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Sep 27

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Lions and Muggles and Hobbits, Should I? Part 4

The fourth installment of our discussion series.

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling:  Is it really that bad?

 

The dreaded Harry Potter discussion, where there seems to be no middle ground.  (If there was a middle ground, would there then be Middles?)  Anyway, let’s get a few things straight about Harry Potter right off the bat, before I introduce (hopefully) a new perspective on the series:

1.  I have never read the Harry Potter series or watched the movies.  I don’t need to know every character or nitty-gritty plot detail to discuss the points I am about to make below.

2.  I have no doubt that J.K. Rowling is a great gal, who has no evil conspiracy to convert all of our children to witchcraft.  She has several children and counts herself as a member of the Church of England.  In various interviews, she has described her faith walk as being very curious about Christianity as a young child, then being more cynical as a teenager, and then being annoyed with the “smugness” of religious people.

J.K. Rowling on whether God exists:

“Yes. I do struggle with it; I couldn’t pretend that I’m not doubt-ridden about a lot of things and that would be one of them but I would say yes.”

J.K. Rowling on believing in an afterlife:

“Yes; I think I do. It’s something that I wrestle with a lot. It preoccupies me a lot, and I think that’s very obvious within the books.”  “I feel very drawn to religion, but at the same time I feel a lot of uncertainty.  I live in a state of spiritual flux. I believe in the permanence of the soul.”

J.K. Rowling on the overall themes of her book:

“My books are largely about death. They open with the death of Harry’s parents. There is Voldemort’s obsession with conquering death and his quest for immortality at any price, the goal of anyone with magic. I so understand why Voldemort wants to conquer death. We’re all frightened of it.”

“A prolonged argument for tolerance, a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry” and that also pass on a message to “question authority and… not assume that the establishment or the press tells you all of the truth.”

3.  I am not going to change your mind on whether or not Harry Potter pulls people towards investigating or practicing witchcraft.  We have had this debate for 10 years, and your mind is probably made up, one way or the other, at this point.  If your are pro-Harry Potter, however, don’t base your opinion on the assumption that witchcraft is purely the stuff of fantasy books, and, therefore, Harry Potter could not possibly draw a reader towards something that does not exist.  Witchcraft, in various forms, is very real and practiced daily around the world.  It doesn’t have the magic wands and brooms of Harry Potter, but it does have many followers of its perceived power.  You would have to ignore a large amount of “dark arts” in the books and movies to not come to the conclusion that Harry Potter either condones witchcraft, or is a gateway to further investigations of real witchcraft.

4.  Yes, Harry Potter contains some good moral themes of loyalty, friendship, and tolerance.  It even has Harry acting as a “Christ figure” at the end, sacrificing himself to save the world and defeat the enemy.  But, as we discussed before, the presence of a Christ figure in a work does not a Christian work make.  It is also clear from Ms. Rowling’s quotes above that she was not intending to create another Christian allegory or myth.

5.  Many people have defended the Harry Potter series by saying that it has caused many non-readers to become avid readers, a significant power in this modern day, “instant messaging” world.  However, many of the same people that use this defense also deny the power of the Harry Potter series to sway readers towards witchcraft.  I am amazed at this contradiction.  Shouldn’t a book which has the power to convert a non-reader into an avid reader (based on its subject matter) also have the power to influence the same reader with that very subject matter?  Things that make you go hmmmm…..

Anyway, let us now examine the Harry Potter universe more closely.  Per Rowlings’s work, the world is divided into several distinct groups.  Apparently, you are born into one of these groups, with no chance to transition from one group to another:

1.  Muggles – a term that has become so familiar that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003.  Basically, a Muggle is a non-magical blood, ordinary person, who has limited or no understanding or appreciation of the secret magical world around them.  The best example of Muggles in Harry Potter are the Dursley family, Harry’s adopted family, who are portrayed as ignorant, boorish people.  According to Ms. Rowling, she created the term from the root word “mug”, which is an English term for an easily fooled person.

2.  Squibs – a term for a person born to magical parents, but without their own magical abilities.

3.  Muggle-born (Mudblood) – a term for a person born with magical abilities, but having non-magical, or Muggle, parents.

4.  Half Blood – a person born with magical abilities, but having one magical and one non-magical parent.

5.  Pure Blood – a person born with magical abilities, and having a totally magical bloodline.

There you have it, the various groups that make up the Harry Potter universe.  Does this remind you of the Hindu caste system?  A category forced on you at birth, without an opportunity for improvement.  This establishment of groups is certainly the foundation for one of the main moral themes of Ms. Rowling’s work – fighting bigotry, the prejudices of one group of the perceived “inabilities” of another group.  The “Harry Potter caste system” is quite different from New Testament Christianity, in which there is “neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.

