Saturday, July 30, 2011

Roman Catholic Harry Potter Fans

Patrick Madrid says....

Among the odd things I’ve seen in the Catholic world, one of the oddest is the capacity of some Catholic Harry Potter fans to go zero-to-60 on the manic meter instantaneously at the mere suggestion that there might be something spiritually deleterious about HP.

Yeah well Patrick, try talking with a Roman Catholic convinced Mary is making appearances. I spent about 3 hours talking with a woman who was convinced Mary appeared in the sky above her, so when she looked into the sun, she was not blinded but protected by Mary. She went zero-to-60 when I suggested such an experience might be something spiritually deleterious.

27 comments:

Scott Windsor said...

1) There are some spiritually deleterious things about HP.

2) That woman MIGHT have experienced something spiritually deleterious - but then again, she MIGHT NOT have! You expressed your concern - and beyond that, you cannot judge whether not her PRIVATE REVELATION is genuine or not - it is HERS. Her confessor and/or bishop needs to be the one "correcting" her, if such "correction" is indeed warranted.

Scott<<<

John Lollard said...

James, out of curiosity, what would be your opinion on Harry Potter and other "magic" sorts of books?

James Swan said...

Scott,

My private revelation is that what the woman experienced was not of God, and Romanism is spiritually deleterious. You cannot judge whether or not my PRIVATE REVELATION is genuine or not.

James Swan said...

John,

I wish I had something profound to say as response, I don't.

I treat HP as I do all the "arts" (movies, music, painting, etc). One can extract value (or enjoyment) out of work produced by non-Christians. Non-Christians are capable of creating profound works of art (yes, I do hold to "common grace").

I recall seeing the 1st HP movie to see what all the fuss was about. I wasn't all that interested in it, and I didn't really think the movie was all that great. Maybe that's because I'm not a kid anymore. Maybe at 10 years old I would've liked it.

I also recall wondering how it was possible for Christians to make a big fuss over HP, and then continually praising the Lord of the Rings movies. Both movies share similar elements of other worldly fantasy.

To use Madrid's phrase, I think almost anything can be "spiritually deleterious" because as Calvin said, we're idol factories. Because of sin, we can take any good thing and make it into an idol.

Some Christians could probably go watch HP and enjoy it as a work of fictional fantasy. I saw it, and did not enjoy it. I didn't see any of the other movies in the series.

On the other hand, we need to be careful as to what we take into our minds. Common grace & the arts can't be abused. I can forsee someone using the comon grace doctrine in order to satisy sinful desire to be satiated with visual stimuli. That is, I can hear someone saying, "Why not go see that R rated movie? It's a work of art, and I'll extract what good I can out of it." Well maybe, maybe not. Some of the stuff Hollywood puts out is nothing more than soft porn.

Again, nothing profound here from me on this stuff.

In regard to movies, I recently saw Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" and it may be one of the finest films he's ever done. He himself is far from any sort of Christian morality, but the film itself was a fine work of art. When I turned around to leave the theater, I noticed almost everyone was smiling. The movie, if I recall, had no profanity, vulgarity, nudity, etc. It was simply an interesting imaginative story, well acted. The underlying theme of the notion of a "golden age" was also explored in an interesting way.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

John,

I realize it's presumptuous of me to offer up my own opinion when you asked for James' perspective. However, I have wrestled with this issue, as some at seminary and a few friends of mine seem to think the books are evil for practicing "witchcraft" or "magic."

I think James' is right to note the dissonance between condemning Harry Potter on the one hand and enjoying Lord of the Rings on the other. Both employ similar types of magic.

But for the consistent critic, I think the fundamental issue should very well be whether the "magic" practiced in Harry Potter is the kind Scripture rebukes. (We could also ask the very legitimate question of whether the story asks children to emulate the practice of "magic," but that would be a different issue.)

A useful distinction I once read in a Christianity Today article ("Redeeming Harry Potter," if I recall) is one between incantation and invocation. It is one thing to invoke spiritual realities beyond this world to bring you power. That's really quite dangerous, and Scripture certainly condemns that kind of behavior. It is quite another to simply say a word and practice behaviors that produce predictable, non-personal/entity results. Magic in Harry Potter is of the latter kind, where it is merely the mastery of a different set of impersonal tools used to control nature.

