Once upon a time, there was a segment of Christian believers who lived under the fear of everything and anything that wasn’t exactly like them or what they had been taught to be true.
One day, one of these folks, a lady and mom named Grace Anne whose user name was proud housewife, decided that her wee little ones were being deprived.
You see, they wanted to read books – Harry Potter books – but Grace Anne was afraid because everyone knows that if you read Harry Potter books, you turn into a witch or wizard. (And with nearly half a billion sold, there are already too many witches in the world. They have yet to reveal themselves, but will any day now – I just know it!)
So, Grace Anne decided to rewrite Harry Potter.
With nearly half a billion books sold, clearly J.K. Rowling’s best-selling kids’ novels of all time were in need of a little freshening up.
With the swish of her magic wand… er, pen, Grace Anne began authoring a non-turning-your-kids-into-witches version of Harry Potter. Hers is called Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles.
Just to be fair, I read it.
It might be parody. It might not be. Even Snopes.com isn’t sure. But one thing is for certain, there’s a lot of conservative Christians who think it is a good thing – real or parody.
I must say, you don’t have to read far to see what’s wrong with Grace Anne’s work, and how it represents much of what’s wrong with modern conservative Christianity.
This is a story about obedience – a cautionary tale about strict adherence to what you are told and an unquestioning loyalty to those who are “in charge,” whether they are your parents or your religious leaders.
Harry is described as a “good, obedient boy who did all his chores.” (I’m left to wonder what chores aren’t getting done by the wee little ones at Grace Anne’s house.)
Interestingly enough, Jesus, whose life and teaching are what we Christians hold most high, wasn’t exactly known for his obedience. From sneaking away from his parents at a young age to directly confronting the religious leaders of his day, Jesus was a bit unruly and given to doing his own thing.
One clear purpose of Grace Anne’s revisionist tale is to promote the virtues of traditional family and marriage.
From the beginning it’s clear, Grace Anne feels that even growing up with his Auntie and Uncle puts Harry at a severe deficit to kids with a mom and a dad – to the extent that Harry wonders if this might be the thing that’s missing from his life (no silly Harry, that’s Jesus).
Later we learn that Dumbledore, who J.K Rowling has revealed is gay, in this version of the story is married – to Minerva. Let that sink in for a minute… and then take a breath and make sure you are sitting down for the next thing.
It’s Reverend Dumbledore.
Stay seated, I’m not done yet.
Hermione is their child.
Don’t get up yet… and take another deep breath.
Hermione is described as different than all the other girls in public school (read that as better than) because she’s not focusing on being a career woman.
Yep. In Grace Anne’s rewrite, Hermione, arguably the smartest and hardest working of our three heroes, the young lady who broke all the rules in starting Dumbledore’s Army and participated in the Battle of Hogwarts, is revered for not being overly ambitious.
Jesus, on the other hand, deeply loved and valued bold women: from the woman who touched the hem of his cloak to the Canaanite woman who challenged Jesus’ derogatory remark about her, Jesus frequently praised women who were arguably ambitious.
Grace Anne’s Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles is also a story about how sad and pathetic people who aren’t “good” Christians are – particularly atheists. And it’s about how these sad, pathetic souls will go to Hell – particularly atheists.
In Grace Anne’s version of Harry Potter, the Dursleys are atheists. Petunia is suspicious, wears an “unflattering pantsuit,” and is rude and self-aggrandizing every chance she gets – oh, and she doesn’t wear makeup.
What did you expect? She’s an atheist.
Uncle Vernon is “sheepish” in contrast to Hagrid who is “a huge, muscular man with a big, manly beard.”
Not surprisingly, Hagrid is a Christian.
Harry, having been somehow shielded his whole life from a religion that dominates society (one must assume atheists have some pretty special skill-sets for doing this) asks Hagrid what a Christian is. Hagrid’s response is telling: “Christians are people who want to be good. We want to go to heaven after we die.”
In context, the contrary seems to be true for Grace Anne as well: “People who aren’t Christian are bad – and they will go to Hell – particularly atheists.”
Jesus, on the other hand, had a propensity for including folks rather than pushing them out. He even used people who had beliefs different from his to teach lessons about what it looks like to love your neighbor – like he did with the parable of “The Good Samaritan.” And when Jesus did talk about Hell, he wasn’t talking about Dante’s fiery furnace, he’s actually talking about a place outside of town where sinful things are burned up not sinful people.
Ironically, Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles is also (probably unintentionally) about the magical qualities some people try to bestow upon all things Christian.
One example from the story: here’s what happens when Harry, who the evil atheists have somehow shielded from Christianity his whole life, opens the door and meets Hagrid the Christian, “[Hagrid] wore a necklace that looked to Harry like a lowercase T. Just looking at it Harry feel happy [sic], peaceful somehow; but he couldn’t say why!”
I find it curious how people who wish to prescribe magical qualities to Christianity and even believe fully in the magical miracles in the Bible are so fearful of books like Harry Potter.
For me, it points to everything that’s wrong with Christianity.
It illuminates the hypocrisy of following the teachings of a man who was wildly inclusive while you not only villainize the excluded, but also actively create more categories of people to exclude.
It points to a willingness to take biblical “teachings” at face value when they seem to match what you already believe rather than taking the time to research them and try to understand them in context (examples would be “traditional marriage” and “Hell”.)
And that points to the problem of devaluing science and scholarship which is clear right off the bat in Grace Anne’s story, when she has Hagrid dismissing evolution as a myth.
Probably the most damning thing for Christianity about Grace Anne’s rewrite is found in the fascinating space that we sometimes find ourselves in when reading a story – being aware of the intent and personality of the author as we read about the characters and situations they create. In this case it is that of a “sweet” holier-than-thouness.
And, that’s one of the worst attitudes some Christians demonstrate.
Sometimes even in myself – like when I get upset about a Christian rewriting a classic in a way that highlights some of the worst things about Christianity.
Of course, Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles could just be a rather poorly written parody.
Oh, God, please let it be parody.