catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 14 :: 2005.07.15 — 2005.07.28


Harry Potter is good for my soul

I?ve been sucked into the Harry Potter vortex.

It began when I was only a few chapters into the first book of the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer?s Stone. I was not a Harry Potter fan from the first moments of media-encouraged mass hysteria, though. I resisted for several years, until my curiosity got the better of me. I had my nose turned up and refused to read anything about Harry Potter, assuming that anything this popular, with such widespread media support and written for children, simply could not be that good.

I?ve now gone from having read nothing Harry-related to reading all of the available books—and I have pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and will get my hands on it at 12:01 am Saturday morning. I have watched and dissected each of the three movies with friends, and most recently, I devoured every book about Harry Potter and Joanne Rowling that I could get my hands on?through the public library, anyway!

During this past year of intense exploration of the Harry Potter universe, I?ve learned about the historical references, real and mythological, that Rowling uses in her books. I?ve also discovered the differences between incantational and invocational magic used in literature. Invocation is largely depicted as evil in scripture and literature, when, for example, invoking demons and spirits. Incantational magic is used by the likes of Gandalf of Tolkein fame or Aslan of the Narnia Chronicles. I?ve learned enough to be able to complete the recent New York Times Harry Potter crossword puzzle in ten minutes and alienate my husband by my incessant reading.

Most intriguing to me, though, is what I have learned about how people around the world have responded to these creative masterpieces. There are many ways to categorize people?s responses. I see three different categories: reactionary, discerning and accepting. I honestly appreciate aspects within each of these approaches.

I long to be a person of character and integrity who wrestles with what it means to be holy, which I understand as being set apart for God, belonging to God and being pure. I also want to be engaged with whatever it means to be relevant to the world God loves and died for. Most of the time, I err on one side of the holy/relevant coin or the other. What I see in these three responses to Harry Potter magnifies my own struggle to try to find that place between being reactionary and being completely accepting.

I am reactionary when I hear about growing businesses that I fear are growing more for greed?s sake than what is best for the world. I am reactionary when I hear others discussing Greek philosophy. On the other hand, I am completely accepting and supportive of other things, like the movie Pleasantville, with its emphasis that living without boundaries and by your feelings is true freedom. I also have very few qualms with crazy radical environmentalists who chain themselves to trees.

I pray that God gives me wisdom. I?d like to be more discerning than I am. I?d like to flex my discernment muscles evenly and not so disproportionately all the time.

Getting back to Harry, though. I started reading as a skeptic and, to my complete surprise and delight, I have not only enjoyed the Harry Potter story, but I believe that I?m becoming more of the person God desires for me to be as a result of reading these books. In the books themselves, I find some themes that connect deeply with the fabric of who I am, and some that I wish were more a part of my life and perspective.

When fans were recently asked to choose the underlying themes in the Harry Potter books, they chose the following:

  • Love conquers evil
  • To do what is right over what is easy
  • Choices
  • Value of true friendship
  • Redemption
  • Self sacrifice
  • Dealing with death
  • Life, death and rebirth
  • The importance of tolerance in the face of bigotry and prejudice

One character in the book tells Harry that it is our choices more than our abilities that determine the kind of people we are. I took part in the survey and I choose ?choices? as the most important theme.

I do think it is wise to go into everything we do with a healthy dose of skepticism. In fact, I think we exhibit far too little skepticism. We have swallowed our culture?s lies about consumerism in particular, hook, line and sinker.

We also need to celebrate when there are things that are good and right in the world. The fact that the number-one selling author in the world tightly weaves into her stories themes of love conquering evil, doing what is right over what is easy, and the importance of making choices is worthy of high praise.

Far from being a witchcraft manual espousing Satan worship, these books have softened my heart for Jesus? work in my life, opened up my imagination, and renewed my love for reading and research. I thank God for Joanne Rowling?s gift of imagination, her story-telling skills and writing abilities.

It is high time we as Christians stop shooting ourselves in the foot by condemning and judging the Harry Potter books. Instead, we should embrace these books for telling the story of love conquering evil, that is, the story of our lives and our faith.

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