I just couldn’t listen to this any longer and not say something. I only wish I had gotten the chance to say more.
I find it unconscionable that she laid such a guilt-trip on a fourteen year old child, making her feel responsible for his eternity – as if there is such a thing. That’s too much responsibility for a child who clearly already has more problems than a math book. She’s in foster care, she has two sisters, and none of them have the same daddy. She’s been told nobody wants her. Not her mother, not her father, not her grandparents.
Things only have the power over us that we give them. Will we choose fear because we’re uneducated or will we choose the freedom that knowledge provides?
Edited to add:
*Deliverance is a mutual friend who has been a missionary to Israel. She was trained and engages in deliverance.