Sunday 21 January 2018

The Harry Potter Litmus Test to discriminate between Christians and Christian-Fellow-Travellers

By Christian-Fellow-Travellers I means those primarily political (e.g. conservative, reactionary or libertarian) political intellectuals who approve-of Christianty (they may even self-identify as Christians) without adopting a Chriustian perspective... I mean people like Roger Scruton or  Jordan Peterson, who are the examples here.

By contrast are people who are primarily Christian, and from-that derive their political views - my examples here are Jerram Barrs (a Calvinist) and John Granger (an old-calendar Russian Orthodox).

The test I propose is to consider the reaction to the Harry Potter books among those who actually like the books - who find something to admire in them.

If you can be bothered  to watch these four videos - I think you can see that the Christian-Fellow-Travellers miss the Christian-point of these books; and this comes as a consequence of their primarily political persepctive.

So what is my point here? It is that there is a world of difference between being a 'Right Wing' Christian-fellow-traveller, and being an actual Christian - and that difference includes the persepctive from which you view and interpret the world... including the Harry Potter books...

I should add that since publishing the Harry Potter books, and in her public persona and pronouncements; their author JK Rowling gives every appearance of having apostatized from her Christian faith, and indeed is in-effect an influential anti-Christian. Nonetheless, the Harry Potter books themselves tell a very different story.


Nigel Worthington said...

Very interesting. Bruce - To make sure I am understanding you, are you essentially saying that for example, Jordan Peterson is missing the Christian idea of sacrificing oneself for others (a definition of love)? He does talk about death and resurrection in the clip, but in the context of facing fears to acquire knowledge.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NW - Exactly the kind of thing! He reduces resurrection to therapy. Inevitably so - since he doesn't believe that resurrection is real (or important).

David Balfour said...

I personally found the last two videos quite moving, inspiring and joyous; whereas the first two videos seemed abstract, detached and academic and somewhat dispassionate about the subject - the feeling was that they were trying to extract a philosophically and psychologically therapeutic 'consolation' from the Christian themes in Harry Potter against the metaphysical assumption that 'obviously' things like magic, evil and resurrection cannot be real. These things are just impossible outside of literature. End of story.

Bruce Charlton said...

@David. I agree. But I suspect that this distinction is only visible from the Christian side.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Not especially a fan of Harry Potter, I have to admit. I tried reading one of the books, it was dreadful. Not in a moral or ideological sense, it was simply not readable, the aesthetic appreciation for the written word which I require of an author was not present in any degree adequate to my enjoyment. I've derived more entertainment from mangled Engrish in the assembly instructions for cheap furniture or model kits.

I enjoyed the movies...up to a point. They were clearly "children's stories", but I have little objection to those as such. But in the opening scenes of Goblet of Fire, a small group of easily identifiable terrorists directly attack a large gathering of wizards who pride themselves on mastery of the most especially combat-applicable disciplines of their craft. What happens? They all flee in terror and confusion. I barely paid any attention to the rest of the movie, it was simply no longer possible for me to take seriously any of these characters or their entire society.

The rest of the movie didn't help, since it was basically an illustration of the extraordinary bloodthirstiness of what passed for entertainment among these people who had just demonstrated in stark terms their absolute cowardice in the face of real danger. At one point I was provoked to ask, "How is this not a blood sport?" To which the film provided the answer, "well in these games we nab innocent bystanders to endanger for extra amusement!"

Then again, I'm naturally suspicious of the type of literature in which a small group of people are, by virtue of their innate superiority of birth with 'magical' powers, the "ones who matter" despite their lack of ordinary levels of any other common virtues which are usually the province of those who do the hard, demanding, dangerous work necessary to keeping a society afloat.

Yes, of course the characters in the Harry Potter books do have some virtues. But generally not anything that would be extraordinary for children. I have no great quarrel with children or children's stories, but I see little point in pretending that they are to be taken especially seriously.

The Velveteen Rabbit is a marvelous children's story. And a marvelous religious parable, even if it is not specifically Christian. So perhaps I'm setting the bar a bit high.