Saturday, February 02, 2008

Answering Lunacy (or Letters)

There was a letter to the editor in the latest Gilbert magazine which I feel the need to respond to and I'm going to do it here.

The person implied that because the Harry Potter books seemed to her to endorse assisted suicide, she could not see how anyone could find them "Christian" as some people claim of the Harry Potter books.

I should very much like to know what type of fiction this letter writer does like to read.

If she reads mysteries, for example, quite often there is a murder, robbery or some such crime committed. The detective then solves the crime. Since Christians know that murder and robbery go against certain commandments, should they read mysteries?

If she reads the Bible, she must know that there is murder, robbery, adultery, suicide, and a whole host of other crimes and sins committed there. Should a Christian read the Bible?

If she reads novels of any sort, there are usually people who have problems and sin in various ways. Novels generally revolve around someone becoming aware of their sins and repenting, or perhaps being consigned to hell. Should a Christian read novels at all?

The criticism of Harry Potter that it condones assisted suicide is about as silly as criticizing Father Brown for investigating murders. In both cases, it is quite clear that certain behaviors are good, while others lead to a life of ruin, and perhaps even damnation.

I find the criticism that Harry Potter is bad because it contains people sinning is off base. Last time I checked, we all sin, and that's pretty much the human story, in real life, as well as in fictional life.

28 comments:

  1. +JMJ+

    I started reading Harry Potter long before the controversy (though I've never gotten further than a hasty reading of Book V), but even then didn't think there was anything Christian about the books. I did like them (especially Book III), and at the time would have recommended them to others; but any Christian elements clearly were overwhelmed by postmodern spirit of the whole series.

    So if the reader's complaint is that they're not Christian, then I agree with her (though I don't complain). If she says that they're not good at all, however, then I'd have to argue that everything up to the middle of Book IV was pretty decent.

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  2. Silly Interloper2/03/2008 3:06 PM

    One thing that postmodernism does is train us to believe what we want about something. We systematically ignore the nature of things and impose our desired analogies of what we wish something was. It is the ultimate wishful thinking extending into personal—often willful—delusion. In order to see what is “silly” and what is not, we have to take the books in their whole and attempt to understand the nature independent of our desires.

    The analogies you use are quite inadequate. The murder/suicide pact is nothing like a murder or suicide in a mystery story. A more appropriate analogy would be to have Father Brown engage in a murder/suicide pact with Flambeau. That would be appalling, and it is no less appalling to see it between Dumbledore and Snape.

    Anywhere in the Bible where there are murderous and sinful things happening, it is utterly clear that they are sins—the characters are always revealed to be misguided. That isn’t so in the HP books. When Peter denies Christ, the results are heart-breaking. When Judas betrays Christ, the result is utter dejection and tragic suicide.

    No amount of analogizing will change the nature of the Harry Potter stories, so we must explore that nature.

    The Harry Potter books start very early with some lightly disconcerting disregard for consequences. It wasn’t enough to condemn the books, but there was enough disobedience and rule-breaking that resulted in rewards that it not only annoyed me, it elicited comments from my young nephews. Therefore, early in the books there is already established a sort of “ends justifies the means” nature. It isn’t ingrained, yet—but it’s there.

    As the story progresses, we have learned about the “unforgivable curses.” If there is anything that would represent intrinsic evil in the HP books, it would be the unforgivable curses. Yet, we see Harry Potter commit two of them—and there are no consequences and no indication given at all that what he did was wrong. At that point, consequentialism is starkly represented by the hero of the books.

    The murder/suicide pact, on the other hand, was blatant consequentialism. Dumbledore had several ends with which he justified the intrinsically evil murder/suicide pact. Dumbledore is a father figure representing good and wisdom. There is no indication in these books that his decision to make the suicide/murder pact was wrong. Standing alone it is not a far stretch to say that the books condone murder/suicide pacts. In the context of the building theme of consequentialism it is a perfectly reasonable conclusion that it does—and even if it doesn’t, it is clear to me that it still teaches children to be consequentialists.

    Consequentialism is unquestionably evil and unequivocally incompatible with Christianity. So in at least that major protrusion of the narrative, the stories run against Christianity. In this major way, the Harry Potter books are teaching our Christian children that they can disobey and do evil if the ends justify it. The Harry Potter books are teaching millions of children to be evil. This theme easily overpowers any of the Christian themes.

    These books have their charm, and I expected to lean positively toward them in the end. But the bad now far outweighs the good. For reasons much different than I expected—they have become *evil* influences for kids, and I'm not going to mitigate that just because I mostly enjoyed them.

    This may not be a perfect understanding (which degenerates into postmodernism’s sister error of positivism), but it certainly isn’t silly—regardless of what you wish for.

