Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter

I love the Harry Potter books. I have since the first one came out all these many years ago. From the very beginning I have differed strongly with the shallow perspective of many Christians concerning these books. In my previous life as the associate pastor of an evangelical church, I kept my opinion mostly to myself. However, I no longer have this constraint, so I thought I would take a minute to reflect on the issue.

I was one of the millions who stood in line at midnight to get a copy of the 7th book. I knew that I could have just slept in and gotten one the next day. I didn't even start reading it until I awoke the next morning. I just wanted to be a part of the fun of the final book. I met 5 or 6 really interesting people in line; one of the young ladies in out little group won the door prize of a signed poster and we all rejoiced with her. I think that is one of the nice things about the books - the heroes are unquestionably the good guys, and the bad guys are unquestionably evil - so there are not a lot of ambiguous fans. Everyone roots for the good guys. It's a huge club.

Since then, I have read two very different articles about the series, both by conservative Christians. One, in the online journal, is a wondrous example of the silly, shallow stupidity spouted by Christians who don't bother to think beyond the surface. Nearly nothing the "evangelist" Tim Todd says about the books is inaccurate, yet he is viewed as credible by many. He makes statements about J. K. Rowling without any corroboration, and rather than quoting her, he makes vague references to things she is reported to have said. All in all, it was embarrassing; but even worse, I am fairly certain that Mr. Todd is not, and will never be, embarrassed. And worst of all, there are probably many people who read his writings or hear him speak and accept what he says as authoritative without ever bothering to check his credentials.

The other article, by La Shawn Barber in, (do not read her article if you have not read the final book, to say it has spoilers is a MASSIVE understatement) is none of these things. Ms Barber is a fan, and she see the positive qualities in the stories for what they are. There is no superstitious fear of a book because "magic" is the underlying plot device; rather, Ms. Barber points out the power of the common themes of sacrificial love, true friendship and rebirth. These are themes that resonate with humans because they are the themes on which our fallen world is now built. The final resolution of history will come from the sacrificial gift of the One who created it. Men and women are destined for a glorious rebirth because of that sacrifice. And while the Potter books do not use these themes for religious reasons, the themes are nonetheless there, and believers can find much that recalls for them the truths in which we place our hope.

Finishing the final book was horribly bittersweet. I will greatly miss Harry, Ron, Hermione, Hagrid and Dumbledore. I have looked forward to each new adventure, and have loved sharing them with my boys. If you haven't had the opportunity, or have been afraid, go find a used copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and read it. Or, if you haven't the patience, watch the movie. These are stories that reflect the Great Story told by the Greatest Storyteller of all.

My children recently asked me if I thought God liked the movie Evan Almighty (we all did), and I told them I thought He probably did. I'm pretty sure He likes the Potter books as well.

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