The books themselves have much Christian imagery, at least to those who understand medieval motifs (I thought the unicorn and communion imagery was particularly powerful). Griffins were a symbol of Christ in the middle ages, and the good, courageous children reside within the House of Griffindor. The deceitful, cruel children reside in Slitherin--the house of snakes. Voldemort himself, if you've read the books, is quite "snake-like" (I'll leave it at that). (And I do not have to tell you what a snake represents.) Without offering spoilers, one of the major themes of the book is ultimate, sacrificial love, a theme which plays directly into the kind of "magic" that underlies the world of Harry Potter. I'm no literary critic, but it seemed to me that magic was mostly a useful device or world architecture that spoke to greater realities of character, truth, etc.

The best story will always be the redemption of God's people by the blood of Jesus. But Harry Potter seems like something that can be enjoyed and read without a guilty conscience, and will probably even be edifying.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

James Swan said:

I recall seeing the 1st HP movie to see what all the fuss was about.

The first movie is, well, terribly boring.

The later movies are much better, if not entirely faithful to the books, which, of course, are better than the movies.

Carrie said...

I adore the HP movies. It's a great story and the movies are so well done. If you don't like fantasy then maybe they wouldn't be appealing.

I'm going to make a blanket statement here, but I know it doesn't apply to all. I find the HP opposers are often like the Halloween opposers. They make a stand against those things but then let their kids (openly) get into all other kinds of mischief. It's easy to avoid one day a year or 8 movies and look righteous but I'm not impressed.

No offense to anyone who opposes that stuff, you may have good reason. I just get so frustrated with the types I describe above. But this stuff is an area of Christian liberty in my opinion (and I am usually pretty strict).

James Swan said...

But for the consistent critic, I think the fundamental issue should very well be whether the "magic" practiced in Harry Potter is the kind Scripture rebukes

Thanks for your comments Matthew, and by all means feel free to answer anything addressed to... anybody. I don't claim to be any sort of Michael Horton, with my finger on the pulse of the culture and evangelicalism.

I was curious if the above statement from you actually applies to you. I couldn't quite tell if you were attempting to be the consistent person described.

My own 2 cents is even this sort of argument, I seriously doubt anyone could apply it consistently. If one were to avoid a film because it contains something Scripture rebukes, then there's not much left to watch. some may respond, "yes, that's the case." However, I think I could press the person to the point where they would have to explain to me why the actually read the Old Testament.

Based on the rest of your comments, you and I are probably on the same page. The movie can be sifted for positive motifs, and evaluated by the Christian worldview. There's elements of it that can be enjoyed, because, as novice Van Tilian, I realize HP borrows from the Christian worldview.

On the other hand, Christian parents need to use discretion. They need to inoculate their children with the gospel, and train them to see the world through the eyes of faith in Christ.

James Swan said...

I adore the HP movies. It's a great story and the movies are so well done. If you don't like fantasy then maybe they wouldn't be appealing.

I used to read fantasy as kid. I don't anymore, unless you count Roman Catholic blogs. I read the popular Christan stuff (Tolkien, Lewis, George MacDonald, Calvin Miller). I also read Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks, also sci fi stuff like Ray Bradbury, Asimov, Harlan Elison). I don't read much fiction anymore.

I was around back in the day when Christians came out in full "force" (pun intended) at the Stars Wars trilogy. I saw Star Wars as a kid, and loved every minute of it. I also thought the folks against Stars Wars weren't consistent at times (I'm speaking of people I personally knew).

I'm more aware now, of course, at underlying themes and worldviews in movies. I can watch almost anything, chew the meat (if there is any) and spit out the bones. Sometimes it's more fun to me to just to identify the worldview behind the movie. But that sort of thing isn't for everybody. Some people are seriously effected by what they plug into their brains. It's all a matter of Christian freedom. What may be free for me, may not be free for another person. I typically can watch something, and almost immediately forget it. There are of course things that I'll shut off, and I have walked out of a theater mid-movie.

