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Harry Potter and the Bible: Entertaining Narrative with Moral Lessons

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Steven Herb, an education librarian at Penn State, and children’s author thinks J K Rowling’s saga of the boy wizard, Harry Potter, will stand the test of time. The widespread interest in the novels, he believes, is likely to be passed on to future generations as parents become eager to share their enthusiasm for the books with their children, a notion which bodes well for youth reading in general. Herb continues:

Interest in exciting literature is certainly a habit we want to share with our kids, because kids learn a lot more by what they are shown than what they are told. Having excitement for literature is a good model for kids. I don’t think this will be too hard for people to do that with. Because it was such a broad readership and range of ages, I think this one will be stronger for the next couple generations than other fantasy fiction that goes through highs and lows.

Their genre of good versus evil is an enduring one, after all. It is rather curious, since lots of fundamentalist Christians seem to think Harry Potter is Satan encapsulated, yet the basics of the tales about him and many biblical stories are essentially the same type. As a magician, Harry could be Moses. He could even be Jesus!

Christians think the bible is also about good versus evil, and that has endured—in some of the Jewish parts of it, for 2,500 years—though it is often hard to tell, from God’s instructions to the Israelites, what is good and should be copied, and what is evil and should be rejected. Much of Harry Potter consists of wonder and exciting adventure, but then so too does the Jewish scriptures.

Who can imagine a story more heroic, exciting and romantic than the story of Samson and Delilah? Yet what could be more offensive and disgusting than the conquests of Canaan, with God instructing the invader to kill everything including the Canaanites’ animals, except, in one instance, the young girls whom the conquerors should “keep for themselves”. Or what could be more sensual than the Song of Solomon?

Yet the bible was never meant to be read individually when it was devised. It was essentially a law book for telling people how they should behave to be a good Jew, but the legality was padded out with exciting, gory, and sensual stories to make it all memorable to those who heard them. For they were read out in the church of the time—the Temple—as part of the exhortation of the priests to the people.

No one could read the bible for themselves because, except for a small number of scribes, people were illiterate. What simple illiterate farmer or day laborer could afford a bible—a large number of separate scrolls in those days—anyway? And, who could understand Hebrew when the language of the day was Aramaean, and it still remained the language of the peasants years later when the educated and wealthy classes spoke Greek.

In the whole history of Christendom until the last few hundred years, few people could read, and the Catholic bible was in any case written in Latin which, for long, even many priests could barely understand. A semblance of the Latin mass was mumbled by a priest, knowing as he did that no one hearing it was likely to have been able to comprehend what it meant anyway. So, even the priest had no need to understand Latin. Of course, a conscientious priest would give a sermon in the local language in which points of doctrine were explained together with a biblical tale or two to entertain the congregation. Apart from some games and frolicking, it was the only entertainment they got. The situation had remained as it was at the outset for 2000 years. Then the Protestant Reformation let everyone who was literate in their own language read the content of the bible for themselves.

Now the situation is that many fundamentalist Christians in the USA, if not elsewhere, have not read their bibles even though they can do, assuming they are literate, but do not know anything about it, suggesting they are not! The Pew Poll showed that clearly enough, and anyone who cares to read some of the online debates in which Christians participate can see immediately that many, if not most of them, simply do not have a clue what the Christian God actually did and taught Christians to do, according to the gospels, which purport to record the very words and deeds of God Himself in His supposed incarnation on earth. They would rather call God a liar or an idiot than hear what he they should believe He said, if they wish to call themselves Christians.

The point is that the Harry Potter stories are disliked by these “Christians” for the same reason that they will not hear what Christ, their supposed God, actually said—what they do not like, they will not read. They do not want their kids to read Harry Potter allegedly because they think it is the work of the Devil, not a woman called Rowling, but really because they simply cannot comprehend Christian morality or bring themselves to act on it, when they do. And their Pastors tell them what they want to hear, not what Christ taught, because they know full well it is the way to get “Christians&rdquo like these to stay in their church and make donations to their personal welfare. In short they are opportunistic crooks lining their own pocket.

The poor ignoramuses who listen to these “Christian ministers” would actually get a better idea of moral behavior by reading Harry Potter, or seeing the movies if they cannot read, than by listening to their money grubbing ministers.

Written by mikemagee

18 November, 2010 at 11:48 pm

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