Friday, August 03, 2007

Follow-Up: The Very Christian J.K. Rowling?

"The Nervous Witch," Jack Chick
Religious Opposition to the Harry Potter Series
(Image from Wikipedia)

I only have time for the briefest of posts this morning, for I'm heading out to present my paper on "Celibacy and Salvation in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," but I want to follow up yesterday's post with some citations on J.K. Rowling and Christianity that I've been collecting but putting off reading until I'd finished reading the Potter series.

Although Rowling's Potter is disliked by some Christians -- as the Chick comic above suggests -- Rowling herself claims to be Christian. In an interview with Max Wyman, "'You can lead a fool to a book but you can't make them think': Author has frank words for the religious right," The Vancouver Sun (British Columbia), October 26, 2000, Rowling acknowledges that she doesn't believe in magic, prompting Wyman to ask her if she is a Christian:
"Yes, I am," she says. "Which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I've been asked if I believe in God, I've said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what's coming in the books."
In an earlier interview with Linton Weeks, "Charmed, I'm Sure," The Washington Post, October 20, 1999, Rowling had already mentioned her church:
In Edinburgh, mother and daughter belonged to a Church of Scotland congregation. [Her daughter] Jessica was christened there.
So much for the author. What about the books? Here's a bit from a report by Mark Gudgel, "In Defense of Harry Potter,"
Connie Neal, John Granger and John Killinger, among numerous other Christian writers, have all authored books in favor of Harry Potter. Their insightful writings offer theories about the books and their connection to biblical stories and themes. The underlying battle between good and evil is but one of the compelling connections offered to bridge the gap between Potter and our Christian faith. The remarkable thing about the works of Granger and Neal is that both writers admittedly set out to read the Harry Potter books in order that they might explain to their children why they were not to be allowed to read them. It was through their research and diligent parenting that they came to discover that there was no harm to be found in Rowling's works, but instead, a meaningful connection to the most significant principles of Christianity.
Finally, there's this very recent article by Dave Bruno, "Harry Potter 7 Is Matthew 6," Christianity Today (August 2, 2007). Bruno suggests that "The young wizard may not have read the Bible, but someone else certainly did." I won't quote from it due to lack of time, but follow the link (unless you haven't finished the book and and don't want any plot spoilers).

Now, I'm off to the conference...

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At 8:33 AM, Blogger Charles said...

Best of luck at the conference. My apologies for not getting back to you with any useful feedback on the paper... things have been a tad on the hectic side around here. But it's all just one big excuse in the end.

As for the Potter books, I've never read a single one of them, but Christians who think all fantasy is from the devil really irk me. I love how, in that Chick tract, the girl jumps from Harry Potter to "Hey... do you think I should destroy all of that occult junk in my room?" I bet the next panel goes on the describe how Harry Potter leads to human sacrifice.

At 8:31 PM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

Uh... my apologies as well for not following up my initial remarks re: the Buddhism in your paper. As I recall, there was only the one minor quibble (my July 5 email included a request for a citation re: the claim "...but many have interpreted the sutra as meaning this."); everything else struck me as fine.

So I'm not too sorry for not following up. You'd already done solid work.


At 9:29 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Charles and Kevin, for the comments. I can still use a citation or two if you can supply them. My paper went well enough, I suppose, but I had to read quickly to trim it to 20 minutes. Some people later told me that they'd liked it.


Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:12 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

Thanks for the follow-up. I hope the conference went well.

At 4:19 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Jessica. The conference was interesting, but I wish that more had been presented about the experience of celibacy and enlightenment/salvation. Many celibate Buddhist monks and nuns were present, but we didn't hear much about their experience. In my Gawain paper, I tried to get at the experiential aspect ... to the degree that one can do so with a literary creation. But this aspect was largely neglected at the conference.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Hodges,

Dave Bruno, to whom you refer me, writes that Rowling's depiction of Eternity is "primitive." Yet it consists almost wholly of a single image: that of a damned soul (Voldemort) depicted as an unwanted and tormented baby. That seems to imply that redemption is the culmination of maturation, maturation to the point of acceptin death, while damnation is a refusal to grow up. This turns out to be the core theme of the Potter books, and it, too, is biblical:

"That we henceforth be no more children ... but ... may grow up into him in all things ..."
(Epesians 4:13-14)

Rather unusually, I can remember what it was like to be a baby, unable to do anything for one's self, crying wordlessly for help with no certainty as to whether or when it would come. It was quite fearful ... not at all "primitive" as a metaphor for damnation.

Perhaps Dr. Bruno has been overindulging in Weasley Wheezes.

Sugo haseyo!

At 6:21 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Interesting suggestions, 'Hermione.' Good to see that you're still doing your homework. On the other hand, one is supposed to come to Christ as a child:

Luke 18:17 (KJV) "Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein."

I suppose, however, that we're intended to grow up. And Riddle/Voldemort is one who never did grow up emotionally (or in other ways, either).

I did wonder, though, if the suffering, seemingly flayed infant Voldemort was meant by Rowling as a symbol of what Riddle had done to his own soul by fragmenting it among various horcruxes (as well as the other ways in which he had harmed himself).

By the way, you must have an incredible memory to recall being an infant. I've had only one other person tell me that he recalls memories so early as that.

Auf Wiedersehen,

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:19 PM, Blogger A.H. said...

Very interesting posts on Rowling. Does she need to be redeemed and saved from the Christian Right? Given the second-hand nature of her imagination, it's not too surprising that she trawled up The Bible in there...somewhere...whilst fishing around. The alchemists always believed that the gold was hidden in dross. Never has that been more true than in the case of Rowling.

At 4:09 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Eshuneutics. I understand your point about Rowling's borrowings. I do enjoy reading her stories, though. I just wish that she had Pullman's literary skills. Pullman himself might be able to tell a better story if he didn't have so much animosity about Christianity. It seems to distort his plot.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:05 PM, Blogger A.H. said...

I think that you are absolutely right. Pullman's atheism makes him quite hateful towards godly matters. I feel that I ought to like him because of his Miltonism, but sadly find him unreadable.

At 3:49 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I read Pullman's entire trilogy, starting off impressed but gradually growing more and more disappointed. By the last volume, I was struggling to maintain interest.

Jeffery Hodges

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