Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why I Read Harry Potter (And Why Jesus Is Okay With It)

(This is a re-post from my old blog, written in Dec. 2013. I've been thinking about it recently and decided to share it from here.)

To understand where this post is coming from, know that I have heard and paid attention to every Christian argument about Harry Potter and considered them in due time. And still, in the 13 years since I've been embroiled in this debate by virtue of being one of the ones in my conservative community who not only didn't see a problem with them but loved them, I've never once faltered from my wholehearted support of these books. I'm now going to attempt the considerable challenge of stating my reasons for this without getting too snarky/condemning, because I've endured a lot of personal attacks over this subject and I'm working on being better about not retaliating. Despite my talent for it.

Reason 1: I'm not afraid. What do I mean by this? I mean that 90% of the arguments I hear about why people should stay away from Harry Potter are by people who are so afraid of being led astray that they create unnecessary rules. So let me state right here and now: Witchcraft is a thing. It's real, it's not a new thing by any stretch of the imagination. Harry Potter is not real witchcraft. How do I know this? Because I've studied the real thing. Not practiced, just researched to see exactly what I was dealing with. Besides, anyone who has a passion for Ancient Celtic culture runs into it more often than not, because so many of the symbols are tied up in the ancient pagan practices. So yes, I know that it's real. I know that it's not something to be played with. And I know that Harry Potter, from everything I've ever read or seen, isn't close in philosophy or practice.

Aside from that, for Christians, there is one truth that I think a lot of us overlook too often. We have absolutely no reason to be afraid of anything in the spiritual realm that is not of God. Because we have God. Who wins. Every time. Yes, they have power, and they use it. But our source is greater. If we truly believe that, we have no cause to be afraid of inferior power. Just saying.

And also, it's the philosophy of light and dark in practice. There is nothing dark that does not have a greater light side. Satan cannot create, he can only imitate and twist that which God has already created. So if there's power in pagansim, there's greater power in God that He gives Christians free access to through the Holy Spirit. It's a much more wholesome redemptive power too, and altogether awesome.

This also goes back to my post about fantasy and why it's not something to be feared.

Reason 2: I find Jesus so often in Harry Potter. Seriously. The story is based on a boy who is protected from the greatest evil powers BECAUSE OF HIS PARENT'S LOVING SACRIFICE. Furthermore, he is given the power to defeat that evil power once and for all by the knowledge of their love for him. And that's just the beginning of it. The entire series is based on the power of love, to redeem any situation even if the characters in question have been acting like brats the entire time (those who've read the series know that the entirety of Harry's rebellious years were somewhat annoying to read, and had real consequences to boot, which was a fairly good life lesson).

What people don't understand is that so much of Western literature is based on our cultural foundations in Christendom. Whether we want it there or not, the seeds are there, sprouting up in the oddest places. God has a way of making Himself present in unusual places. It's Christmas, for heaven's sake. We celebrate the fact that He CHOSE to be born into a food trough in the middle of a stable. If that's not unusual, I don't know what is.

If you want further proof, look at the entire study of pre-Christian mythology. I went to a lecture on C.S. Lewis and his relationship with mythology, and completely agreed with what he said. Mythology was God's way of preparing the hearts and minds of people to believe in something larger than themselves. The majority of myths from all over the world follow the same pattern of story as the Bible, or they have similar concepts presented within them.

So basically, Jesus is everywhere. I see Him all over the place. Even in Harry Potter. Especially in Harry Potter.

Reason 3: As a reader, and as one who is passionate about education, I cannot deny the effect Harry Potter had on a number of kids who had previously sworn off reading. The talent of J.K. Rowling to tackle such real issues in the midst of the fantastical drew a whole generation of readers in, a whole generation of kids who grew up with the characters. If you've never read the books, you're missing out. I'm not denying that they get dark. They're intense reads from book 4 on. But since when is LIFE ever all hunky-dory? Not only does that make for a boring story, it's not true.

I've never been a fan of neutering reality out of literature in the name of "protecting" kids. Especially not after they've hit puberty and in many cultures and societies would be considered to be capable of acting and thinking as adults in most areas of life. What it really does, in my experience, is remove a person's ability to deal with reality when it hits.

Simple example: When I was a kid, I was sheltered utterly from all forms of bad language. In a militant sort of way. I was one of those kids who got in trouble for saying "dang it." But I never even knew the majority of the real words, the ones that I should have been avoiding. So when I heard a friend using the word "sh*t" I had no idea that it wasn't appropriate. Until of course, I had adopted it into my language and got in trouble for using it. Had I known what to watch out for, I might have avoided it.

Empowerment is what I'm talking about, really. By letting kids know that life isn't always going to be the happiest of things, and giving them actual tools to deal with that, we're empowering them to take their challenges in stride. By sheltering overmuch, you're producing the opposite effect. There is no way to protect any person from hurt. The best we can do is love them enough to give them weapons to battle the hurt. I'm reminded of the quote, "Evil never wins unless good men do nothing." I forget who said it, or even if that's the right wording, but the point is there.

I could go on for days, but I'll stop there. There's this annoying thing called life that I took a brief break from to write this, and it's calling my name now. *sighs and walks off muttering "Accio job applications"...*