A Christian’s Response to Harry Potter

Read ’em. If you want to. That’s my response.

I am not (cannot be!) one of those Christians who, because of rank or status (ordained or self-anointed), would label what comes out of my mind or mouth as doctrinal. I am not one of those who would have the audacity to label anything I say or write as THE Christian response to anything. I’m just a guy who tries to follow Jesus, makes mistakes in doing so from time to time, but has (as you can probably tell by now) LOTS of opinions.

HarryPotter2

(for anyone unable to tell, all the people in the above picture are actors)

I’ve never read a Harry Potter book, and never will. But among the people whose opinions I value, my wife and daughters do read Rowling’s books, enjoy them, and none of them have become witches. I did see the first movie, and smiled all the way through it. I’ve missed the others, and don’t remember why; I probably had building committee meetings or something equally invigorating to go to.

If you want to see THE Christian response to Harry Potter, here are three of them:

here- Focus on the Family

here- Christian Answers for the New Age

and here- Exposing Satanism (this one’s the most fun!)

The common objection by these defenders of the faith seem to center around, “But what about the children??” Yeah, what about them?

Half the kids between 10 and 20 that I know have read all the Potter books. And I have yet to see any of them on broomsticks, doing incantations, or so much as carrying a magic wand. I don’t know how the reading of Harry Potter manifests itself among children in churches where there is more talk about the fear of Satan than about the love of God, but in the churches I spend time in (the latter), Harry Potter has not had any behavioral impact that I can see.

Except for the fact that there are a bunch of kids who have learned to love to read and are not watching some dismal sit-com on TV while they do it!

Can I suggest that no one anywhere has seen a child doing occult, witchy, or otherwise “dark” things because of their having read Harry Potter books? Kids are not the stupid lumps of clay many adults think they are. They have, at the age of 9 or 10- about the time most would even begin to read these books- real abilities to discern between truth and fantasy. Notice that you can’t fool them with your silly magic tricks, the way you could when they were 2 or 3; none of them will play peek-a-boo with you anymore. That’s because they are learning the difference between what is real and not-real!

And that will continue! If they are older than 8, 9, or 10, children’s cognitive abilities are getting even better, and more complex. Even the ones who think, for a moment, that there might be something to this broomstick business, will, after about three seconds of experimentation, realize there is not.

Relax. That’s another of this Christian’s responses to almost everything, come to think about it. Relax and, while doing so, take a look at the money angle of those who have lots to say about the Potter books. Are they raising money for themselves through their usual ploy of fear, yet again? Are they, through their own painfully minute exegesis of the Potter books, trying to build more credibility among those who willingly hand over their own abilities to discern to these “experts”?

Just relax. Stop reacting to the “panic” of others. I’d be far more concerned about my young child watching anything on (so-called) Christian TV than I would about her reading a Harry Potter book. (Which wouldn’t be hard to do, since I’d have NO concern over her reading a Potter book.)

Relax; stop trying to scare children into loving God. Take a child outside today, to the park or to the woods, and let God do all the talking.

For once.

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God Damn Dog Fighting

(That’s a prayer, by the way..)

It looks like Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick will feel the revulsion of the NFL for his off-the-field pastime of dog fighting, as Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to announce Vick’s suspension this week for the 07-08 season.

Hopefully, Nike and other members of Vick’s endorsement gravy train will follow suit.

Any doubts about what the NFL is doing to Vick? This should eliminate any thoughts of “unfairness” someone might still be harboring:

dogfighting

That’s what a human fingerprint looks like, gouged into a pit bull’s face. If it’s nauseating, that’s my point. It is meant to be.

It is almost unfathomable at times what humans are capable of doing to animals. Dog fighting, cock fighting, exotic animal hunting, and even rattlesnake round ups are systemic manifestations of the religiously chauvinistic attitude that humans are at top of the food chain and, therefore, “have dominion..over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1: 28) That single biblical phrase, twisted in the minds of men who measure their virility by the blood they can cause to flow from other living beings, or by the neglect they have institutionalized under the agenda of economic development, puts us- this generation- directly in the path of what has been called the Sixth Great Extinction.

440 million years ago, 85% of marine animals were wiped out in the First Great Extinction. 367 million years ago, many fish and 70% of marine invertebrates met their doom. 245 million years ago, 95% of all animal species died. 208 million years ago, another extinction of sea animals primarily, but also some land animals took place. And 65 million years ago, 3/4 of all species, including the dinosaurs, were eliminated.

