Oz the Great and Powerful: Thoughts On Prophecy From an After Magic Standpoint


I recently finished Kester Brewin’s new book, After Magic- Moves Beyond Super-Nature, From Batman to Shakespeare. In it, he explores popular literature and film, such to bring to the light the archetype of a protagonist who begins his journey using magic or super-nature of some sort to solve his problems but ends up becoming less human because of it, being taken to the edge of sanity, trapped by his magic. The story arc of this archetype ends with the protagonist becoming the hero by renouncing their magic and/or super-nature and fully embracing their humanity. He calls us to renounce all ideas of super-nature even in the religious sense and fully embrace our humanity with these heroes. Brewin explains it pretty well in the Prologue:

Beyond the religious domain, I want to propose that such a reading of Christianity will present not only a move beyond the problems of the infinite demands of an actually-existing god, but a way of dealing with the ‘very large’ demands placed on us by the ‘big other’ systems of capitalism, politics and technology that we have to interact with too. The hope is that by immersing ourselves in these stories, and accepting this radical re-reading of the Christian narrative as a model of life ‘after magic,’ our humanity will be restored and our addiction to power and violence broken.

I don’t agree with everything Kester Brewin says in the book or some of his conclusions about how to finally view God (as dead). I think he would be just fine with that though since he starts off every one of his books with the words, ‘I might be wrong’ in brackets. And if you’re only engaging with authors and people that agree with you and think the same way you do, then you’re not allowing yourself to grow as a person. However, I want to discuss what I found intriguing in his book and what I actually found myself strongly agreeing with by the end it. I want to discuss the dangerous demand fabricated prophecy can have on us.

So in typical fashion of the book, I want to dissect a film myself using this lens of After Magic. This film is Oz the Great and Powerful. In this film, a smalltime magician and scam artist, named Oz (Oscar Diggs) stumbles upon a land with the same name after being tossed to and fro in a hot air balloon by a deadly twister. He is found by a good witch named Theodora, who is convinced that he is the savior that their prophecies spoke of. Their prophecies claimed a wizard named Oz would come and save them from a wicked witch by defeating her. Oscar plays along when he is told that he will become their king and receive treasure, but it’s obvious that he is not the wizard that the prophecies had talked about. While watching the film I actually wondered if the ‘real wizard of Oz’ that the prophecies spoke of would come in at all, since his coming was prophesied about, but prophecy is a funny thing.


In a chapter about Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth Kester Brewin talks about the dangers of the demand of prophecy and how it can drive someone to insanity. The play begins with three witches who prophesy to Macbeth that he will become king. Brewin writes:

What follows is a morality tale about different responses to prophecy, to the demand that a voice from beyond places on us. Once a prediction is heard from the supernatural, to what extent do we have any freewill to follow it? … [Macbeth] believes that what the witches have said is his fate and thus his freewill is now compromised. He sees the great prize in front of him: he is to become king! But in order to reach these heights, he ends up plumbing the most awful, murderous depths.

What’s interesting in Oz the Great and Powerful is that the three witches in this film who hold the prophecy end up being the ones trapped by its dangerous demand: that one of them has to die. Oscar meets a second witch named Evanora who is skeptical of his identity as the wizard who would come and defeat the wicked witch. However, she still sends him off to the DarkForest to find and kill the wicked witch but this ‘wicked witch’ ends up being the famous good witch, Glinda. Glinda reveals that the wicked witch is really Evanora, who had killed their father and is causing chaos in the land of Oz. Evanora was able to continue this deception by demonizing Glinda, claiming her to be responsible for all the evil she had done in secret. The move to super-nature always draws lines between people and forces them to pick a side, as does Evanora’s demonization of her sister.

So I wondered, where did the prophecy come from then? My theory is that this prophecy that a great wizard would come and defeat the wicked witch and free Oz was all fabricated by Evanora herself as part of her deception. She was able to continue her work as the real wicked witch by promising the people that a wizard will come one day to kill the wicked witch and stop it all. And since she was the only one that knew there really was no wizard coming she was able to continue secretly terrorizing Oz and demonizing her sister.

