Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Narnia: Part 1

I had an interesting conversation with one of my camp staff a couple of years ago. I overheard him discussing Harry Potter with someone and listened in. For a few minutes this man passionately let his companion know everything that was wrong with Harry Potter. Harry Potter is evil! Harry potter is idolatry and darkness and witchcraft and magic all rolled up into one! I have heard this viewpoint many times of course (though recently a lot less) but I was curious.

"What about Lord of the Rings?" I said.

"What about it?" he replied.

"Is Lord of the Rings evil too?" I asked.

"Absolutely not. Lord of the Rings was written by a Christian, has Christian themes, and is not as nearly as dark as Harry Potter."

I thought this was interesting and asked him if there were not black magic, wizards, monsters and evil in Tolkien's books. He agreed there was, but that somehow "Harry Potter is different." I'd like to think I put a little bit of doubt in him that day, but I'm not so sure. Sometimes we can get so impassioned about something that we forget to look at the facts and miss our hypocrisy, even as we are judging something that we accept quite easily elsewhere. When I was in college I reflected similar negative views about Tolkien to my quad mates who were avid Tolkien fans. They knew I liked the Chronicles of Narnia and when they pointed out the similarities I couldn't accept them. "Narnia is an obvious allegory written by a Protestant," I said confidentally, "but Lord of the Rings is just dark fantasy written by a Catholic!" I feel pretty sheepish about my discrimination and lack of reasoning, but hey, I was young.

Once when we lived in Mennville I started a small group that was formed around a book club. Everyone in the group could pick a book and we'd read through it in two weeks and discuss it. One of the books Jobina chose was Harry Potter, Book One. One of the men in our group was incensed. "We can't read that book, it's Satanic!" "How do you know if you haven't read it?" we asked. Grudgingly he agreed and he reluctantly purchased the book. It was quite the discussion afterwards I'll tell you! He never changed his mind (which wasn't the point anyway) but at least he was an informed critic.

I grew up with the Narnian Chronicles and find them very uplifting for my faith. As for Lord of the Rings, after College I decided to give them another chance and now I find them totally inspiring. Harry Potter has never really interested me, and if I'm honest I'd say I've not been totally been comfortable with them but I know I'd be a hypocrite to definitively label them as "not good." Maybe I'm tentatively saying that they are "not good for me?" And truthfully, there are elements in Tolkien's and Lewis' books as well that do sometimes bother me as well. How much fantasy is OK when it involves sorcery, magic, gods, etc? I wonder if the average Christian really lets themselves consider all of the implications of what they are reading/watching when it comes to the occult? Or is it all subjective; as long as one's conscience isn't bothered, it's OK? In some ways I'm jealous of either those who say all wizard/occult fantasy is wrong or those who say that all fantasy is just fantasy so it's all OK. Life would certainly be simpler if I chose one of those views . . .

May Light increase!

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