If I had to list my recent favorite movies, say over the last 10 years (not in any order):

Oh Brother Where Art Thou

Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind

Life is Beautiful (In Italian only)

The Others

Two Family House

Carrie said...

I used to read fantasy as kid. I don't anymore, unless you count Roman Catholic blogs.

:)

I was around back in the day when Christians came out in full "force" (pun intended) at the Stars Wars trilogy.

Really? I did not know that.

If I had to list my recent favorite movies, say over the last 10 years (not in any order):

I have only seen 2 of your 5. I don't get to watch too many movies anymore (unless I catch them on TV).

James Swan said...

I'm guesssing the two are Oh Brother and The Others.

Just a guess.

John Lollard said...

At the risk of dating myself, I think I actually was ten when HP first came out. I read the second book when it first came out and wasn't very impressed. Last week friends got mad and made me read the series. I read the first book and still wasn't impressed and decided $11 for a paperback was way too much to be spending.

Thank you, James and everyone else, for the opinions. I was secretly hoping James would be anti-HP, just because I've never heard a balanced argument for that position. I am also on the line of liberty and spiritual discernment, though I would disagree in that
a) Harry Potter does feature the sort of magic the Bible condemns
b) the magic in Harry Potter is not the same as the magic in LotR

The other day I was at a used bookstore and found an "illustrated" book of Genesis - basically tells Genesis in comic book form. The cover had a warning that it contained graphic content for mature readers and that adult supervision was advised.

James, I was interested to see you list Calvin Miller. I found a book by him once called "Guardians of the Singreale" at a used bookstore, which impressed me with how singularly awful the cover art was. I figured any book with such horrible cover art must be interesting. The book was about as terrible as the cover. I had heard that his "the Singer" series was much better, but that never seems to be available at bookstores. Would you recommend it? I've never met anyone else who's heard of him.

I read a lot of fantasy and could fill a dozen more posts with boring comments and criticisms, but I will spare you all. Thanks for the insights.

Carrie said...

I'm guesssing the two are Oh Brother and The Others.

Close. I've seen The Others and Life is Beautiful. I think the only Coen brothers' movie I have seen is Fargo although I would like to see True Grit (as I like the original).

At the risk of dating myself, I think I actually was ten when HP first came out. I read the second book when it first came out

Wow, you are young! I love seeing young people that can articulate theology so well.

Rhology said...

I used to love Piers Anthony.

I was addicted to fantasy books, D&D-type stuff, like Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms, when I was a teen.

I read them over and over and still have most of their plots embedded in my mind.

I had to get rid of them when I was 17 because a friend helped me realise the amount of time I spent reading and meditating on them. Strangely, I never read LotR until the movies started coming out.

Rhology said...

(subscribed)

James Swan said...

James, I was interested to see you list Calvin Miller. I found a book by him once called "Guardians of the Singreale" at a used bookstore, which impressed me with how singularly awful the cover art was. I figured any book with such horrible cover art must be interesting. The book was about as terrible as the cover. I had heard that his "the Singer" series was much better, but that never seems to be available at bookstores. Would you recommend it? I've never met anyone else who's heard of him.

I read Miller's trilogy probably when I was around 15. There may be more options for Christians now, but back then, you pretty much had Tolkien, Lewis, MacDonald, and Miller. I don't recall the Trilogy being all that good, and I've never heard of "Guardians of the Singreale".

I'll probably never read an HP book. In terms of fiction, it's more likely if I ever read fiction again, the authors I read will probably be Flannery O'Connor and Joyce Carol Oates. Those are the only two that have intrigued me lately.

James Swan said...

Close. I've seen The Others and Life is Beautiful. I think the only Coen brothers' movie I have seen is Fargo although I would like to see True Grit (as I like the original).

I've seen the majority of the Coen brothers films. Most of them have such dark themes, sometimes too dark. Some of them I have not particularly cared for. "Oh Brother" is probably one of their less-dark films, which is why I probably like it. I enjoyed the music as well, which is always a plus.

Movies are such a subjective thing. I typically like movies in which I forget I'm actually watching a movie. Sounds strange I know- but if I'm catching clever camera shots, or wondering about stunts, and thinking about CGI, then the movie isn't working for me.