    Additionally, the fact that you - who I presume to be a good Christian - are in fact *defending* books that promote the justification of a murder/suicide pact simply affirms my belief that the net result of these books is *evil*. If they affect our adults this much—how much are they affecting our kids?

    As far as the Christian themes of the books, I am more inclined to believe that some of the themes were coopted for dramatic effect—not as any endorsement of Christianity. All lies are corruption of the real truth. All abominations of art are corruptions of real beauty. The intermixed beauty and truth does not make them works that are inherently beautiful or truthful. Nor do works that intermix Christianity become Christian by virtue of its admixture.

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  3. The murder/suicide aspect of it for me was not as troubling, as we learned that Dumbledore was far from a hero and definately not to be emulated. The Machiavellian that would use Harry as he did, would also have no scruples about suicide. Snape too, being a selfish character, would be likely to act in such a manner.

    Perhaps another reason these books are not really for kids.

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  4. Even if you do not see the Christian themes in Harry Potter (and, really, you have to be blind not to see them), where it it written that a work of fiction has to be expressly "Christian"? Better rip The Lord of the Rings from my book case, as well as all works by Homer, Virgil, Aristotle, and Franklin W. Dixon.

    Get the picture?

    Hello, Silly Interloper. You look about as well-informed as you looked on Nancy's other blog. I'll deal with your post when I have more time. Except, you said, "The murder/suicide pact, on the other hand, was blatant consequentialism." No, it wasn't. And a careful reading of the books would show you it isn't. It was about as ringing a condemnation of consequentialism as you're likely to come across in modern fiction.

    Get off the Michael O'Brien kool-aid and start thinking for yourself.

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  5. Silly Interloper2/04/2008 6:13 PM

    Even if you do not see the Christian themes in Harry Potter (and, really, you have to be blind not to see them), where it it written that a work of fiction has to be expressly "Christian"?

    If you would give my comments a more careful read, you would find that I recognize that there are Christian themes woven into the work, and you would also find that I made no claim that a work had to be Christian—the same observations can be made of enbrethiliel if you care to peruse one more time. I was simply addressing Nancy’s assertions.

    Get the picture?

    You apparently didn’t—but it didn’t stop you from taking a very condescending tone. I really don’t expect such ill-humored unkindness coming from a fellow Chestertonian—let alone the editor of one of my favorite magazines. I suppose even Gilbert must have had his bad days.

    Hello, Silly Interloper. You look about as well-informed as you looked on Nancy's other blog. I'll deal with your post when I have more time. Except, you said, "The murder/suicide pact, on the other hand, was blatant consequentialism." No, it wasn't. And a careful reading of the books would show you it isn't. It was about as ringing a condemnation of consequentialism as you're likely to come across in modern fiction.

    I am anxious to see your arguments and your evidence, but you shouldn’t assume that I did not give them a careful read. Perhaps you can educate me and show me what my careful read missed—but I have my doubts. My arguments have been scrutinized by many, and the counter-arguments have fallen short. Of course, you are free to assume that I am an idiot simply because I disagree with you if that is what best provides you with an emulation of Gilbert’s laugh.

    Get off the Michael O'Brien kool-aid and start thinking for yourself.

    I don’t know who Michael O’Brien is, but thank you for the kind and good-humored advice.

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  6. Interloper is the only smart man here. He gives solid arguments. Personally, I think the Harry Potter books are truly evil, even worse that what he says. The immorality in the first 20 pages of the second book is blatant, and truly anti-Christian. Further, Cardinal Ratzinger and the chief exorcist of the Vatican have both condemned, or at least spoken out against these demonic books. This says a lot.
    Please do not compare these "books" to the Lord of the Rings, for Tolkien would find that offensive, and so do I.
    Someone asks: "since when is literature supposed to be Christian?". Plato says that if a work is written superbly, using the best style and greatest techniques, but the content is evil, the work is trash and should be condemned, basically.
    What disturbs me even more is that many Chestertonians of the ACS support such a clearly anti-Christian book as Harry Potter, feeling themselves better knowledged about such things that the current Pope, head of all true Christians. If it was only Mrs. Nancy Brown and a few others, then I would not mind it as much. But when a great part of the ACS magazine publishes only positive stuff about such evil books, I find that unacceptable (one of the last issues of 2007 praised Harry Potter). Michael O Brien is absolutely right in this case.
    Rowling admitted that a character was gay. So we say, yes, he's a sinner, he struggled with it, who doesn't struggle with sin. But do the hoi polloi know what sin is? They see their favorite character being gay, and since they take such books as authority, then it must be good to be gay! If Harry is disobedient to his lawful authority, as bad as they are, if he is malicious towards that "fat kid" [both instances, and many others, in book 2, first 10 pages], and he is supposed to be the hero, then won't the tons of reader-kids do the same? Yes, they will. Not to mention and the false magic in these books.
    Chestertonians, get off the Harry Potter bandwagon.

