Monday, July 13, 2009

Regarding Harry Potter

This week, the 6th movie in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, will hit theaters nationwide, and it is eagerly anticipated by casual viewers and die hard fans alike. When the Harry Potter phenomenon occurred, like so many of my counterparts, I immediately dismissed the boy wizard and proclaimed his blatant danger to the world. Once, I even supported a Harry Potter book burning party. That was my position for years.

That changed a couple of years ago. A friend of mine heard me lambast the series and challenged me with words along the line of: “Have you actually read the books that you so readily condemn?” Well, I had to answer honestly. No, I had not. So, while we were taking a road trip from New Mexico to San Diego, we bought the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which my wife read aloud as we drove. For several hundred miles, I braced myself to re-enforce my hatred for all things evil, only I had trouble doing so. Instead of the dark, evil sorcery that I imagined, I discovered a young man who was abused as a child, who had loyal, deserving friends, who willingly stood up for good virtues—even at great personal cost, and who openly defied evil. I found a boy who was a bit awkward and rather ordinary, who was thrust into being a hero simply because someone had to do it.

I was quick to note that the magic that existed in Harry’s world was not a result of summoning evil powers nor was it occultic by nature. Rather, it was the normal way of life for this fictional reality. I had to equate it to reading my kids fairy tales that taught a moral, or to the Chronicles of Narnia. The characters never once sought Satan for power; they simply had an ability to perform acts that ordinary people didn’t. Now, please note that I’m not endorsing the exploration of magic or magical things, but I am allowing for a distinction between Harry Potter’s world and the overt witchcraft of our reality.

What Harry’s creator, J.K. Rowling, has done, is create a world where obvious good and blatant evil exist—and the two are not mutually compatible. Rowling endorses the virtue of love, parenting, friendship, loyalty, doing the right thing, and seeking the best in people. All the while, she condemns evil and the fruits thereof. She even paints a picture that those who practice evil are known as “Death Eaters.”

Rowling does lean toward a humanistic approach when she allows that Harry has the capacity for love from within himself. The Biblical Worldview holds that we have the ability to love because God first loved us. However, Rowling never attempts to undermine traditional Judeo-Christian ethics, nor does she cast a shadow over Christianity. In fact, she politely observes the celebration of Christmas and allows references to sin as a bad element. She does not endorse Christianity, nor does she attack it. It is a neutral topic.

To me, the Harry Potter story is immensely important. It chronicles the suffering and destruction that occurs when one’s heart is evil, and it demonstrates how that evil oppresses the good. It demonstrates how evil triumphs when good men do nothing to stop it, content to ignore it for the moment. It also accounts that good will overcome evil, it only needs an ordinary man to take a stand. While it may be true that the story line grows darker with each installment, it should be recognized that the story becomes more desperate for relief from oppression.

The character of Harry Potter is a flawed boy who struggles with all the things other ordinary boys face. He is frightened by things that any rational person would be frightened by. He has a gracious and forgiving heart, and he struggles with forgiving those who seek to hurt him. Rowling does a remarkable job of making him an ordinary boy.

Now, I’m raising an ordinary boy in my own home. He is bombarded with anti-American influences, anti-Christian influences, and anti-family influences. If he can find inspiration through the courage displayed by Harry Potter, then I think he will be better off for it. In truth, I’d rather my son be influenced by Harry Potter than by Bart Simpson or Dennis Rodman. Except for the lack of Christian references, Harry Potter reflects many of the character values I hold dear. I can work with my son over the harmless spells and magical references in the story line. In fact, I openly welcome those conversations, for it gives me yet another avenue to re-instill my own Biblical Worldview into his life. I’ll readily embrace that, Biblically speaking, to participate in the world of witchcraft brings death rather than a fuller life (1 Sam. 28:6-18, Is. 8:19 and 47:12-14). That's more than enough reason for my family to watch the movies together and use them as a teaching tool, rather than hide from them hoping they go away.


Lauryn Abbott said...

Very interesting post. I too have criticized the series without reading the books - though I formed my opinion while watching an interview with the author. Your post may make me consider reading them myself. Thanks for your insight! Blessings!

gzusfreek said...

Bravo, Travis!!! I agree. I feel harry's fight against evil for good inspires us all. His inspiration is family and friends and his superpowers are fueled by love.
I totally think you did a great job with this, Travis. . .

May I route people here? May I put a post up spotlighting this????

You are the best!

Travis said...

I would be honored. Thanks!

What hindereth thee?

Anne L.B. said...

Travis, I think this post was the very best writing I've ever seen you do. You're a marvelous storyteller, but I just have to wonder if that's your first calling. (Am I meddling? Sorry. Just don't quit writing stuff like this!)

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

That'll preach. Well written and I think it's important in a story to tell the truth about the character in the world they're presented with.

Clicked on ya from another blog and glad I did!

Travis said...

Anne, thanks for the encouragement. Your words mean a lot to me.

