Yup November 8, 2011

And it wasn’t even that hard to figure out.

It really does astound me how amazingly bad the discernment of conservative Christians has been–repeatedly. From completely misreading this story to blind zeal for one folk hero after another–and the absolute certitude that disagreement about any of this stuff means that the person who disagrees is not merely mistaken but an Enemy of God–the terrible lack of discernment has been breathtaking. But even more breathtaking is the failure to learn from history. Question the next folk hero and exactly the same thing happens. There is no sense that, “Gee, we made a bad call with Maciel, Euteneuer, Corapi, etc. Perhaps we shouldn’t instantly assume bad faith or membership in a conspiracy when somebody disagrees with us again.” Nope. Once again, the person pointing out the problem or doubting the reflexive tribalism is regarded as an enemy. Weird.

Sorry, but I just spent the weekend listening to Barbara Nicolosi Harrington tearing her hair out about the fact that Catholics have forgotten their own aesthetic, cultural and literary traditions and this stuff is fresh in my mind. She’s described audiences of *Catholics* who can’t tell the difference between porn and Michaelangelo’s David (eww! Nudity!). I heard tales of people accusing Ignatius Press of marketing pornography because they sell a film about St. Edith Stein and it shows Jews being stripped naked and marched into gas chambers. With a culture that barren of anything beyond the most simplistic fundamentalist shibboleths masquerading as “Catholic culture” it’s hardly a surprise that Harry Potter, which ought to have been welcomed with gratitude by Christians, has instead received shameful hostility and ignorant denunciation. The series is, on balance, a great gift rooted in a Christian imagination. If you don’t believe it, please familiarize yourself with the work of John Granger, an Orthodox Christian with a strong background in Lit who is more than able to make the case.

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  • B

    Yes, this. From treating some leaders as celebrity to the banning of things like books and pilates, I get very turned around by some of these people. I’ve only begun to explore the world of Catholic media and admit that I find a lot of strange beliefs. Thank God for Holy Mother Church and a little book called the CCC!

    • Kirt Higdon

      Who wants to ban pilates? That’s a new one on me. Not that I’m doubting there are some anti-pilates crusaders out there. I’ve run into Catholics who say it’s wrong to do yoga.

      • Babs

        The same who hate on yoga hate on Pilates. Personally I have a hard time believing that strengthening my abs in one way is okay and another will allow evil spirits to enter my soul.
        I’ve come across a lot of Catholics who are certain things that are NOT explicitly forbidden by the Church are indeed moral issues. I’ve found it’s easier to consult the CCC and a learned priest.

        • Zac

          In its original context, yoga is a Hindu practice enmeshed in a spiritual and religious system that is foreign to Christianity. In addition, many Westerners embrace yoga as part of a new-age spirituality which is also potentially in conflict with Christian doctrine.
          That being said, plenty of people practise yoga merely for physical exercise. In addition, there are Christians who are unnecessarily fearful of anything not explicitly Christian in origin.
          Basically, yoga can be cause for concern, but that not all the concern about yoga is justified.

  • After the last round of Pottertalk, my wife and I were going over the series with our kids. She had kept up with the books at the time because she was teaching 4th grade, and wanted to be a step ahead of what the kids might be getting into. Didn’t particularly like them, but kept up with them. She had the best take – and to me the most realistic one – that I’ve heard. With a few items tossed in by the rest of us, I’m sticking with it. Given everything I’ve seen, the various points of view, I’d say it’s not too far from the mark.

    Oh, and I typically don’t think much of what folks do and don’t accept or enjoy. That’s usually a rather personal thing and they’re free to be bothered or not bothered accordingly. I find when we like something, we’re usually pretty good at validating why it’s OK to like. And when we don’t, we’ll find plenty of reasons for validating why we shouldn’t. As Christians, we always seem to want to have a reason.

  • That sounded like a fascinating talk. Are there any transcripts?

    I’ve long thought it embarrassing that *some* Catholics have thrown out their centuries-old literary and artistic traditions and replaced it with this “neo-Puritan Catholicism”. Now before anyone accuses me of throwing that term around loosely:

    The English Puritans who settled Massachusetts in the 1630s feared dangers lurking in the vast new land. What frightened them most was not hostile Indians or wild animals. In the woods to the north and west were people they perceived as “devils” — Roman Catholic Frenchmen and their Jesuit missionary priests.

    Fright, terror, looking for devils everywhere – yup, more in common than one would ever think.

