Apparently, Mr. Lev Grossman of Time Magazine find love beneath the dignity of the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition. In a rather pathetic article entitled, Who Dies in Harry Potter? God, Grossman argues that Jo Rowling has made a radical departure from literary tradition. Of course, the ever well-read Mr. Grossman cites two sources for literary tradition: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I should say, right off the bat, that it is a mistake to respond to Lev Grossman’s article. It is a case of a lesser intellect, unable to contribute anything useful to the world, leaping onto the sensation that is Harry Potter and using it to try to make a name for himself. To gain a bit of the brilliant light shining on Ms. Rowling. I am doubtful that even Grossman finds his article interesting, but is hopeful that it will stir up anger among Rowling’s supporters, and win him a slice of fame among the Christian fundamentalists who will doubtless use his insipid little article to further the cause of book banning (witch burning?). It is no surprise to find those of meagre intellect trying to ride the coattails of Ms. Rowling’s success, however mean-spirited and intellectually bankrupt the means of grabbing on. What is surprising is that this bit of drivel has found its way into Time Magazine. I was under the impression that Time still had pretensions (however vague) to being a news magazine.
Grossman lauds the Catholic spirit that animates Tolkien’s work, and the Anglican teachings that thump us on the head like a troll’s club in C.S. Lewis, but then wonders where lies the spiritual backbone of Harry Potter. Harry, he says, lives in a world free of religion or spirituality where he has no one to whom he can pray. He notes the presence of Ghosts, but not God. The ever brilliant Lev goes so far as to say that Rowling has more in common with “celebrity atheists” (seriously) like Christopher Hitchens (a very interesting comparison, really, when you consider that Hitchens has gone right over the edge and is in support of murder for oil, openly stated) than she does with Lewis and Tolkien. Of course, there is some humor in the fact that a great many people have insulted the work of Ms. Rowling as being entirely derivative of Mr. Tolkien. Lev Grossman, instead, chooses to roast the heretical Rowling for not being derivative enough! We could go on at length about the pathetic nature of his review based on his knowledge of only two writers in the fantasy genre, but I don’t suppose there is any need. Grossman’s intellectual merit is so sadly lacking that it needs no reinforcement.
Mr. Grossman says:
In the new millennium, magic comes not from God or nature or anything grander or more mystical than a mere human emotion. In choosing Rowling as the reigning dreamer of our era, we have chosen a writer who dreams of a secular, bureaucratized, all-too-human sorcery, in which psychology and technology have superseded the sacred.
Love is a “mere human emotion”. Apparently, Mr. Grossman does not read the works he derides or he might recognize the sublime in Ms. Rowling’s description of love. It is also apparent that Mr. Grossman has a very limited capacity for love, which probably explains his jingoistic take on religion as a whole. For Lev Grossman, if it isn’t in the Christian tradition, it isn’t religion. Further, love is the basis of bureaucracy not spirituality. If that’s true, put me down for the bureaucrats.
I can’t argue with his logic. The “true” religions are at the root of all hate in the world, it seems. President Bush says that God speaks through him (you would hope God would have a better command of logic and the English language than that, wouldn’t you?), and Bush speaks in terms of religion-based genocide. He speaks of crusades and he bombs on the basis of color and religion. Pope Ratzinger has told us that all other religions than Catholicism are not religions at all. The Catholic Church has always felt that way, of course, but I don’t think it does much to spread fellowship around the globe to be shouting out, “I’m right and you’re all wrong!” at the top of your Popely lungs. Funny, too, because so many people have hated the Jews for their arrogant sense that they are God’s chosen people. Everybody else is just scenery. Of course, the Jews work to be an exclusive club (kind of amusing to compare how Jews promote conversion to their religion to how Country Clubs historically promoted Jews to Country Club membership, but, again, not our point.) Israel is all about exterminating the Palestinians, killing without conscious or remorse. And it is hardly worth the effort of mentioning the hostility of the Muslim world toward Christians and Jews at this particular juncture in time. It would be difficult to spend a passing instant with any US media and not come away with a list more complete than I could compile, though perhaps also a touch more to the side of fiction than my own list might lean.
Lev Grossman has chosen to bemoan the lack of spirituality in Harry Potter because Rowling has chosen the ethic, or emotion, of love over the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition (I have no doubt that, were Harry to be a Muslim, his treatment in Lev’s article would fare no better). It is impossible to miss the point that dogmatism is of more significance to Grossman than seeking a deeper understanding of God, or Gods, or nature. Grossman is stating that, if you don’t package spiritualism in an easily recognizable form for this Fundamentalist Christian nation, it is not spirituality at all. And Time has chosen to print this view as if it were news rather than an opinion piece better suited to the pages of Guideposts, or the airwaves of the 700 Club. It is interesting, because Time is choosing to align itself with the segment of society that sees good in Christianity, and a world spiritually bereft in all else. It is choosing not to be a news magazine, but a mouthpiece of a fundamentalist nation. Time has chosen faith over reason, and that is of the deepest concern for the intellectual future of the United States. George Bush and company already claim that faith should trump reason in government. Gut feelings and Bush hearing the voice of God should mean that we no longer need to question Bush’s authority, because his authority is divine.
So, Mr. Grossman, as you and Time prepare to toss the Harry Potter series onto the still warm embers of the Constitution that it might make a bigger bonfire around which to perform your war dance in the name of God, I will choose love. Who dies in the Deathly Hallows? I can only hope it is the culture of hate mongering religious bigotry, the true Voldemort of our age.