Harry Haters: Is the War Over?

Check out the 9-27-08 post at ‘The Wild Hunt Blog: A Modern Pagan Perspective’ called “Harry Potter Haters.” I think it is interesting both for the video clips of “We are Wizards,” the new wizard rock documentary being released in November, and the dated scare piece from 2001, and also because of its assessment that Harry Haters have become marginalized to the far periphery of even the Christian edge of the Public Square (as in ‘Chick Publications’).

Leaving aside the “pagan” aspects of the Wild Hunt Blog and its disdain for even the legitimate concerns any thinking person has about the occult, I suspect it is true that bashing Harry Potter as a means to identify oneself as a Culture Warrior and True Believer is an activity that has “jumped the shark.” I know there are enclaves of Harry Hating here and there and individuals in many (most?) parishes that still believe the Pope condemned Harry and that reading him is the Gateway Drug to Wicca and the Occult. Dare I say, though, that the war is over except for the soldiers deep in the jungle that refuse to surrender? Or would that be this the literary equivalent of the President landing on a carrier and declaring we have won the war in Iraq?

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  1. Gladius Terrae Novae says

    Not at all! I’ve met many former Harry-haters that enjoy it now that the heat has died down.

  2. I don’t disdain legitimate concerns about any belief system or spiritual practice, merely the sensationalist and exploitive concerns of most Christian authors cashing in on Harry hysteria. I’m always happy to have a discussion with a “thinking” person regarding concerns over “the occult” so long as that discussion isn’t predicated on me accepting their faith claims and concerns as immediately valid.

    At any rate, thanks for the heavily qualified praise. I think.


    Jason Pitzl-Waters
    The Wild Hunt

  3. I enjoyed ‘The Wild Hunt’s’ piece on Harry Haters. I wonder, though, if there are any “Christian authors cashing in on Harry hysteria” anymore even in church communities that consider and call themselves “fundamentalist.” I used to knock heads with authors on this topic (whom I want to believe, as I hope others do about me, were writing not entirely from a mercenary motivation); not these days.

  4. “I wonder, though, if there are any “Christian authors cashing in on Harry hysteria” anymore even in church communities that consider and call themselves ‘fundamentalist.'”

    The “Harry Potter as occult recruitment tool” meme has become a reoccurring talking point in Christian books about Wicca and modern Paganism.

    For example, two books that were published this year:

    Not My Child: Contemporary Paganism & the New Spirituality
    by Linda Harvey


    Generation Hex: Understanding the Subtle Dangers of Wicca
    by Marla Alupoaicei and Dillon Burroughs

    Both feature sections that directly or indirectly discuss Harry Potter as a gateway into Wicca, occultism, and other forms of Paganism (Generation Hex directly references the work of Steve “Hour of the Witch” Wohlberg). So while the market for books solely about the “dangers” of Harry Potter may have dropped off, the idea has entrenched itself within Christian writing about the Wicca and Paganism.

  5. This is a helpful and important distinction. The Harry Hating face has turned inward; it is a meme within literature only written for faith communities rather than faced-outward to assault or criticize the godless culture without “as a witness.” Anyone not tracking or living within these Culture War subcultures is not going to know that Harry Hating survives as a meme in the community’s scare/dangers to the faith literature.

    Thank you, JPW.

  6. Arabella Figg says

    I don’t know about authors, but I know fundamentalist Christians who have not budged an inch in their negative perceptions of Harry. If you refuse to read the books, and expose yourself only to filtered information through preferred channels negative to HP, why would you change your mind? You don’t care enough to know (or distrust your own discernment, or are threatened by) all viewpoints on anything in the first place. Therefore, any praise/acceptance of HP outside those approved channels is still suspect. And it will take a brave Harry-Hater author to admit their misguided opposition.

    I was cheered to read a casual reference to HP and the Azkaban Dementors in an article in this month’s Christianity Today (my last issue). I’ve been very disappointed overall that CT, the main evangelical publication which has tackled numerous sticky debates, has avoided the Hippogriff in the Living Room; there have been only a very few things surrounding DH, and HP film reviews online; the print issues have ignored it since 2000. To me this has been appallingly cowardly and out of touch, especially regarding THE culture war of our time, one seriously affecting Christians.

    I do think the main Christian rush to publish against Harry is probably over. The current rush is to cash in on Sarah Palin. But it will always be something, or the CBA would shut down.

    I’m laughing fit to bust. I kept hearing muffled meows and searched the house, cupboards and laundry hamper trying to find a trapped kitty. Finally, during a second search, I discovered little Flako hanging from his paws from the top, and down the back, of the bathroom door, desperately scrabbling for purchase with his back toes. He’d thought the door-top was a surface, leapt there from the counter, and must have been hanging there about five minutes. Now there’s a kitten with tenacity and determination to courageously explore beyond the known. (True story of a former kitten.)…

  7. Perhaps I don’t get out enough, but the related (to my mind) Harry Haters in academe seem to have dropped their meme about “waste of time” and “slop” as designations.