    • I wouldn’t link the tendency to find the devil behind every shadow as something that comes from Puritans only. Or even Protestants. It’s not as if it never happened anywhere else.

      • No. But it’s not a good thing to cultivate.

        • Understood, but the opposite extreme can, of course, be just as dangerous. After all, it wasn’t to fill up scroll space that Peter admonished us to be alert and of sober minds, for the devil prowls about looking for someone to devour. I wouldn’t want a lifetime spent focusing on that verse, but I wouldn’t want to casually forget it either.

  • And to further drive home the point, the main enemy of conservative Catholics is your ordinary garden variety Catholic who isn’t interested in looking for devils or “the smoke of Satan”. (It amazes me how some conservative Catholics have twisted that to suit their own weird agenda, like all science is against God and we have to return to Dark Ages “mysticism”, etc..)

  • To drive the point home even further (I’m on a roll this morning!):

    I was attacked in a combox at The American Catholic a couple of years ago for stating the simple fact that Michael Brown of Spirit Daily – yet another conservative Catholic folk hero – based his opinion on private revelations that weren’t approved or (as far as one knows) not even submitted to the Church for discernment.

    The combox shouters were accusing me of everything from calumnity to grave mortal sin. Very creepy. So I followed the link these shouters put up, which had nothing to do with the topic, but had everything to do with promoting their own agenda.

    It wasn’t much different from Spirit Daily: fear and terror everywhere, backed up by fears taken straight from unapproved private revelations. And in one of their posts was criticism of, you guessed it, Harry Potter. Good ol’ Harry was “paving the way for the Antichrist”, this one asserted. Oh, and the writer’s own opinion was nowhere to be found. It was all based on assertions by, guessed it right again…Michael Brown and Fr. Gabriele Amorth.

    There’s only one “Catholic folk hero” I choose to follow. That’s Our Lord Jesus.

    • Great analysis, frenchcookingmama, thank you!

      “Michael Brown” — do you mean Michael Brown or Michael O’Brien?

      • Michael Brown of Spirit Daily.

        Michael O’ Brien is another folk hero in the anointing, if he isn’t already, because he’s a Harry Hater.

        • Harry Hater? Hmmm. A term tossed about too loosely I’m afraid. I’ve heard so many different opinions about the books, I wonder where the haters begin and end.

          • It’s pretty clear where Michael O’Brien stands. He wrote a book called “Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture”. Harry’s also featured in an article titled “The War for Our Children’s Souls”.

            It’s all right here: http://www.studiobrien.com/writings_on_fantasy/

            • But the term does little to invite discussion, and much to divide. If I’m going to draw a line between me and a fellow believer, I’m going to need a better reason than Harry Potter. Try ‘Critics of Harry Potter’ or something like that. It fits, and sounds less of name calling.

        • Thanks, FCM. I know well O’Brien, and his works, but I’d never heard of Brown.

  • @Mark: thanks so much for this video. Great stuff.

    And I second what Mark said: check out John Granger’s excellent writings on HP.

  • Look, plain and simple, the issues here are the facts that Harry Potter is tied in with witchcraft and magic, and yes I’m aware of the Church’s position on the occult and the whole “no magic is GOOD magic” position. If you are going to let your kids read this stuff, make sure that you give them the Church’s position on Wicca, witchcraft, and magic 1st with reputable sources (e.g. The CCC, writings of the Popes and their Pontifical councils) and then armed with that tell them Harry Potter is fiction and should only be enjoyed as such. If any similar veins to the Catholic faith come up (e.g. Book 7 Harry Potter sacrifices himself and “comes back to life”) , then relate it back to the Truth of the faith. Really how hard is it to do that?

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      Of course, at the age a child can be expected to digest an Encyclical or the CCC, if you have to sit them down and explain the concept of ‘fiction’, you’ve probably already failed in your vocation

  • Mary S.

    I’ve spent my life in a historically puritanical region, and a trip to Italy opened my eyes to how art-starved we are in this country. Sterile churches and public spaces leave our imaginations stunted and easily overwhelmed, hence the general rejection of fantasy fiction by many conservative Christians. Our children should be enlightened to our aesthetic, cultural and literary traditions early and often. If they are brought up in a good relationship with the Lord, then magic shouldn’t hold enough allure to draw them away.