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  7. I forgot to add. I was reading the into to the Ball and the Cross by Chesterton [Barnes and Noble edition], where I was shocked to find more praising of Harry Potter and the pseudo-Christian messages. Chesterton would not support Harry Potter, and neither does Christianity. Let's stop associating the two.

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  8. Silly Interloper2/05/2008 11:32 PM

    Let me clarify one thing. When I say that the net effects of these books are evil, I am referring to the larger effects upon all children and all adults. I find it entirely possible that a particular child who read the books with his parents guiding him can benefit from a positive learning opportunity. But for that to happen, the parents have to accept that there are in fact evil things lurking therein, and they have to understand them. But the vast majority of the children and adults will not get the benefit of that, which means the vast majority of children will be learning to be consequentialists without guidance. The net effect is evil on a grand scale, and those who ridicule others who recognize that evil are exacerbating the problem.

    I am mostly objecting to this extremism that refuses to believe there can be harmful things in the Potter books that need attended to. So much so that any articulation of a concern is met with ad hominem such as calling them "silly" or telling them to lay off the "kool-aid" and telling the interlocutors that they cannot think for themselves.

    For what it's worth, I read through the table of contents of Nancy's book, and I don't see that she addresses the problem of Consequentialism. If she did, maybe she could enlighten us.

    Also, I noted in this month's Gilbert Magazine that Nancy has apparently been the object of some unfair attacks because of her commentary regarding the books. I understand, Sean, that you may be a bit sensitive and protective of Nancy about it, so I don't particularly hold your comments above against you. But I would suggest that you recognize that my criticisms do not take the form of those unfair attacks you mentioned. Note that I have not attacked her commitment to Catholicism or her abilities as a mother. You will also note that I have read every single one of the books--some of them twice. Additionally, I have combed through books six and seven to painstakingly examine the text that relates to the issues I have brought up. I do not carry any of the attributes you assigned to those who have been unfair to her. So...are you ready for a gentleman's discussion, or shall we stick to the ad hominem?

    Also--like with louis, the constant rocking of this Potter-loving Hobby Horse by the Chestertonians with no rigorous or balanced discussion about it is quite annoying to me.

    There is no way that I (or any of you) can speak for Chesterton in this matter--but I'm certain the conversation would be entirely different if he were around regardless of what side he was on. I think the first steps toward finding that Chestertonian spirit are to take yourselves a bit more lightly and to take your opposition a bit more seriously.

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  9. I have not read any Harry Potter and do not intend to (life is shirt, and there are too many must-reads already on my list). I would like to ask Interloper about the consequentialism he sees in the books. Just as murder or adultery in a book does not make a book evil, so I assume that consequentialism in a book does not make it evil. Is the consequentialism on Potter endorsed, promoted, celebrated, recommended, held up as an ideal?
    That's the key, is it not?
    ~ Gramps

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  10. Silly Interloper2/07/2008 11:36 AM

    Yes, gramps, that is key. If it were simply a matter of events in the story, I might think the murder/suicide inappropriate for children's books, but I would not consider it the evil influence that I do in its present form.

    You have a disarming screen name, by the way. It automatically makes me feel like I am going to be taken seriously and that you will listen and suffer through the silliness of a younger. It’s worth noting, by the way, that I would be favorable to the books were it not for this consequentialism and the murder/suicide pact. I don’t overreact to the occultish things in the books. By the same token, I don’t claim there are no concerns at all about the occultish things in the book, and I take the concerns of others seriously. (They were, after all, marketing HP crystal balls and tea reading kits.) I am not an extremist on either side of the HP debate.

    I don’t think the books are particularly good fiction, either. The characters do have their charm, and the fierce loyalty among them is a fine thing—but the books are mostly shallow. Also, besides revealing the awful murder/suicide pact, the final book was horribly written. But the truth is I quite enjoyed the first six books in spite of their shallowness. Discovering this awful consequentialism was in no way a vindication for any of my attitudes—it was a great disappointment.

    I have already described enough about the less offensive consequentialism regarding disobedience and the Unforgivable Curses above. If those were the end of it, I probably would not be having this conversation. The egregious murder/suicide pact is what clinches it.

    First we examine Dumbledore. Dumbledore is unequivocally not only a good guy, but a father figure for Harry in the books. He is not perfect. He has made mistakes, but a prudent reader will note that he regrets those mistakes and preaches against them. He is wiser in his present age by the way he rejects them. A child reader is not going to understand him to be anything more than a good guy fighting for good things.