We see towards the end of the film Oscar embraces his role as the savior the false prophecies promised. He becomes the hero Oz needs, even though he is not the one they were promised: an actual wizard. Oscar decides to play along with Evanora’s super-nature story in order to defeat her. But what I find surprising is that she continues to let the fight play out.

The tragedy in this story is that she becomes trapped by her own false super-nature story that she used to get herself to a position of power. The hunger to keep her power leads to her defeat. She reaches her position of power by spreading this fabricated prophecy and then loses her power by holding on to it so tight that she lets the prophecy be fulfilled by letting a normal smalltime magician defeat her and banish her out of Emerald City. I believe we all have fabricated stories we carry around with us about who or what we are supposed to be to succeed. And these stories can drive us so much that they become the only thing that hinders us from actually succeeding.

I believe we are called to renounce these false stories we tell ourselves:

Stories that say we are always right and others we dislike are always wrong…

Stories that tell us if we just make one decision, everything will turn out good for us…

Stories that tell us that that we are supposed to strive to be perfect…

All these stories are a form of human prophecy and they end up working against themselves as we see people trapped by bigotry, calling everyone else wrong, people trapped by deception and confusion in hope that the next decision will lead to a perfect life, and people trapped by repression and despair as they continue failing to always be perfect.

We are invited to renounce these fabricated prophecies we make up in order to reach a point of power over others, because they will ultimately lead to our defeat. And we are invited to a fuller embrace of our humanity with all our complexities, imperfections and unpredictability. And with that shift we will be able to see humanity restored and our addiction to power and violence broken.

The Crucifixion According to Radiohead

This is the most beautiful presentation on the crucifixion that I’ve ever seen. And I love Radiohead so there you go.
If you have 45 minutes today, I suggest you watch this amazing work of art. I promise you won’t be disappointed and that it will bring you to a closer solidarity with Jesus’ suffering on the cross.

The Dark Knight Rises, He Is Risen Indeed: Thoughts On A Better Resurrection


It’s almost Easter. So let’s talk about the Dark Knight Rises. I think it can help us understand a side of the resurrection that I’ve rarely heard talked about.

In the middle of the film Officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt; swoon ladies, swoon) asks Bruce Wayne about why he would wear a mask as Batman. Bruce tells him it’s to protect the people closest to him but then he hits on something that stuck with me more than anything in the film.

Bruce Wayne: The idea was to be a symbol. Batman could be anybody. That was the point.
Blake: Well, it’s damn good to see him back.
Bruce Wayne: Not everybody agrees.
Blake: They’ll figure that out in the end.

The idea of the Batman was never supposed to be idolatry of Batman. The Batman was supposed to only serve as a catalyst to spur everyone else into actually making a difference.

I believe some people have made the same mistake with Jesus’ resurrection. It’s one thing to say you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s another thing to actually live out the resurrection; to be the resurrection.

Even before Jesus died he expected his followers to do more than just intellectually affirm him. He says in John 14:12:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

So the point of everything he was doing was not so that we can idolize him and talk about how great it is, but so that we can be pushed to do more. There are so many ways to honor Christ and this is one of those ways. So believing in this Christ is so much more radical than simply “confessing with your mouth and believing with your heart that he is Lord”. It goes farther than that.

1 John 4:12 says:

No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

This type of belief in Christ requires action. It requires love; and without love, there is no God being brought to full expression because love is the only way to make that happen.

There’s a scene near the end of the gospel of John where Jesus is hanging on the cross and his mother and the disciple, John are standing near him. He says to his mother, “Dear, woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And it says that John took her into his home from that time on. I believe this was Jesus doing the same thing I’ve been talking about. This was his mother and the disciple he loved the most standing here so both of them held Jesus closer than any of us. But Jesus is having them let go of him and turn to each other. He’s telling his mother “You were a mother to me while I was here but now you are a mother to him.” And he’s telling his disciple, “You served me while I was here but now you will serve her.” He was telling them “Let me go now, and go live out what I am.”