All of these five great extinctions occurred because of volcanic eruptions, meteorite strikes, and changing climates. This sixth great extinction is one we are able to witness and one which we are largely the cause of. (Statistics from Earth Policy Institute)

It is estimated that 10 million species inhabit the earth with humans. And each year, 1000s of these species, including microrganisms, are lost forever. Deforestation, mining, urbanization, and ocean pollution and over harvesting are the primary reasons.

How do the attitudes and actions of Michael Vick fit into this dismal picture?

Perfectly.

As long as our human and predominate worldview is one which regards everything outside of ourselves as, well, outside of ourselves, then the abuse and death of pit bulls behind barns in the Virginia countryside, as well as the poaching deaths of Mountain Gorillas in the Congo, will continue. As long we crush our natural empathetic response to other living beings, with the mechanistic attitude that we’re in control of the toolbox, then it will continue to be easy to regard other species as things– in our way, expendable, toys for our amusement, even trash.

Imagine the outcome of a democratic vote by the world’s species on which species should be next in line for extinction?

Amen

 

 

 

Epiphany

An Appearance of the Divine

I fumble for the words. I grasp at metaphors and seek after similes. But my language is never adequate; there is always more that must be said and that cannot be said. So I watch, and listen, and touch when possible, the experiences of others who have seen God. It is the most precious part of what I do.

I am not talking about the trivial quest for finding theophanic revelations in the clouds, on the smeared dirt of a windshield, or in the aberrational shape of a Rice Krispy. The world does not need a single other manifestation of the Blessed Virgin on the side of a tree. I am talking about those moments when someone sits with their mouth open, their eyes wet with wonder, and their hands grabbing for some means of sharing an experience they have had with something much larger than themselves.

Andy, an oil field roustabout, tells me in words wholly inadequate to the vision he’s had, about suddenly feeling pain one day as drill bits tore holes into the earth: “I just stood there: it was the first time I saw that everything in this world comes out of the earth, like it was giving birth almost, all the time. Does that sound crazy?”

Marla, an 85 year old invalid widow: “I woke up and the room was vibrating. There was no difference between me and the walls and the sheets. I couldn’t tell where they ended and I began. I just laid there and let it happen and I haven’t been the same since. I don’t know what it was.”

Ed, a 75 year old retired lawyer: “I was only 5 when my grandpa died. I was crying and so I went and got under my bed. And someone was there with me, and I’ve never told anyone this- not even my wife, but I felt loved that day in a way that I have I have never felt since then but have never forgotten, either. I think that time under the bed when I was 5 made me who I am and I don’t even know what it was, really.”

I said that these people- I believe- had “seen” God. It doesn’t matter to me whether one can force their experiences into an “approved” and traditional category of epiphanal experiences, based on a chapter and verse of a particular sacred book. I’m guessing that the epiphanies experienced by Moses, Mary, and Peter- for instance- were first shared in the same kind of grasping, open-mouthed ways that the ones above were shared. The problem with reducing any experience to words, though, it that it then remains forever reduced.

There is no word more inadequate, in fact, than the word God itself.

Moses said God could only be seen after God had passed by and that is true. Real sense of epiphanies (and there is always sense to be made) can only come with contemplation.

In every case I know of- biblical, personal, and those of others- the person experiencing an epiphany has their awareness of the divine enlarged. They experience God where they have not experienced God before, and usually with increasing frequency and sensitivity.

Andy has not been able to handle his vision of the earth being hurt very well at all. It has now become a part of the heightened sensibilities which causes Andy and many alcoholics to try to manage the onslaught of emotions they experience by “dulling them down.” I can urge and encourage, and I have, but sometimes sadness is simply overwhelming.

Marla and Ed have both died now. They used the revelations they had had to understand, reach out constantly, and enfold unto themselves that which they knew– beyond all shadow of doubt- to be beloved. Their homes were jungles of potted plants and rooting twigs. They were highly social, and not merely in chit-chat ways. They attracted people. People felt safe with them, loved by them, and important to them. And, indeed, they were.

I know I have only opened the door a little here. And that’s all I will be able to open it. There are no adequate words. But, hopefully, there is some Light shining through. Grab whatever of it these words allow you to, and make it your own.

