A closer look at whether the much-used "magical"
tool is really good for kids.
"Now you see it, now you don't."
Do those words belong in a Christian children's ministry? Gospel
magicians and their proponents say a resounding yes because they
believe illusions can more effectively reach kids than other
traditional methods. Opponents, however, say gospel magic should do
a disappearing act of its own-before it permanently harms
NO ROOM FOR GRAY?
Magic tricks can illustrate God's qualities, according to Dave
Arch, author of the soon-to-be-released book Tricks That Teach
About God (Group Publishing). Gospel magic "taps into an intrinsic
interest and then bridges into the truths I want to teach," Arch
says. "I understand that magic can bridge into the occult,
deception, and evil, but anything can be turned into a negative
depending on how you use it."
Gospel magic opponents are concerned about where so-called
illusions may lead. Mickie McKibbin, a Christian mother who home
schools her four children, says gospel magic involves trickery and
dabbling in what's wrong.
"Scripture is very clear," she says, adding that "gospel magic is
not righteous or holy." It involves small steps of deception,
McKibbin says, which can then lead kids into things such as Oijua
boards, Dungeons & Dragons, and evil music.
Parents are to blame for not being discerning anymore, asserts
McKibbin. "Parents think [gospel magic] is fabulous...and have been
so lulled and desensitized. They grew up with Bewitched and Casper,
but that's Satan's deceptive ways of making the occult cute."
A COLORFUL TOOL
Most people who object to gospel magic have never seen it and
therefore don't understand it, says Steve Blendermann, an area
representative of the International Fellowship of Christian
Magicians. According to Blendermann, the Bible uses two definitions
of magic: one relating to sorcery and witchcraft but the other
relating to art. Blendermann points out that Daniel was chief of
Jim Moates, a past president of the Alabama Fellowship for
Christian Magicians, says, "Whenever I do a magic show, I explain
up front to kids or my audience that I'm a gospel illusionist, that
I don't have magical powers. I want them to understand that there's
only one person who can do miracles, and that's Jesus."
Before Blendermann's gospel magic presentations, he explains to
audiences that he does illusions. "We can't do the impossible; we
just do what looks impossible," he says of gospel magicians. One
example involves the familiar "torn and restored newspaper" trick.
As Blendermann tears pages, he compares the newspaper to the Good
News of the Bible. For the first page, he says people doubt
Creation; for subsequent pages, he says people doubt the Flood, the
Virgin Birth, the Resurrection from the dead, and so on.
After shredding the newspaper, Blendermann opens it up, turns the
restored pages, and says, "You thought you saw me tear it up, just
like people attack the Bible. But the Good News can't be undone.
God says, ÔMy words will never pass away.' "
Blendermann says illusions are so effective because
people-especially kids-are much more visually oriented today. "If
you have their eyes, you have their ears," he says.
But getting kids' attention isn't a good enough reason to subject
them to potentially dangerous materials, says McKibbin. "Who gets
their attention-the magic side!" she says. As an alternative, she
recommends that children's ministers let kids act out exciting
Scripture stories and "help the Bible come alive in its truth and
Stephanie Martin is a free-lance writer and editor in