Monday, February 03, 2003

Roman Potter-y The Vatican seems to be giving the green light to believers to dabble in New Age practices that don't contradict Church teachings. I'd like to see a longer breakdown of the topic before laying down blogfire, but I'm locked and loaded. [Update 11PM-the report is online and doesn't seem nearly as sell-outish as the article made it out to be] That won't be the lead item, however. This subset of the story involving Harry Potter will be around the Blogosphere for a while, and I'll likely get some flak for what I'm about to say about it. .
THE Vatican is giving two thumbs up to the Harry Potter series. The Reverend Don Peter Fleetwood told a Vatican press conference today the good versus evil plotlines of the best-selling books were imbued with Christian morals. "I don't see any, any problems in the Harry Potter series," he said.
It may have generic good-versus-evil ethics, but God is largely a non-issue in the series. It sort of reminds me of the aunt asking for "good Christian behavior" when what she was looking for was good behavior. However, this seems to be missing a key factor; the Potter series makes the supernatural seem too fictional. I'll rehash what I said back in October; there are essentially two things that are problematic with the use of magic in fiction. Most people dwell on the idea that it gives what I called the "negative supernatural" (as opposed to the good supernatural things that flow from the Holy Spirit) both a good name and good press(I made those two separate line items in October); however, the bigger problem in my mind is that by saying that the supernatural is merely fiction.
Fleetwood was responding to questions following the release of a new Vatican document on the New Age phenomenon, which he helped draft as a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Fleetwood was asked whether the magic embraced by Harry Potter and his pals at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was problematic for the Catholic church. Some evangelical groups have condemned the series for glamorising magic and the occult. "I don't think there's anyone in this room who grew up without fairies, magic and angels in their imaginary world," said Fleetwood, who is British. "They aren't bad. They aren't serving as a banner for an anti-Christian ideology.
Yep, we did grow up with that stuff, but that doesn't mean it's helpful. By moving the supernatural into the realm of fiction, it lowers people thoughts of what God can do in the real world, as well as what the Devil can do as well.
"If I have understood well the intentions of Harry Potter's author, they help children to see the difference between good and evil. "And she is very clear on this."
That's true, but they don't focus on the source of that good and evil. Children need to learn not just to call upon their consciences but to God for help on a daily basis. By making the supernatural seem so fictional, it makes the idea of a hands-on God seem equally fictional.
Religious reaction to Harry Potter has been mixed. While there has been criticism from some evangelicals, ecumenical groups such as Churches Together in Britain and Ireland have echoed Fleetwood's contention that the books illustrate important themes like the battle between good and evil.
The more theologically liberal churches also discount the idea of spiritual warfare, both of the positive influence of the Holy Spirit and the negative influence of demonic forces. By moving the supernatural into the realm of fiction, they take away the vitality of the faith and make their churches a mere rubber stamp for the larger culture's values.

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