Thursday, July 19, 2007

Christians, bards, magic and spells

GetReligion isn't impressed with a Washington Post story this morning, heralding that a "Christian Fantasy Genre Builds Niche Without Hogwarts, Muggles or Spells."
This story contains all of the Bible verse quotations that one needs to know that, yes, there are people in Christian pews who are not comfortable with wizards, wands, spells and what not. But, folks, that is a really old, old story, too. In fact, one of the most serious holes in this long story is linked precisely to that fact.
...(Critics) have said that J.K. Rowling’s series gives Harry Potter deity-like powers, although he has no known religion. Critics also say that the books lack a definitive portrayal of good and evil. (Harry does engage in some occasional fibbing, and his skills at deceiving adults are well honed). A few critics have said that the lightning-bolt scar on Harry’s forehead represents the mark of the antichrist.

Rowling has dismissed such claims as “absurd.”

But Christian fantasy writers avoid those issues. Some deal with Christianity in overt ways, setting their stories in biblical times. Others follow in the footsteps of Christian fantasy writer C.S. Lewis, using allegory and symbolism to illustrate Christian themes.
The team at the Post that produced this story does not seem to realize that wizards and magic appear in the Narnia books and that there used to be people who were offended by these books, too. And it goes without saying that the same could be said of the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, who expressed his strong Catholic faith in much more subtle ways. Believe me, the Tolkien bashers are still out there.

Meanwhile, there are other popular writers in the fantasy world whose work has long appealed to believers and nonbelievers alike. One of my favorites is Stephen Lawhead, whose work — much of it Celtic in nature — tends to be published by “Christian” companies in North America and by “secular” publishers elsewhere. Go figure. Needless to say, bards and magic play major roles in his books and you’ll find them in all kinds of bookstores. Book two of his Raven/Hood trilogy is about to come out. (Yes, Raven Hood.)

So this anti-Potter CCF story is, for me, a stretch on several levels.

Meanwhile, there is also a chance that the Post buried the lede, for most of its readers. Near the bottom we learn:
Many religious leaders have rejected such objections. They have said that the books have a strong moral message. Some even see Christian symbolism in them. Christian parenting guru James Dobson has praised the Potter books.
Update 7/20: Apparently Dobson does not approve of the Potter books.

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