    Dumbledore becomes mortally wounded by what is called a horicrux. He predicts that he has less than a year to live. He also knows that a young boy, Malfoy, is trying to find a way to kill him under the orders of the evil dark lord character, Voldemort. Additionally, Dumbledore carries a wand that is the most powerful in the world, and he does not want Voldemort to get it. He knows that Snape killing him will pass the power of that wand to Snape, thus keeping it out of Voldemort’s hand.

    Dumbledore, therefore, explicitly orders Snape to kill him (the means) at the appropriate time in order to (one end) prevent Malfoy from suffering the wrath of Voldemort (which he tells Snape) and in order to (another end) pass the wand to Snape (which is an end he does not inform Snape about.)

    There were, in fact, other ends involved in the murder/suicide pact, but I have selected the two which have the most clarity. Here are the most salient parts of the text:

    {Dumbledore speaking} "Ultimately, of course, there is only one thing to be done if we are to save him from Lord Voldemort's wrath."
    Snape raised his eyebrows and his tone was sardonic as he asked, "Are you intending to let him kill you?"
    "Certainly not. You must kill me."
    There was a long silence, broken only by an odd clicking noise. Fawkes the phoenix was gnawing a bit of cuttlebone.
    "Would you like me to do it now?" asked Snape, his voice heavy with irony. "Or would you like a few moments to compose an epitaph?"
    "Oh, not quite yet," said Dumbledore, smiling. "I daresay the moment will present itself in due course. Given what has happened tonight," he indicated his withered hand, "we can be sure that it will happen within a year."
    "If you don't mind dying," said Snape roughly, "why not let Draco do it?"
    "That boy's soul is not yet so damaged," said Dumbledore. "I would not have it ripped apart on my account."
    "And my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?"
    "You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation," said Dumbledore. "I ask this one great favor of you, Severus, because death is coming for me as surely as the Chudley Cannons will finish bottom of this year's league…."


    The fact that they have a suicide/murder pact is unambiguous here. In fact, it is presented as a loving sacrifice.

    The actual act was also not ambiguous. Every child who reads Harry Potter knows that the Avada Kedavra curse is the Unforgivable Curse that kills. Snape killed Dumbledore using that curse.

    Here's an additional nugget from Harry speaking to the dead Dumbledore while he was in his dream state after being attacked by Voldemort. They had just mentioned how badly Voldemort wanted the wand because he thought it would make him invincible.

    {Harry says} "If you planned your death with Snape, you meant him to end up with the Elder Wand, didn't you?"
    I admit that was my intention," said Dumbledore, "but it did not work as intended, did it?"
    "No," said Harry. "That bit didn't work out."


    Again, it is completely unambiguous that the murder/suicide pact was intended to get the wand to Snape. The fact that it was unsuccessful and that Snape wasn't aware of it doesn't change the fact that it was inherent to the pact.

    These books clearly teach that it is well and good to justify horrible and intrinsically evil means with good intentions. The good guys are the ones applying it, and there is no indication whatsoever in the books that these things are wrong. It isn’t just a question of events that happen in the book—it is a question about what the books are teaching as being well and good. Hey, kids—if you mean well, you can even murder someone. wretch

    What makes this whole thing worse is that it renders the “Christian” themes not to be promoters of Christianity (which they are not) but to be *enticements* into evil. Using Christian motifs as a way to entice Christians and justify evil things has been around for as long as Christ. I repeat what I said earlier: The truths woven into a lie does not make a statement no longer a lie. The beauty worked into an abomination of art does not make the artwork a thing of beauty. The Christian motifs that are worked into a story that teaches evil do not make the work a Christian one. In fact, it seems to me that the motifs mostly just work as enticements to good Christians to defend the evil of a work to the extent of refusing to examine the possibility of that evil, and to ridicule those who warn of it.

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  11. I'm "Gramps" because my grandchildren call me "Gramps." I hope my two great grandchildren will follow suit. Rowling is a Church of Scotland member and that meanins she's a Calvinist of the Presbyterian persuasion. I wonder if that is reflected in these novels the way Catholicism is reflected in The LOTR.

    As to consequentialism, I suppose I won't be comfortable with this discussion until I bite the bullet and read at least one of the books. Is the seventh one the offender in this regard or is the heresy spread throughout the series?

    ~ Gramps

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  12. Silly Interloper2/07/2008 3:47 PM

    Gramps,

    I believe the disobedience lacking any consequences was quite prevalent from the very first book. But--as I said--that wouldn't be enough to raise my objections to the present level. (In fact, before the murder/suicide pact, I used to tell critics of the books that they were making too much out of it.)