On the Beach..with a BlackBerry

A banker, on vacation in St. Tropez, quoted in an article this morning at Financial Times:

“Everyone is on a high state of alert, so there are going to be many people like me making sure we keep in touch – and that means keeping your BlackBerry on. Normally in August banks run on half or two-thirds of normal staff, which can make it difficult, so every banker has to remain vigilant, even if you’re on the beach like me.”

There will come that one, last perfect day when such a comment is spoken to others, acknowledged affirmatively by others, and embraced by others, both enviously or in agreement. It will be heard that day uncritically, acceptably, without questioning. The importance of the statement will be unchallenged. The normalcy of the statement will further add to that last perfect day’s harmonious discourse.

Then, somewhere, perhaps on another beach- almost certainly on another beach, a mountainside somewhere, in a field full of wildflowers, or beside a trout stream- someone will ask, “Does it matter?” Does it matter that I have more than I need, less than I want? Does it matter that the markets a world away are defining, even here, my relationship with all that I can see around me? Does it matter that I cannot hear the symphonies of the sunshine and oceans for the the digital clatter that is filling my heart?

And, over days, decades, centuries perhaps, that one last perfect day will be remembered as the day humankind began to turn- away from themselves, and toward the Light. One by one, unnoticed for years, first here then there then there and there and there, the Light will be seen, acknowledged, and begin to shine through the darkness born of religious tradition, economic acquiescence, and national historical perspectives. Light will begin to shine across political borders, across chasms of cultural chauvinism, and through masks of ego-driven motivations.

There will be that one last perfect day, before someone, somewhere looks at their BlackBerry one last time, then drops it. And steps on it. And lifts their eyes to see the blue, crystalline waters of the Mediterranean for the first time ever..

Walking out of ourselves..

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“When you walk into a forest, learn to tremble with the magnitude of what you are about, and you will never walk out. There will no longer be that self that approached the forest, for you will be new, you will bear the presence of the forest with you. Forests are alive with music on all sorts of hidden levels, and when you hear this music you will know that forest has permeated every cell of your body. Sip a cup of coffee the next morning, and all the fir trees will grow warm. The natural, human, and divine worlds flow together into our feelings. You need no teacher. The universe is your teacher, the forests are your teachers. You will know when you fail to learn, for failure is punished with boredom. If you develop the least flicker of sensitivity, the universe will come alive in you.”

(from The Universe is a Green Dragon by Brian Swimme)

My Kingdom..for a cup of coffee

coffee

I’m taking a stress test later today and the cardiologist asked (demanded, the jerk) that I drink no coffee during the 36 hours preceding the test. It is now hour # 30, and I am sitting here in my backyard, at the edge of hell.

The sun is irritatingly bright. The birds are screechy, the crickets are monotonous, and even my beloved dogs have turned on me, underfoot and demanding. I am having some major spiritual revelations, too:

re: The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden because of disobedience. I’ve decided that coffee beans were piled there in abundance. Rich and shiny, golden brown gifts of God to begin each morning in Paradise. Out of the Garden, they would be forced to drink.. green tea.

re: The Buddha’s First Noble Truth, that Life is full of Suffering. Amen, Siddartha! But, then, what other conclusion could he have come to? He would never have had the opportunity to hold a grand latte, cupped warmly in his hands, as he breathed in the sweet aroma of South American mountainsides. Green tea would NOT have begun to satisfy that deep and basic human need.

Coffee elevates the human spirit! It helps us focus! It is an aromatic, erotic, exultant pathway to each new day! It is to be savored while having meditative thoughts and sipped while contemplatively aligning oneself with God.

That’s the first pot, anyway.

The rest of the day, it is to keep the headaches away that result from the bouncing around of empty spaces in the bloodstream and brain that a lack of caffeine are wont to cause.

You want to talk about stress, Doctor? ALL RIGHT, you practitioner of the healing arts! You’ve got my STRESS! I’m jittery, headachey, crabby, and feeling mean. I’m feeling mean enough to chew through the leather straps which seem to be squeezing my head right now tighter and tighter and….

Only 8 hours until I can go to Starbucks- which is 2.3 miles from the Doctor’s office..which means that at 5:10, 0r 5:11, I will be handing money to an 18 year old barrista, and begging her/him to give me back my life..

Postscript: 6 p.m. God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world.