Monday, December 13, 2010

Ripe for the Picking

Between the Voice of Prophecy broadcast and 2004, nothing happened to change my mind from a negative view of Potter. Once we arrived in Minneapolis several events occurred that caused our family to take a dramatic turn.

First, we learned that my pastor and mentor’s family loved Harry Potter. They read the books and saw the movies. In fact, while on sabbatical in Cambridge, they stood in line at the London premiere of Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix. This was shocking to me. How could such an amazing man of God allow a book about sorcery into his home?

Second, I developed an increasingly close friendship with a brilliant theologian and would-be missionary to Finland. I looked up to this devotee of the Reformation and realized quickly that I had little chance of ever grasping the deep things of God like he did. At some point I learned that he had read all seven Potter books in a month-long binge. He loved them.

I was still contemptuous of Harry Potter, just much more quiet about it. Clearly, as brilliant as these men are, they had some disconnect when it came to popular culture.

Third, our family began reading the 100 Cupboards series by N. D. Wilson. Not only was this series written by a solid evangelical, but the story had been compared to the Chronicles of Narnia and was very popular within the home school movement. Clearly these were reason enough to make them acceptable. Since I love fantastical books, and my children were raving about them, I began reading them and was instantly entranced. They were awesome. (I quoted from them here, here, here, and here. I explain why I loved the third book, The Chestnut King, here and here.) Oh yeah, magic and wizards are central to the story.

Fourth, I read On Stories, a collection of essays about stories and literature by C. S. Lewis, finished The Lord of the Rings a second time, and began reading Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories.” Then in June 2010, as a family we read aloud Andrew Peterson’s The Wingfeather Saga, which was similar to 100 Cupboards but much more zany. On Stories argues, in many ways, for the enjoyment of science fiction and fantasy stories. The Rings trilogy does not shy away from an acute depiction of evil, along with strange creatures and magic. Finally, “On Fairy Stories” is Tolkien’s treatise on, well, fairy stories. Much to my liking.

Clearly there is irony in this retelling. How could a person who loves fantasy and heroic fiction so much be contemptuous about fantasy and heroic fiction? I was now ripe, as they say, for the picking.

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