Sunday 22 July 2007

Harry Potter

I have a good friend who is a complete Harry Potter nut. Anyway, on Friday night, she confessed that she was going to go and queue outside her local Tesco's and get the new Harry Potter book, which was due to go on sale at midnight.

This sounded completely crazy to me. So, naturally, I came up with a better suggestion: why don't we go see a late film at Bluewater and then go and buy the book from Waterstones...

As Bluewater is a rather more salubrious place than Thornton Heath, my friend accepted my suggestion with alacrity. It made sense to go the whole Hogwarts, so we managed to get tickets for the new Harry Potter film: The Order of the Phoenix.

Even for a Friday night, Bluewater had a very strange air about it. For a start, there were far more parents and children around than usual for 10 o'clock at night. The feeling of weirdness was heightened by the fact that I met several former students. One was on the ticket desk for the cinema, a group of lads bumped into me by the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Shop, and another student greeted me from the queue for the bookshop...

It was about 1am when the film was over. I wasn't sure if Waterstone's would still be open, but the queue was still up and running. We got chatting to a very tired sales assistant who was carrying her shoes - she had been on duty only since 10pm, but informed us that her floor manager had been on since 12noon on the Friday afternoon. The queue, she told us, had been something to behold: people had been lined up all the way round the main hall. My friend and I were lucky: arriving after 1am, we were pretty much the last customers, and we only waited about 15 minutes. As I paid for my book, another very exhausted sales girl asked if we were the last. I was able to assure her that there were only about two people or so left.

I drove my friend back to her house, and then drove back to my flat.

I didn't get to read the book until after lunchtime on Saturday. Don't worry - I don't believe in putting up spoilers. I found the book a little disappointing: it was very slow to get started, and the ending left me feeling a little flat. However, I do think it's a good series of books. I know that some people object to the witches, wizards and spells, but The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Narnia books also had magical elements. And while a lot of critics (especially on Radio 4) bang on about how J.K. Rowling's work isn't great literature, I just remember that, when teaching in an inner-city Comprehensive School, I saw young boys of 12 and 13, who had problems remembering to bring their exercise books to school, lugging around hardback volumes of the latest Harry Potter. This is something the more "realistic" and "relevant" (ie. more miserable) books written for teenagers never managed.


Jeff Miller said...

I mostly liked it since it wrapped up so many plot points.


Though I could have totally done without Wizard Assisted Suicide. The he was going to die anyway doesn't change the moral weight of euthanasia, especially to avoid humiliation because of his weakness. This spoiled the book when there was so much good concerning friendship, family, sacrificial love, and redemption.

antonia said...

hehe! I'm half-way through!

Anonymous said...

While I haven't read any of the HP books, I do think it's a shame that so many people put up spoilers and even a pirated copy of the final book before it was released. What does it say that we can't allow fans the courtesy of reading the end of a series without spoiling it. (pun intended)

Anonymous said...

I haven't read them and you can't make me! ;-p

(Though I do enjoy the films...)

Andrew said...

In Malaysia, there's been an 'incident' where Tesco and Carrefour have been selling the new Potty book at a 40% discount (which means the books were on sale for slightly more than 10 Pounds Sterling) compared to what the bookstores are selling. This resulted is a protest by the said bookstores who refused to sell their stocks. They were moaning about how long they waited for the chance to sell the Potty books and make a real killing. Serves them right. Funny really.

Anonymous said...

I think that the Harry Potter books themselves are potentially harmless on the whole in that it has left a whole generation of youngsters in no doubt that they have an immortal soul, and in consequence, that there is an afterlife. When we think of Dawkins et al., and the institutional war against religious belief, this is no mean feat. However, as Chesterton reminded us, the void created must be filled. What is now vital is that Christians follow up the groundwork that has been laid by Rowling, so that we do not see a wide-scale return to neo-paganism, environmentalism etc.

However, when I saw the worldwide reaction to the book, or to the overall 'cultus of Harry Potter', I was deeply saddened. The reaction of booksellers in Israel in particular hit home, as they defied religious leaders and opened on their Sabbath, claiming to have hundreds of thousands of customers.

Months ago as I looked at the steeple at an out-of-town Tescos, I was struck by just how much these places aimed to become the new churches and to fulfil all of man's needs etc.

So the euphoria surrounding the midnight 'watching' last Friday left a particularly bitter taste - mammon is on the march and is becoming more and more triumphalist.

