Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why I love Jesus more than Harry Potter

I admit it: I am a Harry Potter fan. I am often skeptical of mega-hits, so it took me awhile to jump on the bandwagon. After recommendations from several different people, I hesitantly decided to give the books a try. So, in the spring of 2005, I purchased beat up old copies of the first four books on eBay, and immediately fell in love. I am now a die-hard fan - although not the type that dresses up and stands in line for midnight book or movie releases. However, I did participate eagerly in online reading groups and passionate debates on how the series would ultimately end. I remember reading the last half of the Deathly Hallows on a church van on the way to a mission trip, heart racing and oblivious to anything else around me as those final chapters unfolded. I have a Harry Potter wall calendar and a Harry Potter ringtone. So yes, I freely admit that I love Harry Potter.

If you have read the books, you are familiar with all the reasons to love Harry. If you have seen the movies, you probably have a pretty good idea. The Boy Who Lived is sweet, loyal, determined, a little stubborn, a little flawed, but ultimately one of those characters who leaps off the page and comes to life. Actually, all of the characters in the series are that way. That is part of the genius of J.K. Rowling. There are some you just can't help but love, and others you can't help but hate. Some of the good characters are hard to like, and some of the bad ones are just as hard to hate. And they all live in this rich, imaginative world where magic is a part of life and events are unfolding that will leave the world changed. It is one of those epic fantasy series that will be loved, hated, and debated for years to come.

But back to Harry. He is the ultimate hero. We meet him as a neglected eleven-year-old with no idea who he really is or what his destiny may be. Throughout the series, he grows into a young man who fully embraces that destiny and confidently leads his friends into battle. He has his rough moments. I actually didn't like him much in The Order of the Phoenix, when it seemed like he spent half the book yelling at people and the other half pouting about his life and relationships and being treated like the annoying teenager he is...but it was at the end of the book when my heart really broke over him as he began to accept who he was and what he needed to do.

So, what does Harry Potter have to do with Jesus? Very little. Rowling wisely leaves religion alone, focusing instead on weaving a brilliant tale that touches on many of the truths of life under the overarching theme of good vs. evil. I believe, like C.S. Lewis, that every good story touches on something deep within us, reminding us that we do live for a greater purpose than the pleasure of today; that we are, in fact, destined for an eternity we cannot fully imagine but that we catch glimpses of on occasion. I do not believe that Harry Potter is "evil" because he is a wizard who is learning magic at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As much as I love fiction (and I do), I know how to distinguish fiction from reality. The world Harry Potter lives in is no more real than Narnia, Middle-Earth, or "a long time ago in a galaxy far away." Witchcraft in that world and witchcraft in this world are completely different and almost totally unrelated things.

A few months ago, I started seeing previews for Part One of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and like all the other fans out there, I was practically jumping up and down in anticipation. And that got me thinking: wouldn't it be great if people got as excited about church as they do about the next Harry Potter movie? The story of Jesus is every bit as exciting as the story of Harry Potter, and even better: it's true. Yet you don't see lines of people waiting outside the church building at midnight on Saturday, buzzing with anticipation about the upcoming morning worship service. That's a little sad, but it's just reality.

So, I'm a Harry Potter fan. I am not a Jesus fan. I don't "like" Him on Facebook. I love Jesus with all my heart, soul, and strength. Harry Potter is fiction. Jesus is my reality. I'm excited about seeing Harry Potter this weekend. I look forward to spending eternity with Jesus with every fiber of my being. It isn't just that I love Jesus more than Harry Potter. Nothing else compares with Him.

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