Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Shaking In Their Boots

Sometime around a decade or so ago, a pastor in a small midwest town held a community-wide meeting on a grave threat to our children. It wasn't the discovery that there were sexual predators living nearby. It wasn't a scourge of drinking or huffing or smoking dope or even heroin. It wasn't a teacher who took advantage of his position or authority to abuse children in his care.

It was the Harry Potter books.

I wish I was kidding. Even writing this makes me feel stupider. The flier announcing the meeting - which I did not attend because I was afraid all the dumb would infect me - noted the books "celebrated" witchcraft, and even posed the threat of releasing "magic" upon the world. Again, I wish I was kidding.

Part of me wishes I could have taken the person who was holding this meeting by the hand and, very gently and kindly, informed this person that there are no such things as witches. Magic, either, for that matter. Oh, there are folks who call themselves witches, I suppose. There are also people who call themselves the spawn of experiments between humans and aliens. Those latter we refer to mental health professionals.

In all seriousness, there are real dangers in the attitude expressed here. Not only the ridiculous idea that a set of marvelous books are part of some secret agenda by witches and wizards to have their evil ways accepted as normal, with a concomitant explosion of the use of magic. No, the real danger here is the message such an attitude sends - be afraid of everything.

I have often felt the same way about the whole nonsensical creation/evolution non-debate. Ours is a marvelous, strange world, full of oddities and questions that force themselves upon us. Science is a marvelous tool for answering certain questions. That the world is intelligible is itself a mystery that many people have found a source of wonder. The theory of evolution by means of natural selection, in its contemporary, modified form (as distinct from Darwinism; Darwin has no idea of biochemistry, of genes or DNA, as the mechanism of mutation and change) is a wonderful, simple scientific theory, for which abundant evidence abounds across time and species.

The doctrine of creation, on the other hand, has nothing at all to say about these matters. It concerns itself with the God who is the author of the Universe, and the fact that there is something rather than nothing tells us who God is, and that this God is a God who does not will be alone. That God is love, according to 1 John is shown by the simple reality that the Universe, and all that is in it, all its wonders and terrors, exists at all, and continues to exist.

There are millions of well-meaning, sincere believers who find even the idea of evolution a dire threat not only to the existence of the Christian faith, but to Christian social morality as well. That is like arguing that the theory of heat exchange in chemistry, or the inverse square law of gravity is a threat to the American way of life. The one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Furthermore, are all these sincere, well-meaning believers so afraid of an idea they fully and honestly believe to be misguided that it poses a mortal threat to the faith in the God revealed in Jesus Christ? Really?

The point of this post is not to show that the Harry Potter books are wonderful Christian literature. Rather, it is to point out examples of folks who claim the name "Christian" who seem to have little regard for the strength of the God in whom they claim faith. Of all the thing we need concern ourselves over as Christian parents, the Harry Potter books just don't make the cut. If some folks prefer not to allow their children read these books, well, that's OK. Making a public argument, however, that these books pose a public danger to the faith, not least because of the possibility that children might start trying to learn magic, well, that's another thing entirely.

I realize this may sound like a silly example, but the fact remains our society abounds with silly examples of people who perceive all sorts of mortal threats to the faith. Music. Movies. Television shows. Books. Science. Political and social ideologies. Somehow, a faith that has existed for two-thousand years across Empires and in the midst of chaos, spanning the globe in the languages of the world to bring the One Word of salvation may not survive the onslaught from American popular culture.

Either we live as people of the resurrection, or we don't. We need to stop looking for boogeymen and dark forces around every corner, and live as those who are not afraid, but who will mount up with wings as eagles, who will run and not be weary. If we do this, we can appreciate the marvelous story of Harry, Ron, and Hermione for what it is. We can marvel at the beauty and mystery of God's creation, and that we have been granted the ability to figure out all sorts of things about it, including how it came to be filled with such a marvelous array of strange and wonderful and occasionally dangerous creatures.

We do not have to be afraid anymore. One would think this would be the clearest thing to get out of Easter, the most wonderful thing to be granted by the Spirit, the strength and faith no longer to be afraid.

Virtual Tin Cup

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