February 5, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Pope: Potter No Problem

It's official: the pope has signed off on Harry Potter.

Addressing reporters at a press conference in Vatican City yesterday, a papal representative gave the Harry Potter books a thumbs-up. "They aren't serving as a banner for an anti-Christian ideology," said Reverend Don Peter Fleetwood, a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture. He added that he didn't see "any problems in the Harry Potter series."

What a relief. Now the boy wizard can fly across America on his broomstick, safe from the clutches of religious zealots. After all, if the head of the Catholic church gives the books his seal of approval, that should dispel any claims that the series corrupts children's minds, right?

Somehow, I doubt it. I've learned never to underestimate the ignorance of the religious right in this country. In case the story escaped your notice last February, the police department of Penryn, Pennsylvania refused to direct traffic for a YMCA triathlon because it claimed the club promoted witchcraft by reading the Harry Potter books to children. "I don't feel right taking our children's minds and teaching them (witchcraft)," said Penryn Police Captain Robert Fichthorn.

That episode was certainly not the first time that Harry Potter felt the fire of religious zeal. Just a few months before Fichthorn's crusade, Potter literally felt the flames when a New Mexico church lit a "holy bonfire" into which the local pastor encouraged his flock to throw Harry Potter books and anything else from their homes that prevented them from communicating with God. "Harry Potter is the devil and he is destroying people," said Pastor Jack Brock of Christ Community Church in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

"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."
Jennifer L. Zebel, Applewood Baptist Church, Wheat Ridge, CO

Such fanaticism continues unabated. Just three weeks ago, the American Library Association announced its "Ten Most Challenged Books" list, putting the Harry Potter series at the top of the list for the fourth year in a row. In 2002, the books received 515 challenges, which the ALA defines as "a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness."

With such wild hysteria over an innocuous children's fantasy series, I find it highly unlikely that such fanatics will heed the Vatican's pronouncement that the Harry Potter books "help children to see the difference between good and evil." As long as imaginations can be quashed by literal interpretations of Biblical texts, the religious right will continue its battle against the boy wizard—and anything else that conflicts with its dogma.

 

Development note: I've noticed that this site doesn't look like it should in Netscape Navigator. Rather than waste time jury-rigging it to look right in a soon-to-be-obsolete browser, I'll just add the cliché "This site best viewed with Internet Explorer."
©2003
Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Previously...

2/4: Time for Another Rewrite
2/3: A Matter of Opinions
2/2: Suicidal Bravado
2/1: Godspeed, Columbia
Archive:
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