    • It’s probably more than just some puritanical background. The general rejection of such literature and themes has its roots more in 20th century, and especially post-war, Protestant fundamentalism. Ironically, the secular world was as obsessed with Satanism and such as were church groups in the late 70s. Not that I’m a puritanical sort (based on what i have a hunch people mean by that), but the idea that all of this traces itself back to some generic ‘puritanism’ is about on par with ‘evil is the result of Organized Religion.’

      • Rosemarie


        You may be right. I was shocked to learn that the Pilgrims on the Mayflower all drank beer – including the children! That was long before the Temperance Movement, of course. Perhaps modern American Protestant teetotalism (I’m thinking mostly of Evangelicals here) isn’t very old after all. So I could see how the reaction to other “vices” might be a recent development as well.

        • Yep. Well said. I’m sometimes shocked at how many Catholics – well read and well informed Catholics – do to “Protestant” or “American Protestant” history what is so often done to Catholic history. The current crop of ‘It’s of the Devil!’ has a very distinct source, primarily in the 20th century brand of Protestant, particularly Evangelical, fundamentalism. Especially developed by the rise of the Moral Majority in reaction to the post-60s counter-culture and social obsession with things like Satanism (it’s often been asked why a culture that seemed so ready to dismiss God was at the same time so taken with all things Satan and Hell, but that’s for another post).

          As for the “Puritans”, remember that is like the term “Fundamentalist.” Sometimes used in ways it shouldn’t be used. I have to admit I was shocked to realize that they drank. Of course they did. The whole temperance movement itself came much later. It’s also worth noting that the early temperance movement was not about doing away with all drinking, just getting it under control (I had a Church History professor who said he saw copies of early meeting notes that mentioned the serving of wine at the meetings!). So just like Catholic history, sometimes it’s a little more complex than we allow.

  • Rosemarie


    My college (which was founded by a religious order but has since gone secular) used to rent out its auditorium on the weekends to groups that needed a meeting place. The hallway outside the auditorium also functioned as a gallery for whatever the art majors had recently drawn or painted.

    One Saturday, the college rented the auditorium to a traditionalist Catholic group (I forget the name; this was two decades ago). When I arrived early that day to open the college library where I worked, I passed by and saw the group setting up its table in the hall outside the auditorium – and removing sketches of nude models that happened to be hanging on the wall behind the table. They weren’t at all pornographic, mind you, just your average Figure Drawing class type of sketch.

    I passed by without comment, assuming they must have asked permission to do that (turns out they hadn’t, and the art department was none too pleased when they found out!). However, while they were removing the artwork, I distinctly heard them making remarks like, “Disgusting!” and, “This is a Catholic college?????”

    I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if I brought them on a pilgrimage to the Vatican and showed them the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I could almost imagine them looking up in horror and saying, “This is a Catholic church?????”

    • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Trads are their own worst enemies.

  • Thanks again, Mark! I wish that these people had better discernment, as well. The damage that these “folk heros” do wouldn’t be as great, if they didn’t have so many devoted followers hanging on their every word and trying to come up with some kind of conspiracy/justification to get them off the hook. There’s a reason it’s called “hero worship.

  • Jo Cunningham

    Mark – I copied your link onto the Bandito Dawg page of facebook – hope you don’t mind. I know there was a more elegant way of doing this, but I still at the techno-ignorant stage of social networking. Anyhow, your article is a breath of fresh air for those of us with literary love who choose not to leave our brains at the door and trust in our theological instincts. Love Harry, love CS Lewis and Narnia more (though in movieland, Harry’s got the better shock and awe special effects), and never could get anything out of Tolkien.

    • Manwe

      “…and never could get anything out of Tolkien.”

      WHAT?! HERESY!!!!!

  • Edward

    Hey, speak for yourself, I dont want to see David’s junk.

    • Mark Shea

      Yeah. And let edit out all the R rated stuff from the Bible and have a Precious Moments translation.

  • Manwe

    Nice video, and I know some of John Granger’s work, and it seems pretty good to me. What I would like to see is what Rowling herself thinks of Granger’s work, now that would be something! It could be Granger’s ultimate vindication (or “damnation” if he was wrong…).

  • RUs

    And there are those fiends who see meritorious aspects in the books as well as issues of serious concern, but they will be silenced by the bellowing of our tribe and the clamoring of the opposition. There are Harry Haters, so all critics must be silenced and identified as Harry Haters–ex cathedra from the Harry Church, where it is pronounced that they “ought to have been welcomed with gratitude by Christians,” lest they be branded a heretic (for Harry is such a Christ, and how dare they criticize our Christ-figure) and cast into the abyss of the folly-that-will-not-be-named, for any criticism of Harry must be folly, concerns of consequentialism be damned. If you aren’t grateful, your a fool and you don’t appreciate your own Christianity! Talk to the hand, Oh Harry Haters!!!!

