The evangelical christian mindset is, despite all of its protests to the contrary, deeply magical. Mystical and fantasist, it’s a worldview that requires a constant concept of the magical, both as a power god extends to you and an ever-present foe. Every day you are surrounded with the never-ending intercession of God into your reality, with some perspectives believing that God is literally the force of the laws of physics themselves, and that every lapse of judgment or timing or memory is a byproduct of god interceding in reality on your behalf. No evidence is too thin, no result too minor, for the Evangelical Christian to not think, in the social pressure cooker of trying to find a miracle to talk about, that hey, this’ll do.
This is why Evangelical Christians can seem so unreasonable. You can’t convince people of things if their actual literal world view of things that really exist includes fucking mind-reading magic. Today as I read this, a major Evangelical Christian voice with political power and authority argued that the church itself was corrupted, because people in that church were too nice to immigrants. What other people said they were doing, and the reasons they said they were doing them, isn’t important, because what they really mean is…
It doesn’t matter what they are. It doesn’t matter what they say. The Evangelical Christian, the Fundie, because that’s what I’m talking about, the useful all-purpose ideology of Fundie-ness that isn’t actually about a truly fundamental understanding of the faith, but just a good brick term to rest on people as a sort of controlling weight, that particular type of person has the primacy of intention, they get to tell the whole universe this is how you are, and anyone else who happens to live in that universe is a passenger to their expectations.
And this simplistic relationship to a universe is a mindset that involves looking at the world around you in terms of very simple polarising rules that make it easy to discard all the complexities that make your positions obviously untenable. Things are good or evil and that’s pretty much it. This works really well when you also think of the world as literally magical.
This shows up in how they criticise things too! Evolution is an agonisingly slow process that requires a consideration of step after step of the tiniest changes across the lifespans of large populations, but when Fundies talk about it, they have to simplify it to be about a fish suddenly becoming a frog, or a rock coming to life. And of course, this position still betrays magical thinking: Remember, theirs is a worldview of Biblical history where a bunch of things happen by magic. Adam was made out of dirt by god, then told to be alive, a literal formation of a rock coming to life. Moses used magical rituals to summon water and cause the plagues, but very pointedly, these magical acts are treated as not-magic, because the Fundie mindset wants to call them ‘miracles.’
The difference is like an edition war with D&D nerds.
When magic is part of your worldview, it solves all sorts of things! Atheists are surrounded by malingering spirits, crimes are being done by people for magical power, and the mass media’s control of and influence over huge groups of people cannot possibly be because they like them, it has to be due to actual magic. Pop stars, we could say, have all done pacts with Satan, and the proof was because they were pop stars! The power and presence they had in the world could not possibly be fairly obtained, because they did not represent our world view (which was correct) and that means that we had to be able to determine an insight into them that could be trusted more than mere proof or facts.
This is also why we didn’t have much footing in politics, by the way. Anyone who sought political power, even if they thought they were good Christians, we couldn’t trust them, because any given political figure wasn’t a good Christian because you could only have political power through magic.
You might think I’m being uncharitable about this, about pointing out the huge range of ways that Fundies believe that ‘aren’t really magic’ that I am reducing to call magic. But that’s what they are! If you stop calling them miracles or or provenance or intercessions or prayers or resolutions and you look at what they are – hey, can the laws of reality suspend themselves for a bit? – there’s no way to consider them as anything but magic that the people in question have filed all the numbers off.
Thing is, it’s not just people who can be magical. It’s the things themselves. A curse word said in an empty field is itself, magically harmful to the speaker (it’s not that which goes into a man, but that which comes out). Clothing is harmful not because of how it encourages people to act, it’s harmful because the clothing is evil. And oh, bodies, bodies are dreadfully evil, bodies are capable of being sinful and corrupted, and you can tell they are because people like to look at them.
Cards and dice are evil, too. I used to think it was just the bubble of time in my upbringing where those things got special treatment. When there’s a joke about something in the Simpsons it’s not cutting-edge media. Then I found out it’s still going on now, and that back in the 1800s, a bunch of domino games were invented by kids who liked playing cards but couldn’t play cards because the cards were being taken away and burned by parents, because the cards were evil.
Oh, sure, the act of gambling is dangerous because of the ways it can encourage and incentivise violent behaviour. If you don’t have the resources to regulate gambling in a way that’s fair and where people who lose aren’t likely to get violent and people who win aren’t going to need to protect themselves with violence, it’s totally reasonable to say ‘we can’t have that here.’ But that’s complex! That’s a relationship!
It’s way easier to just say the cards are evil. The dice are evil. The dominos are evil.
They can do tarot! They can predict the future!
There is magic in these cards, and magic in these words, and the world you live in is a world haunted with dangerous, terrible curses.