Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Lesson of Harry Potter

Much has been made of Harry Potter -- is this a religious story, a Christian story, a pagan story, etc...  The pages of many journals and news magazines have volumes trying to figure this Potter thing out.  If you are looking here for something from me to help in this regard, I will disappoint you.  It is not the Harry Potter story I want to talk about but how different this story is from so much that children have around them.  Their hunger for the books and the movies only shows what kind of things they lack and their hunger for them.

They live in a world filled with temptation and evil, with short cuts and easy paths.  They live in a world filled with disappointments and are easily disillusioned by the failures of those whom they depend upon.  They live in a world filled with loneliness and emptiness and their lives are solitary even with all the techno toys that would appear to keep them connected.  They live in a world filled with the moment and they feel acutely the pressure to fill that moment, to be doing something all the time, to do several things at the same time, lest the moment pass and they have not used it to the fullest.  They live in a world of facts, not fantasy, of play that mirrors real life in often brutal ways (video games).  They live in a world of adults and this adulthood is thrust upon them before they have even learned to be a child, to play as a child, to live carefree as a child.  They live in a world in which families are broken and wounded and these hurts are passed on to the children and multiplied as families divide.

Is it no wonder they might be captivated by a story of selflessness and sacrifice, of love that is truly willing to bear with and bear for the other?  Is it no wonder that they are thrilled with a friendship that lasts for years instead of moments on Facebook, of people who struggle with each other and with themselves but whose ties endure those struggles?  It is no wonder that they yearn for good to triumph over evil, for love and friendship, family and truth to win the day?

There are far worse things that our children could be reading -- I read some of them with my own kids as they made their way through high school summer reading requirements.  They were tiresome, wearisome, sad, lonely, and pointless stories with no happy endings and no prospect of redemption.  Why do we force our children to read such awful things at the very cusp of their entrance into young adulthood?  Why do we rob them of every childish pursuit in order to paint their play in adult themes and brutal terms?  Why do we make the school the place where information is rampant and values scarce (except responsible choice)?  It is not what they want.  They want fancy and imagination, hope and promise, truth and sacrificial love, the triumph of good over evil, and, most of all, the redemption of those who lose their way.

I saw the last Harry Potter movie and I was sad -- not because it was not a good movie -- but because as I passed by all the posters of the movies to come I did not see the likes of Harry Potter to come anytime soon.  I was sad for myself but most of all for those millions of children who wanted such a story so bad that they picked up those rather large books and plowed their way through in search of a place in their imagination where truth, good, sacrifice, and love count.... Ohhhh that we could give them more of this in reality and not simply in the flight of fiction!


Anonymous said...

Aside from the "Classics" that
children read in grade school and
junior high, how about reading the
Bible? There are Bible Story books
for children of all ages in the
elementary grades. Yet by the time
they reach junior high age, they
should have their own Bible.

Christ should be the ONE our children
look up to as their Lord and Savior.

OldSouth said...

Hi, Pastor Peter: Your utterly joyless first commenter completely reinforces the ideas you share with us in your essay.

There be Dementors at large, a number of them sitting in church pews, making certain no one ever think an imaginative thought, or Heaven forbid, enjoy the lives God granted them.

Colleen Oakes said...

My husband, when people ask about Harry Potter, says "Aside from Narnia, you would be hard pressed to find a tale with such Christological implications." Harry's story so mirrors Jesus's, that's its almost impossible NOT to draw that conclusion. In fact, when everyone was up in arms about the books being witchcraft, J.K Rowling refused to speak up and say "I'm a Christian, I go to church every week..." because she knew if she said that that everyone would put together the ending of death and resurrection before the last book. Children's literature has never been as good as it is in Narnia and Harry Potter. You might try The Hunger Games - they are pretty fantastic, albeit a little violent, but have a great message AND a great adventure.

George said...

Well, anonymous #1 gives us an instructive example of completely missing the point of Pr. Peter's post.

Anyway, brilliant post. It encompasses much of what many of the more literary critical blogs on Harry Potter have been saying, not just about Harry Potter but all sorts of good stories like Tolkien & Lewis & others.

Anonymous said...

I think that the Harry Potter series is something of a Christian allegory. In Matt Baglio’s book, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, he has a quote in regard to Satan. I wonder if it could have also been said by Dumbledore about Lord Voldemort: “Love is a metaphysical necessity for created beings since it is only through love that such beings can realize their full potential. And since love not freely given is not really love at all, this means that angels (along with man) needed to have the ability to choose. However, God knew that once he gave this freedom, it could be used for either evil or for good.” “God tested the angels before admitting them to the beautific vision. After their sin, the Angles were immediately stripped of their everlasting grace and condemned to an eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46).” Theologians call this punishment the ‘pain of loss.’ The fallen Angels were cut off from the only source that could have given them happiness – God. In this ‘hell’ the demons are forever tormented and remain obstinate in their hate, a hate that has deformed their very nature.” Lord Voldemort's physical deformity matches his spiritual deformity.