Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter and the Cauldron of Thumpers

-- by Dave

I've been settling into my couch and reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows and rather enjoying it. I'm something of a Potter admirer; the only bumper sticker on my car reads "Republicans for Voldemort". Of course, I don't come close to Mrs. Orcinus, who finished the book within the first day and who reread all six in the series just before the release of No. 7.

In any event, my enjoyment of the books is enhanced by the knowledge that it also drives the fundamentalist right nuts. Ever since the books gained great popularity, they've been on the warpath against Harry Potter, as you can see from the excerpt from Jesus Camp above, in which we see the head of the camp telling children that Potter should be put to death. (Talk about Republicans for Voldemort!)

It's worth remembering just how deep that animus runs, as CLS at Classically Liberal explains in painstaking detail:
[I]t seems that when someone is campaigning against the book or the films, the leader of the campaign is invariably a fundamentalist Christian. For instance, fundamentalist Laura Mallory, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, tried to ban the Potter books from the public school library. She says the books have “evil themes” because they speak of witchcraft and spells. And the Bible clearly teaches such things are immoral. One child who opposed her efforts saw things more clearly. He said, “never at any time did I think the books are true.” But fundamentalists do think that there is truth in these books. Unlike most rational people, they do believe that witches and spells exist. They have no choice since the Bible condemns such things. To say they don’t exist questions the infallibility of Scripture. Most people are not offended by the theme of the Potter series because they don’t believe the “dark forces” actually exist.

It should be noted that Mallory was not alone. Numerous fundamentalists joined her campaign in an attempt to ban the book from the library.

In Cedarville, Arkansas, the school board restricted access to the Harry Potter books unless a student could produce a signed permission slip from their parents. The board passed the rule because fundamentalist parents complained after “hearing a series of anti-Potter sermons in 2001 by Mark Hodges, pastor of the Uniontown Assembly of God Church and a member of the Cedarville School Board.”

And Christianity Today, certainly a main journal on the Religious Right, reported on a parent who wanted the book banned from school and reported that “She is among Christian parents nationwide arguing that classrooms are no place for Harry Potter...”

... Baptist youth ministries leader Jennifer Zebel said in Baptist Press, “I cannot believe that any secular book, character or movie advocating witchcraft of any kind could be this wildly successful without Satan having an agenda for it. The bottom line is that we know the right choice is to steer clear of these books and movies, but we don’t want to make the sacrifice. Satan is a wonderful writer and movie producer.” To be clear, Baptist Press is an arm of the largest fundamentalist sect in the United States-- the Southern Baptist Convention.

The post goes on to describe a number of other Harry-bashing preachers, notably our old fave, Jack Chick:

I happen to think there is a larger right-wing antipathy to the Potter books, and it's for a specific reason that I intend to explore in a little more depth soon. Let me finish the book first, and then we'll talk some more.

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