Rowling: I was judged in FAO Schwarz

Here’s a new TIME Magazine interview with J.K. Rowling.

Excerpt:

As soon as her tales achieved fame, they were denounced by fundamentalist clerics from the U.S. to Russia to the Muslim world. The Pope warned about their “subtle seductions” that might “distort Christianity in the soul.” One day when Rowling was shopping for toys in New York City, a man recognized her. Her voice gets hard as she recalls how he brought his face very close to hers. “He says, ‘I’m praying for you,’ in tones that were more appropriate to saying, ‘Burn in hell,’” she says, “and I didn’t like that ’cause I was with my kids. It was unnerving. If ever I expected to come face to face with an angry Christian fundamentalist, it wasn’t in FAO Schwarz.”

Through it all, Rowling didn’t really fight back. Talk too much about her faith, she feared, and it would become clear who would live and who would die and who might actually do both. After six books with no mention of God or Scripture, in the last book Harry discovers on his parents’ graves a Bible verse that, Rowling says, is the theme for the entire series. It’s a passage from I Corinthians in which Paul discusses Jesus’ Resurrection: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

It turns out that Rowling, like her hero, is a Seeker. She talks about having a great religious curiosity, going back to childhood. “No one in my family was a believer. But I was very drawn to faith, even while doubting,” she says. “I certainly had this need for something that I wasn’t getting at home, so I was the one who went out looking for religion.” As a girl, she would go to church by herself. She still attends regularly, and her children were all christened. Her Christian defenders always thought her faith shined through her stories. One called the books the “greatest evangelistic opportunity the church has ever missed.” But Rowling notes that there was always another side to the holy war. “At least as much as they’ve been attacked from a theological point of view,” she says, the books “have been lauded and taken into pulpit, and most interesting and satisfying for me, it’s been by several different faiths.” The values in the books, she observes, are by no means exclusively Christian, and she is wary of appearing to promote one faith over another rather than inviting people to explore and struggle with the hard questions.

Rowling’s religious agenda is very clear: she does not have one. “I did not set out to convert anyone to Christianity. I wasn’t trying to do what C.S. Lewis did….”

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  • clrussell

    Good article. I also loved the Q&A that followed; for me it gave some good insight into her writerly mind. :-)


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