Thursday, April 14, 2005

It's not about the witchcraft

The name Harry Potter raises a lot of eyebrows in the circles of people I visit. For many Christians the HP books teach the evils of witchcraft, or at the very least, condone a practice that the Bible forbids. These charges have some merit, and parents are right to be concerned about these issues, but, as a father of seven, witchcraft (although I do object to it) isn't my biggest complaint about Mr. Potter and his young friends.

I write fantasy for a living, so I understand how an author can use fantasy elements with no intention of promoting them or their real world counterparts. I have no idea if Ms. Rowling intended to encourage young people to explore real world witchcraft, so this is not my main complaint, although I have heard stories of children dabbling in the occult because of the series.

There is another very real evil shadow lurking in the Harry Potter stories. The concept is simple. The characters constantly break the rules in order to succeed. Not only that, the author takes great pains to promote rule breaking as a virtue. In the beginning of the first book, Hermione is portrayed as a rule-keeper, but she is an irritating brat. Once she joins the boys in their rule-breaking, she becomes "cool." In fact, one sentence reads something like this: "After that, Hermione was less concerned about keeping the rules, and she was much nicer for it." It's hard to get more blatant than that.

As a writer, I understand the need to allow young protagonists to succeed on their own in a story, but they don't have to rebel against authority to do so. There is no doubt that J.K. Rowling purposefully crafted her story to promote a "kids rule" mentality that makes kids the ultimate authority. Her story rewards every instance of ignoring the rules and belittles those who try to keep them. Frankly, I find this digusting.

So many people say that the Harry Potter books are harmless, even beneficial. They say the witchcraft is fantasy that doesn't promote real witchcraft. I think it very well could promote witchcraft, but I think the deeper evil, the spirit of rebellion, lurks as a more sinister reality. It teaches young readers to reject authority, to believe they know better than those older and more experienced, to expect to be rewarded and thought "cool" when they reject the option of trusting anyone other than their peers.

Rowling's work is not merely fantasy; it is a perversion of reality that contributes to an improper view of juvenile independence. Parents are well advised to reject these books or at least closely monitor their children who read them and discuss a proper view of authority, that, yes, some adults are stupid and can't be trusted, but many more are trustworthy, and rule-breaking will ultimately fail to bring about the successes that Harry Potter and his friends always seem to achieve.

Monday, April 04, 2005

We're Better Men than That

Many have spilled their share of ink in reflecting on the tragedy of Terri Schiavo's death. I, also, have the desire to vent at the injustice of court-ordered murder of the innocent, but I have intentionally waited for inspiration to write something that is in keeping with my calling.

I found it. An on-line article written by John Zmirak, a Terri Schiavo supporter, made my blood boil. I had to respond, because his point of view, although beautifully written, is at the heart of everything that's wrong with our church today. He begins with the following header:

We like to think that we’re better than the man who’s starving his sick wife to death. But think back to Palm Sunday. What part of “Crucify him!” didn’t you understand?

He goes on to say that he would likely choose to do the same as Michael, and implies that all honest readers would as well. "In our heart of hearts, don't we prefer Barabbas to Jesus, Michael Schiavo to Terri?"

My response? No! A thousand times, No! We are better men than Michael Schiavo, and to say otherwise is a slap in the face of Christ Himself. As a Christian man, I bear in my body the Holy Spirit of God. I followed Him in the long walk toward the cross, my own Gethsemane trail, and have been crucified with Him and rasied to new life.

Yes, there was a day when I would have shouted with the crowds, "Crucify Him!" but those days are in the past. I am not the man I once was. That man has died, and a new one has come to life, one that renounces the sins of the past and lives a holy life in the power of the indwelling Spirit of God.

Mr. Zmirak's thinking is a symptom of a greater tragedy; the church of today lacks understanding of the gospel's effect on the hearts of men. We are transformed by that gospel. As did Christ, we live sacrificial lives. Since we said, "I do" at the wedding altar, we keep that vow till death do us part, never seeking the comfort of another, even if our own is lying in sheets of ruin with bent frame and shattered consciousness. And we certainly would not seek to torture her to death in the most cruel fashion. Such a thought is beyond absurd!

Mr. Zmirak, you are wrong. True Christian men are better men than the selfish monsters you portray, and your implications that we are otherwise, are offensive to us and to the God who lives within us. Jesus was a better man than that, and since I imitate Him, so am I.