The Tentative Apologist
7/15/11 at 12:10 PM 0 Comments

An Open Letter to Harry Potter

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Dear Mr. Potter,

I wanted to thank you for your astounding achievement. No, not the beating Lord Voldemort bit. Kudos for that to be sure. But I wanted to thank you for a greater achievement: getting kids engaged in literature. We live in a culture where literacy is going down the tubes. A century ago kids wrote letters that began like this:

My Dearest Charles,

It is with deep melancholy that I write...

Good gosh man, back then even Beatrix Potter (a wee little children's author) used words like "soporific".

My how things have changed. These days a written conversation often looks like this:




And that's when kids bother to write. These days they are often too occupied playing "World of Warcraft" or watching "Spongbob" to find time to write, or to read much more than the Sugar Crisp cereal box.

Enter Mr. Potter. You waved your magic wand and got kids passionate about literature. I know one nine year old that has read the entire series (more than three thousand pages) twice. About 90 percent of her grade three class has read it at least once. In many cases these are kids who used to struggle to get through a Judy Blume book. Now they can curl up with a 700 page novel engrossed for an entire afternoon. That's quite a magic trick.

I also wanted to tell you not to get too worried about the Christian conseratives who don't like your books. The fact is that most of them are not familiar with the genre of fantasy literature. They refuse to take an alternate literary universe on its own terms, whether it be the talking rabbits of Richard Adams' Watership Down, the battle of our evolved descendents the Morlocks and Eloi in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine or Rowling's world of Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic. In fact, even the great J.R.R. Tolkein has suffered from this ignorance over fantasy literature. I know a Christian school where parents lobbied to get The Hobbit removed from the curriculum because it had a wizard character. (I Samuel has a "witch". Should we excise it from the canon?!)

Having mentioned Tolkein reminds me of my next point. Those same Christian conservatives who don't know how to read fantasy literature are, not surprisingly, ignorant of the great tradition of Christians writing fantasy literature. And I'm not only thinking about Tolkein and C.S. Lewis but also of people like G.K. Chesterton (The Man Who Was Thursday, published 1908) and of course George MacDonald (Phantastes, published 1858). (Of course the greatest irony is that your own author, Presbyterian J.K. Rowling, is but one more example in this grand tradition.)

Speaking of your author Ms. Rowling. Extend my thanks to her for her extensive philanthropic work with her charity One Parent Families, the more than $20 million she raised for Comic Relief, the great donation she gave to the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Regenerative Medicine, and on and on. Her work for the Kingdom of God by helping the downtrodden and indigent makes her critics look all the more churlish and scrooge-like (not that that is her intention of course).

So Harry don't worry about the critics. Once the ticket lines for your final film diminish they'll probably turn their attention back to protesting the Teletubbies. Your remarkable story of good triumphing over evil has turned a generation on to reading, and for that I am forever grateful.

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