I'm pleased you stopped by. Come again anytime!

Amy Deardon said...

thank you for such a thoughtful post. I love the Harry Potter series, although strongly believe they are for adults, not children (parts are pretty scary, especially the Goblet of Fire and beyond, and also the emphasis on spells). The last book has strong Christian echoes. All the books have clearly drawn good and evil. That being said, they are not *Christian* or even Christian-like, since redemption comes from within the self. But for me, I enjoy reading them for fun. Movies aren't nearly as good!

Travis said...

It is good to see you again. And yes, I do agree that Harry Potter is not a young kids kind of story. I think it is an excellent teaching tool for parents to get involved with their young adults and help them work through the issues involved. As I've always said, Christians need to engage the culture, not run and hide from it. Let's use these stories to point to Christ, not condemn a writer who doesn't. Well, enough said.

Alison Bryant said...

I was going to share my thoughts, but since you said it's 'nuf said, I'll keep them to myself. Are y'all going to see the new movie?

Travis said...

Alison, I learned a new word the other day that might apply to your comment. Ahem, "You are a grief bird."

Yes, we will take the kids to see the movie. They are so excited they can hardly stand it. If I can find a matinee at the right time, that is. I refuse to pay regular hours prices, but that is another blog for another day.

Alison Bryant said...

Hmm. Do tell...where did you learn that? You make me sound almost coxcombic.

I'm sure the kids will enjoy it. Maybe you'll be tempted to pay evening movie prices this winter so you can get away from watching the Olympics.

gzusfreek said...

Travis, I am going to post a link to your post Regarding Harry Potter this week. . .can you update my blog address???? I changed it:

I truly like how you said this and what you said!

Kat Heckenbach said...

I'd like to point out a book that addresses the Christian messages in Harry Potter. It's called "Looking for God in Harry Potter" by John Granger. It illuminates the Christian symbolism and allegory in the books. He, too, had bashed them without reading them, but when he finally did read them, he embraced them whole-heartedly. I love this book because I've been fighting FOR Harry Potter books for years--I saw the Christian messages as early as the first book.

Travis said...

Thanks for your feedback. It helps to know that I'm not the only one!

Anonymous said...

Not much to say about Harry Potter, just wanted to make a comment on your view of the use of weed,. I have used weed for over 20 years and my wife Elizabeth Kristein Leech has also used weed and cocaine, for probably 10 years. Whats your feeling on that subject?? I am in school, doing a dual major in network security and networking. The weed helps sleep, appetite, and depression. Now I don't know what the cocaine did for my wife, you will have to ask her.. Well later on...

Travis said...

Mr. Leech,

Thank you for writing and asking me this question. I appreciate you taking time to review my blog.

I have a few thoughts about drug usage. First, the United States has declared "weed", AKA Marijuana, to be a harmful, addictive element, and therefore a controlled substance. Therefore, I have abstained from any usage thereof.

Personally, I see marijuana as a gateway drug. All too often, people who use weed tend to progress toward heavier narcotics. Seldom do users define themselves to smoking weed alone. As in the case of your wife, who also used cocaine. Just as teens who sneak a cigarette from their mother’s purse tend to use drugs later in life, people who smoke marijuana tend to progress to harder drugs. I suppose it’s a desensitization process.

While many people have projected that there is no harm in marijuana, it has proven to be harmful to the bronchial passages, suppresses the immune system, it can accelerate the progression of HIV to AIDS, and increase the occurrence of Kaposi’s sarcoma. It seems as though the use of marijuana actually contributes to the dangers of diseases. Admittedly, the research is not complete for a full report on this topic.

Most alarming to me, long term use can lead to addiction. THC is the chemical that causes some marijuana smokers to develop “tolerance” to its effects and crave more of the drug, leading to addiction (Above the Influence, 2009).

Here are a few facts about the use of weed:

A number of studies have shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and schizophrenia (NIDA, 2009).

Heavy marijuana use impairs a person’s ability to form memories, recall events, and shift attention from one thing to another. It also disrupts coordination and balance by binding to receptors in the cerebellum and basal ganglia (NIDA, 2005).

Marijuana contains 50-70% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke (NIDA, 2005).

Studies have shown that marijuana smokers have increased absences, accidents, higher worker compensation claims, and job turnovers (NIDA, 2009).
Students who smoke marijuana get lower grades and are less likely to graduate from high school, compared with their non-smoking peers, (NIDA, 2009)
While the Bible never specifically forbids the use of weed, it does tell us that we should use wisdom in all we do. To me, the risk far outweighs the potential benefits.

Although, as long as there are people willing to use the drug, I think I will invest heavily into stocks of companies that make potato chips and other munchies…

Anne Lang Bundy said...

Nicely done, Travis. I still think you do some AWESOME non-fiction pieces.

But if you don't mind, I'll seek investment advice elsewhere.

Travis said...

Thanks, Anne!

I am hurt, though, that you don't trust my instincts about starch investments.