    What **zealots** they are! Those Harry critics! Do not be fooled by their measured approach and their two-faced willingness to take concerns of both sides seriously. They are the enemy, and FOR THE LOVE OF HARRY they must. be. squelched.

    • Mark Shea

      I’m a Harry critic myself. I think the consequentialism which troubles the conclusion of the book is a real concern. Snape is *not* innocent. He is a murderer who happens to have the permission of his victim to murder him. It’s very morally muddy and I discuss the problem here. The books are not perfect. But neither are they the sink of all evil that many Christians reflexively denounced them as. How I wish Catholics in this country could have a reasonable conversation about such matters without instantly talking as though differences of opinion about aesthetics were portents of moral depravity. A Catholic can, in good faith, find real moral problems with the books. What he can’t do, I think, is reasonably conclude that they are manuals of Satanism written by a monstrously depraved fiend bent on corrupting our children and turning them into tools of antichrist.

  • RUs

    Sure. And I admit that there are Christian allusions in the books, and I am on record extolling many of their virtues.

    But dare I suggest that the consequentialism is woven into the stories with such dexterity (intended or not) and insufficient refutation that I estimate the books to be evil on balance, especially as they are likely to influence the minds of children? (Note: I did not say they are manuals of Satanism.) Regardless of the Harry Zealots’ attempts to explain it away, I observe a **murder-suicide pact** agreed to by **the good guys** that receives no attention for the purpose of refuting and showing it was unjustified–Dare I propose that it is a reasonable conclusion made by reasonable people to measure the gravity of this as sufficient to regard these books with some wariness and not so much “gratefulness?” Dare I suggest that all lies and all evil influences include truths and allusions to goodness, and I therefore do not give much weight to the allusions to Christianity as an antidote to the consequentialism?

    In the past, such discussion has only been met with insults toward my intelligence and toward my honesty, and, quite frankly, it comes across as quite zealous to me for someone to declare with blanketed application that Christians ought to welcome Harry with gratitude. Period.


    The Church of Harry is just as ridiculous as the zealous tribe in opposition. The only way to shut down that Church is to rid it of it’s de Fide doctrines, so I’ll give you an opportunity to do that.

    Harry De Fide doctrine #1: It is unreasonable for someone to weigh the merits and problems with the Harry Potter books and conclude that they are evil on balance. (That is not to say that they should be banned or kept from our children in all circumstances, so please don’t drive off that cliff.)

    Harry De fide doctrine #2: It is unreasonable for someone to conclude that the Christian allusions in the Harry Potter books do not make an inherently Christian story above all other things.

    Note that neither one of these things require that you agree with these reasonable conclusions. Much like the zealotry of sola scriptura needs understanding that there are many reasonable interpretations of scripture, and many among them are wrong, so can we perceive similar necessity in the criticism of literature where a conclusion can be both in disagreement and be reasonable.

    If you can refute both of those doctrines, then the Church of Harry is dead, and the only thing left is to calm down the silly stridency against criticism of it. If you can’t refute them, then the Harry Church is alive and well, with all it’s tribal chest-beating.

  • Sandra Miesel

    Having examined Catholic condemnations of HP from the beginning of the controversy, “Harry Haters” is a justifiable label for critics who misread and misrepresent the content of the books.

    As for the moral problems with the Dumbledore-Snape pact, do note that fails, as does Dumbledore’s whole strategy of manipulation. Voldemort is defeated through freely chosen sacrifices by Harry and his friends, not consequentialist schemes. Even Dumbledore realizes that after death by saluting Harry as “the better man.”

    • RUs

      First, you are begging the question with your blanket statement that the critics just misread and misrepresent the context of the books. I spent an exhaustive amount of time studying the consequentialism issue and making my case point by point with extensive proof texts, and my opposition did not by any stretch of the imagination show the same rigor. I’ve seen your current argument multiple times. Assuming that I am an illiterate and a dishonest one is just more of the same old insults that are typical of the Harry Church.

