Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What to do with Harry Potter?

The new Harry Potter movie, Goblet of Fire, opens this Friday and the release of yet another Potter movie has once again stirred the debate of what Christians are to do with this literary and cinematic success. As one who has read each of the Potter books and seen each of the movies, I'd like to offer a perspective on it.

As Christians, there are a couple roads that we can take when it comes to secular literature, films and music. One way is to make the choice to have nothing to do with these mediums and engage in activities like book burnings, picket lines outside theatres, and steamroll CD's. And then we can create our own little Christian subculture where we produce our own overtly Christian products. Realistically, burning books has never seemed to attract the non-Christian to consider Christ and oftentimes our Christian movies have not produced the quality product that people have come to expect. Just because it says Jesus doesn't necessarily make it good. If dialogue is cheesy, the acting is bad and the plot stinks, people are not going to see it.

The second road we take is to seek to redeem the culture by being salt & light (see Matthew 5:14-16). I am more inclined to pursue this route. Instead of letting the world create quality books, movies and music and then throwing rocks at those that produce them after they've become popular, why don't we create books and movies and music that is better than what the world offers? Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series and Switchfoot's The Beautiful Letdown are some examples of Christians that have produced wonderful works of art that non-Christians have enjoyed and been challenged by.

So...what do we do with J.K. Rowling's mega-popular Harry Potter series? First, please don't comment on what's in the book if you haven't read it. I've heard too many folks speak with absolute certainty about whether the Potter books would be good to read when they don't even know a Muggle from a Mudblood or can't tell you the difference between Quidditch and Dumbledore. The fact is many kids have found a new interest in reading as a result of these books. This is a good thing. There are themes of good vs. evil, love over hate, sacrifice, bravery, etc. that are strewn throughout these books. We can take these Christian themes and discuss them with our children. It's good to stand up to injustice. It's good to be courageous for what is right. Sacrificial love is worthy to live out. However, when there are things that we don't want our kids to think is alright (e.g. lying to get ourselves out of jams), we can discuss these things with them and share why it's wrong.

As Christians, we need to realize that films are our modern parables. Films have the power to affect how we see history and current realities. This is not going to change anytime soon. Instead of just producing cheesy Christian movies, why don't we have more godly Christians who write, produce, direct and act from a Christian worldview? We can take popular films to discuss Christian themes of love, forgiveness and redemption. The Matrix, The Green Mile, and Cider House Rules are some examples of movies that can used to platform a dialogue with non-Christian friends about faith.

Lastly, let's be sure to also back movies like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which will be coming out December 9th. As Christians, we can vote with our wallets to support quality movies that are family friendly that contain biblical themes. I think by being aware of what is being discussed in popular culture will help us in using popular movies, books and music to share Christ with others. And by encouraging Hollywood, publishers, and record companies to produce products that are done with excellence AND with quality themes, we will continue to see more and more popular forms of entertainment that can be used for God's glory.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please comment...


freethoughtguy said...

Notwithstanding Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ (which was heavily marketed to believers), movies are generally secular and serve a generally secular audience. A movie's success depends on its quality, marketing, and availabilty. This is a good thing -- the overall marketplace should be in control, not any special interest group. That would really stifle creative freedom.

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with what you said. I have heard so many "religious" believers say that Harry Potter is Satan and that we should be separated from the world via exclusivity while passing it off as being in the world and not of the world. They've also taken on Holy Hip Hop or Gospel Rap calling it demonic as well. But with these stances I've seen much hypocrisy where they might joke around and make their own "rap song for Jesus" or are engulfed in the US' cultural values of materialism or they watch television shows that don't talk about God either. How do you reach people who are involved in a specific culture without knowing or understanding the things they speak about? Is this what it means to not be of the world? I'm not a Biblical scholar and I'm learning like everyone else but I believe that if Paul or even Jesus, Himself took that stance then He wouldn't have affected as many people as he had way back when nor many of the believers today who found salvation in the midst of sin and allowed the Holy Spirit to cleanse them... I think I'm rambling... But would the woman with the 7 devils have become one of Jesus' most devoted followers if He followed the religious and did not speak to her for fear of being accused of unholiness since that was part of the "religious" culture of the time? I believe it is fine to know and understand the trends of society today so we are relevant, without being compromising, to non-believers. Religion (as in traditions, culture, extra biblical parts of the historical and some modern churches) has turned away so many people who would be awesome followers of Christ. Holiness can be THE standard and we can be also be relative as well without living a life unpleasing to God. More can be said... but I've said enough...