    The Unforgivable curses are introduced fairly early, but Harry doesn't start using them until late--I think in book six. Still--it's not as awful as the suicide/murder pact.

    Book six is where the actual act of murder/suicide takes place, but we get no explanation of what actually happened. We learn of the murder/suicide pact and the justifications for it in the seventh and final book.

    So you might get some of the consequentialist flavor in the early books, but you really need to read to the end to see the horrific consequentialism of the murder/suicide pact that turned me against them.

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  13. Fair enough.

    btw, Us old guys used to call "consequentialism" by the name of "The end justifies the means."
    ~ Gramps

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  14. Silly Interloper2/07/2008 10:24 PM

    Yup. I use the terms more or less interchangably, but consequentialism seems to be more common in theological or philosophical discussions.

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  15. forgot to add. I was reading the into to the Ball and the Cross by Chesterton [Barnes and Noble edition], where I was shocked to find more praising of Harry Potter and the pseudo-Christian messages.

    Louis, I wrote that in the introduction to that edition of the B&N edition of The Ball and the Cross, and I stand by what I wrote. And Gilbert Magazine, which I edit, stands behind the pro-Harry editorial in the December issue of the magazine. And I stand by my positive review of HP7 in that same magazine. And every writer who contributed pro-Harry articles to that issue stands by what they wrote. No one can definitely say what Chesterton's opinion regarding HP would have been, but there is a lot more evidence in his writings that he'd have been a big fan, than that he would have disliked it. Oh, and by the way, Rowling is a big Chesterton fan and is a member of the English Chesterton society.

    Michael O'Brien, much as I enjoy some of his other writings and art work, does not know what he is talking about with rspect to Harry Potter because he has not read the books, or at best he has done a very selective reading of them, mining them for quotes to take out of context. He could not possibly have read them, given some of the truly insane things he said about HP in his lengthy essay from last August.

    The bit about Pope Benedict condemning the books has been exposed as the fraud it is, and documentation of the incident as a fraud -- which O'Brien was behind -- can be easily found if you care to do an Internet search. And Fr. Amorth -- the exorcist you mention -- is a priest, not a literary critic. He should stick to what he knows. Furthermore, while I intend no uncharity toward Fr. Amorth, any man who claims to have performed 50,000 exorcisms in his lifetime, as he has claimed, may not be playing with a full deck.

    You too, Lous, like O'Brien, seem to have done a very selective reading of HP, to judge by your take on the first 20 pages of HP2. For one thing, Harry had suffered a lifetime of very cruel bullying at the hands of his cousin Dudley, the "fat kid" you mentioned. A little animosity by Harry is to be expected as a normal human reaction. But Harry also saves Dudley's life in a later book, and the two achieve a true reconciliation in the seventh book. It is a sublime moment, executed masterfully by Rowling, but easy to miss, I suppose, if all you look for in HP is reasons to hate it.

    Harry's disobedience, and the alleged lack of consequences for that: If that bothers you, then may I assume you also would drum Peter right out of the Gospel? He was dull, a braggart, and quite cowardly at a particularly crucial moment, yet all he got for his denials was a sorrowful look from our Lord. By your standards, he suffered no real consequenses. And it is a lie that Harry suffers no consequences for his actions. In one book his very rash disobedience leads to the death of his godfather -- a severe consequence that haunts Harry for the rest of the series. But perhaps that is not enough for you.

    You keep scoring HP as being "anti-Christian," but you offer not one shred of textual evidence to support that. I have some you could use: the cross that Harry etches in a tree above the grave of a friend in HP7. Or, the cross he sees in a frozen pool in the same book, which turns out to be a sword, and all the baptism symbolism in that same scene. Or, the two Bible quotes, also in HP7, that Harry finds on tombstones. Or, again in HP7, in a clear allusion to Satan's anquish at the Nativity, when Rowling writes of Lord Voldemort's cry of anguish just as church bells ring to usher in Christmas morning.

    Oh, wait a minute. Those all are textual evidence of HP's CHRISTIAN orientation. Sorry. Well, I tried. Also, all those come from book 7, so I guess it pays to read all the way thruogh a series to get at just what the author is trying to say. Otherwise you miss out, sort of like reading the Gospel but skipping our Lord's passion, death, and resurrection.

    The truth, Louis, is the fact that anyone could still deny HP's Christian orientation after reading book 7 is, to me, mind-boggling. It betrays, not an honest or humble desire to know the truth, but base prejudice, prideful puritanism, and, to cut right to the chase, anything but a true spirit of Christian charity toward J.K. Rowling.

