Those Crazy Muggles

December 17, 2007

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first and second books in the Harry Potter series, including a major spoiler regarding the end of the second book.

So I’ve just finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (the second in the series), and I’m left wondering what all the fuss was about. I’ve taken away from these books several messages, including: good will always triumph over evil; love will always defeat hatred; and, especially in the second book, that racism and other forms of exclusion based on who people are is wrong. The horrors.

I also took note of something toward the end of the Chamber of Secrets. Harry Potter is concerned that he was almost placed in Slytherin, the house that produced the evil Lord Voldemort and a number of other dark wizards, and wonders if he has evil within him. The headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, responds by saying that it’s not about some latent quality within a person, but about the choices a person makes – this, according to Dumbledore, is what defines a person.

“So I should be in Slytherin,” Harry said, looking desperately into Dumbledore’s face. “The Sorting Hat could see Slytherin’s power in me, and it –”

“Put you in Gryffindor,” said Dumbledore calmly. “Listen to me, Harry. You happen to have many qualities Salazar Slytherin prized in his hand-picked students. His own very rare gift, Parseltongue — resourcefulness — determination — a certain disregard for rules,” he added, his mustache quivering again. “Yet the Sorting Hat placed you in Gryffindor. You know why that was. Think.”

“It only put me in Gryffindor,” said Harry in a defeated voice, “because I asked not to go in Slytherin. . . .”

Exactly,” said Dumbledore, beaming once more. “Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle [Voldemort]. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (p. 333)

Sounds nefarious, doesn’t it? Definitely not the kind of thing we want our kids reading about!


The Golden Compass

December 8, 2007

I don’t usually delve into pop culture controversies, and especially not the kind that involve hypersensitive boycotts of movies, music, video games, etc., because there is something either morally, philosophically, or religiously objectionable about them. Like many Americans, I’ve grown tired of the evangelical who cried wolf – The Last Temptation of Christ, The DaVinci Code, Harry Potter, etc., have all been said to be anti-Christian and/or threatening to the Christian faith, and they are by no means the only examples.

So what about this Golden Compass business? At first, I was inclined to dismiss it as just another example of the evangelical who cried wolf. What could possibly make this different than all the rest? But the more I’ve heard about it, the more I’ve become convinced that there may actually be a wolf here. You see, unlike the other examples that range from artistic to opportunistic, the series of books upon which this movie is based seems actually to be antagonistic toward Christianity and, in fact, religion in general.

I haven’t read the books and I haven’t seen the movie. I won’t pass definitive judgement on them until I do, and that may be never – I have little interest in the movie, less interest in the books, and no time to pursue that which doesn’t interest me. Still, I think caution may be called for. You might want to think twice. You might want to read the resources compiled by Against the Grain from sources better informed than me. And, if you’re one of the evangelicals used to crying wolf, you might want to consider that when an actual wolf shows up no one is going to be paying attention. And you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.