Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Would C.S. Lewis be a Potter fan?

These days there is no escaping Harry Potter. He's everywhere. Second only to the Bible in book sales. If you're wondering "is this good, bad or indifferent for our society?" read this fascinating article by John Granger.

Granger kicks it off with these two quotes:

"Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spells that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years. "

C. S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory"

"A very famous writer once said, 'A book is like a mirror. If a fool looks in, you can't expect a genius to look out.'"

J. K. Rowling on NBC's 'Today Show', 10/20/00

Not just an eloquent and persuasive defense of Rowling, this article is a fascinating look at what we should look for in our children's literature.

Her similarity to Lewis is not limited to writing charming fantasies for children (that have magic in them) as not a few of her defenders against Christian criticism imply. The Harry Potter books are the whole Inkling show, to include training in the "stock responses", right alignment of the soul's faculties, and most important, the 'baptism of the imagination' in Christian symbols and doctrines. Rowling's books are 'instructions while delighting' in the real world struggle to choose love and life in Christ over hatred, prejudice and spiritual death.

Not that these books don't have a biting satirical and sardonic edge! 'Harry Potter' is a traditionalist broadside attack on the modern world and its absurdities. Rowling's traditionalism shows itself in her profound use of alchemical symbolism in every book and the medieval and magical setting of Hogwarts. She creates a technology free, virtue laden world in order to critique modernity's obsession with toys and neglect of everything meaningful. She fills this world with magic as a counter spell to break the materialist enchantment of our effeminate, one-dimensional culture. Harry is a Christian hero, and a masculine icon of the traditionalist, symbolic outlook to boot.

Is there a place for magic in the imagination of a Christian child?

'Magic' is activity not obedient to naturalist law and material quantities. Rowling is writing a broadside, Christian attack on 'the reign of quantity', error, evil, and ugliness in the modern world; what better place to cast the counter spell to the enchantment of modernity than in a technology free world of magic alongside our own? And, yet, because of the poetry of magic she uses in her defense of the greater view, she has drawn fire from the very community she defends.

The irony of Christian objections to Harry Potter is that they are uniformly made against their magic and 'occult elements.' There is a real danger in the occult, and I protect my children from any exposure to it, even in 'popular culture'. Objections to the magic in Harry Potter, however, mistake the edifying use of magic in literature for actual invocational sorcery condemned by Scripture which it clearly is not.


Steph Stanger said...

Have you posted articles by John Grnager before? He sounds familiar.

Kim Traynor said...

Good eye Steph! Granger is the guy I kind of raised an eyebrow at last week after I read his thing about the beasts of Hogwarts being Christian symbols. I now realize that he's a lot smarter than me about these things!