Harry Potter vs. God: Will the Real Fantasy Please Stand Up?

The current issue of Time magazine has an interesting yet silly piece by Lev Grossman called “The Doubting Harry.” In this article, Grossman makes some startling statements celebrating the way in which J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books reflect the growing anti-God sentiment in the U.S. today. In fact, the tag line reads: “Why we love a world where dragons are real and religion is the fantasy.”

Grossman writes: “If you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy: God. Harry Potter lives in a world free of any religion or spirituality of any kind. He lives surrounded by ghosts but has no one to pray to, even if he were so inclined, which he isn’t.”

Here goes the old “God is dead” thing again. What’s interesting is that Grossman seems happy about the thought of having no one to pray to, of being completely free from “religion” and “spirituality,” and living in a world where ghosts replace God. But it gets even weirder–read on:

“This charming notion represents a cultural sea change. In the new millennium, magic comes not from God or nature or anything grander or more mystical than a mere human emotion. In choosing Rowling as the reigning dreamer of our era, we have chosen a writer who dreams of a secular, bureaucratized, all-too-human sorcery, in which psychology and technology have superseded the sacred.”

“Charming notion”? Yikes.

Here’s the amazing irony: Grossman seems to forget that Harry Potter is the fiction! It seems that with The Da Vinci Code, we’ve forgotten that fiction does not dictate reality. God or Harry Potter–which one is the fiction? We can get lost in a good novel but we need to remember that even the most enthralling tales do not have the power to usurp God with psychology and technology. After reading the last page of a novel, God is still here and still real even after we close the book.

Another difficulty with the article is that I, along with the vast majority of other Americans, have most definitely not chosen Rowling as “the reigning dreamer of our era.” Most of us still choose to put our trust and dreams in the hands of God, not a novelist.  If Rowling is the current reigning dreamer, who was her predecessor–Tom Clancy?  Stephen King?  Whatever happened to the title of “the reigning dreamer of our era” being reserved for people like Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Perhaps the greatest tragic irony in the article is this line: “What does Harry have instead of God? Rowling’s answer, at once glib and profound, is that Harry’s power comes from love.” Love without God. Now there is a ridiculous notion! Even aside from the fact that Grossman romanticizes a world without God and seems to believe that fiction books determine what’s real, what amazes me most is this imagined dichotomy between God and love.

Fortunately, the God who is real has written a book that is true, and it tells us: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

Grossman is right about one thing–power does indeed come from love. And love, here in the real world, comes from God.

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Published in: on July 19, 2007 at 8:12 am  Leave a Comment  

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