I have a self-imposed rule that I only occasionally break: that being never watching a movie about a book I’ve yet to read. I broke it for the sixth Harry Potter movie (the book on which it was based I have not read) and for the first part of the finale. I decided, however, that for the final installment, I needed to read the book before I saw the film. So, I did.
Jumping back in time a bit, I read the first Harry Potter book before I was than ten years old (I don’t recall exactly how old I was) and did so with this kind of nagging guilt in the back of my mind that told me I shouldn’t be reading it. Don’t forget, I was raised in an environment that was instantly hostile to any book bearing the words “witchcraft” and “wizardry” within it’s covers. Even so, I liked The Sorcerer’s Stone and continued to consume them all the way until the The Order of the Phoenix, at which point, convinced the eternal state of my soul was in jeopardy, I ceased reading them. Of course, that didn’t stop me from watching the movies as they came out–I reasoned, “I’ve read the books, so what harm could there be in watching the movies?”
When Half-Blood Prince came out in theaters, I avoided seeing it for a time, although I did watch it eventually in violation of my aforementioned rule. Of course, over time, my attitude toward the story changed; by the time DH1 was released in theaters last fall, I was so enthusiastic about seeing it, I went with a group to see it the night it premiered.
(Full disclosure: probably a major contributing reason to my going to see the premiere had to do with a news story on the movie that was pulled from my campus publication because–I’m convinced–there was concern it might offend some backwoods Pentecostals or their parents and make them less likely to donate their money to the school. Seeing that decision for what it was, I more than happy to thumb my nose at the–real or perceived–ignorance and bigotry driving that decision. Funny that, considering one of the central themes of Rowling’s books is combating ignorance and bigotry.)
At any rate, long story short, I found myself a few days ago on the cusp of the release of the final film and not having read The Deathly Hallows. I set out at once to correct this problem. Now, with The Deathly Hallows safely inside my head, I, at last, can now say with certainty that the bellowing pastors, front-pew congregants, Sunday school teachers, and sundry others of “God’s mouthpieces” who’ve taken every chance to rail against Satan’s (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling’s) usurpation of America’s youth through witchcraft and the occult were merely, hopelessly, humorously ignorant.
In a twist of irony almost worthy of a movie itself, not even the “Sister Bertha”-approved Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings have such a wonderful, clear, and majestically-moving picture of Christ’s love for Mankind as does Rowling’s story of the Boy Who Lived. Since I don’t believe in defending a book by spoiling it–in fact, a good story is perfectly capable of defending itself–, I’m not going to list all the reasons here why the Harry Potter books could very well be considered parabolic. Like Rob Bell, I believe people should only discuss books they’ve actually read.
Of course, the most clearly ironic part of the whole thing remains that someone managed–and not for the first time–to take something evil (witchcraft) but which enraptures people with interest, convert it and, whether intentionally or not, use it to tell a story of God’s love. In fact, as I recall, Jesus sort of did something that in his ministry–you know, use stories to convey larger spiritual truths and all that stuff. Also, if I remember correctly, even the Scripturally-learned men of the day had a hard time understanding Jesus’ stories. In that case, I guess I can sort of understand–though not excuse–the persistent insistence by some Christians that Miss Rowling and any who read her books are in cahoots with the devil.
If life has taught me anything thus far, it’s that there will always be people who know nothing other than to be afraid of new ideas, of strange symbols, and of things beyond their initial comprehension. It seems to be an inescapable human trait, one which has been and likely will be a constant nuisance until the end of time. However, one thing I do know for sure is this: should I one day find myself reading stories to my children at bedtime, one of them will almost certainly be the Tale of Harry Potter.