Edging Toward Enchantment: Scooby-Doo and the Journey Toward Disenchantment

You might be unfamiliar with how we'll be using the terms enchantment and disenchantment, as sociological and cultural adjectives.

We're borrowing these terms from Charles Taylor's book A Secular Age.

As Taylor describes early in A Secular Age (p. 29), "the enchanted world [is] the world of spirits, demons [and] moral forces our predecessors acknowledged." Sometimes the enchanted world is called "pre-modern," as in before the Enlightenment and the technological and scientific revolutions that radically remolded the world and our relationship to the cosmos.

The pre-modern, enchanted world was spooky. Filled with occult forces, spirits, spells, superstitions and things that go bump in the night. Ghosts, witches, demons, devils and monsters.

Our "modern" world, by contrast, especially in the West, is experienced as disenchanted. Due to the amazing advances in science and technology over the last 500 years, instead of a spooky, spirit-filled world we've come to view the world mechanistically. The world isn't haunted, it's a machine. In our disenchanted world it's harder to believe in spiritual, supernatural, heavenly or miraculous things. Christians struggling with disenchantment struggle to believe in heaven, hell, the soul, angels, demons, the Devil, miracles, prayer, the supernatural stories in the Bible (like the resurrection of Jesus), and God.

On this blog and in my new book Reviving Old Scratch I like to use Scooby-Doo to describe our 500 year journey in the West from enchantment to disenchantment.

A Scooby-Doo episode starts with enchantment. When Scooby and the gang first come to a town there's a spook or monster plaguing the town. But as the episode progresses the kids get suspicious. They trap the monster to unmask a human criminal. The story that began in enchantment, with a spook, ends in disenchantment, with a human moral agent.

As I described in the last post, this is the same thing that happens when Christianity becomes disenchanted. The frame shifts away from the supernatural toward the moral. Christianity is about being a good person. Conservative Christians have a vision of what this moral personal looks like. Progressive Christians have a different vision of what this moral personal looks like. Regardless, the focus is the same: Christianity is about morality.

As it should and must be. But a thoroughly moralized and disenchanted Christianity raises all sorts of questions. For example: Why do you have to do religious things, like go to church on Sundays, to be a moral person? And if you don't have to believe in God, the Devil, miracles or life after death to practice the Golden Rule then what's the point of believing in any of these things?

Lots of Christians who are struggling with disenchantment don't have any good answers to these questions, and I think that's one of the big reasons so many Christians are drifting toward agnosticism and atheism.

Which makes me think that a thoroughly disenchanted Christianity just isn't sustainable.

At some point, for Christianity to remain vital and energized it has to reconnect with enchantment.

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