    Gramps, don't be led astray by these people. You are much too smart for that. As you told me last summer, "If the characters are not wicked, the book is." HP contains an episode of grave consequentialism, but it does not in any way endorse it. Quite the contrary: Rowling uses it to show just how much things can go wrong by pretending that the ends justify the means -- as well as showing us how Grace intervenes at crucial moments, despite our carefully laid plans (much as Tolkien showed us how Grace works with Frodo's "failure" at Mt. Doom). If you want to read for yourself, I'd read the last few chapters of HP6 and all of HP7.

    Stand by, silly interloper, you're next.

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  16. One more thing regarding Harry's "bullying" of "the fat kid" and his alleged disobedience: throughout all seven books, Harry repeatedly steps in to defend the helpless and the weak. This is the source of what appears to be disobedience. In HP1, after being told not to ride a broom, Harry does so -- but only to defend a much weaker boy who is being made sport of by a bully. Harry did not mount his broom in a spirit of defiance against a legitimate order from a teacher; he did so to help a weaker classmate, out of a spirit of justice. Criticizing Harry for this is no better than criticizing our Lord for healing on the Sabbath. But for Harry-haters to behave like pharisees is nothing new.

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  17. Silly Interloper2/08/2008 10:37 AM

    Harry's disobedience, and the alleged lack of consequences for that: If that bothers you, then may I assume you also would drum Peter right out of the Gospel? He was dull, a braggart, and quite cowardly at a particularly crucial moment, yet all he got for his denials was a sorrowful look from our Lord.

    So you are saying that the disapproval of Jesus Christ in His most passive trek to the Crucifiction is negligible? And the complete lack of disapproval in HP is comparable to that? Do you want to be taken seriously?

    Let's try to have some rigor here, please. The disobedience on its own is clearly not the issue being brought to you. It is the consistent lack of any consequences of a disapproving nature at all. And I find it funny that you are criticizing one poster for not quoting HP to support the assertions, but you have yet to quote him at all to support your arguments. If you don't believe in allowing others to follow up on what they are saying (with a polite request for quotes, maybe?), then why should we care about your follow up?

    With all due respect, Sean, you don't come across as though you really want to have a discussion here. We can't be sure that louis is lying about the consequences of Harry's dead Godfather, either--I think you are begin a bit unfair. (And such stridency threatens to degenerate into self-parody.)

    The general and consistent lack of consequences **and lack of disapproval** does not get "fixed" by one consequence (his action never received any disapproval that I can remember, and Harry regretted it not because he regretted disobeying--only because his choice, among all the other neutral choices, resulted in the death.)

    However, the general lack of consequences and disapproval--which even my 10-year-old Nephew can see--is only some optional groundwork for the real issue ahead, so I'll probably let most of the follow up on this go.

    Stand by, silly interloper, you're next.

    Should be interesting. I hope the ad hominem will be held to a minimum. If you tell *me* I'm lying, we will be done, and you will be welcome to claim the shallow victory of insulting those who have honor until they leave.

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  18. Silly Interloper2/08/2008 10:48 AM

    I wrote:
    (his action never received any disapproval that I can remember, and Harry regretted it not because he regretted disobeying--only because his choice, among all the other neutral choices, resulted in the death.)

    And, by the way, since you are a fan of quoting to prove the point, could you quote where it shows that Harry regrets his *disobedience* when his godfather is killed? Can you quote any disapproval from anyone about his actions? (I'm not saying they aren't there, though I doubt they are. I stand by my statement that this incident is an anomaly in the scheme of disobedience without disapproval. But if you can't even show a quote for this one thing, it's going to be a long project for you to make the point in general.)

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  19. I don't know if you're lying, SI, but you aren't arguing honestly when you say I have yet to quote from HP to support my arguments. I have a whole paragraph up above citing examples of Christian symbolism in the text. I don't have all seven books right in front of me so I'm not going to attempt a direct quote, but if my citations aren't enough for you then that is your problem, not mine. I am not going to jump through hoops to meet an impossible demand.

    Also, no insult intened toward your nephew (and remember, you brought him into the conversation, not me; I am sure he is a sharp and engaging boy), but it is just possible that the Christian themes in HP -- as well as the full extent of the punihsments and disapprovals Harry experiences as a result of his often rash behavior -- are beyond what any normal 10-year-old is able to understand.

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  20. And, by the way, since you are a fan of quoting to prove the point, could you quote where it shows that Harry regrets his *disobedience* when his godfather is killed? Can you quote any disapproval from anyone about his actions? (I'm not saying they aren't there, though I doubt they are. I stand by my statement that this incident is an anomaly in the scheme of disobedience without disapproval. But if you can't even show a quote for this one thing, it's going to be a long project for you to make the point in general.)

