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Thursday, October 18, 2007


Huw Richardson

Carl -

The article you linked to over at the Ratzinger Fan Club says essentially the same thing as MTV. In fact, it's close enough to verbatim. I'm not sure what is "incorrect" about it. I would replace the verb "Condemned" with, perhaps, "said in private correspondence"... but your average non-Roman Catholic (and likely many RCs) would not be able to tell any differences.


Cristina A. Montes

What the internet media is picking up is JKR's revelation that one of her characters is gay.


Sure the books borrow some Christian themes, as do so many tales when it comes to redemption. But whether Rowling or the books are 'Christian' in any unique sense, or closer to an anachronistic fusion of Judy Blume and Edward Eager, is an open question. Despite titles like 'Finding God in Harry Potter' and the heavy-breathing of many Evangelicals in a rush to co-opt one more cultural artifact for their cause. Witness this item from Newsweek:

"J. K. Rowling, author of the worldwide best-selling Harry Potter series, met some of her American fans Friday night and provided some surprising revelations about the fictional characters who a generation of children have come to regard as close friends.

In front of a full house of hardcore Potter fans at Carnegie Hall in New York, Rowling, sitting on the stage on a red velvet and carved wood throne, read from her seventh and final book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," then took questions. One fan asked whether Albus Dumbledore, the head of the famed Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, had ever loved anyone. Rowling smiled. "Dumbledore is gay, actually," replied Rowling as the audience erupted in surprise. She added that, in her mind, Dumbledore had an unrequited love affair with Gellert Grindelwald, Voldemort's predecessor who appears in the seventh book. After several minutes of prolonged shouting and clapping from astonished fans, Rowling added. "I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy."

Mark Brumley

I think a careful reading of Harry Potter shows the center of its storyline is profoundly Christian because the Christian ideas of charity and sacrificial love are the "core values". Or at least the books are "postChristian", not in the usual sense, but in the sense that Christianity has left a deep mark on the worldview espoused in the Potter books. They are not pagan books in the sense of espousing a pagan philosophy or values. They are not, contra Michael O'Brien, secular humanism because they affirm the reality of Good and Evil, and of transcendent orders of existence. Nor are they antiChristian, as the Pullman books are. They draw on Christian ideas as well as Christian symbols and even, in the final book, Christian Scripture and eschatology. While the magical elements are problematic for some readers, others easily see beyond the magical shtick to get at the underlying themes.

Nevertheless, they are not Christian books in the sense that the author of the book is an orthodox Christian who intends to encourage readers to consider orthodox Christianity through the telling of a story where issues related to the truth of orthodox Christianity are deliberately raised in the drama or the nature of the characters. Not that all good books must be Christian books or authors worthy of reading orthodox Christian authors. It is a matter of not confusing the categories of writing.

J.K. Rowling professes to be a Christian and I take her at her word. It seems evident to me that she is not an especially orthodox Christian. Nor does she seem to embue her stories with the kind of Christian cosmological ambience of, say, Madeleine L'Engle. Again, that's ok. Christian writers, orthodox or otherwise, are not obliged thusly to endow their subcreations, in order for those works to merit reading, discussion, and valuing.

Now to the business of the Gay Dumbledore. On a later blog item Carl has posted, I raise specific questions re: Rowling's statements. I say here only that it is unfortunate that the author has spoken this way of one of her characters and has thus fostered a reading of the character that amounts to an endorsement of a very harmful moral stance: the view that persons with same-sex attraction not only should be respected as persons (of course they should) but should be regarded as praiseworthy if they act on their disordered inclination (of course they should not). In my view, the issues that exist regarding Rowling's use of magic pale in comparison to her comments' certain influence on the reading by young people of one of her central characters and his fate.

Rowling has said that part of Dumbledore's error flows from the blindness love can sometimes bring to the lover regarding the beloved. Same-sex erotic love by its very nature entails a kind of blindness--no, better--a double blindness, preventing one from seeing what is there by presenting before the heart's eye something that isn't there, something that is at best a phantom of genuine eros. Rowling is reported to have told her audience that her books are about tolerance, but surely it is not a good thing to tolerate ignorance and falsehood, vice over virtue.

Mark Brumley

P.S. What is incorrect about the media accounts of then-Cardinal Ratzinger and Harry Potter is the attribution to Ratzinger of a judgment re: Potter when a careful review of his comments indicate that he is accepting at face value the negative judgment of his correspondent and offering a polite reply to her letter on the subject. He assumes certain things based on her characterization; he is not rendering an independent assessment and ought not to be presented as if he were.

Whatever Pope Benedict may think of the literary use of fantasy magic in storytelling, it is certain that he would reject the claim that genuine acceptance of the dignity of other persons obliges us to treat as either morally indifferent or morally good some persons' choices to engage in homosexual activities.


All good comments. 'Post-Christian' is a terrific description.

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