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Author G P Taylor
Defending the faith: G P Taylor

Meet the vicar who's 'Hotter than Potter'

Popular with Jews, Christians and Muslims, Reverend GP Taylor's Shadowmancer has become a best seller. So how has a Vicar managed to write a book featuring God that's so universally accepted?

Shadowmancer by G P Taylor, a parish priest from near Scarborough, was released in June 2003 with a launch date that clashed with the latest of J K Rowling's Harry Potter books.

Despite many comparisons to the tales of a certain young wizard, Shadowmancer is quite different as Graham Taylor is quick to point out:

"Shadowmancer is in a completely different genre. What I think people were comparing was the phenomenon. Why should two childrens' books create such a stir? Usually a good childrens' book will sell 5,000 a year. After three months my book sold 250,000. It's outselling everyone apart from J K Rowling, and we don't know why."

It might be expected that a Church of England Priest would write a Christian book. But Shadowmancer has been well received by Muslims and Christians alike.

"I didn't set out to write a Christian book, and it's not a Christian book, it's a book that deals with eternal images of faith. A lot of my readers are Muslims, and a number are Jews. Three Muslim guys turned up at the door asking me to sign their books.

"It appeals to them because the main character is black, he's from Ethiopia and they said to me "He's a Muslim, we know he's a Muslim Mr Taylor". So they look at the book from a Muslim perspective.

"The Christians read it and think "It's a book about God", the Jews read it and think "It's a book about Yahweh", really it's a monotheistic book with themes of good and evil that are familiar to all the major religions.

"The only people who hate it are the pagans. Something appeared on a website in America that said I was the biggest threat to witchcraft in the world and that my book had to be brought down."

Defending the faith

God doesn't feature in the majority of children's literature, with some notable exceptions. The most recent of these is Philip Pullman's trilogy 'His Dark Materials'. However, far from being positive, Pullman implies God is a liar and, rather than being the creator, is a created being.

Graham Taylor admits to being frustrated that this view wasn't being challenged.

"There was no-one to stand up on behalf of the Muslims, the Jews and the Christians (because we share the same God) and say "Our God is not like this".

"I wanted kids to see a God who was active, who was alive and was prepared to fight. And the angels in the book are not standard angels. My angels are how they appear in Hebrew and in the Koran, they're big frightening guys.

More powerful than magic

"In the new book there's a scene where an angel is being pestered by this guy. The heroine says "Are you going to use magic against him?" He replies "No I'm going to use something far more powerful than magic", he grabs him by the throat and smacks him in the face.

"To me that's what angels are like and I know that Muslims and Jews will read it and think "Yeah, these are angels!", not little cherubs. I wanted to make God really positive and reflect how he really is in my belief, and the belief of thousands of Jews, Christians and Muslims."

When the Harry Potter books were released there outcry from some Christian groups who claim the books would lead children into witchcraft. Some have questioned whether stories have that kind of power, but it's something Graham Taylor is careful not to underestimate.

"I think writers have to be very responsible about what they write. If it wasn't true that books like Harry Potter, Philip Pullman's work, Buffy the Vampire Slayer weren't leading children to the occult, why did the Pagan federation appoint a youth officer to deal with all the inquires from children who wanted to become witches?

"It's because any book sparks an interest in a particular lifestyle. Harry Potter actually has very little to do with magic or witchcraft. The magic is the kind of thing you'd see at a childrens' party. None of the spells would work.

"But look in the Buffy books or in some other witch books out at the moment and some of it is genuine stuff. A lot of the pagan stuff in my book is genuine material. Part of Demural's prayer to invoke the sea is taken from the witches' rite of invocation. So people can find far more stuff in my book than in Harry Potter. When it's released in America it's going to be very interesting."

Balance of light and dark

Shadowmancer is a dark book that manages to conjure some quite frightening images while remaining overwhelmingly positive, and this may be one of the reasons for its success.

"We have to remember that kids don't want to be preached down to, and they don't want to read stuff that's diluted. The only comment I've had is "Mr Taylor, please can we have more scary"."

By far the biggest criticism levelled at the book is that it was written to promote the Christian agenda, something that Graham Taylor rejects. He argues it's an adventure story where the hero chooses to use something other than magic or violence to fight.

"Harry potter uses magic to fight magic. Philip Pullman uses negative forces to fight negativity. I use positive forces to destroy negativity.

"Basically my books are thrillers where God is there. It's like normal life. About 90% of the population may not express a religious view or preference but when push comes to shove, ask them if they believe in God and they'll tell you they believe in something.

"God is very much in the background of many people's lives but every so often he bursts through. That's what Shadowmancer is about. Real lives with a real god who can do real things."

"I think the Church has lost the plot in many ways. We're a bit like the Conservative Party, so busy fighting amongst ourselves that we're forgotten why we're here.

"I'm one of the most traditional priests there is but we've got to start looking outwards and finding out what people want.

"Say 'vicar' and people think "he's a boring fat old git", because we've sold that image for too long, and we've got to get out of it. God is good, he's fantastic, he's out there and he wants to have a relationship with us.

"God is a god of the real world. He's not a God of the pious church or York Minster. But God is of the garden, he's of the shed, the front room and the pub.

"Where would Jesus be today? He'd be in the pub, he'd be at the nightclub, he'd be having a party. He'd be saying look you can find God and you don't have to be really religious. That's where we're going wrong - kids are being put off and it's frightening.

last updated: 12/10/05
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Helen M Sant
Mr Taylor's book may be loved by Christians and Muslims but it is detested by Pagans for its complete prejudice and inaccurate portrayal of this nature religion. In his book Mr Taylor compares the Mother Goddess or divine feminine to the devil. His writing is damaging and dangerous particularly since it is aimed at children. If he had put such blasphemy in a Muslim context he would have a lot of trouble on his doorstep. Instead he uses his book to attack Pagans and being peace loving folk, they just have to lump it despite living in a multi-faith society.

Interesting article. Nice to see agreement between Muslims, Christians and Jewish people on something that offers common ground. These groups often fail to see just how much they have in common in terms of beliefs/theology. After all, Islam, Christianity and Judaism are all Abrahamic faiths, a fact which is all too often ignored and over-looked by some ignorant zealots who seek to create discord and hatred between people of the three Abrahamic religions through their ignorance and unjustified hostility towards people of other faiths without ever bothering to find out what they really stand for.

Evangelist Brighton
if muslims accepted the book then its no Christian book.For darkness and light can never have fellowship one with another.If the writer was not potraying Christ,cruficied in the hearts of the readers then he wrote "another gospel" and "a pervesion" of the true gospel (Galatians 3).That means he (the writer) is accursed as Apostle Paul would say.

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