James Swan said...

Rhology said...

I used to love Piers Anthony.


It's probably been more years than I care to admit since I've read Piers Anthony. I do recall making it through much of the Xanth series, as well as at least 3 or 4 of the Incarnations of Immortality books. I recall enjoying the first books in each series. There was talk about making some of his stuff into movies, I don't recall how that ever played out, other than the fact there are no Piers Anthony movies that I know of.

There was a point while reading, I think one of the Incarnations of Immortality books in which I suspected I was being subjected to a lot of "filler" material. That is, he spit the books out so fast, it appeared to me he wasn't taking as much care with his writing but was meeting publishing deadlines. I don't know that for a fact, it's just a hunch.

On a related note, I recall hearing Michael Horton giving the following explanation as to why watching horror films is OK: In the genre of say, an action movie, there are some films like a "Rambo" in which the body count rises fast and furious, so much so that killing becomes... no big deal. In a horror film, death and killing are still treated as the awful thing they are. Horton mentioned he enjoyed watching horror films, much to the disappointment of his wife. I'm not sure how far Horton takes this. The recent phenomena in Horror films has been a genre called "torture porn." Yes, you guessed it, the mixing of sex and violence. I typically would never subject myself to such movies, but there are quite a number of popular horror films that would fit this description. I had never heard of this description until I read a movie director who made a film to basically attack the genre itself.

While I don't disagree with Horton's basic point, I think as Christians we need to use discernment as to what we fill our heads with. I went through a period recently in which I listened to almost no music, and watched basically nothing. I did though spend a lot of time studying theology and Bible reading. I did notice a difference in the way I felt. I did notice, that when I was subjected again to say, a movie, I was not desensitized to blatant anti-Christians themes and content, and they jumped out immediately as offensive.

John Lollard said...

James,

"There may be more options for Christians now, but back then, you pretty much had Tolkien, Lewis, MacDonald, and Miller."

I know there are allegedly some new works out there. I've never read any of them, though. Every time I go into the "Christian fiction" section at a bookstore, I feel so awkward, as 90% of the titles - if the covers are any guide - are romance novels about women in bonnets living on the prairie. The other 9.999% are "Left Behind" novels. One day I plan to go to the bookstore when there's no one else there to notice me and actually look for a decent title in that section.

When I was in high school, I remember a teacher describing Ursula LeGuin as a "Christian author". I have no idea why he said that, as I've never found that statement corroborated anywhere else. That aside, the first three books of "Earthsea" are about as Christocentric as I can imagine a book being without Aslan in it. It's typically listed as a young adult book, but I think the ideas go a lot deeper than that. If anyone was interested.

Flannery O'Connor's last book was definitely a good read. I never read anything else by her, but I did enjoy what I have read. The only complaint is that all of her stories have basically the same plot and cast of characters. Maybe it's just a formula she settled on as she neared the end of her career? The themes, however, are worth it.

That's my opinion at least :P I just had to pounce on the chance to discuss literature.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

James Swan said:

My own 2 cents is even this sort of argument, I seriously doubt anyone could apply it consistently. If one were to avoid a film because it contains something Scripture rebukes, then there's not much left to watch. some may respond, "yes, that's the case." However, I think I could press the person to the point where they would have to explain to me why the actually read the Old Testament.

Yes, we are in agreement here. In fact, even if Harry Potter practiced the kind of magic condemned by Scripture, I would still have read the works, taking the good and discarding the bad (which you stated in better terms).

I was speaking on the terms of the objector, that practicing "magic" is bad, we should not emulate it or expose our children to it, etc. I think it sufficient, for that particular argument, that "magic" be understood for what it is in the Harry Potter series.

I think your approach is going to be better more generally, however, since it gets at the heart of the matter much more quickly. And you are quite right to observe that the principle underlying objections to Harry Potter has sort of an acidic effect, dissolving virtually all media options.

It is interesting to hear that certain Christians objected to Star Wars. Nowadays, it seems almost all Christian parents are completely fine with their kids being fully immersed in that universe, despite its Buddhist tendencies. Yet I imagine some of these same parents are against the "magic" of Harry Potter.

