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What’s So Bad About Being Good

October 31, 2010

“Go on, have a pasty,” said Harry, who had never had anything to share before, or indeed, anyone to share it with.  It was a nice feeling, sitting there with Ron, eating their way through all Harry’s pasties, cakes, and candies.” ¹
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There are few things in our children’s lives today which stress the importance of Christian values and virtues.  More often than not they are being barraged by ludicrous amounts of hedonistic debauchery every single day.  The greatest threat to virtue and values today is the poison which people adore referring to as “moral relativism”.

For all my so-called “academic study” into the depths of Catholic Christian apologetics, and political issues, I stumble into the realm of self-admitted “nerdiness” in fiction books by my devoted reading of the Harry Potter series.  I’m quite aware that making such admissions openly can skew or even kill any credibility a person wishes to cultivate for themselves in more serious arena’s of thought.  However, the topic I’m delving into has less to do with the world of Harry Potter and more to do with its effect among certain groups in our own.

For any adult (I know you’re out there… you scare me, some of you, but I know you’re out there) who’s read Harry Potter for themselves, they’ve probably discovered a goldmine of moral lessons in the books written by author J.K. Rowling.  Not to mention some stunning imagery in the last book that one could easily say was allegorical to heaven, or more closely, to heaven’s “waiting room.”  I found myself both moved and contemplative of many of the lessons Ms. Rowling lays out in her book for our young protagonist.

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“It only put me in Gryffindor,” said, Harry in a defeated voice, “because I asked not to go into Slytherin…”
Exactly,” said Dumbledore, beaming once more.  “… It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” ²
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I find passages like this a reflective lesson and these themes run throughout the series.  Apart from the obvious bravery of the protagonists, aside from the cleverness shown in difficult circumstances, or the glaring ongoing duel against morally abject foes, I find gems of wisdom written in these pages for anyone who cares to simply read them.  These traits are often exemplified in the qualities of Harry’s mentors.  Their attitudes toward difficult situations, their deep level of caring for each other, and their kindness toward “lesser” individuals.  The current of these traits which exposes the reader to constant examples of kindness, mercy, acceptance, helpfulness, compassion, sympathy and so forth is truly what endears these characters to their readers.  It is what makes these books a lasting example of sublime writing.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way.  There are many people who would just as soon turn a dismissive gesture toward these books rather than consult them due to their underlying nature.  A nature, that sincerely takes a backseat for much of the story at times.  It often times serves as merely a backdrop for the scene which plays out.  Most of the time seems to be spent developing the nature and character of the individuals and their reactions to certain elements of life.

The arguments against the books belong almost exclusively to the Evangelical sect of Christianity which has vocally abhorred the idea of allowing children to be exposed to any sort of magic however implausible it might be.  The argument being that the occult, is exactly the same as fictional fantasy magic.  Despite the fact that many of these same individuals hold no objection to “The Wizard of Oz”, “Star Wars”, “Bewitched”, “Mary Poppins”, “Lord of the Rings”, “Cinderella”, “Snow White”, and “The Chronicles of Narnia”.

James F. Sennett, in his article Thank God for Harry Potter, written for the Christian Standard, (a markedly Protestant magazine) writes:

“Before we can praise these books, we must bury the most prominent complaint against them. Accusations that the Harry Potter books are occult overlook one glaringly obvious fact. In the 2,500-plus pages of the first five novels in the series, there is not one mention of Satan or demons or anything the slightest bit occult. In fact, the books are utterly secular in their orientation.
There are few spiritual themes at all—divine or demonic.” (Emphasis mine)

I have often held that if a Christian objector would simply go beyond the surface of what they were told about these books and discover for themselves what they contained, they would find the rich moral lessons presented in them and be able to see that, much like many of the stories they love that have magical elements as the basis and backdrop for the story, Harry Potter contains fresh insight into what it means to be a person of moral integrity.

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“Of course,” Sirius muttered, pacing up and down, “of course, he’d want to pin it on anyone but his own elf… and then he sacked her?”
“Yes,” said Hermione in a heated voice, “He sacked her, just because she hadn’t stayed in her tent and let herself get trampled -”
“Hermione, will you give it a rest with the elf!” said Ron.
Sirius shook his head and said, “She’s got the measure of Crouch better than you have, Ron.  If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” ³
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I believe that the ideas formed in objection to these books magical elements are superficial and willfully ignorant.  I have often argued that the books and movies containing fictional fantasy magic poses no threat to a fortified mind be it child or adult.  I further insist that any individual who can be so easily swayed by movies, books, or music in matters as important, and supposedly solidifying, as his faith has a degrading woeful belief in that faith and, in fact, a dull grasp on reality.  It is a poor testimony indeed and I have often been in defense of these things on the grounds that I was arguing that they were, in fact, not dangerous ideas.  However, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been fighting on the wrong battlefield.  It is not the entertainment I need to justify or dismiss, it is the individual who is swayed by them.

I believe a simple bit of research into the source material for these books would yield a great deal of understanding and comfort to those who are afraid they hold elements of occultism in them with which their children would be unduly swayed.  I am still moved by the wonderful ideas presented in this book, of men and women, boys and girls, who exemplify not only good virtues, but a real conceptual display of Christian love for one another.  Unfortunately, I believe that too many children are missing out on it because of bias, rooted in undue fear.

A rational foundation of understanding the difference between movie magic and occult practices and that regardless of what is presented in movies, what a person has been taught is right and what is wrong can still be exercised regardless of what results are shown in a movie, because the ultimate truth is that movies and what they demonstrate are not really happening.

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“… but just then Professor McGonagall came walking alongside the Gryffindor table toward him.
“Potter, the champions are congregating in the chamber of the Hall after breakfast,” She said… “The champions’ families are invited to watch the final task, you know.  This is simply a chance for you to greet them…”
Harry stayed where he was.  He really didn’t want to go into the chamber.  He had no family – no family who would turn up to see him risk his life, anyway.  But just as he was getting up… the door of the side chamber opened, and Cedric stuck his head out.
“Harry, come on, they’re waiting for you!”
Utterly perplexed, Harry got up… He walked across the Hall and opened the door into the chamber… Then he saw Mrs. Weasley and Bill standing in front of the fireplace, beaming at him.
“Surprise!”  Mrs. Weasley said excitedly as he smiled broadly and walked over to them.  “Thought we’d come and watch you, Harry!”  She bent down and kissed him on the cheek.’”
4
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1 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling ©1997 All rights reserved
2 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K Rowling © 1999 All rights reserved
3, 4 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling © 2000 All rights reserved
Excerpt from James F. S – article “Thank God for Harry Potter” 2005 Christian Standard
Suggested further reading into the brilliant intelligence of author J.K. Rowling: Visit the site What’s In a Name? or Harry Potter wiki where they have compiled the names, spells, and places of Harry Potter and revealed the extremely clever meanings hidden in the very words.
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