I love the Elijah stories. Part prophet, part wizard, I’m certain that Rowling got her model for Dumbledore from him. For that matter, I wonder if Jezebel, Ahab and Ahaziah might be the source of the evil Malfoy family.
Charles Taylor has argued that we have lost our sense of enchantment, or maybe it’s better put that we have lost our ability to perceive an enchanted world. We no longer live in a world populated by “ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night.” We have purified the air of the “cosmic powers of this present darkness,” and the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” In so doing we have also emasculated and spayed the spiritual presences and forces that have been embedded in the human story for almost ever.
Actually I may have to take that back. All of them live on, just not within the context of liberal theology. Fundamentalists and friends are filled up to here with the reality of the devil and his minions. A few of my fundamentalist acquaintances give the devil so much credit for present evils, and all things they don’t like, that they are able to avoid all responsibility for the ills of this world, including those in their own lives. Various New Age followers wax poetic over the beneficent spiritual presence they find in all things, everywhere, all the time. Slightly more anchored persons opt for a Celtic Spirituality that few Celts would recognize but that encompasses both benevolent and malevolent spirits in moderate proportions that never get too far out of line. The rest of us are entertained not only by Harry Potter but also by all the super heroes that inhabit movie land.
The fundamentalist’s devil absolves humanity from responsibility. New Age thinking tames the spiritual world, confining it to a mildly exciting but not threatening existence. Super heroes separate the world of enchantment from reality altogether and make it a form of fictional entertainment.
Elijah takes the world of spiritual enchantment and plunks it down squarely in the serious business of understanding God’s engagement with humanity and God’s use of humans as agents of his power and presence. Even though intimately involved with God and serving as conduits for God’s power, Elijah, in particular, does not live in a world he can control. Unpredictable discontinuities haunt his life with real threats, famine, thirst, and anxieties great enough to challenge his faith. They are all a part of his existence. Enchantment, it seems, is not magic, and it is especially not magic that can solve the problem of how to maintain a favorable equilibrium in one’s life.
Perhaps we need to discover a new way of understanding the spiritual enchantment of creation, a way that would allow us to seriously engage with in the context of our scientific age just as Elijah did in the context of his age.