Tuesday, July 19
What About Harry?
He's a wildly lauded pop-culture phenomenon. He's bigger than anything since the iPod Shuffle. Even Hollywood blockbusters have a hard time keeping pace with his box office booty. He's enmeshed in a world of wizzards and magic and evil sorcerers. Can he possibly be good? I mean really! On the face of it, isn't it obvious that Harry Potter--to say nothing of the craze that swirls about him--has to be dangerous, dispicable, and desultory from a Christian worldview perspective?
Well, not necessarily. In fact, according to Jerram Barrs, the J.K. Rowling novels featuring Harry Potter may actually be all they are cracked up to be--and more. In his latest Christian Counter-Culture essay from the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, this renowned professor of apologetics and evangelism makes a powerful case for Harry, Hogwarts, and Hermoine. If it seems more than a little paradoxical to you that a thoughtful Reformed theologian would be wild about Harry but wouldn't even think of touching the Left Behind novels--much less actually reading them--then you probably ought to read this!
For a totally contrarian view, my friend Doug Phillips, raises grave concerns at his Vision Forum site about the themes of sorcery in the Potter books. Be sure to read the whole essay carefully--Doug artfully uses sarcasm to make his point.
After you have read the to-and-fro and pillar-to-post discussions that Barrs and Phillips have launched, you may still find yourself wondering what a Christian ought to think about Harry and Hogwarts. If you've made it this far into the discussion then you may want to try to go further by tackling John Granger's book, Finding God in Harry Potter. I have found it to be the most thoroughly informed work--from both a theological and a literary perspective--on the subject thus far.
But, one thing is clear: this is not a simple debate--it is fraught with the complexities of language, definition, literary form, thematic purpose, and cultural differences (remember that Rowling is a European not an American, so the metaphysical terminology she uses may rankle the average Evangelical unfamiliar with the Medieval traditions and forms she borrows from the fairy tales, myths, and legends of continental Christendom). Thus, this not a debate that will be won or lost with simple sloganeering, however impassioned or emphatic.