Scott Windsor said...

Swan wrote: My private revelation is that what the woman experienced was not of God, and Romanism is spiritually deleterious. You cannot judge whether or not my PRIVATE REVELATION is genuine or not.

That's not really the definition of a "private revelation," that would be your "private judgment," and I'll give you that. You are entitled to exercise your free will to judge her (and whatever "Romanism" is) as you wish.

Now, IF you're claiming that God has directly and privately revealed this to you - well, then don't be surprised if many of even your fellow Protestants see that as a bit "deleterious." I am OK with letting you CLAIM you've had as many PRIVATE REVELATIONS as you wish to claim. :-)

Scott<<<

James Swan said...

IF you're claiming that God has directly and privately revealed this to you - well, then don't be surprised if many of even your fellow Protestants see that as a bit "deleterious." I am OK with letting you CLAIM you've had as many PRIVATE REVELATIONS as you wish to claim. :-)

Yes, it's a private revelation.

You see what can happen if you rely on an authority beyond the
Scriptures?

James Swan said...

Every time I go into the "Christian fiction" section at a bookstore, I feel so awkward, as 90% of the titles - if the covers are any guide - are romance novels about women in bonnets living on the prairie. The other 9.999% are "Left Behind" novels.

I have not been in a CB in quite a while. I have though seen the Christian fiction stuff at the Barnes and Noble.

I've never enjoyed the concept of a Christian "this" or Christian "that." If someone is a good writer, or a good musician, or a good film maker, it would be enough that they produce a great product, like a Christian plumber, or a Christian wood worker would produce good work. That is, I would rather see Christians write fiction, but it need not be overtly a tool to witness to their faith, or used as Gospel outreach. I would be pleased if they simply wrote good fiction.

I've never heard of Ursula LeGuin.

As to O'Connor's last book, I'll keep your suggestion in mind.

James Swan said...

It is interesting to hear that certain Christians objected to Star Wars. Nowadays, it seems almost all Christian parents are completely fine with their kids being fully immersed in that universe, despite its Buddhist tendencies. Yet I imagine some of these same parents are against the "magic" of Harry Potter.

Yes- I think maybe some of Dave Hunt's eary books touch on Star Wars. There is a WTS west guy, or someone out in that area that the White Horse Inn guys have on their show that is big on pointing out the eastern influences in Star Wars, etc. I can't think of his name. He's got a British accent, and I always find his stuff rather dull.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

He's got a British accent, and I always find his stuff rather dull.

He must be exceptionally dull to negate the rhetorical advantage of a British accent.

Scott Windsor said...

You see what can happen if you rely on an authority beyond the Scriptures?

I see, so when the Scriptures show us that God established a new Church, being led by bishops - we should then find THAT Church which is STILL run by bishops and can trace its bishoprick all the way back to the Apostles. Good advice my friend! Thanks! :-)

Scott<<<

PS- FWIW, I believe I have agreed with you (or was that Madrid?) that there are some deleterious things about HP -AND- I really don't put any weight in that woman's private revelation - but it is HER private revelation, so that's between her and her confessor and/or bishop.

kaycee said...

Very convincing Scott, except for a few points.

The Ancient church did not believe in a papacy, never knew a Marian Assumption or the Immaculate conception, Elders could marry and were not likely to be gay or worse, did not pray to statues or relics, did not adore monstrances, no one dedicated themselves to Mary, Christians prayed to "Our Father, Who art in Heaven", not to departed "saints", no ultramones existed, no immolations of Christ were done, no purgatory, no auricular confession, no penance, no sprinkling, no infant baptism, no confirmation, no meatless fridays, no St. Anthony parades, no random days of obligation with forfieture of salvation, no scapulas, no St. Blaze candles, no treasury of merit, no supererogation of merit, no indulgences, no torturing someone back to the faith, no self flagulation, no cloistered nunneries, no monestaries, no Marian images on toast, no ones salvation was hinging on ever increasing mandatory belief in non essential dogma, belief was in "faith that was once for all delivered to the saints", and only the Roman church got its marching orders from Roman Elders.

Other than that, it would be hard not to miss the one true church. Or maybe its the Orthodox church.