This has been percolating in my head for a little while, and some of the more conservative members of our family have made it an issue lately. Karen recently decided that, having never read the Harry Potter series but having seen the movies, that she wanted to read what everyone is talking about. She discovered everything I’ve ever heard about the books to be true: they are beautifully written, and Rowling is gifted at her craft.
Being a fantasy lover, Karen moved on to other modern fantasy greats, such as the Seeker series (good movie, but I understand they took painful liberties with the novel, as Hollywood is wont to do). Fantasy, is, after all, one of the great genres of literature. I admit I don’t read much in the lines of fantasy (the last true fantasy I read, I think, was the Dragon Riders of Pern series…did I just date myself?), being more of a sc-fi fan, but I think I may be in the mood to read some soon.
The problem? Well, apparently, the problem is that we’re Believers, and Believers shouldn’t do that fantasy stuff.
Or at least that’s what we hear a lot. The aforementioned conservative factions of our family are very much up in arms about how Harry Potter is horribly evil because it contains witches and magic. Yet, most Believers love Tolkien‘s and Lewis‘ work, both of which frequently contain magic. A double standard, perhaps? If so, it is one born of ignorance. Somehow it is okay for The Chronicles of Narnia to use magic as a literary device to communicate Christ’s story, or even for the Lord of the Rings to communicate the epic struggle between good and evil. But magic in the sense of witches? Apparently that crosses some invisible Christian line (even though the final book of the Potter series has some amazing metaphors for our faith, as I understand it).
Modern religion seems to consistently rob us of the beauty of artistic expression, which, if left well enough alone, would only grow our faith. What’s worse, it typically is began by some hyper-conservative, uneducated fundamentalist somewhere who decided something was wrong for some bizarre and obscure reason, and made a video or wrote a book about it because they knew it would sell to Christian pop culture. Once again, “Christian bookstores” contribute to our illiterate society.
Here’s my issue: if you have read this stuff and don’t like it, fine. If you can contribute an educated perspective on it, then by all means, open dialogue about it. Everyone could grow from that. But don’t go around thumping some podium somewhere preaching that some series of books or movies are evil because they utilize magic as a literary device, or aren’t specifically about God. Jeffery Overstreet, on a recent episode of The Kindlings Muse, said that he wasn’t allowed to watch Star Wars as a child because his parents felt that Yoda was a Buddhist and that he might convert from Christianity to Buddhism if he watched it. I don’t think anyone ever did that…or began practicing witchcraft because they watched or read Harry Potter. My favorite is when Believers decry movies or books because the author is (if there really is such a thing) and atheist.
Wasn’t Lewis a proclaimed atheist when he wrote Narnia?
Perhaps all truth really is God’s truth. We might see that better if we would just get ourselves out of the way, look past our precious Evangelical culture (which is remarkably un-cultured), and just enjoy the story.