Saturday, November 27, 2010

Witchcraft?


A relative of mine posted the following comment in passing on their Facebook page last week -- "excuse me but isnt't Harry Potter all about witchcraft? The bible says in deutoromy not to have anything to do with that or does it?" -- Classic. It's flippant, condescending and passive-aggressive all at the same time. And the spelling error of Deuteronomy is hers, not mine. All this lends credence to the recent study showing that atheists and agnostics know more about religion than the pious. That's the beauty of family ... most of the time you really can't tell them how unbelievably clueless they are.

Well, despite the fact that it may damn me to Hell and that I'm endorsing the forces of darkness, we saw Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 this past weekend. It was very good. Easily the darkest of the series ... not a surprise if you have read the books. By the movie's very nature, it leaves you hanging. After all, you are splitting the very long book into two movies.

It's gratifying to see the acting progression of the young actors in the series. We've seen them from their debuts 10 years ago through 7 movies. It's no wonder that they have improved considering they have acted alongside just about every great British actor of the last 20 years. Consider who they have co-starred with:

Gary Oldman
Richard Harris
Michael Gambon
Maggie Smith
David Thewlis
Robbie Coltrane
John Hurt
John Cleese
Alan Rickman
Kenneth Branagh
Emma Thompson
Helena Bonham Carter
Jason Isaacs
Brendan Gleeson
David Tennant
Ralph Fiennes
Imelda Staunton
Jim Broadbent

That's ridiculous! There isn't an acting school in existence that would give you that kind of talent to work with.

I've liked all the movies, to varying degrees, with The Prisoner of Azkaban being my favorite for several reasons: 1. The debut of my favorite actor Gary Oldman in the series (also Emma Thompson) 2. Alfonso Cuaron directing (Children of Men) and lastly 3. Incorporating the concept of time travel (one of my favorite sci-fi concepts).

Deathly Hallows is significant for the arc of the characters in that it's the first movie that is not set at Hogwarts at all (at least for the 3 main characters). That fact informs their sense of isolation and, at times, hopelessness.

The Harry Potter stories are mostly kids' stories but have themes (death, sacrifice, friendship, relationships, free will, choice, evil) that are universal and that entertain adults as well. My son and I have both read all the books and regularly re-watch the movies. I realize there are a lot of people that could care less about the movies and books ... and that is fine. To each his own. To a large part, that is my take on the Twilight series. But, if you have been following the books and movies of Harry Potter, you will not be disappointed by this one.

Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a worthy successor and a nice appetizer for the finale that will come out in July. Grade: B+

Now, you know me, I can't leave well enough alone and I'm going to get back to the relative's reference to Deuteronomy and witchcraft. The verse that is commonly taken to criticize witchcraft is Deuteronomy 18: 10-11

There shall not be found among you anyone ....that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.

It is seen as idolatry and "spiritual prostitution".

And, it's all a load of bunk. Equating reading or watching a movie about sorcerers to actually being one is a stretch. That's like saying that you are a murderer or adulterer because you watched a story that had people committing those acts.

Don't even get me started how one finds it more important to criticize a franchise that has encouraged a whole generation of children to read and to value friendship and loyalty than to criticize a church that regularly protects pedophiles and promotes hate.

I'm not trying to give philosophical significance to something that is basically just entertainment but when you start down that road, you best be ready to turn that high-powered moral analysis on your own beliefs. In what significant way is one religion different than another ... or even witchcraft? Your God is someone else's false idol. Your pastor is another's sorcerer. Your spirituality is another's magic. "Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto, Let's call the whole thing off". Indeed. Let's.

12 comments:

dbackdad said...

BTW, I'm not intimating that all Christians have issues with watching or reading stories about witchcraft or sorcery (my wife and son certainly don't). I know that's not the case. I'm just highlighting the people I know that do.

CyberKitten said...

It is funny how *some* Christians get all antsy over Harry Potter - as if reading them is going to turn their children to the 'dark-side' because it's cool or something. It says a lot about their level of faith - or their level of faith in their children!

Although it could be that they don't want to encouage children to *read*.... [muses] After all... you never know WHAT they might come across by reading books!

[grin]

dbackdad said...

" ... their level of faith in their children" -- Right on. Same thing with Halloween. It's not like kids are going out and doing blood sacrifices or something. Trust in them and support them with whatever choice they make. That's why I've never made a big deal about my wife taking my son to church. He's a smart kid. He'll come to his own decision when he gets older and I'll support it no matter what. We don't hide anything from him. He knows my beliefs plus we talk to him about the other faiths as well.

CyberKitten said...

