Shining a Light

The Reverend G. P. Taylor had a problem. He was noticing an increasing amount of occultism in children's popular culture. For example, he quotes the following from Philip Pullman's bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy, "God is a liar, God is a cheat, God is senile." As for popular teen shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Taylor believes they're "anti-monotheistic" and that it's dangerous to try to "spiritualize" them, as some Christians do. From his own experience, Taylor knew that the occult is not to be taken lightly. As a teenage runaway, he was involved in it himself. Years later, after turning to God and becoming a pastor, Taylor began educating people about the occult and even stood in his church's cemetery on Halloween night witnessing to thousands of hardcore fans of "Dracula," who is supposedly buried there. So Taylor knows what he's talking about when it comes to the occult. And it bothered him to see it sugarcoated. When he shared his concern with his congregation, they had an idea for him: Why not provide another point of view? Why not write a book of his own? So he did. And Taylor's fantasy novel Shadowmancer, released by a mainstream publisher, soon hit the top of the British bestseller lists. Now it's just as popular in the United States, and Universal has bought the film rights to it. Like many other fantasy novels, Shadowmancer shows heroic children saving the world from a dastardly magician. But Taylor throws in a few twists. The villain is a priest -- but not a priest who thinks he's doing God's will, like the religious villains in Philip Pullman's books. In Shadowmancer, the priest's greed has led him away from God and made him decide to do things his own way. Also, one of the heroes is an African boy who gently chides his European friends for their superstitious ways and points them toward the true God. Because Taylor wanted to show evil for what it is, the novel is too dark for young children. But, on the other hand, unlike many other novelists, Taylor excels at showing the power of goodness. God is an active presence, under the name "Riathamus," which means "King of Kings." He not only intervenes when the children are in danger, but He also heals them from the emotional scars of the past. Taylor doesn't beat anyone over the head with a Bible, but neither does he leave any doubt about who Riathamus is. Taylor's approach is an inspiring one. As Christianity Today pointed out, "Shadowmancer shows something that some of the others do not -- characters relentlessly calling on God to shine His light into the shadows." Taylor looked at a disturbing trend and realized what was behind it: Young people want to know why they're here, what happens after death, and whether there's a loving God. So he presented those issues from a Christian point of view using the medium of literature. As the old saying goes, instead of merely cursing the darkness, Taylor chose to light a candle. We all have something to learn from his example. For further reading and information: G. P. Taylor, Shadowmancer (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2003). Read the first chapter of Shadowmancer. Dinitia Smith, "'Harry Potter' Inspires a Christian Alternative," New York Times, 24 July 2004. (Free registration required; link courtesy of this blog.) The title of this article is misleading; Taylor says in the interview that he doesn't see his books as a "Christian alternative" to Harry Potter. Greg Taylor, "A Christian Harry Potter?Christianity Today, June 2004. Dick Staub, "DS Interview: G. P. Taylor, Shadowmancer,", 17 June 2004. "Universal Develops Shadowmancer," SciFiWire, 20 July 2004. Nick Pollard, "Magic for teenagers," CultureWatch. Newlyn Allison, "Real Fantasy," Books & Culture, 17 August 2004. BreakPoint Commentary No. 040315, "In Tolkien's Steps?: Fantasy Films and Worldview." Gina R. Dalfonzo, "The Impoverished Imagination: Why Good Fantasy Must Stem from Reality," BreakPoint WorldView, March 2004. Call 1-877-3-CALLBP to receive a free copy of this article and to subscribe to BreakPoint WorldView magazine ($25 a year/10 issues). Gina R. Dalfonzo, "Buffy Fades to Black," Boundless, 29 May 2003.


Chuck Colson


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