Well, I enjoyed my time on Issues, Etc., last night, being interviewed on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Todd Wilken is such a great guy (even if his name does apparently have roots in Norse mythology), and I love the way he handles the show. The Sunday evening program, with all the phone calls from listeners, is especially good fun. The callers weren't quite as hostile toward me as they were last year, though I still had a predominance of questions about how it is that a Christian can possibly allow or tolerate these books about "witchcraft." I hope I came across as patient as I was endeavoring to be. Really, I appreciate all the people who took the trouble to call, and who spent at least some of their time listening to what I had to say.
I spent most of my free hours over the weekend preparing for the interview, mostly by trying to cover as much of the book again as possible. Didn't get all the way through a second read, but did manage to digest most of it, and to revist the highlights toward the end. I'm still in the process of reading it aloud to my children, as well, but that will probably take us a week or two to finish. At the risk of overkill, I've also been listening to Jim Dale's performance of the book on audio CD in my car. That man has done such an amazing, outstanding job with all of these books, and there is something particularly satisfying about listening to him read.
(Actually, listening to those audio books on our vacation last summer was one of the factors that prompted me to do away with "bulletin inserts" of the Sunday Lections, and to encourage the people simply to listen carefully to the public reading of the Holy Scriptures. I was just so struck by the experience of listening and hearing, and the contrast that provided to the more active enterprise of reading something for myself. We have pew Bibles now at Emmaus for those who do find it helpful to follow along with the Lections, but most of the congregation now give their full and careful attention to hearing the Word as it is proclaimed from the lectern.)
I would have been happier, in some ways, to spend the interview talking about more of the specifics in The Deathly Hallows, as there is such a richness to the story. I'm intrigued now by the apparent connection of these "hallows" to the Arthurian legends, but I haven't had a chance to pursue that. For those who are interested in Harry Potter and related matters, I recommend hogwartsprofessor.com (John Granger) and swordofgryffindor.com, which are both worthwhile. Another point I picked up from perusing those sites is the possibility of seeing the three deathly hallows in the story as parallels to the three temptations of Christ in the wilderness. I'll have to give that some more thought, but it is a compelling suggestion. The third "deathly hallow," the invisibility cloak, is in any case more ambiguous, since it can be used wisely and well, "in faith," if you will. I compared it on the show last night to the covering of Holy Baptism, whereby we are dressed in Christ and His Righteousness. That comment came in response to a great question from my future son-in-law, Sam, who asked about baptismal imagery in the Harry Potter books. The problem with answering that is, where do you begin? There's so much to be considered, really. The main example I gave is the scene when Ron comes back and destroys the locket horcrux. I loved that portion of the book to begin with, but it had not fully occured to me at first what a marvelous image of the return to Baptism it provides. Harry and Ron both go fully into the water to retrieve the Sword of Gryffindor, which has just been described as a silver cross. Then, when the locket has been opened, it sets upon Ron with accusations and taunts, doubts and fears and guilt, just as we are attacked and accused by the assaults of the devil in all such ways. With Harry's encouragement, Ron destroys the locket with the cross-like sword, and it is then that he is reconciled to Harry, having abandoned him and Hermione previously. Turns out that he had been called back to his friends by the gift that Dumbledore had left him.
Along similar lines, I do appreciate the way in which remorse is described as the only way, the very painful way, by which a person who has rent his soul to create a horcrux can be healed and restored to whole again. The word "repentance" isn't used, but that's what it sounds like to me. And then how marvelous it is that Harry, in the final showdown with Voldemort, pleads with him to find remorse, as the only hope he has left to him. It is yet another example, among many, of Harry's compassion even for his enemies. That's one of the points I tried to make last night, that it isn't just self-sacrifice, but self-sacrificing love, accompanied by mercy for others. It was that aspect of Dumbledore's sacrifice at the conclusion of The Half-Blood Prince that finally opened my eyes to the underlying themes of the entire series. It was perhaps most obvious at the end of The Deathly Hallows, when Harry once again uses the Expelliarmus! spell against Voldemort's Avada Kedavra! Lupin had warned him previously to avoid making such an unusual move his signature mark, but Harry refused to blast people out of his way. "That's Voldemort's job," he said. With rare exceptions in the course of the story, Harry refuses to go for the kill, but uses only as much force as necessary to defend and protect his friends.
Homily at Evening Prayer (last night)
9 hours ago