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Harry Potter
& the Baptized Imagination

        [COMMENT:  These three critiques below seem to me to be on target.  I have not read any of Harry Potter, but the principles here, if properly applied, are valid -- in which case the title above might read:  Harry Potter versus the Baptized Imagination. 

        The imagination is indeed from God, and we can "create sub-worlds", as noted below.  But, as also pointed out, we are morally responsible for our imaginations just as for our physical creations, and how we use them. 

        I discuss this at length in Biblical Inner Healing because the healing of our inner self requires the giving of our imaginations over to the lordship of Jesus Christ, just as of our intellects and wills, or any other capacity.  Our imaginations are given to better understand truth, not to flirt with the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil -- the tree of independence from God. 

        If the description of the Harry Potter material is accurate, then it is not within the Biblical camp.   

        It might be valid to portray abject evil -- but if and only if one also portrays absolute good so that there would be an even contest.  Jesus can handle anything the world, the flesh, or the devil can throw at Him or at us.  

        I once asked a person who had invited me to join him in a Dungeons and Dragons game what would happen if Jesus were introduced as a character.  He replied that it would ruin the game.   Of course it would -- because Jesus does not go by the same rules as D & D, that is, not by the same rules as the closed circle of the pagan cosmos (the cosmos of the Fall in Genesis 3).  When Jesus takes out the 2-edged Sword of the Spirit (reason and revelation welded back to back), all the ploys and forces of the fallen world come to naught.  The jig is up. 

        It is not at all clear (to me, at least) that the author of the Potter series is baptizing her imagination, or those of her readers.  It is not enough to point out that Harry goes through a "redemptive" struggle, similar to that of the Way of the Cross.  If the focus is not Jesus, it is not Christian.  God leans all the way down from heaven to say "thank you" to anyone who does a good deed (see Matthew 25, the parable of the last judgement), but God is not thereby giving anyone permission to ignore Himself.  The only way good deeds can, in the end, lead to anything enduring is in league with the King of kings and Lord of lords.  He is the vine, we are the branches (John 15).  

        So, if there is no sense of our moral accountability to our Creator, then it is just another pretense at being Biblical.  And, perhaps worst of all, it is fostering the illusion that one can have a moral order without God. 

        Go to Search Page to find more on Harry Potter on the Road.   E. Fox] 
 

1. [From an email...] 

Here are two very good articles from the Catholic press about the problems with the Harry Potter books/movies. The first one, although from 2001, compares Potter with Tolkien.

EXCERPT:
"But the charming details are mixed with the repulsive at every turn. Ron seeks to cast a spell that rebounds on himself, making him vomit slimy slugs; the ghost of a little girl lives in a toilet; excremental references are not uncommon; urination is no longer an off-limits subject; rudeness between students is routine behavior. In volume four especially these trends are much in evidence, along with the added spice of sexuality inferred in references to 'private parts' and students pairing off and 'going into the bushes.'

"Student witches and wizards are taught at Hogwarts to use their wands to cast hexes and spells to alter their environments, punish small foes, and defend themselves against more sinister enemies. Transfiguration lessons show them how to change objects and people into other kinds of creatures--often against their will. In Potions class they make brews that can be used to control others. In Herbology they grow plants that are used in the potions; the roots of the mandrake plant, for example, are small living babies who scream when they are uprooted for transplanting, and are grown for the purpose of being cut into pieces and boiled in a magical potion....

"The false notion that 'the end justifies the means' is the subtext throughout. The author's characterization and plot continually reinforce the message that if a person is 'nice,' if he means well, if he is brave and loyal to his friends, he can pretty much do as he sees fit to combat horrific evil--magic powers being the ideal weapon. "

 


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2. Harry Potter and the Paganization of Children’s Culture 

By Michael D. O'Brien
>From Catholic World Report

Oct. 10, 2001

The realm of human imagination is a God-given gift, a faculty of the mind that is intended to expand our understanding by enabling us to visualize invisible truths. In the modern era this zone of man's interior life has moved to the forefront of his experience. With the advent of film, television, and now the near-virtual reality of special-effects videos and other electronic entertainment, the screen of the imagination is stimulated to a degree (both in quantity and in kind) more than at any other period in history. This has prompted a continuing debate over what constitutes healthy nourishment of the imagination and what degrades it.

In his essay "On Fairy Stories," J.R.R. Tolkien pointed out that because man is made in the image and likeness of God he is endowed with faculties that reflect his Creator. One of these is the gift of "sub-creation"--the human creator may give form to other worlds populated by imaginary peoples and beasts, where fabulous environments are the stage for astounding dramas. The primal desire at the heart of such imagining, he says, is the "realization of wonder." If our eyes are opened to see existence as wonder-full, then we become more capable of reverential awe before the Source of it all. "Fairy stories may invent monsters that fly the air or dwell in the deep," he wrote, "but at least they do not try to escape from heaven or the sea." However fantastic the sub-created world may be, if it is a product of the "baptized imagination" it will be faithful to the moral order of the universe. Tolkien cautions, however, that because man is fallen, the creative faculty is always at r!
 isk of veering away from its true objective. We are all quite capable of taking God-given gifts back in the direction of idolatry.

