During our holidays, my oldest, Nate, went out early one morning with his grandpa and picked up the newest, and last, Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”. Consider yourself completely unplugged from culture if you didn’t already know the title of that book or at least familiar with the name, Harry Potter.
Nathan and I go way back with Harry. When Harry first came out, the crowd I ran with strongly encouraged me to have nothing to do with this evil little creation that would lead countless children into the paths of witchcraft and sorcery. This kind of encouragement naturally guaranteed that I would be reading the book. I have found within modern Christianity that anything that people come out so strongly against, particularly when they clearly haven’t read it, seen it or talked with it/him/her, must be worth some time. A few years ago when the elusive Donna and I were home on a visit I asked my mom to tell me what church in town she’d heard terrible things about or weird rumours concerning. These places may not be a place I’d call home but they are at least some place where something is happening, where things are interesting and you feel it was worth spending some time there. This is how we’ve landed at some bizarre places we still talk about and some very cool places we can’t stop going back to.
Harry, and his world, has been a very cool place for us to keep going back to.
Nate was very young when the first book came out 10 years ago. When it comes to books my policy is generally inspired by Marth Stewart: if they WANT to read, that’s a good thing. Nate wanted to read Harry so that took me to step 2 in my policy which is: they get to read it. (yes, of course there are exceptions that include the Kama Sutra and Harlequin Romances) Because, in this case, there had been so much negative stuff being said and I do believe that what we put inside of us can change us or at least affect us (else why read at all?) I read it first and then after he read it he and I could talk about it. So I did and then we did.
I was hardly into the book when I started murmuring to myself, “this is Christian fiction…” I thought the comparison to Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia was unfortunate and unfair by the publisher and promoters. It wasn’t like the Chronicles at all which are also favourites ours. But it was good. Good in both style and substance. Here was a story that had magic and sorcery for sure and it was all happening in a world very much like ours but clearly NOT our world. Harry’s whole story, and it’s surely not a spoiler by now, begins with the sacrificial death of his mother to save Harry, a baby at the time, from certain death at the hands of evil Voldemort. As I read I kept thinking, “this is like the ‘deeper magic’ at the Stone Table” that Aslan explained to the children the White Witch did not and could not understand because it was based on the power of self-less love, something she knew nothing about. And as I read the book and saw this theme over and over and over and many other Christian themes like redemption, judgment, forgiveness and faith, I was frustrated and confused how friends of mine and intelligent people of faith were speaking and writing about Harry and J.K. Rowling like they were evil and bent on leading others into evil.
I’ve heard speakers go on for nearly an hour in a meeting of hundreds of people telling everyone specifics about the Potter books and how evil it all was. Nearly always they were wrong in the facts. Most often they would quote a statement in the book but then fail to point out it was a quote from an evil character. It was like having someone quote the devil from the garden of Eden in Genesis and say, “See, the Bible says we surely won’t die for eating something we’ve been told will poison us.” Sometimes the would talk about the “magic spells” in the Potter books being ‘real spells’ when they are very clearly just clever plays on words that children might not get but literate adults really should recognize. Other times they would point out how Harry was disobedient but the roof didn’t collapse on him for being insolent and that can’t possibly be good for our kids to find that out. Character development was a notion completley lost on these folks somehow.
Once, an internet spoof appeared and sadly it was picked up as fact by many Christians and re-broadcast as the ‘truth about Harry Potter’ when it had never been true or meant to be taken seriously.
Now it’s done. The last book is out and Nate and I both finished it on our holidays. What an outstanding end to an extraordinary series.
I’ve got more to say but this is a blog and not supposed to be so long so let me get to it.
J.K. Rowling, please forgive me for not speaking up more when I knew better. Jesus calls his followers to stand up for truth wherever we see it, bookstores, art galleries, city halls or church buildings and I know I let you down, more than that, I let truth down and in some way let Jesus down.
J.K. Rowling, thank you for a beautiful story that will help many people believe that the greatest, strongest and best magic is the power of unconditional love. That the powers of darkness have nothing in their arsenal, real or arcane, that can overcome the power of a heart that loves and is willing to die for those they love. Forgive us, we self-confessed billboards of that kind of love for not showing it to you. I can be a jerk.
No, J.K. doesn’t read this, but I just needed to get that out there today. And yes, I do feel better.