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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter and the (Sometimes) Crazy Christians

So today is opening day for the eagerly-awaited film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I haven't seen it yet but advance word from friends who have is that it's a pretty good movie. I'll probably go check it out this afternoon (and write a review for this blog 'course).

Something that I have found rather intriguing about the Harry Potter phenomenon over the last few years: Where the heck has all the "Christian" opposition to these books gone to? I mean, I remember when the movie of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was coming out, and the local TV news showed these overly-righteous "Bible-beating" types marching outside of a nearby theater about how the Harry Potter books were "evil", "witchcraft" and "leading children astray". I'll never forget this one particularly stern-faced young woman in an outfit like something out of Old Salem (or perhaps olden Salem, Massachusetts) who said she would "never" let her children read Harry Potter.

To which I said to the screen "Fine you hard-hearted ninny, but don't tell the rest of us what to do with ours!"

But nearly eight years later, and all of that alleged "Christian opposition" to Harry Potter has pretty much evaporated.

Well, not completely. At left you see a photo taken yesterday of severe nutcase Rev. Doug Taylor in Lewiston, Maine, as he publicly destroys a hardcover copy of a Harry Potter book.

Look at Taylor's face. Especially look into this man's eyes. Does that truly resemble at all the visage of a person who has the love of Christ, the grace of God, the humility that comes with fully knowing that one's self is not perfect and that we are all struggling in this world? I don't see that. Instead I see something in Doug Taylor that I have seen many more times than I care to count: someone who cannot or will not control his desire to hate others and is willing to use the name of Jesus Christ to excuse that hatred.

Thankfully, Doug Taylor and his Harry Potter-hating kind (including those lunatics from the Jesus Camp documentary and only the better angels of my nature kept me from weighing in on that as fully as I had wished!) have been relegated to the region of laughingstock over the last few years. But... why is that?

Part of the reason is that I cannot help but believe that J.K. Rowling, the authoress of the Harry Potter novels, completely and without apology disarmed the self-righteous wrath against her work with the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final novel of the saga. No one who read that book could take away anything from it other than it, and subsequently the entire Harry Potter series, has carried a brilliant pro-Christian message. Indeed, many have since come to praise the Harry Potter novels as the finest Christian allegorical writing since C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia. What I found especially endearing about the Harry Potter novels is that Rowling not only touched upon, she fully delved into something that has gone missing all too much from not just most children's literature but a lot of Christian fiction as well: how we approach death. The theology of Harry Potter's world is absolutely recognizable as that of the Judeo-Christian tradition, where to cling to life is to ultimately lose it and where there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for his friends.

Now, why does that sound so familiar?

So I think that in some measure, the Harry Potter books themselves have shamed thoughtless opposition into silence.

But mostly, I think that the reason why there is not nearly as much fevered hatred toward the Harry Potter books is that most of these same "Christians" who have publicly shown spite against the books in the past, are now... well, bored with Harry Potter.

And I think that says a lot about what kind of Christians they are, or have been.

I said earlier that Christians like Rev. Doug Taylor desired to hate others and used Christ as an excuse to hate. But that by itself is nothing without a target upon which to fixate and focus that hatred toward. And that's all that the Harry Potter books have been over the years to these people. It has never been about sincere serious theological disagreement with the contents of the books. All that these loons had to hear was "witchcraft and wizardry" and that was enough reason to rail against these books until they were (often literally) hoarse with screaming.

But as the Harry Potter books have passed from fad into defining literature of the current Zeitgeist, these same Christians have also lost interest. They now have bigger and better enemies to latch their hatred onto: Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Sonia Sotomayor, Democrats in general, whatever. One Baptist minister in California is now even publicly praying not just for the death but for the eternal damnation of Obama.

That's why Harry Potter has fallen out of hate-filled vogue. Why would anyone want to pick on a fictional teen wizard when they can just as easily - and with even more intoxicating wrath - hate and seek to destroy a President of the United States?

Do these people have any idea not just how silly they look, but how much they are turning others around them away from Christ?

As a follower of Christ, I have come to understand how it is that we, as one minister wisely told me years ago, are supposed to be "in this world but not of this world". We are called not only to be missionaries of His word, but also ambassadors for His kingdom. And that does mean an active and passionate abandoning the lust for the powers and institutions of this carnal realm.

It's not Harry Potter or Barack Obama that is causing grievous damage to the world around us. No amount of book burning or lobbying or legislation is going to heal the land, or provide it what it really needs.

What this world needs more than anything is for those who profess to have Christ to start living for Him... for His sake, not for our own.


Slore said...

You won't saying it so I will. Johnny Robertson could never write this beautifully and intelligently.

Your mind and your words are anointed and God IS using you in a mighty way.

Anonymous said...

"Your mind and your words are anointed and God IS using you in a mighty way."

I agree.

Anonymous said...

Went to a midnight showing last night, and it was just okay. I'm a big fan of the books and the movies, but this one didn't thrill me. Maybe it was because it was after midnight...

Jenna St. Hilaire said...

Did you catch the WorldNetDaily article the other day that basically linked the message of the books with the Harry Potter Alliance's political platform? (Don't EVEN get me started on that ...)

No fear. John Granger just posted a fabulous article for the HPA's "What Would Dumbledore Do?" campaign. The article gives both Christians and the HPA something to think about regarding the way we promote the things we believe in.

It's not so far in principle from what you posted here, so I thought you might enjoy it. :)

Anonymous said...

Doug Taylor looks like a mad dog that needs to be put down.

Scoke said...

I guess I'll go ahead and confess here.

I hate Harry Potter. And I'm a Christian.

But I'm hating it because of the mediocre writing style of J.K. Rowling along with the cheap shots she gave her fandom after the book series was over. I read the first book years ago when I was the age range that the book was geared towards, and I thought it was incredibly boring. And no, I haven't read the rest of them, even though everyone says that they get better as they go along. Sorry, but if the first book doesn't catch my interest, I'm not going to read more about the drab characters and please the rabid fans when I get into book discussions.


But seriously, good post. I enjoyed reading this.

Matt said...

@ Scott K, as a fellow brother in Christ, I respect you're honest opinion. I always found the books amazing, but the best critic is always yourself.