Jesus and Harry: The Light and Dark of Light and Dark

Photo by FadderUri
I'm finishing book six of the Harry Potter series in Spanish. I wouldn't have been caught dead with this accursed thing in my Pentecostal church growing up. And the 2-1/2 movie versions I've seen so far leave me feeling a sort of heaviness which I don't like. But the books, in Spanish, are not only good practice reading for me, they feel, oddly enough, just fine.

The words that have always carried considerable meaning regarding evil don't carry the same weight in a foreign language. "Witch" and "sorcery" made my dark list in English, but in Spanish? They're "bruja" and "hechiceria" which fail to conjure images of the magic-hatted, green-skinned accomplice of the Devil, or something worse. Regardless of my theological position against all things hechiceria, the added cultural weight of these terms didn't make it through the translator.

In part, this has permitted me to ponder more objectively the brouhaha about Harry Potter and his symbolic relationship with Jesus, as well as the philosophical and theological divisions in the Church about what is light and what is dark. I've made a few illustrations below to show you what I mean.

First, when I read Harry Potter, I automatically place items, characters and actions into two general categories. Of course, I could split some characters into sub-categories since they aren't always good and aren't always bad (Voldemort excluded, unless you consider his desire to learn or his ability to cultivate as essentially good things regardless of his intentions). But to keep things simple, I do the following while reading:

(If Hermione and Voldemort turn out differently in the end, humor me for now.) I do the same with items, characters and actions I'd consider Christian. The Bible, with all of the bad stuff in it, is holy and perfectly good. The financial rating of our local Christian TV station, on the other hand, falls just shy of 60% which is a big fat F. Don't get me started on the way they do fund-raising, which I can't imagine Jesus would ever endorse. So I categorize here too:

Put the two together and I run into questions, which I think are the same ones other people run into. Consider the recent debate going on in the comments of an article about Steve Jobs at Were his acts eternally good or eternally bad or perhaps only temporarily good? Is it eternally good to do good to your neighbor only if you're a follower of Jesus, or does love count for the good-producing heathen as well?

Or consider the controversy around Christianity Today's reviews of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (I've avoided reading spoilers so far, but I'm aware of the rebuttals). Many of us are hesitant to condone or condemn when light and dark look so similar that they tie our moral hands together. So is it like the following, with gradations of good and bad?

Or this, which doesn't try to equate Hermione with the Bible, per se, but considers that good can't exist outside of God's goodness, even if that goodness falls within the traditional category of bad, which would mean that both the Bible and Hermione are good and both local Christian TV and Voldemort are bad?

Or is there another position altogether?


The Immortal Creative

I'm reading The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. I've had it on the shelf for years and somehow neglected to read it, despite it being an unofficial requirement among my colleagues. Page 13 is yellowed with age and littered with "man" in a pre-PC way (so acknowledged in the Introduction), yet the content strikes me as prophetic; ahead of its time. Nouwen was addressing post-modernism in 1972. He recognized then that young people were moving away from absolute truth and, as a result, away from hopefulness.

One particular line caught my attention and I couldn't avoid assigning it to my concern for employees in the advertising world:

"When man is no longer able to look beyond his own death and relate himself to what extends beyond the time and space of his life, he loses his desire to create and the excitement of being human."
Nouwen isn't saying that people can stop creating, even if they lose the desire. And this isn't about the idea of legacy, which can be convoluted in the mind of the insecure (like me) as the ticket to sticking around forever. It's about recognizing that what we do matters. For good or for ill, it matters. Every action I commit results in some change, either in the world at large or in my own household; either in grand, visible forms or in the mind. Every action, they say, has an equal and opposite reaction, like elementary school teachers who alter the worlds of countless children (despite being largely forgotten).

In other words, every 30 second Hulu commercial, TV commercial, YouTube intro, is an act of creation. Even if it's forgotten in five minutes, it is an action that leads to reactions - to sales, to economic shifts, to artistic twists and digital technology, to discontent and Jones jealousy. And when it is created by the hands of employees who have lost desire and don't care about immortality - or about their neighbor for that matter - those reactions wander into whatever voids will accept them.

So I'll keep watching for workers who have an eagerness and hopefulness beyond pay raises, promotions and the bare need to simply make it through another day. I'll keep watching for workers who see their work as ministry in the immortal sense of the word.


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