So where would a practicing Christian fit into the Harry Potter universe?  Most certainly, their rejection of the practice and power of magic would classify them as a Muggle.  The Oxford Dictionary references the Harry Potter classification of Muggle, but it also cites a more informal definition:  “a person who is not conversant with a particular activity or skill”.  I have also heard the term used to describe people who are perceived as “ignorant” or who cling to “old-fashioned” religious ideals, out of fear or tradition.  And this is exactly how many of the non-Christian youth of today view the church.  Harry Potter has given these young people a modern day term to express their feelings on established religion. 

Let us look at today’s church through the eyes of a non-Christian teenager, perhaps visiting on a Sunday morning.  Perhaps, they have never really been in church on a consistent basis.  Maybe they have dabbled in this or that.  Maybe they wear a little Goth makeup.  Maybe they are a Harry Potter fan.  They watch us sing some songs, nod through a sermon, shake a few hands, and go to a restaurant.  If this teenager were to hear one of the church adults speak out on a subject like witchcraft, they would likely not view it as a true moral stand, but as more of a rejection of a secret power that adults do not choose to understand.  A real-life “Muggle”.  An easily fooled person, who does not know what they believe, or have any particular God-given abilities.  (Children and young adults take great delight in having “secrets” or ‘special knowledge” that may go against their authority figures.)  Perhaps this visiting teenager would reject the entire church message, because it seems to have no power and stubbornly clings to man-made tradition, much like the atmosphere Harry Potter lived in before he was “liberated” from his adopted Muggle family.

If only this visiting teenager (and, really, all churches) could grasp the true power of the God of the Bible.  The Bible certainly does not shy away from confronting “magical powers”.  In fact, in every showdown between God’s power and the “powers” of false gods, God wins, whether it be Elijah versus the Baal prophets or the New Testament apostles confronting sorcerers.  God specifically forbids all sorcery, soothsaying, necromancy, etc. in both the Old and New Testament, but he does not forbid their practice out of fear.  Why would God fear powers that are inferior to his own?  (This is why we gladly sing “Our God is an Awesome God….”.)  God forbids these practices because:

1.  They are inferior to his powers as the one true Creator God.  Therefore, they are a waste of time.  Come to God with your needs, concerns, etc.  Which leads to….

2.  When people turn to these practices, they are turning their trust away from God.  God provides strength for each day and does not promise tomorrow.   Think of the efforts made to try to guess tomorrow’s events, through these practices.

3.  These practices attempt to manipulate God’s own order for his creation.  Very often, they strive to worship the Creation over the Creator.

4.  These author of these practices is the author of rebellion itself, Satan.  Satan only has a love of conquest, not a love of Creator or his Creation.  A person that continues down this path will be exposed to increasingly destructive forces.

God does not prohibit these practices (or even the condoning of these practices) out of a fear of breaking with tradition.  He is also not trying to be a killjoy or keep us away from “special knowledge”.  One of his major goals is the protection of our welfare.  Let us look at Ms. Rowling’s quotes about God and Harry Potter once again:

“My books are largely about death. They open with the death of Harry’s parents. There is Voldemort’s obsession with conquering death and his quest for immortality at any price, the goal of anyone with magic. I so understand why Voldemort wants to conquer death. We’re all frightened of it.”

Response:  At any price?  How far would a real person today go down this destructive path to obtain what they are seeking, when the true God has already shown us the path to immortality?  If you truly embrace Christianity, there is no fear of death.

“A prolonged argument for tolerance, a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry” and that also pass on a message to “question authority and… not assume that the establishment or the press tells you all of the truth.”

Response:   I was immediately struck by Chapter 3 of Genesis, in which Satan asked Eve:  “Did God truly say?”  He openly questioned God’s authority.  Then, he accused God of trying to keep “special knowledge” away from Adam and Eve, in an effort to keep them ignorant and powerless.   My, my, Ms. Rowling, where have I heard this before?  Your series seems to be just a rehash of a very ancient conflict portrayed in a another bestseller over 2000 years ago.  And I like the content of its characters and the quality of its ending better than your series.

There is truly nothing new under the sun.

Elijah versus the prophets of Baal

 

The statue “Muggles in Their Rightful Place”

 

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://conversaving.com/2012/09/27/lions-and-muggles-and-hobbits-should-i-part-4/

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