Sounds like the little guy is getting a good grounding.

wunelle said...

I saw the film and thought it admirably made, but I'm just not into the franchise enough to really grasp all that goes on. I get the general thrust, of course, but the details are lost on me. Still, a fine two hours.

I can't decide whether I think kids watching a show about people with magical powers assists religion in giving credence to the concept of the supernatural, or weakens the hold of religion by giving an alternate idea of how the supernatural works. Maybe none of the above. (Though as kids I tend to think we're eager to believe in ghosts.)

But I think of Hitchens' statement that he's in favor of compulsory education in comparative religion because he knows of no better way to ensure the steady production of atheists. If kids learn that there are hundreds of religions, all clung to with equal fervency but only one of which, at most, can be true, it doesn't take much imagination to grasp the odds that you're hitched to the wrong star. (That lesson isn't necessarily learned when everybody knows the movie is fiction.)

CyberKitten said...

wunelle said: But I think of Hitchens' statement that he's in favor of compulsory education in comparative religion because he knows of no better way to ensure the steady production of atheists.

Most definitely. Another way is to study anthropology....

Sadie Lou said...

Ugh. Such a sore subject with me. I actually have had several run-ins with fellow believers on this exact issue. There is no end to it. If it's not Harry Potter, it's the Twilight Series. If it's not that, it's some other popular Fantasy Fiction novels. Christians have created their own sense of right and wrong based on their own cultish notions of what God approves of and what he doesn't. The church, in general, should spend a little MORE time examining the works of literature produced by "Christians" and a little less time pointing the "shame on you" finger at the world at large. Afterall, Jesus didn't come to condemn the world, but to save it.

dbackdad said...

It's nice to hear that from a Christian. It does seem like there are more important things for the Church to be worried about.

Obviously I'm no Bible scholar, but it does seem like the relevant passages are about practicing what the church perceives to be witchcraft. It is not, however, about reading about fictional portrayals of witchcraft.

CyberKitten said...

dbackdad said: Obviously I'm no Bible scholar, but it does seem like the relevant passages are about practicing what the church perceives to be witchcraft. It is not, however, about reading about fictional portrayals of witchcraft.

As far as I know - not being a Biblical scholar - the phrase "Though shall not suffer a witch to live" was inserted (or at least seriously amended) by King James II who had a serious issue with the idea of withcraft. I don't believe that it was - at least not in that form - in previous versions of the Bible.

CyberKitten said...

Exodus 22:18 in 19 English translations of the Bible:
Various Biblical translations render this verse as:

American Standard Version: "Thou shalt not suffer a sorceress to live."

The Answer: Put to death any woman who does evil magic.

Amplified Bible: You shall not allow a woman to live who practices sorcery.

Good News Version: Put to death any woman who practices magic.

James Moffatt Translation: You shall not allow any sorceress to live.

Jerusalem Bible: You shall not allow a sorceress to live.

King James Version: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Living Bible: A sorceress shall be put to death.

Modern Language Bible: Allow no sorceress to live.

New American Bible: You shall not let a sorceress live.

New American Standard Bible: You shall not let a sorceress live.

New Century Version: Put to death any woman who does evil magic.

New International Version: Do not allow a sorceress to live.

New Living Translation: A sorceress must not be allowed to live.

New Revised Standard Version: You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live.

New World Translation: You must not preserve a sorceress alive.

The Promise: Contemporary English Version: Death is the punishment for witchcraft.

Revised Standard Version: You shall not permit a sorceress to live.

Revised English Bible: You must not allow a witch to live.

In the original Hebrew manuscript, the author used the word m'khashepah to describe the person who should be killed. The word means a woman who uses spoken spells to harm others - e.g. causing their death or loss of property. Clearly "evil sorceress" or "woman who does evil magic" would be the most accurate phrases in today's English usage for this verse.

Sadie Lou said...

Christians today live in the time AFTER the full revelation of God's plan for salvation. The Mosaic Law and Temple Laws were crucified and nailed to the cross with Christ. Christians today have no businesses cherry picking from the Old Testament and holding them up as works or laws to be followed for righteousness. Our job is to point to Christ-not the Law. So if people want to condemn others for whichcraft-they better be willing to follow the whole letter of the law-like stoning their disobedient children and not having sex during their period...etc. otherwise, if they disobey even one letter of the law, they are guilty of the whole thing and not gettin' into Heaven. Some Christians today don't understand that. It's all about the gospel. Christ and him crucified.

wunelle said...

Good News! Put a woman to death!

It's all infallible. It's all the word of the god figure, isn't it?