27/10/2006

A Charmed Life (by Francis Bridger)

The Christian world is rather divided, it seems - not on the ancient differences of worship styles, or doctrinal points, but on whether or not the Harry Potter phenomenon is a Bad Thing.

Personally - having read the first book before the controversy arose - I think they're excellent children's stories, with positive messages about loyalty and sacrificial love. The 'magic' in them isn't meant to be taken seriously, it's just a gimmick, an innate gift that has to be trained. It - like any power or gift - can be used for good or for evil.

And so Harry and friends learn, at Hogwarts School, to use their abilities wisely. Like any boarding school series, there are good guys and bad, minor jealousies and friendships. There are also epic struggles of good vs evil which aren't so common in typical boarding school stories - hence, perhaps, the overriding popularity of the series.

This particular book, 'A Charmed Life' by pastor and theologian Francis Bridger, is full of wisdom and insight. He, too, sees the positive side of the Harry Potter books - or Potterworld, as he calls it - in the traits of the heroes, in the clear-cut morality of the books, the role models of the teachers, and the way our eyes are opened to see beyond what is right in front of us.

He believes it's not just wrong but actually quite dangerous to condemn these books; instead, he invites Christians to enjoy them, to engage in discussion about them, to see the overriding positive messages within them and to encourage others to think beyond the strict boundaries of science.

I didn't just like this because I happen to agree with the author's stance: I thought it was well-written, with a little humour now and then. It's well-structured too, examining in just five main chapters, the creation of the books themselves, the attraction of Potterworld, its moral universe, its theology, and finally its metaphysics.

Thought-provoking and interesting from a Christian perspective, worth reading by anyone wondering what the controversy is all about. Very highly recommended.

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