Sunday, December 19, 2010

The debate begins (continues) again …

HarryPotterL_468x456With the release of the next in the Chronicles of Narnia film series, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the debate over what is good and evil in literature rears its immortal head again. People who worry about such things want to characterise Rowling’s work (Harry Potter) as evil and Lewis’s (Chronicles of Narnia) as good even though they both use magic and mythology as central elements of the worlds in which the stories occur.

It seems to me that much of this discussion assumes the ability to categorise literature easily into "good" and "evil". I don't think it is that easy. Much overtly Christian literature has elements that I would be very wary of. And there is much that is overtly non-Christian that has much value. Surely the whole point of the need for discernment is because, in a beautiful fallen world, there is good and evil everywhere and we need to mine it for all it is worth. The human mind has the capacity to see and hear what it will in almost anything.

If we wish to see evil - that is what we will see and hear; if we wish to see good - that is what we will see and hear. It is our initial frame of reference that determines, to a large extent, what we will see and hear. I don't think anything should be excluded from consideration and so would encourage all to readthe-chronicles-of-narnia-prince-caspian-20080422050922373_640w Lewis and Rowling and Tolkien and Pullman and much more.

All creativity is evidence of the image of God in the world and to assert that only Christians can produce such slivers of imago dei is arrogant. Christians need to think critically about everything we read and permit expressions of God's grace in what may seem to be the most graceless literary places. The ruthless dichotomy of good and evil as if everything can be sorted in such a black/white way is, in my view, completely unhelpful.

- Steve Parker