Interestingly, Batman has a very similar interaction with Commissioner Gordon before his sacrifice near the end of The Dark Knight Rises.

Commissioner Gordon: I never cared who you were.
Bruce Wayne: And you were right.
Commissioner Gordon: But shouldn’t the people know the hero who saved them?
Bruce Wayne: A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders, to let him know the world hadn’t ended.

The Resurrection of Jesus serves as a symbol for us, telling us “Anybody can do this. Anyone can do what I do, in bringing God into full expression through love. Even a mother, even a disciple, even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders, to let him know the world hasn’t ended.” We live out the resurrection by bringing God into full expression through acts of love.

And this is what this world needs. We saw that even in the midnight premiere of the Dark Knight Rises with the horrific shooting in Aurora, Colorado. This world needs people willing to live out the resurrection in a radical way, even when there are people who disagree. But Bruce Wayne and Officer Blake address that as well:

Blake: Well, it’s damn good to see him back.
Bruce Wayne: Not everybody agrees.
Blake: They’ll figure that out in the end.

Does The Blood of Jesus Ever Make You Want To Throw Up?


I recently heard someone pray that the blood of Jesus be poured out on everyone who walked into the church and be poured out all over the children. Then they prayed that the blood would overflow from the highest mountain to the lowest valley covering everything in sight. They prayed that blood would pour, flood, flow and overflow. The number of times I heard the word ‘blood’ in the rest of the prayer was astonishing and I was horrified by the end it.

I grew up hearing prayers like this but the graphic imagery of everyone being covered in so much blood from head to toe, practically drowning in it, freaked me out this time. For the first time I actually listened to word ‘blood’ in the prayer and let it actually mean ‘blood’. I then imagined literal blood being poured out on people as they walked in, slipping on blood drenched floors after dropping their kids off in the blood filled pool.

It made me want to throw up.

But since everyone says “Blood of Jesus” none of that imagery usually comes to mind. It’s as if so many people have shifted meanings in their mind and say ‘blood of Jesus’ in prayers when they really mean ‘covering of Jesus’. But they’ve used it in that way so much that they say it without thinking about it.

Where is all this blood coming from?

Of course, the spilt blood we are referring to is the blood that was spilled when Jesus died on the Cross (if not, then we would be saying that Jesus is in Heaven still bleeding away as if he had eternal Hemophilia.)

So. Much. Blood.

The first shedding of blood in the Bible was in Genesis 3. The first man and woman of the story commit their first sin. Their eyes are open to their nakedness and they try to cover themselves with fig leaves. But the fig leaves still couldn’t cover up everything. Something else needed to be done. So in verse 21 God gives them garments made out of the skin of an animal. That animal’s blood was the first blood shed and only then were Adam and Eve fully covered for their sin.

Later in the story, God gives Moses and the Israelites a covenant (or a promise) between him and his people, including a law and a system of sacrificing animals to cover over all of the people’s sins. This system was flawed though because it required people to make sacrifices again and again and again.

So. Much. Nasty. Blood.

Hebrews 9 puts it:

When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Hebrews 9:19-22

This terribly violent and flawed system was all leading up to something greater. Jesus died on that cross to be the last sacrifice to spill the last blood needed to cover over every single sin of every single person. This blood was spilled once and for all. And none of it needs to be poured again.

I tried finding biblical backing for why we should go around “pleading the blood of Jesus” on things and the only thing I found was people pointing to Revelation 12:11:

They triumphed over [Satan]

by the blood of the Lamb

and by the word of their testimony.

This shows that the triumph has occurred through the sacrifice on the cross but what is the word of their testimony? I don’t believe it means proclaiming that Jesus bleeds over and over again when we are in need to triumph over evil. But I do believe the blood of Jesus is powerful for what it did for every single one of us. And every single one of us who has come into a realization of everything that it has done for us have a story. We have a story of what it means to let that blood cover over everything once and for all and live in peace and joy that we no longer need to shed any blood ourselves. And our ‘testimony’ that triumphs is our story of what that blood has done for us in our lives.