Even the most cursory glance at what is available in children's literature and entertainment today offers ample evidence that the paganization of the imagination is well underway. In the late 19th century there appeared in children’s fiction a trickle of books that began the process of redefining Christian symbols and the presentation of occult themes in a favorable light. Until then, witches and sorcerers--important elements of traditional fables and fairy tales--were consistently portrayed as evil. With the advent of the occult revival (which entered the West primarily through certain British writers involved in esoteric religion) more and more material appeared that attempted to shift the line between good and evil. The characters of the "white witch," the pet dragon, and the wise wizard became familiar figures. During the last quarter of the 20th century the trickle became a torrent, and by the final decade before the millennium it entered the mainstream of culture, powe!
 rfully augmented by the interlocking mechanisms of television, film, video, marketing techniques and spin-off industries, and applauded by a class of critics who told us that this was all a long overdue broadening of our horizons.

In his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman describes how television has reshaped our society. In the past, when Western man moved from an oral culture to the print-dominated or "typographic" culture, significant changes resulted in our capacity to absorb experience and abstractions.  The volume of information fed to the mind increased, while the mind's ability to sort and evaluate the influx of data did not always keep pace. With the advent of television another quantum leap occurred.  Flooded with powerful stimuli that bypassed the mind's normal faculties for filtering and interpretation, both the rational and the imaginative aspects of our minds became increasingly passive.  As a result, Postman warns, our ways of perceiving reality itself are becoming fundamentally distorted.  We now imbibe a massive amount of impressions in small bites that demand of us neither sustained attention nor truly critical thinking, thus rendering us vulnerable to manipulation.  We are dangerously close, he says, to that condition described by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World; no longer conscious of our bondage, we are soothed by endless entertainments.  Postman writes:

For in the end he [Huxley] was trying to tell us that what afflicted the people in Brave New World was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.

How does this warning apply to books that promote a pagan view of the world? Surely, it is argued, their popularity heralds a return to a more literate culture.  Is not their success a positive sign, demonstrating that the human imagination can never be fully satisfied by electronic media?  At first glance, it would seem so.  But a book is not necessarily always better than a video simply because it is a book.  While it is true that media technology tends to overwhelm the viewer, and books usually pay some respect to the integrity of the reader (sparking the imagination but not displacing its creative powers), much of contemporary fantasy for the young is actually closer in style to television than to literature.  It overwhelms by using in print form the visceral stimuli and pace of the electronic media, flooding the imagination with sensory rewards while leaving it malnourished at the core.  In a word, thrills have swept aside wonder.

ARTICLE continues at
http://www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=20546
----------------------
3. Ten Arguments Against Harry Potter -
By Woman Who Corresponded with Cardinal Ratzinger

From
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/jul/05071508.html

Gabriele Kuby, author of Harry Potter: Good or Evil

1. Harry Potter is a global long term project to change the culture.  In the young generation inhibitions against magic and the occult are being destroyed.  Thus, forces re-enter society which Christianity had overcome.

2. Hogwarts, the school of magic and witchcraft, is a closed world of violence and horror, of cursing and bewitching, of racist ideology, of blood sacrifice, disgust and obsession.  There is an atmosphere of continuous threat, which the young reader cannot escape.

3. While Harry Potter appears in the beginning to fight against evil, in fact the similarities between him and Voldemort, the arch-evil adversary in the tale, become more and more obvious.  In volume five, Harry is being obsessed by Voldemort, which leads to symptoms of personality disintegration.

4. The human world becomes degraded, the world of witches and sorcerers becomes glorified.

5. There is no positive transcendent dimension.  The supernatural is entirely demonic.  Divine symbols are perverted.

6. Harry Potter is no modern fairy tale.  In fairy tales sorcerers and witches are unambiguous figures of evil.  The hero escapes their power through the exercise of virtue.  In the Harry Potter universe there is no character that endeavours consistently to achieve good.  For seemingly good ends evil means are being used. 

7. A (young!) reader's power of discernment of good and evil is blocked out through emotional manipulation and intellectual confusion.

8. It is an assault upon the young generation, seducing it playfully into a world of witchcraft and sorcery, filling the imagination of the young with images of a world in which evil reigns, from which there is no escape, on the contrary, it is portrayed as highly desirable.

9. Those who value plurality of opinion should resist the nearly overwhelming power of this peer pressure, which is being accomplished through a gigantic corporate and multimedia blitz--one which displays elements of totalitarian brainwashing.

10. Since through the Potter books faith in a loving God is systematically undermined, even destroyed in many young people, through false "values" and mockery of Judeo-Christian truth, the introduction of these books in schools is intolerant.  Parents should refuse permission for their children to take part in Potter indoctrination for reasons of faith and conscience.

See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Pope Opposes Harry Potter Novels - Signed Letters from Cardinal Ratzinger Now Online
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/jul/05071301.html

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