This is about magic in books versus Christianity in books.
|Blasphemous or awesome?|
All I know is, I'd totally buy
this if it came as a t-shirt.
But it's a decorative plate.
So when I find a fantasy that includes a Christian official as a one-dimensional badguy, I get a little disgruntled. Even if a second religious official is sympathetic to magical powers or beings, it's usually an all-encompassing acceptance, which is stupid and any sensible Christian would agree. Just because a religious official doesn't want to burn someone for witchcraft when they show magical powers does not mean he or she will be entirely comfortable or even accepting of the situation. In fact, I'm pretty sure it would freak them out. These are humans you're designing, not puppets, and something like fantasy meeting traditional Catholicism (which is the most common choice) would very easily cause conflicting feelings in a religious character who isn't a monster.
I've see religious officials in fantasies being used as easy scapegoatable villains, and I've seen them being used as just corrupt people who happen to have religious affiliations. (Guess which I prefer.)
Making a religious badguy is all about the execution. Dragon's Bait by Vivian Vande Velde is one of my favorite books. The main character is accused of witchcraft and set up to be eaten by a dragon. The antagonist works for the church, but he's clearly a corrupt guy playing political games for profit. He's not evil because of religion, he's evil because he's a crappy person.
Child of Faerie, Child of Earth by Josepha Sherman is the book that made me cranky about this issue; it's about a girl who falls in love with a fairy (sorry, "faerie") prince and one of the human religious officials is an over-the-top jerkface whose whole purpose in the book is to see her downfall because consorting with fairies is evil. (To be fair, I read it as a teenager and wrote a slightly horrified review on Amazon that got downgraded because apparently people just want to get their fairie tales on without thinking about them. So I'm sure I don't have all the details perfect.)
Anyway, as I've said before, I don't appreciate nut-jobs being toted as examples of my religious community, and I think Sherman did a sloppy job that resulted in "Unfortunate Implications of the religious variety." If you think I'm wrong and need to read the book again, I don't mind, but I remember thinking these things after I'd just finished it.
Most of the time, I think these Implications come out of a writer who just slaps religious figures thoughtlessly into a badguy role because they need a badguy and religious nuts make good badguys; this can be compounded by a writer who lacks realistic knowledge of the religion they're portraying.
My husband's best friend is a law student and can't watch legal dramas because of all the details they get wrong. My husband is the same way with TV shows that use computers (and thus loves "IT Crowd," which is spot-on). So I tend to sigh when book or TV writers try to make a Christian character but clearly get their information secondhand. (This is even worse if the character is supposed to be "deep" but totes only surface-level beliefs.)
The Christian in me isn't as upset about all this as the writer in me. It's one thing to not understand a faith that isn't your own. It's another to present a one-dimensional character and call yourself a professional.