How many people - Catholics - I wonder would ever bother to come to a Midnight Mass at Christmas or the Easter vigil, and yet they will gleefully turn up for this. How must Our Lord feel?

Harry Potter, whose release spanned from 1997 - 2007 almost exactly mirrored Blair's years in Downing Street. Thankfully, Blair was finally shifted on the Feast of Westminster's own saint, St John Southwell. (Deo Gratias!).

While I hope that this morally destructive and degenerative period can soon be halted and all things restored in Christ, I have nothing but a feeling of foreboding about the consequences of this period in the shaping of future events beyond Britain. Twice in recent months the BBC, of all people, have had to publicize two Marian Shrines - Fatima and La Salette, and explain that Catholics believe that the Virgin Mary appeared there. This is truly unprecedented! Perhaps we should look more closely at these apparitions and note their messages now.

Sorry Mac. This is in no way a criticism of those who joined in with the fun of Friday night's release. And I sincerely hope that you do enjoy it. I simply want to alert you to the fact that there are wider issues.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. St John Southworth, not Southwell! Forgive me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mac

Just to let you know I virtually slept through the (yawn) Harry Potter film, my kids enjoyed it though. As for the new book, we got a copy courtesy of my eldest daughter who happened to be coming home from a party late night whenever it was it came out popped into ASDA and bought two copies.

One of my young daughters read the book in a day. Heavyweight writing - I think not. Still, the author is now a millionaire, Warner Bros have also made millions, and billions of kids now think that witches and wizards are cool. That's one up for the wicca freaks - as no doubt additional stuff on witchcraft, ouija boards, books of spells (available from WH Smith no less) will become ever more popular.

The devil never sleeps.

Jay said...

Someone could ask a simple question here: Is reading HP books really pleasing to God? Hmmm....

Jay said...

I recommend to those who are skeptic about witches, demons etc, reading the books by Fr Gabriele Amorth, the chief exorcist of Rome, there are actually three on the subject available on amazon uk. According to Fr Amorth years of experience, 95% of possessions are due to whitchcraft. Several years ago, I was in Edingurgh during summer - annual festival and there was a parade of witches, around 100 completely ordinary looking people marched under this banner. Maybe Miss Rowling is just using her imagination, but she had a fixation on wizards, witches, since she was a little girl. Buying books, paying for cinema tickets we may actually support something which could be very well hidden and totally unacceptable.

Kasia said...

Re: Jeff's point


But it wasn't so much a question that he was going to die anyway, was it? It was more a question of being killed quickly by Snape rather than a long, drawn-out, torture-riffic death by Bellatrix or Greyback. I think it would be a better analogy to euthanasia if it were simply the curse on his hand that would eventually spread and kill him. While what actually happened was still morally problematic, it was taking an imminent threat of a slow murder and making it a quick and relatively painless one instead. Still certainly troubling, but strikes me as less troubling than it could've been...


Jay said...

One of current topics I found on Angelqueen forum:

Harry Potter and the assault on Christianity

The Daily News

Another tsunami of Harry Potter hysteria is swamping us with the release of the seventh and final volume in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series of novels: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Parents are lining up to purchase the book ($45 list price) for their kids (and themselves).

I've even heard some Christian parents express delight that the Harry Potter novels have sparked reading interest in their hitherto literarily indifferent offspring - the implication being that content doesn't matter as long as kids are reading something. Could a similar case be made for reading pornography?

In the context of occult literature and cinema, Harry Potter is relatively soft-core, but its sanitized portrayal of the black arts arguably makes it more potently subversive. Interest in the occult incited by getting caught up in the Harry Potter phenomenon is likely to carry over into deeper exploration.

Linkage denied

Potter advocates, disingenuously, pooh-pooh any linkage of Harry-mania to increasing popularity of Wicca and other forms of paganism. Rowling herself has stated: "I truly am bemused that anyone who has read the books could think that I am a proponent of the occult in any serious way. I don't believe in witchcraft in the sense that they're talking about at all."

However, Rowling is the the product of a post-Christian, postmodern culture that believes magic, demonology, Wicca, and seances to be completely harmless, and it's quite possible she is sincerely unaware of the inherent dangers of her writing. However, in a 2000 Guardian Weekend Magazine interview, Rowling did acknowledge that Wiccans "are constantly thanking me."