And on Good Friday we celebrate this. People made sacrifices and the priests entered into the “Holy of Holies” behind a thick curtain in the temple to cover over the peoples’ sins year after year. But once Jesus’ blood was spilled, the curtain was torn in two, signifying that there no longer needed to be anymore blood.
So I’m grateful for the blood of Jesus signified: cleansing us of our sins. So now, I want to live a life without blood, glad that it has been dealt with. Most blood worship songs are fine because they’re commemorating what it did, long ago, as opposed to asking it to be spilled today, but I ask you all to consider the words you use in your blood prayers this Good Friday. If we are just blindly using cliché phrases then we’re not really saying as much as we want to.

And if you are just using it as a cliché phrase without thinking about what you’re saying then I suggest you put a Band-Aid on your prayers. Happy Holy Week!

Seeing What We Want To See [Part 3]: Biblical Heroes

ImageI’ve been writing about human mirrors lately which are people who come into our lives who we tip and turn to reflect anything we want them to, until we end up seeing whatever we want to see. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. This time I want to talk about Biblical heroes.

People seem to be pretty psyched about this new Bible miniseries on the History Channel. Some more than others. What I found funny was that after the first episode I heard more complaints than anything about it. People complained about it being inaccurate and skipping important stories; which you’re bound to do if you’re going to try to fit the entire Bible in 10 episodes. Ain’t nobody time for that!

But what seemed to make most people uncomfortable is that it “wasn’t how [they] imagined it happening.” Of course the Irish sounding Noah and the British sounding David is bound to take anyone aback who grew up hearing these stories, but every story seemed to leave some of my friends asking “but what about–?”

But of course that’s not the situation for everyone. Others have absolutely loved this series so far. And I think the difference between people who enjoy it and those who don’t enjoy it is not an intelligence difference. I don’t believe the people who really “know” the Bible are the ones criticizing while everyone who only “kind of knows” the Bible are obliviously enjoying it. I think that view is oblivious to something within the critic.

So many Christians grew up believing these Biblical characters were just like them and every time a movie or a TV show like this comes out they’re faced with the harsh reality that these characters are nothing like them.

Some of us grew up in kids’ church being told things like “Be bold like David because he felt how you felt when you were in a similar situation and he overcame it with God!” and “Be faithful like Jonah because he was also in a helpless situation just like you when he was in the giant fish!”

I’m not saying it’s wrong to relate with people in the Bible. I think that’s an amazing and powerful thing to do that really does help us overcome situations. But sometimes words can be twisted and one can grow up reading those stories imagining those people are just like them. Plus, it’s hard to hear someone tell us to be like David or Jonah because David was a prideful adulterer and Jonah was a racist. But that’s also why it’s so easy to assume that they were exactly like us because we are also prideful adulterous racists at times.

But this all causes a problem when we are outside of our personal reading of these stories. When we watch something like the Bible miniseries and we say “I don’t think Abraham was really like that,” I wonder “Really? How do you know; because you’re not like that?”

The problem gets even more serious when we move to the New Testament.

Author and professor, Scot McKnight says on opening day he gives his class on Jesus of Nazareth a standardized psychological test divided into two parts. The first part is about Jesus’ personality and asks questions like “Does he prefer to go his own way rather than act by the rules?” and “Is he a worrier?” The second part asks the same questions, but of the students, so the questions are changed to “Are you a worrier?”

The results are the same every time. The test reveals that we all think Jesus is like us. Introverts think Jesus is introverted and extroverts think Jesus is extroverted. So while a lot of us Christians wish to think that we are becoming more like Jesus, we are sometimes actually working to make Jesus more like us.

