This Might Spoil Harry Potter For You

Last week I watched that movie about the yellow people who say funny things and bounce into things and don’t get hurt. What is it called again? The Simpsons. I am a ginormous fan of the Simpsons so I didn’t enjoy the movie. The purist in me just found it not good enough. I will buy it on DVD. Watch it seventeen times. Then I will make references to it every time I write a sermon because I will love it so much.

Transformers? I couldn’t get past the fact that Megan Fox’s real name is Megan Fox. And that is what she is, in a pornstarish way. Which is good since Michael Bay needed something to zoom in on to distract us from the lack of plot when there wasn’t a lot of noise or Optimus Prime. Megan Fox sounds like the kind of name a pornstar name generator would throw up. On the plus side, the noises of the Transformers transforming are really cool. And I learned things: like how dumb Iranian scientists are! Who knew?

The other major cultural event of recent weeks was the publication of the final Harry Potter book. Wife-unit read it slowly over the course of about 2 days, drawing it out so she wouldn’t have to say goodbye. I knew it was good when it kind of made her cry at the end. See how casually I puncture her hard-rock n roll reputation. She cried at the end. I didn’t, but I could have because the book was better than I could have imagined it. From the very first page it was utterly gripping and it never let me down. It is a masterpiece. I used to be quite private in my enjoyment of HP. I wouldn’t have evangelised for them. Wrap a cheap tie around my neck and call me “Brother” now though because you really should get in on the game, even at this late stage.

The utterly shocking thing about this book is not that it delivered on the stratospheric expectations. It is how God-elevatingly Biblical the story turns out to be. I quietly suspected it. Even if Rowling was the demon child of Richard Dawkins and Philip Pullman I still would never have anything to do with the crazy Christian fringe who attacked the books back in the beginning. But as the story weaved in and out I kind of maybe sensed that something was going to develop along the lines it did (I will do my best not to give it away). But then when the end comes it is so robustly, fully formed that it was exhilarating. I need to read it again in the winter, but Rowling seems to have settled in Narnia in the way she poetically and with alarming openess, turns the climax around the Gospel.

I’d love to talk about this (stay away from the comments if you still haven’t got your hands on a copy). Does the success, the mania of Harry Potter, now that we have come to the end and seen it for what it really is, not tell us Christians something very serious about how we communicate the Gospel. There is no tension, no build up and no drama. In fact, we flatten out the drama, the plot, the narrative and punch people in the face with flat doctrinal statments. We don’t even draw on the poetic ones like “God is love” or one Rowling uses as a major device, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Instead of tantalising people and drawing them in we compress and compact it down to the 2 ways to live, the 4 spiritual laws or draw a bridge diagram.

The only thing I regret is that if I ever am blessed with children, they won’t read, enjoy and be astonished by Harry Potter the way I have been. By then, just like Narnia, the Philip Pullman’s of the world will be rolling their eyes at the very idea that Harry is a great literary character. CS Lewis said that he wrote Narnia to slip past the dragons that keep guard at the doors of our minds, the dragons that protect us from the stunning message of the Gospel. Rowling has proven herself to be an even better secret agent than Lewis was, I think. In the coming generation we can expect to see her stock fall and plummet as she is recast as a peddler of religious stories of a slightly dubious quality. I guess she can console herself by swimming in a tank of money.

Your Correspondent, Nobody listens to tapes in cars when he’s on the radio

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