    My goodness. And you accuse me of self-parody.

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  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  22. Concluding words of this essay:

    This older and firmer conception of right as existing outside human weakness and without reference to human error, can be felt in the very lightest and loosest of the works of old English literature. It is commonly unmeaning enough to call Shakespeare a great moralist; but in this particular way Shakespeare is a very typical moralist. Whenever he alludes to right and wrong it is always with this old implication. Right is right, even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is wrong about it.

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  23. ", until" in my above post should have been "when." sorry.

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  24. Edited to remove snarkiness. My apologies.

    You want a quote, SI? Here is one. G.K. Chesterton weighs in:

    "We have grown to associate morality in a book with a kind of optimism and prettiness; according to us, a moral book is a book about moral people. But the old idea was almost exactly the opposite; a moral book was a book about immoral people. A moral book was full of pictures like Hogarth's "Gin Lane" or "Stages of Cruelty," or it recorded, like the popular broadsheet, "God's dreadful judgment" against some blasphemer or murderer. There is a philosophical reason for this change. The homeless sceptism of our time has reached a sub-conscious feeling that morality is somehow merely a matter of human taste - an accident of psychology. And if goodness only exists in certain human minds, a man wishing to praise goodness will naturally exaggerate the amount of it that there is in human minds or the number of human minds in which it is supreme. Every confession that man is vicious is a confession that virtue is visionary. Every book which admits that evil is real is felt in some vague way to be admitting that good is unreal. The modern instinct is that if the heart of man is evil, there is nothing that remains good. But the older feeling was that if the heart of man was ever so evil, there was something that remained good -- goodness remained good. An actual avenging virtue existed outside the human race; to that men rose, or from that men fell away. Therefore, of course, this law itself was as much demonstrated in the breach as in the observance. If Tom Jones violated morality, so much the worse for Tom Jones. Fielding did not feel, as a melancholy modern would have done, that every sin of Tom Jones was in some way breaking the spell, or we may even say destroying the fiction of morality. Men spoke of the sinner breaking the law; but it was rather the law that broke him. And what modern people call the foulness and freedom of Fielding is generally the severity and moral stringency of Fielding. He would not have thought that he was serving morality at all if he had written a book all about nice people. Fielding would have considered Mr. Ian Maclaren extremely immoral; and there is something to be said for that view. Telling the truth about the terrible struggle of the human soul is surely a very elementary part of the ethics of honesty. If the characters are not wicked, the book is."
    --May 11 1907 CW27:462-3

    I don't know what your literary tastes are, Louis and SI, but I do not want a hero who is as pure as the wind-driven snow from the outset. I want him to be bad, nasty even. Because there is real, honest, nail-biting drama in the struggle to be good. Really, the whole thing with Voldemort in the HP books is only a sideshow. It is Harry's constant, ongoing struggle to be good, over the course of seven long volumes, that is the real compelling drama in this series. Time and again, he, you might say, flees Rome, only to meet Christ going the other way.

    "Domine, quo vadis?" he asks. And gets the answer he does not like, but finally accepts when, in a surpreme act of Love, he finally walks his own via dolorosa at the climax of book 7.

    And yet you peole insist on carping like pharisees. "If Harry Potter is truly Christian, let him prove it!"

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  25. Silly Interloper2/08/2008 2:29 PM

    … but you aren't arguing honestly when you say I have yet to quote from HP to support my arguments.

    Why would you do that? I have given you no reason to question my honor, and I haven’t put yours to the question, either.

    I don't know if you're lying, SI, but you aren't arguing honestly when you say I have yet to quote from HP to support my arguments. I have a whole paragraph up above citing examples of Christian symbolism in the text.

    I think you need to slow down and settle down, Mr. Dailey. I joined this discussion in good faith, and this is one site from which I expected a certain level of respect. Instead, you insult my intelligence, you show nothing but condescending arrogance, and now you question my honor. You give me no reason to believe that a discussion with you will be anything other than a complete waste of time. Thanks for making it easier to leave it behind by questioning my honor.

    Let’s take a quick look at what occurred.

    You criticized louis in this way: You keep scoring HP as being "anti-Christian," but you offer not one shred of textual evidence to support that.

    You then mentioned certain things in the book with this: I have some you could use: the cross that Harry etches in a tree above the grave of a friend in HP7. Or, the cross he sees in a frozen pool in the same book, which turns out to be a sword, and all the baptism symbolism in that same scene. Or, the two Bible quotes, also in HP7, that Harry finds on tombstones. Or, again in HP7, in a clear allusion to Satan's anquish at the Nativity, when Rowling writes of Lord Voldemort's cry of anguish just as church bells ring to usher in Christmas morning.

