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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Harry Potter Sunday School.

Do Unitarian Universalists love Harry Potter? Let's find out:

The mythic themes in Harry Potter have so impressed [the Rev. Barbara Gadon of the First Unitarian Church of Wilmington, Del.,] that she has centered the 10 a.m. Sunday worship on readings and reflections from the books.

In her view, Harry Potter starts as a naive and imperfect Everyman, like Frodo Baggins or Luke Skywalker. But however troubled Harry Potter might be, he is challenged to undertake a quest to save his world from the Death Eaters and the Dark Lord Voldemort.

"Harry is confronted with the choice between good and evil," Gadon says. "I see his choices around magic as a metaphor for developing the powers of the soul."

("Practical Magic," Gary Soulsman, News Journal 7.16.05)

Last week, Gadon wrote an op-ed for the News Journal about her hero, too:

I am always astonished when religious leaders criticize these books. I find them chock-full of things for a minister to love. Consider, a small troupe of young people discover their gifts in life, and learn that you may use your gifts to either bless or curse the world. (It's a basic religious choice.) Without moralizing, the characters make ethical decisions that are excellent examples for readers of any age. . . .

To make good choices, we need help from those who care for us. Harry was marked as a baby by an evil wizard who killed his parents and tried to kill him. He later learns that his mother's love protected him then — love as the most important force in the universe. . . .

The ongoing tension in the books has to do with pure-blooded wizards who wish to rid the world of the "mud-bloods," those with mixed heritage, human and wizard. Only a courageous few can say the evil wizard's name out loud and directly oppose his agenda. But isn't that true for us now? Naming evil in any time is courageous and powerful.

("A Good Word for Harry Potter," Barbara H. Gadon, News Journal 7.5.05)

Meanwhile, in Louisiana:

At the Unitarian Church, a Hogwarts camp for children will be held July 11-15 complete with a sorting ceremony, owl posts (mail delivery) and a Quidditch game. According to Jessica Gray, acting director of religious education, the class was timed to coincide with the release of the book.

"I've always loved the books because I think they teach excellent moral values," she said. "Since I had a background in summer camps, this was a perfect opportunity."

("Witches and Wizards Gather for New Book's Release," Lisa Tramontana, The [Baton Rouge, La.,] Advocate 7.8.05)

And kids in Kent, Ohio, headed off to Hogwarts a month earlier:

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent got a jump on things when it turned its house of worship into Hogwarts School for four days earlier this month so young churchgoers could experience the life of a wizard.

Kids got a chance to learn about plants, potions and charms, and to meet wolves and dig up dragon bones arranged by University of Akron archaeology professor Tim Matney.

"We tried to merge their love of Harry Potter books to translate into activities," Gina Maida, one of the event organizers, said.

Maida said the church wanted the kids to learn life lessons about love, faith, self-esteem and fighting prejudice.

"We've had classes just like Harry does," 12-year-old Laura Edmonds of Hudson said. "I'm a real fan of Harry Potter and it came to life here."

("Charmed Life," Dan Kadar, Beacon Journal 6.26.05)

Mildly guilty admission: I've never read one of the books, and have only seen the first film all the way through. Someday, someday.

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 16 July 2005 at 10:42 AM

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July 17, 2005 05:57 AM | Permalink for this comment

The script that the hero is an everyman with a mysterious/miraculous origin and who has to go through tests and suffering in a learning process to achieve wholeness is a tale old as history itself, as any common reader of Jung or Campbell knows, so I find Mr. Soulsman's comment pretty banal. OTOH while it is good that kids learn to develop their skills to help others, thinking that things get done by magick by saying the right word or casting a spell does not seem the best idea: our experience teaches that things get done by continuous effort, hard work, test and error, and listening to the wisdom of those who preceded us. It is also questionable that the world is divided in "good" and "bad" wizards, that's Bush-think. Apart from that, Harry Potter sure is a lot of fun as long as you take it for what it is: a new mythology for today's children, just as LOTR or Star Wars, or as Superman was for those raised in the 40s' and 50s'.


July 17, 2005 06:51 AM | Permalink for this comment

Yeah, we UUs love Harry Potter, but as we UUs must often remind ourselves, it's not all about us. If only UUs loved Harry, he'd have to be published by Skinner House, not Scholastic. Harry's tapped into an appeal that's far more Universal than Unitarian.

Some right-wing Christians have their shorts in a know over the occultism of the Potter books, but there are also evangelical megachurches that use the Potter books to teach about Christ and Satan. (Note to Jaume: It's not Bush-speak; it's Zoroaster-speak. If you trtace it back far enough, Christians like Bush and Manichaeans like Luke Skywalker learned it from the Persians.)


July 17, 2005 06:54 AM | Permalink for this comment

Uh, "shorts in a know" above should be "shorts in a knot".

Must be that unconscious UU gnosticism at work.


July 17, 2005 07:47 AM | Permalink for this comment

The books are getting darker and darker. I wonder if the last few will really be that useful. I would have found them VERY upsetting as a little kid.



July 17, 2005 07:04 PM | Permalink for this comment

Bush is a good Evangelical Christian, therefore a good actualized Zoroastrian and Manichean ;-).


July 17, 2005 08:04 PM | Permalink for this comment

I don't know, Jaume. I find Bush to be a disturbing perversion of typical good-vs.-evil religion/mythology. He's as zealous and wrong in the way he applies it as his radical Muslim enemies are. The Harry Potter stories don't carry that nuance of corrupted misapprehension through an excess of zael.


July 17, 2005 08:05 PM | Permalink for this comment

Uh, zeal. Darn this unfamiliar keyboard.

Scott Wells:

July 17, 2005 08:09 PM | Permalink for this comment

Dvorak Fausto?


July 18, 2005 06:03 AM | Permalink for this comment

Does good need evil to be good?


July 18, 2005 06:53 AM | Permalink for this comment

Don't know what you mean by Dvorak, Scott, unless it's a reference to some of those strange Czecho-slovak keyboard characters. (Hungarian composer Bela Bartok was a Unitarian, but not a Bohemian.)

I'm writing from Vermont, not Bohemia, so although I'm surrounded by small-b bohemians I only have to get used to a Mac keyboard that apparently has had some whole grain and natural fiber spilled onto it sometime in the past.

Scott Wells:

July 18, 2005 11:49 PM | Permalink for this comment

I thought you were part of the great Dvorak simplified keyboard "movement."

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