Thursday, October 25, 2007

J. K. Rowling -- Deathly Hollow

CAVEAT: Of necessity, the following post contains content that discusses disordered human actions that most people find filthy and revolting. However, this issue must be confronted lest the error be spread even farther afield. If this topic disgusts you to the point where you feel the need to berate me for even bringing it up, please stop reading now.

In an article in the Toronto Globe and Mail we read the following about J.K. Rowling:
However, during the 15-minute media conference that preceded the public appearance, the author grew testy as reporters circled back to Dumbledore and Grindelwald. "It's very clear" in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows how intense Dumbledore's feelings for the dark wizard are, she said, feelings that astute adult readers will recognize while children will simply construe as manifestations of friendship. The power of love is one of the major themes in the Potter oeuvre, she noted, and "certainly it's never been news to me that a brave and brilliant man [like Dumbledore] would never love other men.

"He's my character," she asserted. "I have the right to know what I know about him and say what I say about him."

Fair enough. But I have the right to say that I don't want your propaganda anywhere near my children.

I consider myself a fairly astute reader but I didn't pick up on any "butt lust connection" between Dumbledore and the Dark Wizard, Grindelwald. I assumed that Rowling was somehow connecting the wizarding world to World War II, considering one was English, the other German, and they had their climactic fight in 1945. This scenario also fit in neatly with the message of "tolerance" which becomes increasingly overt and preachy as the series goes on. Grindelwald (the Nazi) is all about "pure blood" and not mixing with the mudblooded muggles. Meanwhile, Dumbledore (the noble Englishman) is attracted to the dark side but turns away. However, given Rowling's statement above, I guess I wasn't astute enough in my reading here given that I'm generally not prone to assume that two male characters who are friends are actually doing more with their wands than just casting spells. But hey, maybe I'm just old fashioned.

And now, predictably "experts" are urging parents to use Rowling's admission as a "teachable moment." God only knows what such "experts" are really expert at--perhaps hand signals under the stalls in men's rooms.

Personally, I'm glad that Rowling decided to spout off her assinine opinions on disordered types of sexuality before I finished my reviews on the Harry Potter series. To this point, I have been impressed with her skills as a writer but repeatedly perplexed by her confused sense of morality. Well, the perplexity has vanished. The confused sense of morality in the Potter books remains unresolved to the very end because it springs directly from the author herself.

Before the whole "Dumbledore's a homo" flap developed, Rowling was merrily going around telling everyone about the "Christian themes" in the books. And from reading Deathly Hallows in particular, you wouldn't have to be particularly "astute" to pick them up. Let's see, the chapter near the end of the book where Harry 'dies' is called "King's Cross". When Voldemort thinks he's killed Harry, he sends Narcissa Malfoy to check the body, at which point Rowling writes: "He [Harry] felt the hand on his chest contract; her nails pierced him."

There are other hints as well but they are not particularly well thought out and in the end do not reveal any unmistakably Christian message, unlike The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings. Rowling's message seems to be amor vincit omnia which is nice, but it's not anything that a pagan like Virgil wouldn't also agree to. And given Rowling's somewhat loose understanding of what constitutes "love", perhaps the message means even less than what it did for your average virtuous pagan.

As for "tolerance", Rowling, the good, worldly, cowardly Christian that she is, clearly worships at the altar of weakness--unable to take a strong stand or speak the truth to power. And like most of her graying intellectual brethren, Rowling's "tolerance" includes tolerating intolerable things that have been expressly condemned and forbidden since the earliest Christian times and before. Rowling's version of tolerant-├╝ber-alles Christianity is that hollow faith offered by the Rembert Weakland/Shelby Spong/Ted Haggard brand of false Christianity. It reminds me of the donkey dressed in a lion's mane at the end of the Chronicles of Narina. Its fruits to date have been scandal, outrage, division, abuse, disease, sterility, and ultimately, empty churches and lost souls.

Perhaps all this is not so surprising because Rowling, it seems, is also supremely confused about her own personal belief system:
"The truth is that, like Graham Greene, my faith is sometimes that my faith will return. It's something I struggle with a lot," Rowling admitted. "On any given moment if you asked me [if] I believe in life after death, I think if you polled me regularly through the week, I think I would come down on the side of yes — that I do believe in life after death. [But] it's something that I wrestle with a lot. It preoccupies me a lot, and I think that's very obvious within the books.”

Obvious within the books. Yeah. Moral confusion. Theological confusion. Personal spiritual confusion. Very obvious.

Rowling has also said in response to some of her Christian critics: "I don't take any responsibility for the lunatic fringes of my own religion.” Sounds pretty intolerant to me, but setting that aside, I'm guessing by that she'd put in the "lunatic fringe" the guy who said:

Be ye therefore followers of God, as most dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints: Or obscenity, or foolish talking, or scurrility, which is to no purpose; but rather giving of thanks. For know you this and understand, that no fornicator, or unclean, or covetous person (which is a serving of idols), hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

That of course, would be St. Paul (Ephesians, 5:1-5) who also said directly following the above:

Let no man [or woman in this case] deceive you with vain words. For because of these things cometh the anger of God upon the children of unbelief. Be ye not therefore partakers with them. For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of the light. For the fruit of the light is in all goodness, and justice, and truth; Proving what is well pleasing to God: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of. But all things that are reproved, are made manifest by the light; for all that is made manifest is light. [Words in brackets mine]

So that's it. I won't bother reviewing books 6 and 7 in detail because the author has settled the matter for me. According to Rowling, I am a "lunatic fringe" Christian. If I'm going to be accused of being such, then I might as well play the role--I don't want my kids reading anything that would allow her type of lukewarm gobbledeegook but ever-so-mainstream christianity into our home. Thankfully, I didn't buy a single one of the Potter books and my children are still too young to care. The books will now go back where they came from and I'll make sure to fill their places with better literature for kids which exists in abundance if parents will only take a minute and look around for it.