      Second, you are also grossly oversimplifying the pact. The pact had more than one objective, and not all of them failed. In particular, they saved Draco from having to kill Dumbledore–an objective they explicitly stated, but there was more than that. Besides, it doesn’t matter if it failed. Even if the mind of a child were able to put that together (as opposed to an adult mind bent upon defending the Harry Church), failure is not the same thing as showing that it was not justifiable. That it was in fact wrong. Failing to profit from sin does not change it from being a sin.

      And I’m not going to hash through all the particulars again for the deaf ears of the Harry Church. I spent far too much time on it the previous times, and you’ll never accept my arguments or my conclusions anyway, so what’s the point? I can accept that you have a different reasonable interpretation and smugly go on my way believing I’m right and you’re wrong–can’t you simply do the same without insulting my honesty and branding me as a “hater?”

      No? Really?

      As it is, you miss the point entirely. Is it unreasonable for me to make the judgment that the consequentialism makes them more evil than good? Ought I really “embrace” these books as a Christian given my thoughtful conclusions?


      • Mark Shea

        Actually, it matters a great deal that it failed, because the point of the story is that Dumbledore’s consequentialism was wrong. Rowling even spells it out in big huge letters “FOR THE GREATER GOOD”. That Dumbledore consequentialist scheming all comes to nothing is precisely the point. Harry defeats evil without resorting to it. Fiction doesn’t tell. Fiction shows. What this fiction shows is that Dumbledore’s consequentialism was not just wrong, but fruitless. Snape gets points, like the Hebrew midwives, for his fidelity to Lily and to his attempt to do good. But his fruitless compliance with Dumbledore’s consequentialist scheme does him no more good spiritually than the lies of the midwives.

        • RUs

          “Actually, it matters a great deal that it failed, because the point of the story is that Dumbledore’s consequentialism was wrong.”

          You’re just ignoring my challenges to the Harry Church doctrine and rehashing the same points that I’ve rehashed before. I disagree that the books come anywhere close to showing that consequentialism is evil and unjustifiable, and all the arguments to the contrary have been very weak–your current one is no exception. A reasonable case–whether wrong or right–can be made that consequentialism has been systematically and incrementally *justified* in the books.

          Can’t you even admit that disagreement with your conclusions is reasonable? I didn’t ask for a rehash, I asked for that one minuscule admission. (Actually two.)

          “Rowling even spells it out in big huge letters “FOR THE GREATER GOOD”.”

          Well, committing intrinsic evil for the sake of the greater good is part and parcel of consequentialism, so I have no idea what your point is.

          See, this is what I face every time. Fragments of words taken out of context. I built up extensive arguments with a great amount of text in context in previous discussions (not with you), and they were summarily ignored and responded to with shotgun fragments. I’m sorry if this reasonable man simply doesn’t drink that weak tea.

          “That Dumbledore consequentialist scheming all comes to nothing is precisely the point.” and “What this fiction shows is that Dumbledore’s consequentialism was not just wrong, but fruitless.”

          I disagree. I don’t think it is evident at all that that is part of the message of the book, and no one has demonstrated otherwise in any convincing way. Does that make me unreasonable and foolish for not “welcoming” the Potter Christ?

          Also, as I stated in a previous post, the consequentialism was only a part failure (are you intentionally ignoring this fact?), and nowhere is it made clear that it should be condemned–at all.

          And I’ll reiterate. A sin that fails its objectives is still a sin, and showing failure (even if it were complete–which it wasn’t) doesn’t refute it. If that were the case, then every failed act of *good* would also be refuted by a book. But that would be ridiculous, no?

          But all of that ignores my challenge to the Harry Church dogmas. Are you going to drink from the Sacramental KoolAid, or refute it?

          • Mark Shea

            I’m not sure why your tone is so hostile, but I’ll try again: When Rowling points out that Dumbledore’s sins were done FOR THE GREATER GOOD, (she even uses capital letters) she is making the point you are: that consequentialism is wrong. When she then has her character engage in consequentialism and fail, while Harry does not engage in consequentialism and succeeds and is hailed as “the better man” that suggests the author is telling a story that aims to condemn consequentialism.

            • Brian Killian

              That only shows it was bad consequentialism, not that consequentialism is bad.

              Would it have been good if it succeeded?

              From the fact of failure, you need something else to get to the conclusion that it was *morally* bad. Otherwise, your argument never escapes the same consequentialism.

    • Brian Killian

      The argument from Dumbledore’s failure is a failed argument. 🙂

      Mostly because it is itself a consequentialist argument (would it have been good if it succeeded?). This particular episode doesn’t ever get singled out for repudiation. And it couldn’t have.

