Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vacation and Harry Potter

I am home now from a week in South Bethany beach. The weather was almost all wonderful, and it was so great to relax. A week in South Bethany, with our family who generously host us, is always a week full of sand, sun, games, delicious food, and good conversation. What a blessing.

For me, it was also a week full of reading Harry Potter. I re-read the 5th and 6th books in the series in preparation for the new release. I have not typically been much of a re-reader, but I found that I really enjoyed it. Perhaps my reading habits will change a bit.

I finished the final book in the series last night. It was excellent. I was talking with a friend here in church, and she mentioned that there have been several local folks writing into the newspaper proclaiming that Rowling is going to hell, and generally decrying Harry Potter.

(Note: while I am not giving away the ending here, I am commenting on the themes, which could give you some pretty good guesses. If you have not yet read the book and plan to, you may not want to read the following paragraphs.)

I find this positively baffling. My suspicion (verified by some experience) is that many folks who "oppose" Harry Potter have not read any of the books. The series is full of Christian themes. These include serving others, sacrificing for the greater good, eschewing materialism, caring most about relationships with others, being willing to lay down your life for your friends, and battling sin and evil. In this last book, the references to the afterlife in heaven as well as sacrificial death are especially strong. Willingly dying so that others may live is at the heart of the gospel...there is no gospel without it. This theme is also at the heart of the Harry Potter book. There is no Harry Potter without it.

My befuddlement increases when I wonder why The Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia (also chock full of Christian themes) get embraced by most Christians, while Harry Potter is shunned by so many. My fear is it is because too many of us are too easily led. If media hype and some key Christian voices give their blessing, it must be OK. If the opposite occurs, it must be bad.

At the heart of the Christian Reformation, which flowed out of the Enlightenment, was a rejection of the Church thinking for people. The Reformation championed several important ideas, two of which I find relevant now. First is reading the Scripture for oneself (sola scriptura) which says that Scripture is the foundation of Christian interpretation, and should be read and interpreted by the faithful in their native language. Second, there is the priesthood of all believers which says that we all have a direct line to the Spirit, no intermediate priest required.

If Protestants (those Christians who are not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox) are to remain faithful to who we are, then we must take seriously our identity as people who study and discern the will of God together, believing the Holy Spirit is guiding us if we study in faith together. To be true to who we are, we must study the Scripture ourselves (together in community and alone...not just alone), and use our God given reason, experience, and our tradition, to come to conclusions. Simply taking the word of another without our own study and reflection does not bring us closer to God or into clearer understanding.

I think Christians have an opportunity to use Harry Potter as a way to study, grow, and reach out. It saddens me to think it will instead be used as an opportunity to condemn, shun, and generally turn people away from the love of Christ.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nice home Mommy

My almost three years old son Jacob has been making real strides in talking. He has been speech delayed, and this week the speech therapist was positively delighted with his progress after just 2 weeks time.

Some recent highlights of his learning to talk have included:
1. saying "bye bye my home" whenever Daddy pulls out of the driveway with the kids
2. spontaneously saying "nice day" after a fun day that concluded with dinner at his grandparents' home
3. receiving his Dad's compliment on how good he looked in his new Blue Rocks baseball cap by saying "oh yeah baby" (as he hears Emeril on FoodTV!)
4. and this morning, coming up with "nice home, Mommy" which he said several times this morning.

It is a nice home. We are blessed to live here. As I begin my fifth year of service in Chesapeake City, I can feel my roots growing stronger and deeper. I have now served here longer than any other church family. I keep telling folks that I hope to make it to double digits in number of years served.

I often hear God through repetition. When one theme presents itself multiple times from various sources, I try to pay attention. Lately, the idea of loving wherever I am, wholeheartedly, because God is here, has been speaking to my heart.

And so I say with my son Jacob: Nice home.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Perspective on Civil Rights

This week I spent a week at Camp Pecometh, our Christian Camp in the Conference. I worked hard to try to get Middle School kids to study the Bible without falling asleep. For the most part, they were awake.

On Wednesday, the passage for the day was from the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6. It is the passage where Jesus talks about loving your enemies, blessing those who curse you... one of the hard ones. One girl literally exclaimed out loud as she was reading. (She was awake!) It is shocking stuff to those who have never read it before.

Naturally, my attempt to keep them awake involved trying to relate the Scripture to every day life. The Campers were a fairly diverse lot; since the Civil Rights movement had this text at the backbone of the movement, I figured this was the way to go.

For the majority of kids, the Civil Rights movement was as relevant as WW2! I was shocked. You would have thought this was arcane history I was referring to. They tried valiantly to recall some details. Mostly, they succeeded in remembering Rosa Park and the bus boycott. Once that was on the table, the march on Washington came to mind. Then sometimes, they would know about the marches, beatings, fire hoses, and jail cells. But not always.

I still cry when I heard the voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. preaching, especially the "I Have a Dream" sermon. For years, I had the text of this sermon posted on my refrigerator (although lately children's art work has crowded it out). I think of how the Civil Rights movement to contributes to the lexicon of our society, our politics, our court decisions, our lives. Musical artists I love, most notably U2, have used the Civil Rights Movement as inspiration for lyrics. For me, it is living, breathing stuff. And I was not alive during the movement. I was born in 1971.

So I was shocked to learn that for these kids, it is just a chapter in history. As I think about the timing, I guess they are chronologically about as far away from the Civil Rights movement as I am from the Second World War. And that war always seemed like history that happened well before my time.

I am recovering from my shock, now that it has been a few days. And I am trying to convince myself that this has an upside. After all, the idea that segregation and racism are not a divisive, hate inspiring issue is progress. I remember as a child a local African American broadcaster giving an editorial and making the claim that once color is no longer an issue, and no longer in need of conversation and court decisions, we will have finally made it to the Promise Land. But we're not there yet, by any stretch of the imagination. I witness too many instances of racism to think otherwise. Honestly, I am hoping that by the time I am a grandmother we may be there. Time will tell.