Henceforth, this blog will be dedicated, at least in part, to reviewing such worthy books.

Vote NO on Embryonic Stem Cell Research in NJ

On November 6, 2007, the taxpayers of New Jersey will again be asked to pony up--this time $450 million to fund every anti-lifers' favorite white elephant, Embryonic Stem Cell research. Embryonic Stem Cell research involves the willful creation and destruction of viable human embryos for therapeutic techniques that, to date, have resulted in NO cures.

And of course, the NJ bill does not fund Adult or Cord Stem Cell research, a much more promising and less ethically troubling experimental treatment modality which to date has yielded 73 successful therapeutic uses.

Here in NJ, we're working to get the word out on the grass-roots level. Here's a link to a flyer that lays the issue out simply:

Vote NO on Embryonic Stem Cell research in NJ

I encourage NJ residents to print off copies of this flyer to distribute around the state.

Even if you're not from NJ, please forward this link to family and friends living here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Duncan Hunter and Homeschooling

I'm a big fan of Duncan Hunter for president in 2008. I think he's just the kind of solid, honest, no-nonsense, clear-eyed conservative who would make a fantastic president. He's strong on life, the family, trade, the borders, and taxes and has loads of experience in defense matters, having been chair of the House Armed Services committee. He served with distinction in Vietnam and is also one of the few folks in Congress who put their money where their mouth is in terms of the war against radical Islam--his son, Duncan Jr., has served a couple tours in Iraq.

I just saw this article from SK Johnson who makes a good case for homeschoolers to choose Hunter over Mike Huckabee:

‘A Homeschooler Against Huckabee’

I also agree with SK Johnson in that I'd gladly support Huckabee as well over the other three media-selected so-called front-runners. But Hunter is my guy. I pray he finds a way to win.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix -- A critique of the feckless West?

There’s a war brewing. A deadly enemy from the past is back and doing what he does best—consolidating power, gaining new allies and intimidating old ones into renewing their allegiance. As the enemy’s power grows, he’s content to nibble around the edges and not go toe-to-toe with his most formidable foes.

But those who should be in the forefront of opposing the enemy’s murderous plans are failing to act. A government agency entrusted with thwarting the enemy suffers from bureaucratic mismanagement at the highest levels and is more concerned with maintaining high public opinion than in doing its hard duties. Instead of sounding the alarm, the bureaucrats simply refuse to admit the danger exists at all. Worse, rather than admit their failure to deal with the enemy while he was still weak, the government ministers instead use the media to defame and destroy any who attempt to alert the public to the threat and rally the defense.

Sound familiar? Well, it did to me. And I reckon it might sound even more familiar to citizens of some European countries. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix felt to me like an allegory of the war against radical Islam. At it’s core, the moral of the story seems to be, “If good simply refuses to fight, don’t count on evil to return the favor.” Or perhaps, “Refusing to fight against a known evil makes you almost as bad as the evil itself.”

As a literary work, Order of the Phoenix is a mixed bag. As before, Rowling’s characters are generally very engaging and true-to-life. Ron and Hermione’s development goes on unabated and it becomes clear that a relationship is in the offing. Also provided is more of the backstory for Neville Longbottom who becomes less of a goof and more sympathetic. Also, the highly amusing character of Luna Lovegood is introduced, as is the horrid Dolores Umbridge who is so odious, so obnoxious, so completely awful, that the reader simply can’t wait until she gets her just deserts. Having run into Umbridge-like people at a variety of government agencies and in academia, I can certainly appreciate Rowling’s perspective. What annoyed me about Rowling’s take here was giving Umbridge the title of “Hogwarts High Inquisitor.” That old British canard about the unprecedented horrors of the Spanish Inquisition dies hard, even in the face of research showing that the Inquisitional courts were no worse—and were often a good more lenient—than European temporal courts of the time, including those in Britain.

Unfortunately, Rowling also goes off the rails a bit with Harry. Leaving aside the awkward and obviously ephemeral flirtation between Harry and Cho, Rowling seemed at pains to make Harry behave more like a stereotypical teenager. She does this by putting nasty expressions in his mouth and having him snap rudely and not infrequently at his bosom friends and even his mentor, Dumbledore. If this was an attempt to add a depth and complexity to Harry’s character, it failed in my opinion. Rowling went to such lengths in the previous books to make Harry into a good, noble, and brave character, that I found his sudden unfounded rottenness to be just strange.

Also annoying to me was Harry’s attempted use of an “unforgivable” curse at the climax of the book. If these were supposed to be the calling cards of the Death Eaters, and in any sense truly “unforgivable”, then what is the hero of the story doing using them? With the arsenal of “forgivable” curses at Harry’s disposal, one wonders what would motivate him to attempt to use one of the bad ones. It also ash-cans my theory that only the evil characters use the “unforgivable” curses as part and parcel of what makes them evil. So Fr. Amorth's criticism of the series as drawing an artificial distinction between “light” and “dark” magic appears to have enhanced standing if even the good characters in the story use evil magic without a trace of remorse or punishment for doing so.

Beyond this, I found nothing particularly Christian about Order of the Phoenix, nor anything especially occult-related—at least nothing that wasn’t readily found in the prior books. The underlying symbolism seemed to be almost exclusively political in nature.

On to Book VI.