Christian Controversy/Conversation Continues

by John on July 30, 2009

Last Friday, I did an interview on the ‘This is the Day!’ Moody Bible radio show that I assumed was going to be about How Harry Cast His Spell (that book’s publisher set it up) and the movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I had my notes about the Christian content of this film, especially Dumbledore as Christ figure and the ‘I am with you’ line that was cut from the film, in anticipation of questions from the host on this subject and others.

Whoops.

What I got instead was a reminder that the “Harry as a Gateway to the Occult” meme is still very much alive. The program’s hostess was kind, and, even if she hadn’t read one of the books, my book, or seen a Potter movie, she was very diplomatic in giving me plenty of time to answer the proof-text assertions and angry questions from her audience.

In brief, the experience was a flash-back to the first years of the century.

Reflecting on that interview/tribunal, I realized times really have changed — but a lot of folks are just waking up from the Imperius curse cast over them years ago. Here are a few examples:

Big Fat Harry Potter Influence: I enjoyed this blog post because it revealed that there is a group of older readers — this one is a set of Evangelicals, I think — that is now reading Harry Potter only because everybody else has. They discuss the Rolling Stone piece that was the leaping off point of my Touchstone article Book Binders.

Coming Out of the Closet: Here a conservative Catholic blogger admits at long last to being a Potter-phile — and is met immediately with anathemas and accusations of apostasy. Fortunately, Perelandra steps in to straighten the Star Chamber true-believers out.

What Would Jesus Say to Harry Potter?: When we last heard from Richard “I have moved on to other things and have not read Deathly Hallows” A-banes, he was celebrating the impossible bind he felt Ms. Rowling’s admitting she “always thought of Dumbledore as gay” put anyone silly enough to believe there was edifying, even Christian content in her books. No word here about whether he has read the series finale, but he did decide to speak as the God-Man on the subject (“all in fun!”) to the ‘God on Film’ group so we can only hope.

Vatican Blesses Potter Film : Now this is an interesting story, if, as usual in the Vatican file vis a vis Harry Potter, the headline tells you just the opposite of what is really happening. As covered back in the day of ‘Pope Condemns Harry Potter’ (2005), Rita Skeeter is still covering the Vatican. If you read the story (here’s another version), it seems the Pope and friends have given the Half-Blood Prince film the proverbial “two thumbs up” (if that meant something very different in Rome’s Coliseum).

But it’s not the Pope or Fr. Fleetwood or even the Vatican loose cannon exorcist talking here; it’s L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. Read this if you think ‘The Roman Observer’ is the curia’s megaphone. Caveat Lector, as usual; every newspaper and especially newspaper reports about the meaning of another newspaper’s story, should be read as if they are stories from The Daily Prophet.

The great thing about that story, though, isn’t that it upset the Harry Haters at LifeSiteNews or that it reflected a sea change in Roman Catholic thinking on this subject — really, folks, the Pope and his friends have more important issues to spend spiritual capital on than children’s fiction and films — has been responses like this one from ‘Rapture Ready.’

Some things and people never change.

Have you heard any new stories about Harry Potter and the Witchcraft Controversy? Let us know below!

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

revgeorge July 30, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Big, Big SIGH!!! Sorry you had to get hit with something like that out of the blue, John, when most people have moved onto better things. But I suppose there’s a bunch of people out there, whom times have passed by, that still are on their Harry Potter Is The Gateway to the Occult crusade.

Of course, there are some people who will take the opportunity of the HP phenomenon to push Occultism. If you remember the booth at the Azkatraz vending room right next to Zossima Press, not Steve Vander Ark, but the other one, I don’t know what those people were thinking but just glancing through their materials it seemed like they really believed in Wicca or Magick or Witchcraft or Wizardry or whatever & had a teaching school for it. But such things are the exception rather than the rule, & I don’t think most people are impressed or entranced by such things. After all, the big revival in New Age stuff was happening a long time before Harry Potter came around.

As for He Who Must Not Be Named on Blogs, RA, well, his total “not getting it” regarding Potter is just besmirching the other, sometimes good apologetic work he does.

Oh well, there’s still people after all these years saying how bad C.S. Lewis is because he was apparently an universalist & didn’t believe in justification by faith & what not. It’s just plain silly. Some Christians will go off on Potter et al & then go & pick up anything they find in a Christian bookstore & think it’s hunky dory when a lot of it is pure false doctrine & unbiblical.

