::Literate Blather::
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Essay: Banning Harry

The pastor at the St. Joseph’s School in Wakefield, Mass. recently banned the Harry Potter books from the elementary school. According to a report in the Boston Globe, the Rev. Ron Baker removed the bestselling books by J.K. Rowling from the school library and banned them from school reading list

The reason?

The novels contain the themes of witchcraft and sorcery and are inappropriate for a Catholic school, according to Rev. Baker. In other words, the young wizard and his friends are in league with Satan.

Someone please alert Voldemort.

Amazingly, the Potter novels have been banned in 17 other states – so much so that the American Library Association has declared the Harry Potter books the “most challenged books of the 21st century.”

Rowling says her books are: "A prolonged argument for tolerance, a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry.” I suppose we should consider burning her at the stake as well. What kind of message is that for Catholic school children?

If the fairly innocuous Rowling can be banned from a Catholic school for “promoting” magic; one wonders if the good Rev. Baker has deigned to read other books i.e. the classics. Perhaps if he did, he would find plenty of books to toss onto the bonfire with Rowling’s Potter novels.

I could start with fairy tales like “Cinderella” (a fairy godmother using magic to transform a pumpkin and two mice into a carriage and a pair of steeds) or “Snow White” (which features a witch with a magic mirror and poisoned apples), but I won’t.

Let’s start with C.S. Lewis. As a Christian, Rev. Baker must be familiar with Lewis, the famed author and devout Christian, who authored “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Lewis, one of the leading promoters of Christianity in the 1940s and 1950s, called the first book of the Narnia series “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” The audacity!

“The Chronicles of Narnia” are about a magical land filled with supernatural creatures – including fauns, centaurs, and talking animals. The most famous of Lewis’ talking animals is Aslan, a powerful, magic-welding lion. Aslan, as described by Lewis himself, is a literary Jesus Christ, the compassionate creator of Narnia.

In Rev. Baker’s world, I think we can safely assume that Lewis’ novels should be thrown into the flames with Harry Potter.

Now let’s look at that Homer character – the Greek poet who penned “The Odyssey” and “The Iliad.” If I’m not mistaken, the epic poem is filled with sorcery and, alas, false gods, including Zeus, Apollo, Hades, Athena, and Poseidon. Clearly, Homer is in the league with the devil and his minions.

Then there is Shakespeare. An anti-Christian zealot if there ever was one. There’s that pesky play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which features Amazons and fairies – magical creatures one and all! Oberson, the king of fairies, has fights with his wife that change weather patterns.

Should we burn Shakespeare’s play with the works of Homer, Lewis, and Rowling?

The message here is a simple one – and one that Rev. Baker should heed. Banning books is a slippery slope. When you attack literature, you attack all of it. When you censor one author – you censor all of them. Banning books is ugly business.

It’s also the last bastion of the ignorant. Ignorance. That’s really what Rev. Baker and his ilk should be banning.

Read our essay on how to fix the broken-down public school system

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