Magic: The Gathering - to play or not to play

By Marcia Montenegro

[Note: BEFORE EMAILING ME ABOUT THIS ARTICLE OR ABOUT THE GAME, MAGIC: THE GATHERING, PLEASE READ THIS: Too many people are emailing me without reading this article or without getting the point of it. Please do not email me to tell me that this is just a strategy game. I am aware of that. I am not saying that playing Magic: The Gathering is practicing the occult. I am not telling anyone what to do. I am merely trying to point out, especially for Christian players, that pretending to be a sorcerer and playing with cards that seem to glorify the power of the occult may not be pleasing to God. This is something for you who play to ponder. Please read Deut. 18:10-12 and consider whether a game that makes sorcery/magick seem okay would be pleasing to God. This is for you to think about; that is all.]

A card game created in 1993 has spread from coast to coast, selling a billion cards within 18 months. "Magic C The Gathering," sold by its Oregon makers, Wizards of the Coast, is described by them as a fantasy trading card game. The creator is mathematician and veteran Dungeons and Dragons player, Richard Garfield (The Washington Post Weekend, 5-27-95, p. 13).

The cards are linked to one of five kinds of magic (magic here refers to sorcery, not tricks): red, blue, green, white or black. The players, representing sorcerers, use the cards to "kill the other guy before he kills you, with spells, enchantments and creatures like Chaos, Orb....Bad Moon and Animate Dead... (Washington Post Weekend).

Like Dungeons & Dragons, the famed role-playing game, Magic is a challenging game that calls for intricate strategy and shrewd plays. However, that strategy is worked out within the dark context of the occult. Many cards portray frightening and repellent creatures. Skeletons, blood and images of death are common. There's the Bone Shaman, the Necrite (shown licking blood off a dagger), Prodigal Sorcerer, Dark Ritual, Sadistic Glee, Torture, Endless Scream and others. One card showing several skeletons and called The Kjeldoran Dead has this quote: "'They shall kill those whom once they loved.' C Lim-Dul, the Necromancer." Necromancy is communication with the dead through supernatural and/or occult techniques.

One should consider the possible results of exposure to these images and terms:

Desensitization to what is ugly, evil or repulsive
Desensitization to sorcery and the occult
An interest in or fascination with death
Familiarity with occult terms & concepts
Developing a taste for the bizarre

IF YOU PLAY OR COLLECT MAGIC.....

Although a player is only pretending to be a sorcerer, is this any better than pretending to be, for example, a drug dealer? Imagine a game we'll call Pusher where red cards are speed, green cards are pot, black is heroin, blue is LSD and white is cocaine. Each player is a drug dealer trying to win by selling the most drugs and getting rid of the competition. The game could be made complex by introducing challenges from the law, prison, gangs, impure products, etc. So, how comfortable would you be playing Pusher? Would the message against drugs and the role of pretending to sell drugs seem hypocritical to you? Sorcery is no less dangerous and no more moral than drugs; in fact, there is a long-time connection between the two.

Sorcery is condemned by God throughout the Bible (Deut. 18:10; 2 Chron. 33:6; Mal. 3:5; Gal. 5:20; Rev. 21:8, among others) and is classified in the Bible along with witchcraft, divination (fortune telling) and spirit contact. Sorcery is the practice of magick (occult spelling; the supernatural thing as opposed to just stage tricks) C using spells, incantations or special rituals to manipulate or summon supernatural power. The term summon, by the way, is used in the occult and is repeated consistently on many cards in the "Magic" deck. In His word, God makes no distinction between white or black magick; all magick/sorcery is condemned.

What about others you play or trade with? What about the people you play with? By participating, you are endorsing the game and perhaps setting an example for a more vulnerable person. Christian players should read 1st Corinthians 8:9-12, which explains the principle of causing a weaker person to stumble because of your actions. Some people are drawn to the occult through games.

IS FANTASY BAD?

Fantasy and imagination have a valuable role in our lives, allowing us to create, to appreciate and to be entertained. They are part of how God wired us. But just as anything else human, fantasy and imagination can be misused. Instead of images evoking death and darkness, consider God's words in Phil. 4:8 that tell us to dwell on what is true, honorable, pure and lovely. Dwelling on ugly and bizarre images will break down and pervert our creativity and imagination. But dwelling on the lovely builds us up, lifts us up and enhances our imaginative capacities.

"The thief," says Jesus, "Comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy;" but Jesus came that we might "have life, and might have it abundantly." (John 10:10)

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