Archives for August 2007

“Judging Harry Potter” by Fr. Alfonso Aguilar, LC

The National Catholic Register has published an article about Harry Potter by a priest in the Legionary of Christ who teaches philosophy at Regina Apostolorum University in Rome. “Judging Harry Potter” by Fr. Alfonso Aguilar, LC, takes a position much like Michael O’Brien’s with respect to Ms. Rowling’s novels; he believes they are essentially godless, beyond a pale pantheism, and that they foster a gnostic perspective on the world. He applauds certain values that can be found in the books but finds their worldview disturbing enough to say they would be dangerous for those not having a strong spiritual formation.

I do not doubt that Fr. Alfonso is a thoughtful, pious man. His recommendations show a great desire, even a zeal, to recommend the prudential course and to avoid the possibility that any potential harm be overlooked. His training as a scholastic philosopher is evident in the organization and flavor of his arguments.

He gives cause to wonder about the depth or quality of his thinking, even of his ability to discern the values and meaning of arguments, however, when he writes (after noting that the President of the International Association of Exorcists does not like the books): [Read more…]

Dobby and Harry: Disciple and Savior?

Two things made me think of Dobby today. First, the discussion on the Alan Jacobs thread about Harry as a Christ Figure left out Dobby’s relationship with Harry, which, frankly, borders on the messianic. We don’t see other house-elves devoted to their masters the way Dobby is to Harry Potter. Second, a short piece sent to me by HogPro All-Pro, Deborah Chan that I’ve posted below. Note the references to the Book of Revelations hidden in Dobby’s burial: [Read more…]

Alan Jacobs: Harry Potter is not a Christ Figure

Wheaton College’s Alan Jacobs has written a review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for Christianity Today’s Books and Culture magazine called “The Youngest Brother’s Tale.” (Hat tip to Karl!) It is well worth reading and I look forward to reading your thoughts about his perspective and comments.

My first impression is that Prof. Jacobs goes out of his way to be both laudatory and patronizing in this review. I suspect this will become a preferred posture among the academic mavens of literature because it will allow them to admire Ms. Rowling’s accomplishment without having to admit it to the Halls of Serious Literature above and beyond the dumpsters of fascinating Cultural Artifacts. Prof. Jacobs’ celebration of the books as cliched writing and penny dreadful “kid lit” done very well achieves something like what the New York Times’ creating a Childrens’ Book Best Seller List did: isolating Harry in a lesser category of reading for applause appropriate to this lesser fare. Parents applaud a Nutcracker performance with their children in it with as many decibels as an audience of real ballet aficionados applaud the real Nutcracker at the Balshoi — but there is a difference, even if both dramas receive standing ovations. And the difference is that the kids’ dancing was great only for kids’ dancing.

His comment about Harry as a Christ figure is telling so I’ll quote it at length: [Read more…]

Harry Potter and “the Death of God” – by Michael D. O’Brien

The last I heard, Michael O’Brien, artist, novelist, and Harry Hater, was not doing interviews about the Harry Potter books. I hoped that this meant he had reflected on his bizarre crusade contra Ms. Rowling’s novels and decided he was in the wrong. A legion of Catholic readers that includes Stratford Caldecott and Fr. Peter Fleetwood recognizes the genius and value of Ms. Rowling’s work (Fr. Peter is the priest Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict asked Ms. Kuby to correspond with about her Potter concerns). Maybe, I thought, Mr. O’Brien had read insightful reviews or someone had contacted him that had been able to help him overcome his “Harry problem.” Mr. O’Brien is, after all, a novelist of some distinction and an artist whose paintings enjoy an excellent reputation.

On 20 August, unfortunately, the self-proclaimed “combat soldier in the culture war” returned to the battle to save Western Civilization from Harry Potter and free the imprisoned slaves of their delusions. The article, Harry Potter and “the Death of God, appeared on the Life Site News website that also posted the infamous Kuby Letters with the Skeeter-esque headline, “Pope Opposes Harry Potter” in July, 2005, days before the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Michael O’Brien and the zealots at Life Site News live in the village of Combermere, Ontario, and their joint efforts to create the illusion of Papal displeasure with Harry was discussed at length in an article here at Hogwarts Professor at that time. Mr. O’Brien and Life Site News teamed up again last week to say what others are afraid to say. To their delight, Harry Potter readers have responded by reviling them, even cursing them, and saying all manner of evil against them, falsely, for Harry’s sake. [Read more…]

Against the “Dying and Rising Gods” Theorem

There is a new post at Behold A Phoenix that made my day for several reasons. First, I learned something important, namely, that an idea I had grown up with and had assumed was fact was just plain wrong. The “Dying and Rising Gods” chestnut championed by Frazer in The Golden Bough (and by secularists contra Christianity ever since, not to mention Harry Haters in denial about Deathly Hallows) has been demonstrated to be another 19th century fashioning of the “scientific evidence” to strike out at the beliefs of the faithful (here the singularity of Christ’s Resurrection). While the irony of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named citing the same theory as Time magazine’s Lev Grossman to “prove” the books aren’t Christian is striking (and humorous), finding out that both are repeating ideas from “the history of scholarship” rather than facts from “the history of religions” is a real head-slapper.

I had the extra pleasure in reading the Behold a Phoenix post on this topic in knowing Jonathan Z. Smith, the University of Chicago Divinity School professor and Frazer authority cited as the myth debunker. Mr. Smith (all UC professors were addressed as “Mr” or “Ms” unless medical doctors) was “Dean Smith” for three of my four years in the College and helped me through the first chapters of Thomas’ Summa Theoligica and Pico’s Heptaplus in tutorial. As it was Jonathan Z. Smith who urged me to read Eliade way back when and it is Eliade’s thesis about the religious function of entertainment in a secular culture that is the heart of Looking for God in Harry Potter, I guess this is my moment to reflect on the ends of a circle meeting.

My apologies for this name-dropping, autobiographical moment. Thank you Behold A Phoenix for correcting still another one of my erroneous historical preconceptions! Next thing you know, we’ll learn that Saturnalia was scheduled in late December by the Romans to subvert Christian celebration of the Nativity rather than the reverse…