Harry Potter: Goblet of Fire

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With each new Harry Potter movie I find myself drawn into a debate, seemingly unavoidably, I wish not to be part of.

I refer of course to the battle between those who oppose the Harry Potter series as antithetical to faith, and those who are thrilled to see their kids reading, and who find the series imaginative, believing also that it provides teachable moments. (In David Buckna’s Harry Potter Quiz he explores a number of them) It might be useful for people to read what JK Rowling has said about God and Magic in her own words!

The divisiveness over Harry Potter is passionate in the extreme, so much so that I’ve heard individuals from the pro & con side actually questioning “the salvation” of those on the other side. This, I trust you agree, is the quintessential definition of “over the top.”

Here are a few guiding comments.

ONE. WE suffer the problem described by C.S. Lewis in “Screwtape Letters” regarding devils. ” There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel and excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” I think we ought not to ignore the issues raised by Harry Potter. I also do not think we ought to be unhealthily preoccupied with them.

TWO. There are two legitimate sides to this issue.

On the negative side:

Ted Baehr gives the most recent movie his “abhorrent rating” commenting, “Very strong pagan worldview with very strong occult content and a kind of elitism, with witches and sorcerers forming their own secret society of witchcraft and magic.”

Bob Smithouser reviewing for Focus on the Family’s PLUGGED IN says, “Without magic and the occult there is no story. Supernatural goings-on inhabit every corner of the film¢â‚¬¦ It’s impossible for me to invest myself in a series that glamorizes witchcraft.”

On the positive side.
Connie Neal reviews the HP book series and then enumerates more than fifty “Potteran” themes that can be seen as “glimmers of the Gospel.”

HollywoodJesus.com comments of Goblet of Fire that the movie “signals a call for perseverance and steadfast progress toward mature actions and deeds something that Jesus called for, too.?”

Looking at other reviewers we see additional negatives and positives in Goblet of Fire.

Negative
1) Pre-occupation with the spirit world and the power of the dark side.
2) DARK Magic is central. Plugged In: the scene in the “graveyard finds one of Voldemort’s toadies tossing the shriveled wizard into a cauldron before adding other ingredients (including his own hand) that fuel a macabre transformation.”
3) Hogwarts trains young people to put their faith in magic and to help them become skilled in the tools of the trade.
4) Unlike Narnia or Lord of the Rings there is no Lord Over the Battle between good and evil, the characters are simply contestants on one side or the other.

Positive
1) Love, not magic, is the ultimate power.
2) There is good and evil: Near the end of Goblet of Fire Dumbledore warns, “Difficult times are coming Harry. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” Mad Eye also tells the students there are three “unforgivable curses:” to control, torture or kill.
3) Harry regularly chooses the virtuous, selfless, morally courageous path.
4) Harry travels in a company of loyal friends

THREE: The situation is further complicated becuase most Christians are on the extremes in their view of consumption of popular culture. They are either cultural anorexics, cut off from culture completely, or cultural gluttons who uncritically consume anything that comes along.

Three pieces of advice in conclusion.

1) Avoid the extremes of cultural gluttony or anorexia, practicing discernment in your media choices.

2) Acknowledge that the decision regarding Harry Potter should be made within the family involving healthy dialogue with kids and parents who are taking an active role in educating their children. It is a teachable moment whether you decide for or against Harry Potter.

3) Apply Augustine’s dictum.

In essentials unity.

In non-essentials liberty.

In all things charity.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Movies, Staublog in November 20, 2005 by | No Comments »

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