      The fact is, this incident was not an aberration. It’s the supreme demonstration of Dumbledore’s mastery of death. After Harry ascends in his own right to the title of master of death, he boasts about Dumbledore’s death pact to Voldemort.

      It’s the culmination of the theme in the series of the natural goodness of death for those who learn to embrace it.

  • My almost 12 yo son read the whole series, and my almost 10 yo daughter read Books 1 through 5. I didn’t have any issue with it, because as Mary S stated above:

    Our children should be enlightened to our aesthetic, cultural and literary traditions early and often. If they are brought up in a good relationship with the Lord, then magic shouldn’t hold enough allure to draw them away.

    That they have.

    I’ve also listened to and read many books and albums that the Protestant fundamentalist crowd was freaking out about. None of that 1) led me into heavy drugs or black magic, and 2) weakened my relationship with Our Lord.

    I’ve always been a huge believer (and so was my mom) in letting kids decide what they want to read or listen to, with a little guidance. Ya got questions about it, ask me. But outright banning? Nope. Reminds me way too much of book burning. It’s deplorable that this still goes on in 21st century America.

  • Andy

    Harry Potter is a work of fiction, not even great fiction. My wife and I have read them as have my two daughters and found them to be fiction. Our son did not read them because he does not like fiction. The professional and less than professional analysis of these books is almost as troubling as what the analysis in either direction finds. I hardly think that these books are worth the trouble to analyze. It seems simple to me – either you like fiction like my wife, daughters and I do or you do not like our son. It seems that in the big tent Catholic Church we are being reduced to a set of small tents, not with all the amenities of the tent in HP, and never the twain shall meet except to fight. And it the fight can’t be about issues – poverty – then find one – children’s fiction. We wonder what is wrong with our education today – I am seeing it right here – the need to be right without the ability to see the other side as possibly being right. To those who hate HP enjoy your hating, leave those who enjoyed these works of fiction alone; to those who love HP, leave those who don’t share your love alone.

  • I think this:

    “A Catholic can, in good faith, find real moral problems with the books.”

    Would be easier to believe if things like this:

    “critics who misread and misrepresent the content of the books.”

    and this:

    “those of us with literary love who choose not to leave our brains at the door ”

    Weren’t applied whenever someone brings up something like this:

    “I think the consequentialism which troubles the conclusion of the book is a real concern.”

    I’ve often seen responses like those whenever folks have said things similar to Mark’s statement. Was a time when to bring up any criticism other than ‘the books weren’t well written’, and you could get a dose of digs and slams like those above.

    FWIW, I’ve noticed some slight movement in the direction of that last statement now that things have settled and had time to bake for a while. Not that it’s all bad or of the Devil or anything. Just that it might be possible to overstate the Orthodox Christian content of HP at the same time it’s possible to overstate its dangers.

  • RUs

    My tone is not intended to be hostile at all. I am needling you in a spirited way, but that’s all part of the fun of blogging.

    I disagree that your interpretation is so evident as you think it is. Does that make me some unreasonable and ungrateful Christian or not? Refute the two Harry Church doctrines above or no?

    • Mark Shea

      Okay. Fair enough. I don’t know how “evident” it is. I do know it’s a perfectly fair way of reading the text. However, since I’m not arguing for the immaculate conception of Harry Potter, I don’t claim that every objection to the books is unreasonable and ungrateful. I do, however, argue that many many many Christian critiques of the books are not merely unreasonable but utterly demented and illiterate (see the link I added) and that Christians who move heaven and earth to overlook the rather obvious Christian subtext to the books and find nothing but pure evil in them are indeed ungrateful. A real work of fair lit crit can find something good even in a piece of trash like the Da Vinci Code. People who are simply gathering ammo for a firing squad (as countless critics of Harry Potter have done) have to blind themselves to anything that might possibly speak well of the books. It’s the relentless and (as the Remnant “analysis” demonstrates) patently ridiculous scramble to find nothing but pure evil that I regard as ungrateful.

      • RUs

        “Okay. Fair enough. I don’t know how “evident” it is. I do know it’s a perfectly fair way of reading the text.”

        Never in my discussions have I insinuated that it is unreasonable for someone to think that way. I have only expressed my disagreement with the conclusion, and my reasons for disagreeing. So what? I can smugly go my way knowing I’m right without insulting people’s intelligence, literacy, and honesty, and the members of the Harry Church should be able to do the same. Those who read or listen to the discussions can think it through for themselves without the rampant ad hominem attempting to influence them.

