Are you a Harry Potter fan? I am. And I'm very glad for that. The whole process of becoming one was a journey of great importance in my faith and in my life. The lesson goes far deeper than Harry and his invisibility cloak (which by the way, is THE item I most want from that world.) It speaks to the whole “look before you leap”, “investigate before you judge”, and “walk a mile in his shoes”. I wish I'd learned this lesson sooner, and applied it more appropriately after I finally DID learn it.
When the Harry Potter phenomenon hit the world, I had a three month old boy, but much older nephews and nieces. I remember my mother-in-law reading the first Harry book. That wasn't strange, she's an avid and varied reader. What struck me was why she was reading it. “I want to know if I should give this to my grandchildren, or not, and the only way to know is to read it myself.” Made sense to me, though I was a new mother and therefore hadn't yet put a lot of thought into what I would and would not let this tiny child of mine read. One of the panicked thoughts screaming through my brain was, “I'M A MOM! I NEED TO WORRY ABOUT THIS!” The other was, “Hmm...reading it myself sure would bring a more accurate opinion than searching out reviews and opinions of others.”
So I picked up JK Rowling's masterpiece and was instantly hooked. This woman can tell a tale, and I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear at how she hooked kids just learning to read with the joy and wonder of escaping to another world in the pages of a book. She accomplished all that while still making her tale interesting enough to engage an adult reader. Very remarkable, actually. But for some reason, the Christian community was in an uproar about it. “Magic.” “Spells.” “Wizards.” Hmmm. Somehow “Gandalf”, “The Ring”, and “Isengard” or even, “He's the answer to bring balance back to the Force”,“Jedi” or “Aslan is on the move again” were OK. Why?
I don't know why. Maybe it was because those other authors either didn't cause enough broo-haha with “just some space saga”, or were certified “Christian authors.” I approached Harry with an open mind. Devoured the books. Of course, my son became a much faster reader than I am, finished all of them before me, and I had to about duct-tape his mouth to keep him from divulging plot points.
Some of my friends loved Harry. Some TRIED to love Harry, but didn't get sucked in. Some of my very dearest friends wouldn't even so much as pick up the book because “it's not something my family will involve ourselves in.” I respect your right to censor your children, but increasingly I was becoming uncomfortable with friends censoring their children WITHOUT reading the book. Because if you ask me, it's as powerful an allegory as the Chronicles of Narnia.
This post's purpose is not to debate my theories of why Harry had to die, or why the ending of the book was perfect in my opinion. (Which I'd be glad to do at some other time. Seriously.) The real purpose of this post is to confess my failings. I took the same, “Judge without a shred of evidence” when it came to the video game Halo. And I'm sorry for it.
I try to know the latest movies, music, and games to make intelligent decisions about what my boys should and should not be exposed to at certain ages. And for as vocal (and judgmental) as I was about the Harry Haters, I must admit I was just as obnoxious (in the other direction) about parents allowing Halo. How could they? Then I started learning about it. Hmm. Outer space. Soldiers. Epic battle of good vs. evil. Hmm...Star Wars-esque? Good and bad on both sides of conflict? Wow. What an idiot I am.
So now my boys play Halo. And I watch, and we discuss strategy, and technology. And my YellowBoy says, “I know America is in a war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I think I might want to join the army. We need to help. I know I might die. But people do have to be willing to die. I'm scared. But I think I could be a soldier and help others.” So before we get into a debate about recruiting and young men going off to war, let me clarify what I'm saying:
Playing this video game caused my eleven year-old to think about our troops and appreciate their sacrifice and to then think about joining the fight. I submit that something which fosters patriotism, debate, and action can't be all bad. Bottom line? Don't judge a book by its cover, and NEVER by what others say about it. READ. IT. YOURSELF.
P.S Wingardium Leviosa is the spell to make things float in the air at the direction of your wand. I'd love to use that on the smelly socks which accumulate around here..