    You can hardly call this “textual evidence.” You have shown none of the text involved, and you haven’t provided any rigor in demonstrating that the things you mention are anything more than gratuitously co-opted symbolism. (See my comments above about the truth in lies, the beauty in artistic abominations, and the use of Christian symbolism in literature. Christian symbolism does not make something Christian – are you a Dan Brown fan?) After all, louis did use some references to the text in his (?) post.

    Whatever the case, I am okay with coming to an understanding that we mean different things when we say “textual evidence.” But that’s no reason to question my honesty.

    I don't have all seven books right in front of me so I'm not going to attempt a direct quote, but if my citations aren't enough for you then that is your problem, not mine. I am not going to jump through hoops to meet an impossible demand.

    Well, then, it’ll just have to be part of the record on this blog that Silly Interloper was the only one willing to be rigorous enough to quote the actual text.

    (Almost everything I own is in mothballs, including my Potter books, and I am currently sleeping on someone else's couch preparing for a trip across country. So your excuses fall a little flat with me.)

    Also, no insult intened toward your nephew (and remember, you brought him into the conversation, not me; I am sure he is a sharp and engaging boy), but it is just possible that the Christian themes in HP -- as well as the full extent of the punihsments and disapprovals Harry experiences as a result of his often rash behavior -- are beyond what any normal 10-year-old is able to understand.

    At this point, I estimate my nephew’s intelligence to be above your own.

    Every book which admits that evil is real is felt in some vague way to be admitting that good is unreal. The modern instinct is that if the heart of man is evil, there is nothing that remains good. But the older feeling was that if the heart of man was ever so evil, there was something that remained good - goodness remained good.

    Telling the truth about the terrible struggle of the human soul is surely a very elementary part of the ethics of honesty. If the characters are not wicked, the book is.

    The Chesterton quote is all well and good, but it isn’t talking about the same thing we are. Chesterton is undoubtedly considering books where there really is no question about the characters’ wickedness. The problem we face with the Potter books is that these wicked acts are being portrayed as good acts done by the good guys. The children who read the Potter books are not going to leave with an impression that these people were wicked for what they did.

    I don't know what your literary tastes are, Louis and SI, but I do not want a hero who is as pure as the wind-driven snow from the outset.

    My favorite author is Graham Greene. You know—the one whose protagonists are notoriously sinful and rotten people. This is a complete red-herring on your part, and it's an abuse of Chesterton.

    It is Harry's constant, ongoing struggle to be good, over the course of seven long volumes, that is the real compelling drama in this series. Time and again, he, you might say, flees Rome, only to meet Christ going the other way.

    Yeah, right….you wouldn’t want to actually support that with text, though, would you? No matter. Your insistence on Christian themes doesn’t change the problems with consequentialism and the suicide/murder pact, so it’s just a distraction anyway.

    …he finally walks his own via dolorosa at the climax of book 7.

    Right. Harry Potter *is* Jesus Christ now…please.

    And yet you peole insist on carping like pharisees. "If Harry Potter is truly Christian, let him prove it!" You probably would have sneered at the Good Thief too. I truly feel sorry for you.

    Somehow I expected you would continue the ad hominem. Yep. I would put my nephew before you any day.

    My nephew would not insult, condescend, and question someone’s honor in order to make his points. You apparently rely upon it.

    I’m done with you.

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  26. Right. Harry Potter *is* Jesus Christ now…please.

    No, I compared him to Peter. For the rest, sorry you feel that way. Take care.

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  27. Well, SI, you say you are gone, but I suspect you may be lurking out there in cyberspace somewhere, so if you don't mind I'm going to, over the next few days, leisurely pick at the bones of your arguments as best I can. Keep in mind, though, that it is only ad hominem to attack a person, such as when you suggested I am stupider than your 10-year-old nephew. However, a person's arguments are fair game.

    You say: I find it entirely possible that a particular child who read the books with his parents guiding him can benefit from a positive learning opportunity.

    With this one sentence, you contradict practically everything else you say. If HP is dripping with dastardly consequentialism and post-modern relativism, how can it possibly be a positive learning opportunity for anyone?? Either HP is good or it isn't.

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  28. The murder/suicide pact is nothing like a murder or suicide in a mystery story. A more appropriate analogy would be to have Father Brown engage in a murder/suicide pact with Flambeau.

    That is not a appropriate analogy, because Fr. Brown is the moral center of the FB stories, just as Harry is the moral center of the HP stories. An appropriate analogy would be for Fr. Brown to discover a murder-suicide pact between two other characters, and try to avert it, or at least set things to rights upon discovering such a pact after the fact.

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