Harry Potter apologists argue that there are witches in C.S. Lewis's Christian-themed Narnia Chronicles series of fantasy novels for children. True. There are witches in a lot of traditional childrens' literature, and in the Bible for that matter. But the issue is not exposing children to the concept of witchcraft and wizardry per se, but rather the context in which these characterizations are presented.

In Lewis's books, most traditional children's literature, and the Bible, witchcraft is portrayed as unambiguously negative and dangerous - an evaluation grounded in Christian teaching that anything in the spiritual/supernatural realm that does not glorify God is deceptive and spiritually harmful.

Sorcery is specifically referenced in the Bible as a violation of divine law (eg: Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Galatians 5:20). The Potter books make no such judgment. Evil is identified in relative rather than absolute terms, with witchcraft touted as a force for promoting good - radically contradicting Christian belief.

"Oh, lighten up," I can imagine some readers retorting. "Harry Potter is just harmless fantasy and fun for kids."

Fantasy it is. But from a Christian perspective, children immersing themselves in Harry Potter are being desensitized to the dangers of spiritual practices explicitly condemned and forbidden by Holy Scripture.

The Bible says: "There shall not be found among you anyone who ... practises witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord ..."

In the New Testament, St. Paul warns: "Now the works of the flesh are plain ... sorcery ... those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."

This is the crux of the matter for Christians vis a vis Harry Potter. Do we really believe what the Bible and Christian tradition teach about witchcraft, wizardry, and the occult? And if not, by what authority do we contradict clear biblical teaching?

If so, have we the moral courage to honour our convictions, even if it means opting out of a pop-cultural steamroller like Harry Potter at risk of being called religious fanatics, extremists, fundamentalists, or just plain weird?

Engaged in struggle

This issue, of course, transcends our topical focus here on Harry Potter.

"If a person turns to mediums and wizards ... I will set my face against that person, and will cut him off from among his people," God says in Leviticus.
The Harry Potter phenomenon is, whether deliberately or obliviously, part of a broad cultural assault on Christianity, not at all unique in today's contemporary literature and the entertainment media, which are increasingly anti-Christian.
Christians are - or should be - engaged a struggle for the hearts and minds, and indeed the souls, of our children. This is no room to "lighten up" on these matters of integrity. Those who opt to sit on the sidelines of the culture wars are passively defaulting to the adversary.

Charles W. Moore is a Nova Scotian freelance writer and editor whose articles, features, and commentaries have appeared in more than 40 magazines and newspapers in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and Australia.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Jay.

Personally I agree entirely with the contents of your post. 'Harmless fun' is exactly how the devil, the great deceiver, portrays his dark arts, witchcraft, wicca and the summoning of demons via the ouija board.

In our home we have taught our children from the earliest age about the devil and his fallen angels, at levels they could understand for their respective ages. The devil is a real and evil entity who has the power to lure each and every one of us to eternal seperation from God. Hell exists - plenty of evidence in the Old and New Testaments, visions of Hell shown to the fatima children by Our Blessed Mother.

And yet we continue to court eternal disaster. The devil is on a leash, true, but so often we dare venture into his territory, seduced by pride, curiosity, lust, etc....

Stopping our children from reading Harry Potter is probably impossible. But as parents we should be cunning as snakes yet gentle as doves, teach your children about the dangers of the occult, there are NO 'good witches', the devil is real, hell exists, all this apparent wonderful wizardry is merely pretence and the only power in the entire universe is known under one name - Jesus.

Jay said...

Thanks George for your post, I thought I would be the only one with objections to HP!

Steve Hayes said...

My son works in a bookshop, and because some of the supermarkets were offering the latest HP book as a loss leader (selling it for less than it cost them in order to entice people into the store to buy other things) the book shop did not supply the branches with enough copies even for their prepaid customers.

As a result, the staff had to go over to a rival and buy copies at R 275 to sell them for the R260 that the prepaid customers had paid for them. Greed and pique benefited neither side.

So you're lucky that you weren't at one of those stores that ran out!

When my son got home, he brought two copies, which he had reserved, one for himself and one for the rest of the family.

We enjoyed it. No, it's not great literature, but it sure beats "Goosebumps" and even Enid Blyton, though no doubt one day the Harry Potter slang will be as outdated as that in the Enid Blyton books. The loose ends were tied up, and some of the outcomes were as expected, but that happened in Enid Blyton too.

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