Monday, October 28, 2002

The Devil's Playground-Part II-Wild About Harry-I haven't read any of the Harry Potter books, nor have I seen the first movie, so I'm only able to comment via what I have heard and read about the books. In the books Harry and his buddies are generally good kids leaning how to use magic and how not to use magic at an academy for aspiring wizards called Hogwarts. By all accounts, Ms. Rowling has created a fictional world that makes kids of all ages wanting to come back for more. Getting kids (and parents) into libraries and bookstores is a positive side effect. Let me review my three critiques about Halloween listed below. They in large part also apply to the Potter books. (1) It gives free press to the "negative supernatural." (2) It gives the negative supernatural a good name. (3) It encourages people to treat the negative supernatural as a fun fiction. I'm going to try to lay any hypocrisy-looking stuff on the table early. I remember quite a few of the Disney movies I saw as a kid had occultic themes; going all the way back to the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia, the magic carriage in Cinderella, the witch in Snow White or going to more recent vintage, the Witch Mountain series and Beauty and the Beast. It ain't for nothing that they call that joint up on I-4 the Magic Kingdom. It's isn't just Disney. We're used to magic and the demonic as part of our popular culture. Stephen King's made a very good living exploring the dark side. Shows like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Highlander make the supernatural natural in their universes. Unfortunately, this supernatural-endowed world is typically a God-free zone. King has had a lot of demonic/supernatural stuff, but The Stand is the only piece of his that I'm familiar with (King fans can chime in with others if they exist) where there is an coherent force for good. The problem with this is we find ourselves rooting for the dark side, even if we justify it by saying that they are using that power for good. In Beetlejuice, we're cheering on a demon when he says "It's Showtime!" as he proceeds to scare off some unlikable twits. In Highlander, we're rooting for the good immortal McLeod to kill off and gather the Quickening energy from the evil immortals. Other shows in the past and present, like Bewitched and Charmed will have witches as the heroes. As much as these (and other) shows with supernatural themes might be fun to watch, they aren't exactly edifying. Here are three problems I have with the Potter series and how it is used by various people.
(1) People want to look at the supernatural as merely fictional.
The backers of the book will say "it's only a story." Rowling herself pleads that she's not trying to encourage people to get into magic for real. That attitude can actually be worse than having people take the occult seriously. There is a demonic spiritual realm and if the Devil can get us to ignore that, he'll have an easier time of it. Few people are going to be seduced into the occult by Harry Potter. Many more will be rendered non-combatants in a spiritual war. Ignoring the supernatural is also ignoring the positive supernatural gifts that flow from the Holy Spirit.
(2) Most of us are muggles
No, we're not!. God can enable anyone to be gifted in operating in the Holy Spirit and be acting in a spiritual, supernatural dimension. The idea that only a select few can act in the supernatural will keep people from seeking such giftings.
(3) Bashing it is often counter-productive
Going into book-burning mode only make the burners look like troglodytes and gives the series extra press. A Christian response to Potter's influence on kids should include the following (1) Note the powerlessness of youth. Being able to fanaticize about being able to do magical things is an escape mechanism for a middle-schooler with little power in his own life. (2) Show the real power of God to transform things. While the Holy Spirit doesn't typically give kids dragons to ride or allow them to zap their enemies, He can and does change people's lives. (3) Give kids a safe place when they are valued and feel a part of. Any youth program needs to give kids a sense of being an individual rather than just their parents' child. It needs to give them a place where they can be themselves and can express their fears and hopes without fear of rejection. (4) Show them that they are God's child and have a Lord and Savior in Jesus. The Kingdom of God doesn't belong to just a select few-there are no Muggles in the Kingdom. If you can do that, kids will have a better shot of developing a close relationship with God before they hit puberty and all the problems that can crop up in the teen years.

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