Sorry for the rant. :)

Moonyprof July 30, 2009 at 7:35 pm

This is just sad. I had hoped critics had moved beyond this. The funny thing is that I don’t know of anyone who argues that *The Tempest* will encourage the unlawful practice of magic. And yet Harry Potter and Prospero are unusual in the same way: given the choice of enacting revenge, they refuse, and given ultimate power, they willingly abdicate it.

The trouble is that the people who are most disturbed by *Harry Potter* are unlikely to make it all the way through *Deathly Hallows*, where it’s hard to deny the parallels of love, death, and sacrifice.

Nzie July 31, 2009 at 8:00 am

On the bright side, the host didn’t lambast you and gave you a chance to defend your ideas. I wonder if those folks know anything about Orthodox Christianity…

As far as the Vatican goes- that whole bit about B XVI being anti-Potter was so contrived anyway. They don’t usually comment on stuff. L’Osservatore Romano is, unfortunately, closer to the Daily Prophet than it is to the Curia but it’s probably accurate on that one.

Arabella Figg July 31, 2009 at 3:38 pm

To me, it seems you were rather set up for the Moody interview. You should have been told the nature of the discussion in advance, whether your interviewer was familiar with the series, and that the audience was biased against HP. That would be respectful of you and your time, allowing you to decide if you wanted to pursue it.

Arabella Figg July 31, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Oh, and Nzie, nice to hear from you again!

John July 31, 2009 at 4:00 pm

The conversation at WMBI wasn’t unpleasant in any way or an ambush of some kind. It was only surprising because of my mistaken expectations, all of which reflect my naivete rather than someone’s failing or an evil design.

The point of the piece was only that some folks think there is still a Potter battle going on in the Culture War — and that they’re still determined to win that battle. Think ‘Japanese Holdout.’

Arabella Figg July 31, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Oh, I don’t think it was evil; just direspectful.

maggiemay August 2, 2009 at 3:49 pm

One of my daughters (huge Harry fan)will be a sophomore at Liberty University, usually considered a big evangelical training ground. Not surprisingly, she reports that Harry isn’t very popular on campus there. However I’m pretty sure I remember reading somewhere that there is a pro-Harry prof there. My daughter did say that one of the girls in her dorm described how her mother came in to the public school she attended and made a huge scene because the teacher wanted to use the books for reading assignments. Sad, but John’s comment about people waking up from the Imperius curse was very funny and right on target. I know this because it happened to me, thankfully in time to allow my daughter the great experience of reading the series!

Dave the Longwinded August 2, 2009 at 7:30 pm

Oh, my wife, Jamie, can tell you clearly that the “Harry=occult” meme is still alive and well. Every time she teaches seniors, Philosopher’s Stone is part of the curriculum. It is extremely rare that at least one student or parent (or both) does not complain and asks for an alternative. The reactions she gets have been quite as vitriolic in recent years.

Of course, you know, HP is now over a decade old, and we have yet to see mass conversions to witchcraft by children who grew up with Harry as a hero.

I guess you can only push people down this slippery slope so long before they realize you’re pushing them, not that they’re falling!

Dave the Longwinded August 2, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Oops… end of first paragraph should read:

“The reactions she gets have not been quite as vitriolic…”

Arabella Figg August 3, 2009 at 8:14 am

Oh, I don’t know, Dave. I can’t walk down my neighborhood street without dodging spells, occult merchandise shops and being changed into pieces of fruit. I think that Harry Potter has absolutely destroyed civilization as we knew it.

I’m an orange right now, and must roll myself on about my errands.

semcsem August 9, 2009 at 7:41 am

Morning, All.
Haven’t had time to post lately, so missed this thread last week. However, I can attest to the still prevalent “Harry is the Gateway to the Occult” thoughts being out there–especially here in the South (northern Alabama). In fact, I came back from LeakyCon 09 in May and approached some of the middle school teachers at our Catholic school about using the HP series to have a larger discussion about good vs evil and living a life of virtue, etc., and their concern was whether there would be a negative parental response (and therefore a hesistancy by the administration to approve such a series).
Have subsequently presented and moderated a HP discussion on “Whether Catholics can be HP fans” the week after the HBP movie was released and had a VERY favorable response to the themes that our very own HogPro has been presenting for YEARS–namely, that the HP series is just the latest addition to the pantheon of Christian morality tales contained within the English literature tradition. The positive response has enabled me to revisit the idea of a series of talks with the school folks, so we’ll see what happens in the weeks to come…
But just wanted you all to know that people are STILL shaking off the Imperius curse of “Harry = Occult” so we must continue the battle of getting the message out there just as the Quibbler did in the dark days before Voldemort’s defeat. SOMEDAY, all will see the sun shining around them and will know that all is well in the world…

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