        “I don’t claim that every objection to the books is unreasonable and ungrateful. I do, however, argue that many many many Christian critiques of the books are not merely unreasonable but utterly demented and illiterate (see the link I added) and that Christians who move heaven and earth to overlook the rather obvious Christian subtext to the books and find nothing but pure evil in them are indeed ungrateful.”

        The problem is that you parade out the kooks as if they represent every individual who ever had an objection to the Potter books. Among those who have concerns about the occult for example, there are kooks and there are reasonable people with real concerns. I take them seriously (though I am mostly in disagreement), but I do not lump them in with the kooks just because they have concerns and disagree with those who don’t.

        Anyone who completely overlooks the Christian subtext is probably being irrational. However, the fact that there is a Christian subtext does not determine whether or not a work is evil, does it? Trotting out a list of irrational kooks has no bearing on the answer. If it doesn’t, your ongoing stridency comes off as silly. If you say it does, I’ve overestimated your intelligence. (That’s not an insult–I will be shocked if you don’t admit that much. Besides which, I follow this blog because I enjoy the benefits of your intelligence and humor, and your occasional brilliance.)

        I don’t understand why you and Miss Miesel refer to a list of idiots (as far as I know–I haven’t read them) to justify rating anyone who objects to the consequentialism in Harry Potter as some kind of radical, hating buffoon, and chide us good Christians for not *welcoming* them. Reasonable people should be able to criticize Harry Potter without being grouped with the kooks. Even now you are saying that disagreements might be reasonable, but–look at all the kooks!

        Well, duh. Kooks happen. I haven’t been talking about the kooks, I’ve been talking about reasonable people with reasonable objections. Why can’t you just simply say: Yes, your objections are reasonable, even if I don’t agree with them. STOP?

        I was never a strident condemner of the books. I was somewhat complementary of them for the first few books, especially the dogged loyalty among the friends (that JKR threw up on later). It wasn’t until Harry started using unforgivable curses that I started getting wary, but even then I leaned to the positive. It wasn’t until the murder-suicide pact played out that I concluded that they were on balance evil works. Or at least that they had more potential for harm than good. But I was never strident about it, nor did I insist everyone who disagreed with me was a nut, an idiot, or a liar.

        In all my experience discussing the books on line and off–speaking with *regular people*, especially Catholics, not the kooks–I have found the “Harry Haters” far more willing to listen to reason than the members of the Harry Church. (In fairness, I’ve met more of the latter than the former.) When you make all these blanket statements about people who object, it comes off as zealous and silly.

        I would still like answers to the unanswered dogma questions, if you would be so kind. 1) Does my estimation that the consequentialism in the book is not sufficiently refuted and outweighs the good make me unreasonable or not? 2) Does my rejection of this notion that allusions to Christianity automatically make it a Christian book and on balance the books are evil make me an unreasonable man? (These are specific things not just a general “not every objection” as above.)

        It Pascalesque fashion: Sorry so long. I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.

  • Sandra Miesel

    Allow me to name the published and widely cited Catholics who’ve misrepresented HP, both by omission and outright misstatement: Michael O’Brien, Steve Wood, Toni Collins, Karen Rust, Gabrielle Kuby, Paul Giraud. Not to mention the fulminations of Protestant Berit Kjos. (I haven’t read Paul Albanes.) Harry Haters is an appropriate label for them.

    Is HP worth studying? yes, for its intricate structures and embedded symbolism. I find that more fun than reading the books for entertainment. See my contribution to the new critical collection, HARRY POTTER FOR NERDS, “Is There Hope for Slytherin House?”

    • Brian Killian

      Sandra, do you have a list of Catholic critics who *don’t* misrepresent HP?

      If not, do you see a problem there?

  • RUs

    “. . . he boasts about Dumbledore’s death pact to Voldemort.”

    Wow. I missed that. I had to go raid my niece’s bookshelf to find it. I’m not so sure your interpretation of Harry as the new “master of death,” but sure enough, Harry boasts to Voldemort about the murder-suicide pact between Dumbledore and Snape and its part in Voldemort’s undoing. The exact opposite of repudiation.


    • Brian Killian


      It’s a strange thing for Harry to do if Rowling was trying to make the point that Dumbledore’s ‘advanced directive’ was a no no.