- Bret Capranica thinks my blogname fits my personality. He, on the other hand, has recently helped start a group blog called Fide-O. Less than a week after launching, Bret and the other dawgs at Fide-O have been cranking out great posts at a pace I can hardly read fast enough to keep up with. If they keep it up, I'll be adding Fide-O to my blogroll soon.
- Doug McHone seems to exclude me (and Hugh Hewitt) from the list of bloggers he "actually would like to meet." What's up with that?
- Paul Lamey thinks some cases of church arson are justified.
- Gavin at "The Squawking Cockatiel" manages to find a picture of the PyroManiac in the pulpit of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. He's very clever at doctoring graphics, too.
Elsewhere, he gives a brief account of how the effects of America's evangelical meltdown has reached even to Perth, Australia.
- Dr. Andrew Jackson expects the rest of my series on the evangelical disaster to be interesting. I'm going to do my best not to disappoint him.
- Shaun Nolan reminds us that the key to getting evangelicals back on track lies in looking back to Acts 2, not looking ahead to the next fad or looking around at what the world is doing.
- Andy at "The Last Homely House" says his view of the current state of the church is virtually the same as mine.
- Peter Bogert found a few good things floating around the blogosphere.
There are lots more links I could BlogSpot, but some of the homeschool moms get really irritated when I BlogSpot them, and I don't want to risk getting clubbed with one of those unabridged dictionaries. I'm getting tired, anyway. So, finally...
- Matthew Self wants me to post an opinion about Harry Potter. As if we needed another opinion on that. Then again, what's the point in blogging at all if you don't want to express an opinion in a realm already glutted with opinions? So, without further ado:
On reading Harry Potter books
I haven't read any of the Harry Potter books, so I'm not really entitled to much of an opinion about them. I've seen a couple of the Potter movies.
In fact, I rarely read any fiction. The only two significant fiction works I recall reading in the past twenty years were both written by Tom Wolfe. I read those only because he was one of my favorite non-fiction authors. (I regularly read so much in the course of my work that when I get a hankering for fiction as entertainment, I'd normally prefer to watch a movie rather than read.)
I don't agree, however, with those who think the Potter books should be automatically declared off limits for all Christians because they feature magical and occult themes. The argument simply proves too much. Ultimately, it would work as an argument against virtually all fiction. In order to be consistent, for example, those who make that argument would have to rule out The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, everything from the Brothers Grimm, The Chronicles of Narnia, and my own favorite book from childhood, A Wrinkle in Time (which I read in 1962, before it won the Newberry Award).
All those books do teach some ideas I strongly disagree with. But they are, after all, fiction. Darlene and I taught our kids to read such books as fiction. We would have been concerned if the kids had shown any difficulty distinguishing between reality and fiction, or if they had become obsessed with Harry Potter, developed a fixation with sorcery, or taken any kind of personal interest in the black arts per se. If they had begun to live in a fantasy world of any kind, I would certainly imposed restrictions on reading fantasy and fiction. Since they weren't prone to that kind of dementia, I encouraged them to read as much as they wanted to read.
Consider this: If you are a thoughtful and critical thinker, you'll have to acknowledge that even the "family fare" coming out of Hollywoodvirtually all of itis grounded in one non-biblical worldview or another. It is therefore usually most seriously flawed at the very point where it aims to teach us some lesson about religion or Christianity.
As a matter of fact, speaking as a Christian who believes Scripture is authoritative, I have to say that I don't agree with the basic spiritual world-view in "It's a Wonderful Life"; "Star Wars"; "Pinocchio"; and a whole lot of other family films. (Personally, I didn't even like the rigid Sabbatarianism portrayed in "Chariots of Fire.") But I do like all those films as works of fiction (or historical drama, in the case of "Chariots").
Now, I have no difficulty whatsoever living with both what I like and what I dislike about any work of fiction or drama. Because even where they get spiritual truths wrong, such works still provide opportunities for discussion and clarification of vital biblical points.
I would naturally be inclined to argue that all fiction is useless and wrong, except for one stubborn fact that mitigates against that position: Jesus used fiction all the time in His teaching. In at least one case, even when the story's protagonist had an evil value system, Jesus used the story to teach a positive spiritual truth anyway (Luke 16:1-9). Creative parents, likewise, can use even the portrayal of evil in children's stories like The Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter to teach their children positive truth. The key is to be attentive, and Christ-centered, and biblical in your thinking.
All secular works of fiction should be read with the utmost care and discernment. But then, even Christian works of theological non-fiction should be read with the same kind of careful, critical discrimination.
I do happen to believe there's inherent educational value in reading great literature, even if it teaches moral or spiritual lessons we disagree with. "Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" (Acts 7:22). Daniel was taught "the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans" (Daniel 1:4). The benefit they derived from learning the ways of the Egyptians and Chaldeans surely was more intellectual than spiritual. But Scripture never treats such learning as a Bad Thing.
Ultimately, therefore, how I might answer the question of whether Christians should read Harry Potter or not would hinge primarily on whether the books really qualify as good literature. Having never read them, I cannot give an informed opinion on that. But judging from all reviews I have read, they are quite well written. Judging from the films, they are inventive and entertaining. So I'm not going to frown on brothers and sisters in Christ who have read them and enjoyed them and who do think they are good literature.
I know some will be disturbed by that. I'll respect your opinion and refer you to Romans 14.
PS: My eldest noticed the subject of this post and remarked that Frank Peretti's demon-warfare novels and the rest of the cheap apocalytic fiction evangelical publishers keep cranking out are far more evil than Harry Potter, and that's what Christians ought to stay away from. I think he has a point.