12.16.2005

It's a good thing Narnia is such clean, wholesome fun


These children are evil


I’ve noted before that there are times when I feel that my criticism of the Religious Right is too harsh. I don’t believe that all Christians are crazy or out of touch with reality; in fact, most Christians I know are so far removed from the Falwells and Phelpses of the world, that I can’t believe they are practitioners of the same religion. So, just when I feel the need to apologize, and take back all the mean things I’ve said about fundies, Agape Press manages piss me off twice in one week:

A Catholic sociologist and writer from Bavaria believes Harry Potter is a "global long-term project to change the culture" by destroying children's inhibitions against cursing, magic, and occult practices.

British author J.K. Rowling has sold an estimated 300 million copies of her popular series of books on a fictional society of witches and wizards. The books have also spawned a series of popular and financially successful films. But Gabriele Kuby, author of the book Harry Potter: Good or Evil, believes the Potter books and the four subsequent movies are "evil" -- and that parents should avoid exposing their children to them.

"The confusion of good and evil, which happens in Harry Potter all the time, is dangerous because it's the foundation of what the Pope calls relativism," Kuby explains. "Relativism means there's no sure criteria for good and evil -- and if that is sunk into the soul, it's dangerous."

There is a scene in the latest Harry Potter movie in which Harry must decide whether to save his friend Cedric from certain death or make a move to win the illustrious Triwizard Tournament. He chooses to turn back and save his friend. Does this sound like the kind of lesson that "parents should avoid exposing their children to?" I cannot imagine that any child would watch these films or read these books and decide that life as a witch or a warlock is in the cards for them. Kids have a better understanding of reality and fantasy that these people give them credit for, and often children seem to have a better grasp on reality than the people who claim that Harry Potter will turn them into spell-casting witches with potty-mouths.

Here’s my favorite passage from the article:
Kuby is convinced the Potter phenomenon is a "mockery of Judeo-Christian truth" and says subjecting young students to Harry Potter books in schools is "intolerant." The author believes the Potter series is replete with occult practices as well.

Well, at least Agape Press is being consistent with its definition of "intolerant", which apparently means enjoying anything that isn’t slavishly devoted to Christian values. If nothing else, Harry Potter makes kids read. My nieces can tear through all 700 pages in a week or less. They don’t do that with the Bible, and they have no use for the Chronicles of Narnia, but hand them a Harry Potter book and good luck getting them outside to play. Please tell me how a generation of literate children can be a bad thing.

The fear with Harry Potter has nothing to do with a fervent belief that kids will suddenly become witches and warlocks and lose all sense of good and evil. The fear is that kids will develop their own sense of morality, one that is not as rigid and unforgiving as most Christian doctrine. And when these kids grow up, having decided for themselves what good and evil means, they will have no use for the dogma and stridency of the Religious Right. And that’s got to be terrifying for the Falwells and Phelpses of the world, who need us to be fearful and acquiescent so that their belief system can survive.

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annamaria at 10:17 AM

3 spoke

3 Comments

at Friday, December 16, 2005 5:25:00 PM Blogger Kurt said...

First of all, let me say that I have a tremendous amount of respect for you, Annamaria. I am also generally in agreement with you when discussing the oh-so-wrong Right. And I love the Harry Potter books for what they are - very enjoyable fiction. I'm also with you that more kids have learned to read from those books than any Bible.

But I have to take issue with something in your last paragraph -
"The fear is that kids will develop their own sense of morality, one that is not as rigid and unforgiving as most Christian doctrine. And when these kids grow up, having decided for themselves what good and evil means, they will have no use for the dogma ..."
You have come to know me as a moderate person, right? I'm scared to death of what happens when we are all allowed to decide what good and evil means, and rely instead on our own sense of morality. I could take it to extremes and make up a scenario about robbers, thieves and car jackers doing it to support their families. But let's look at real world places where relativism and hubris have shown what happens when persons are allowed to decide what code of bahavior they will follow.
NPR ran a story on All Things Considered a few nights ago about corruption in Mexico. It is estimated the average person in Mexico pays 30% of their wages in bribes, or La Mordita ("the bite"). Police, goverment workers and civil servants are all recipients of this extra cash. The story reported that the first bribe is usually paid, on average, by twelve year olds to their teachers in exchange for favorable grades. Traffic violations, trash pick-up and other things we take for granted in the US all usually require some grease on the axle. The story also reported that a majority of Mexicans surveyed feel it is morally okay to disregard laws which they feel are not fair to their particular circumstances.

The oligarchies that have grown up in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet system have certainly made a few favored elite extremely wealthy. But they are definitely not benefitting the workers and under-priveledged of that country. While it was "legal" for the new elite to structure sweetheart deals for themselves, would it be considered moral?

What about those in charge of Enron? They had obviously designed a way to bilk millions from investors and use "creative" accounting to make the books look good.

Or the prison guards and soldiers in Iraq that have been judged to have tortured and performed inhumane treatment on Iraqi (both under Saddam and our occupation)?

These folks all ",... having decided for themselves what good and evil means,"..."have no use for the dogma..". They perpetrated deeds most of us are angry about (at best) or repulsed by (at worst).

There needs to be some absolute, some touchstone that humans can fall back to as the ultimate arbiter of behavioral standards. Something beyond our own insatible appetities. Richard Rohr writes about the purpose on male initiation rites (across cultures and religous beliefs) and their importance to a society's survival. He often recounts a story about young bull elephants in India ranging out of control and destroying property and automobiles. This was not "normal" behavior but no one understood what was going on. At last someone realized these young male elephants had grown without any role models (all the older elephants had been poached). An adult bull elephant was brought into the herd and when one of the young elephants was getting out of hand, the adult elephant would single him out and flap his ears at the young elephant in a threatening show of force. Soon the younger elephants had learned the herd's acceptable behaviors and cars stopped being crushed.

Without a standard or something absolute, a reason for morality, we are inclined not to be. When we make ourselves the Supreme judge of morality, we poison ourselves with narcissism.

Thanks for making me think today.

 
at Friday, December 16, 2005 5:30:00 PM Blogger Kurt said...

Oh yeah, I think Harry Potter is a pretty good role model for "doing the right thing" too. Harry's growth process through the years at Hogwarts have been all about realizing there are things bigger than oneself and how the choices we make determine who we will become. Dumbledoor is the Mentor, guiding Harry in the "right" direction, but always allowing the choice to be his own. Voldemort represents our desire to glorify and exhault our own desires/abilities/power.
The wing-nuts aren't able to see it

 
at Tuesday, December 20, 2005 12:38:00 AM Blogger paul asjes said...

i was going to say i love the part where you were like:
"The fear is that kids will develop their own sense of morality, one that is not as rigid and unforgiving as most Christian doctrine."
then i read kurts response, haha.

and as i think about it more, i might have to object to calling christianity unforgiving. eg:
"Atthat point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?"
Jesus replied, "Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven."

Jesus was all about forgiveness.

and in Hosea God says "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice"

i have read all the harry potter books and love them. kurt made a great point with his 2nd post.

i love reading your blog. your posts really educate me and make me think.

 

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