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Fred's Views

Tolerating Intolerance

Our local TV station has a program where the moderator interviews various people about some issue of the day. I admit I've only caught brief snippets of a couple of these shows. A few weeks back, when the latest Harry Potter film was released, they had a minister on who essentially equated the Harry Potter series (books and movies) with all things evil. He claimed the books were not about good and evil, but merely "grey" evil versus "black" evil. Despite the obvious fact that this man had never read or seen a single Harry Potter story, his unfounded attack was enough to make all but the most fundamentalist of Christians blush with embarrassment. I don't know what, if any, effect he might have had in convincing anyone to bypass or boycott the Harry Potter franchise, but I'm certain he managed to alienate a few people who, up to that time, had at least an open mind toward Christianity.

To call this man a Christian, let alone a Christian minister, seems to be a far greater sacrilege than anything you might find in Harry Potter. Where is his Christian sense of fair play? of charity? of refraining from unfair judgement, let alone a Christian sense of humor? Does he not realize that there is much in modern Christian traditions that was borrowed or refined from pagan sources.

The Harry Potter series is, of course, fiction. It is fun fiction. (Although, the later books, to be sure, are somewhat grim.) Christianity, as such, is neither promoted nor reviled. In almost every book, they celebrate Christmas, although admittedly its more secular aspects. Still, if J. K. Rowling was somehow trying to replace Christianity, why not replace Christmas with some other special day or feast?

The fact is, the Harry Potter series are just good stories. They are interesting, engaging, and concern themselves with the ancient conflict of good versus evil. Could anyone read one of the books or see one of the movies and not consider Harry a hero in every sense? He's certainly not perfect, he has a quick temper - just like Peter, the supposed founder of the Christian church in Rome. And, as we discover in the last book, Albus Dumbledore is not without his imperfections as well. But both men rise above their limitations and do "wondrous things".

It always gets my goat when someone attacks a book for not being what it's not designed to be(read that three times): The Harry Potter series is not about theology; it is certainly not about Wicken or any other "pagan" religion, although, admittedly, it uses terms (i.e. magic, witches, wizards) that may be used in some of these religions. The Bible is not a book about science, but I bet this minister would use the Bible to try to prove that the universe was created in seven "days". Huckleberry Finn is not a history of slavery, it merely paints a picture of what is (was) and allows the readers to make their own conclusions. Of course, if you identify with Huck, you would be hard pressed to maintain your racist feelings.

A book should be judged on its merit. If it is a work of fiction, judge it as such. Does it tell a good story? Does it enthrall its readers? Does it make you want to read to the end without putting it down? That's what the Harry Potter series does. That's what The Da Vinci Code does. And despite the fact that it may seem a little "foreign" to modern readers, that's what Huckleberry Finn does as well.

Should a work of fiction do more than tell a good story? Not necessarily, but most of the most respected books do. Huckleberry Finn makes readers think about the evils of racism without preaching. The Da Vinci Code encourages us to think about our faith, without presuming to have all the answers. The Harry Potter series teaches us about the dangers of intolerance and lack of respect. It also teaches us about the power of love. These are all lessons we need to learn over and over again.

So, for the sake of tolerance, I'll allow this minister to have his say. And I'll try to keep a straight face. I'll try.

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