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Harry Potter and the Half-Satirical Prince} ?> A few months ago, I discovered a Harry Potter fan-fiction titled Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles. Needless to say, I was instantly intrigued.
I know many Christians, some of them esteemed clergy, who have read and enjoyed J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, but the prevailing culture within Christianity is that Christians should be highly skeptical of anything that discusses magic (Lewis and Tolkien are the exceptions to the rule).
Enter a self-titled “housewife” brandishing her pen like a cross to ”fix” the problem of magic in Harry Potter.
At the very first paragraph of the story, I sensed I was reading something amazing: “[Harry] was a good, obedient boy who did all his chores; but he felt that there was something missing in his life. Something big and special; but he could not quite name it.”
It’s readily apparent that the author knows very little about the actual storyline of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. She seems to only be aware of names and basic events… either that, or she just doesn’t care about preserving the original. Also I am fairly certain she was paid by the adverb.
If you are a die-hard fan of the Harry Potter series, a feminist, a socialist, an environmentalist, a modernist, a Catholic, pro-same-sex marriage, not a 6-day creationist, have a reddit account, or don’t drive a gas-guzzling SUV, there will surely be something in this that will offend you. Therefore this is either a brilliant work of satire or something else entirely.
The Weasleys are all sorted into Slytherin (described as an obvious representation of the Catholic church), and they just don’t seem to get that the evangelical Gryffindors are the only “real” Christians in Hogwarts. Hufflepuff is presumably Unitarian, and I’m not sure exactly what Ravenclaw represents, though it’s clear they are supposed to be evil (Malfoy is a Ravenclaw).
Also, in this version, Voldemort is a high-powered, city-slicker lawyer who drives a Prius, and his evil plot is to make Christianity illegal: “There is a man named Voldemort who wants to destroy all that we stand for. He is pushing an agenda in congress which will stop us from practicing our faith freely.”
The most notable (and horrific) change, however, is to Hermione’s character. In the Rowling-verse, Hermione is an impure “mudblood” who rises above monikers and stereotypes to save the day not once but nearly every time danger approaches. Here, she is Dumbledore’s daughter and reduced from the paragon of heroism to Harry’s doting sidekick. Though the author does seem to think that women are to be respected, it is clear that to her they have no business taking the lead, fighting trolls, saving the day, or standing up for house-elf rights:
“Women shouldn’t not have careers because women are stupid!” Harry shouted indignantly. “Women are not stupid at all! Women should not have careers because women are nurturing and loving and their gifts serve them best in the home!”
The author of this tale also includes her own comments at the beginning of each chapter. She progressively tells her story as a loyal military wife who, out of genuine love for her children, wanted to provide a holier alternative to popular culture. She humbly acknowledges spelling and grammatical errors and, with the permission of her husband, takes writing classes to improve her work. By the final chapter, her husband revokes that permission and the story abruptly ends.
As I finished reading, I was left dumbstruck and asking myself if this is an honest story or satire.
If it’s the former, I’d say the author is a loving woman who wants her children to explore creativity and fantasy, but is equally concerned about her children’s wellbeing in the process. She is willing to invest her own time and money into coming up with creative solutions to a problem she has perceived. Though her method seems quite heavy-handed.
If it’s the latter, the book is brilliant. The real author created a character, someone who is genuine, a loving mother, and gave her not just a handful of extremely right-wing, evangelical views, but EVERY extremely right-wing, evangelical extreme view.
Personally, I am leaning towards the satire theory. I mean, she correctly uses semi-colons in her autobiographical write-ups, only to fumble with the simplest of grammar rules within the story itself. She wildly inserts political statements as side remarks that I think must be intended to produce a burst of laughter from the reader:
“Thank you very much for your concern, sir, but he does not need your religion, he has science and socialism and birthdays.”
As someone who has worked in Christian media for years, I am painfully aware of its reputation outside of Christian circles. In a few words, it’s not good.
The term “Christian,” when used as an adjective, often elicits a negative emotion. The temptation from us Christians (and humanity in general) is to believe that any criticism perceived as opposition can be quickly dismissed as persecution. And with that our resolve is reinforced and we make the same mistakes over and over again.
I have hope that Christians will slowly move away from swinging the very large, very blunt “gospel” hammer in our works of art and more into a creative space that trusts God to speak through the subtleties. And I see evidence of this happening through artists like Will Bakke (Writer/Director of Believe Me) or Bo and Bear Rinehart (Needtobreathe).
As we continue to take steps forward, I look forward to artists who allow subtlety to permeate their work so people can admire the beauty of God that shines through that mystery.
I mean, it’s either that or we drastically assess the spiritual state of the writers at Area of Effect, since they are predominantly, like Malfoy, a bunch of no-good Ravenclaws.