    Since HP is an entry point for Great Literature, itself rife with occultic elements employed in the service of ideas and being-ness and plot (et cetera), is there a survival factor there as well?

    And the secularist Harry Haters, what about them? Since Lev Grossman’s off-the-wall discussion of the death of god in HP, I haven’t read such. Is there a meme within that group as well?

    I don’t think we can buy into the meme that only Harry Haters of the “it’s occult entry point” variety exist. We have plenty of evidence that Harry Haters had a rather broad set of constituencies that need to be evaluated post-series.

  8. Arabella Figg says

    I just read Jason’s second comment and yours, John. Yes, I think Harry Potter, while not as a blatant blunt weapon in the Christian culture wars, will be a subject enfolded with other dangers to those of the faith. I don’t see Christian criticism within entrenched antognists ceasing (re my reasons stated above). I agree that more subtle, yet pointed, negative treatment will carry on the war.

    Sigh. I need to pet a cat…

  9. John wrote: “If Ms. Anelli, the stand-in for Ms. Rowling, slams you, it will mean quite the hit in the eyes of Fandom. Those doubting that looming black eye for the targeted in HAH, are urged to speak to Mr. Vander Ark about the Leaky/MuggleNet train that ran him over.”

    Ah yes, not only does JKR have her own publicist but her own sem-unofficial propaganda organ in the form of Leaky & Mugglenet, especially Leaky. While I certainly like Leaky & Pottercast way more than I do Mugglenet, the Leaky people do seem to be quite the uncritical proponents of anything JKR says or does.

    Felicity had a quite good comment on this on another post, both here & over at The Hogshead, which I quote in part, “If she’s [JKR] only granting access to the Melissa’s and Emerson’s of HP fandom, whose devotion to JKR and the story border on idolatry, then I have no hope at all because she’ll only be asked easy questions and there won’t be any intellectually rigorous follow-up. Boards like this take the position that the story has much, much more depth and complexity than is acknowledged by all but a minority of fans and critics. Yet so far when JKR is asked a question—a fairly good starting question that touches on the deeper meanings in the story—she typically IMO gives a relatively thin answer relative to what I hope and expect she could give. And sometimes she doesn’t appear to remember exactly what she wrote as is the case here [regarding the various students reactions to the veil in the Dept. of Mysteries].”

    Also, Felicity wrote: “We would certainly get better answers from her if she allowed interviews with people who will challenge her about the deeper meaning of the books, but will she? And if she does, I hope she gives the series a reread first.”

    All of her comments on the post in question regarding the veil are well worth reading but I picked out the more pertinent ones in regard to this post. That is to say, while Harry Haters may be misguided & not giving the books a critical, unbiased look, there are also those in the fandom who do fall into the opposite error of uncritically accepting everything JKR says & does & who attack anyone who even gives the appearance of going against her sacred will for Potterdom.

  10. I appreciated what Christian fantasy novelist N. D. Wilson (100 Cupboards, Leepike Ridge) has said about the Harry Haters. There was a radio interview he did where he was asked how Christians responded to “magic” in his books, and he responded by questioning whether or not there were really that many Harry haters in the first place. He thought that there were some high-profile Harry Haters and pockets of fundamentalists that the media ran with as though the vast majority of conservative or Bible-believing Christians were a bunch of book-burning and banning whiners, and that they’ve lost strength since their peak.

    Personally speaking, I know of only one Christian family in my town that is vehemently against Potter anymore. Most of the others are either fans or don’t care much about it either way. Of course, Richard Abanes is still out there, updating his books, so there must be some kind of market for them.

  11. Richard’s books are still in print but I don’t think they’re being updated. Last we heard, he was only looking at *Deathly Hallows* in bookstores (not purchasing or reading it) because he has “moved on” to other subjects and he doesn’t want to contribute to the Rowling bank account.

    Living on the far side of the moon, where there are no libraries or friends wiling to lend him their copies, this means that, sooner than you would think, his contributions to the frenetic public conversation about Harry in the first years of the decade/millenium will be mentioned only back of the book footnotes few read.

    Of course, he might get a chapter of his own in *Harry, a History.* I think every Potter Pundit-Parasite, myself included, needs to be sweating that book-bombshell. If Ms. Anelli, the stand-in for Ms. Rowling, slams you, it will mean quite the hit in the eyes of Fandom. Those doubting that looming black eye for the targeted in HAH, are urged to speak to Mr. Vander Ark about the Leaky/MuggleNet train that ran him over.

  12. John, I stand corrected. Looks like the last book he released was in 2005. I guess I assumed he would update them like Connie Neal did with The Gospel According to Harry Potter, and you, and several others have.

  13. A reasonable error considering he has given more than his share of interviews on the subject since 2005!

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