And I’ve also found it to be really interesting that even the most liberal and even the most conservative Christian authors I’ve read all seem to think Paul would agree with them, quoting the same Pauline letters differently while calling each other heretics. But as I read more and more of Paul I wonder if Paul would agree with any of us Christians today. My guess is probably not.

Following God isn’t about looking to the past at historical followers and being like them, or even taking your theology and their theology and aligning them together.

What I learned in writing songs and meeting people through it all throughout high school is that everyone who was given a talent was given that talent so that they can make art differently than everyone else that was given a talent. They’re making their own art so your job is to make yours because that is the reason you were given the ability to make it. I believe the same goes for all of our callings. God made each of us unique to follow him the best we can. He made me unique to follow him the best way Damon can, not the best way other Christians can, or even the best way Biblical figures can.

The Bible can definitely serve as a wonderful tool to give us stories of people that we can relate to so we can grow, but the person we are growing into is the person God made us; not a copy of your favorite Biblical hero. Discovering who you are in God is more important than using Biblical figures as human mirrors. You are who are for a unique reason and that reason is so much bigger than idolatry and insecurities.

Feel free to push back on anything because I’m interested in what others think about all of this and I know I’m not hitting everything I could so give me feedback! And I missed the newest episode of the Bible with Jesus in it but it’s okay. I was out with friends. And going outside is better than watching TV…or blogging. Am I right?

Seeing What We Want To See [Part 2]: Summer Finn

In order for this to make more sense watch this clip from 500 Days of Summer from the 0:00 mark to 0:45.

And then skip to 3:03 and watch until the end.  The middle isn’t as important.

Think of the person you had a crush on in Jr. High School. Picture that person in your mind. Remember how they made you feel, why you liked them and what they looked like.

Now, think about how you that view that person today.


I led a small group of friends through Song of Songs last year and told them to go through that memory check and I remember one girl immediately blurted out “Ew!”

Sometimes on one end of love the other person always seems so perfect. And then on the other end of love, you can’t help but ask yourself with your face in your palms, “What was I thinking?”

This series of posts I’m currently writing is about people who we treat as human mirrors. Read the first part here!

We don’t necessarily use them as a human mirror to reflect ourselves all the time but we tip and turn them to reflect anything we want them to, until we end up seeing whatever we want to see.

The next human mirror I want to talk about is a tricky one. Let’s call it Summer Finn. Summer Finn is the love interest in 500 Days of Summer that the protagonist, Tom falls in love with. But as the story progresses the relationship begins to run dry until all they do is argue. Now, all the things Tom loved about her are all the things he hates about her.

Sound familiar to anyone?

Let me say something about love real quick. Peter Rollins describes love like a light in a room. When we are in a room with others we are not thinking about the light but the light is what enables us to see. The light illuminates the people around us so that we can see them, not the light itself.

This is what love does. It does not make itself visible but rather makes others visible to us. Love does not exist but calls others into existence: for to exist means to stand forth from the background, to be brought into the foreground. -Peter Rollins

Perhaps, that is what Tom felt when he fell in love.

After all, from another man’s perspective Summer Finn was nothing special. She was just like all the other girls. She was irrelevant. But Tom’s love for her is what made her relevant. Tom’s love for her is what made her special. It’s what brought her forth from all the other girls. And once the love was gone, he was faced with the horror that she wasn’t as special as his love for her made her out to be. He was faced with the reality that she did have crooked teeth, a 1960’s haircut, knobby knees, a cockroach shaped splotch on her neck, and other annoying qualities.





Every single one of us are weird looking, awkward weirdos. It is only when someone shows love and appreciation for someone that they are brought forth out of the mundane boringness of everyone else; while everyone else is being brought forth by their own loved ones.

Next time you go to the grocery store try to spot all the pictures of people on products. For you, those people are irrelevant and invaluable, but for someone else those people mean the world to them! You’re just as irrelevant as that kid on the Kellog’s box until love brings you forth into existence.

And what I have found is that the people who are most open to this love are the ones who show it. The ones who are desperate for love, the ones who are desperate for another Summer Finn when the other one has gone will have more trouble finding it than anyone else. When one is able to be content with themselves and the relationships they have in the present; that is when one is most open for another relationship. When someone is just trying to fill the void from the last relationship everything just ends up blowing up in everyone’s face. The void must be fully covered up, healed and gotten rid of in the midst finding peace with the lack of Summer Finn. And when a new relationship starts, a new void shall be formed for that person to grow in and fill, not an old gaping void that this new person is completely unfamiliar with. That is unfair.

So if you are dealing with getting over a Summer Finn or are waiting for a Summer Finn, get rid of the idea of Summer Finn! Embrace what is happening in your life right now, with the people in your life right now. Only when you embrace the present and say YES! to what is happening here and now, will you be able to move forward, without the need to put false expectations in human mirrors. And only then will you be open to someone better than Summer Finn.

Seeing What We Want To See [Part 1]: White Rabbit

There was an episode of my favorite TV show, Community where Jeff becomes obsessed with finding out how a carnival working high school drop out named Blade could drive Britta (who he suppresses feelings for after an awkward relationship) crazier than he ever could. Watch a short clip of their conversation above. He spends all night at Blade’s stand playing the shooting gallery obsessed with figuring out his story and keeps falling short. By the end of the night he lets loose on Blade:

“I don’t get it Blade! What’s your secret? Why do I want to impress you? Are you dumb or smart? Are you a loser or winner? Or are you just a human mirror; do we all see what we want to see in you?”

I’m not going to spoil the episode but this idea of people being human mirrors fascinates me.

Sometimes people come into our lives and steal our attention and we put all of our expectations on them to be what we want them to be. This plays out in several different ways and I want to write about a few of them in this next series of posts.

One of these people is the white rabbit.

We all sit at home stalking each other on facebook hoping one of the creepers you just added will one day come to your door like Gandalf asking you to go on an adventure.

It’s interesting how so many of us in 1999 wanted to be Neo from the Matrix so badly and have a woman come to our door to tell us that our life is not the full reality we should be living in, and yet we hate door to door evangelists.

We all look for these mythical figures that apparently live a more intense mode of existence than we do. Some of us even try to be these mythical figures. Others try to put the identity of these mythical figures on simple humans. Humans like Blade; humans like the kids you grew up with that became your nemesis throughout high school.

We have all been on Jeff’s side of the situation while all your friends go to this guy for advice before they go to you, they laugh louder and longer at his less clever jokes, they compliment him more, criticize him less, and like more of his facebook statuses while you’re left saying “I don’t get it! Why are you guys making such a big deal out of him? He’s not even that cool!”

He represents everything you cannot be while for others he represents everything they’ve ever wanted to be. Either way he’s a human mirror that thrives off of everyone’s interpretation of him.

So if that’s true then who is he?

Who is this mysterious figure that seems to control everything and is he actually controlling anything at all?

In the episode of Community it’s revealed that Britta’s attraction to Blade is driven by her own hatred of herself. The idolatry of this figure and the jealousy of this figure seem to both stem from being discontent with our own lives. We only look to people to help us escape reality when we can’t face our own reality. And we also grow envious of these people that others chase after because we can’t face our own reality.

What is that reality?
That reality is that you are responsible for freeing yourself from the Shire. Gandalf is not coming. No one is going to free you from your reality because our responsibility is to face it and embrace it so that we may understand it enough to live in it more peacefully or change it ourselves.

This was more of a free flow of my train of thought but I needed to get this out here. I’m excited to write about more types of people we use as human mirrors in relationships and even storytelling.

The episode of Community ends with Britta getting ready to go to Blade to continue this relationship stemmed from insecurity and hatred of her own self when Jeff interrupts her with a short speech that sums this up quite well:

“No, woman. None of us have to ‘go to’ anyone. And the idea we do is a mental illness we contracted from breath mint commercials and Sandra Bullock. We can’t keep going to each other until we learn to go to ourselves. Stop making our hatred of ourselves someone else’s job and just stop hating ourselves.”