The devil and J.K. Rowling – Protect our Children!!!

Disclaimer: As some of you may know, my kids have spent the past year with my mother- and father-in-law, after Brandi and I moved to Minnesota. We were finally reunited last week – so yeah, thank God, man.

I was at home the other day, sitting on my La-Z-Boy (which I plan to have surgically grafted onto my ass, once I can find a doctor who will take payments), and scrolling through my TiVo’s recorded programs. My eleven-year-old daughter was with me, looking over my shoulder to see what I had recorded. Because I’m a geek, she quickly noticed that I had recorded a cartoon called Young Justice, which is a (super friggin’ awesome) show about the sidekicks of the superheroes in DC’s Justice League – Robin, Superboy, etc. I love the show – the writing is tremendous, the artwork avoids that feux –Anime style that I can’t stand, the characters are well-rounded, and the drama is very intense. It’s a great show, and my daughter knows it.

What else do you expect me to watch, now that Avatar: the Last Airbender isn’t on anymore?

“Wow!” she said. “You recorded Young Justice?!?”

“Sure did,” I said, inordinately proud of my taste in cartoons.

“Am I allowed to watch it?” she asked incredulously.

I looked at her curiously.

“Well,” I said slowly, “I can’t imagine why not. It’s not gory, there’s no boobs on it. . . so, of course you can watch it.”

Sweet!” she exclaimed at top volume. “Nana never let me watch Young Justice because there was an episode with goddesses on it.”

This wasn’t a huge surprise to me. My in-laws attended a church in Tucson, Arizona for many years, and like many churches, it gives advice to parents about what movies and television shows might not be safe for the souls of the children attending. It spoke out against the Harry Potter franchise, following a general outcry from the Christian community that Harry Potter endorsed witchcraft and Satanism. So while I doubted that the church would have specifically spoken out against Young Justice (but how rad would that be?!?!) it had created an understanding that some programs teach our children dangerous ideas about the supernatural world, and that you should always be vigilant to protect children from bad juju.

If you want fantasy, you have a choice – either Lion Jesus, or go to hell forever.

Now, this isn’t new at all. Maybe it started in the seventies with K.I.S.S., and Dungeons and Dragons. Maybe it goes back further than that. But the practice was alive and well in the days of my youth, and I was barely encountering Christian culture at that time. When I was a kid, my sister listened to the local top 40 radio station all the time. One summer, I remember a cheesy, saccharine pop song that was lighting up the airwaves – it was Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth.” If you were fortunate enough to miss that one, I’ll give you a little taste of the lyrics to this profound work of poetic perfection.

“Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth?
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth.
They say in heaven love comes first.
We’ll make heaven a place on earth.
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth.”

Does the song have problems? Well, yeah. I’m pretty sure nobody is going to win a hip-hop throwdown on the streets of Detroit by rhyming “earth,” “earth”, and “earth”. But when my cousin told me that somebody at their church had told them that the song was Satanic (because it preached heaven on earth, instead of heaven in. . . . heaven?) even as a little boy I was like, “That’s some crazy shit right there.” But they were serious, so my sister fast-forwarded past that song.

“Someone must protect the CHILDREN!”

More recently, the aforementioned Harry Potter series seemed to create a stir within certain populations of the Christian culture. It was said to promote witchcraft and Satanism, and some people even took a fake article by the Onion so seriously that it had to be de-bunked. If you want to have some fun surfing at work, I recommend that you Google “Harry Potter promotes Satanism” and just go for it. You won’t have a hard time finding some giggle-worthy stuff.

Now, I was not any sort of Jesus-guy when the Harry Potter craze was reaching its peak a few years ago, so I thought the whole idea was ridiculous. I’ve never known a kid so stupid as to base their theology on a fiction book (although hippies can take Stranger and a Strange Land a little too far). Also, the many years I spent as a neo-pagan never showed me anything half as cool as the magic that was done in the Harry Potter series, so I was pretty sure that kids weren’t accidentally going to sell their soul to the devil for rockin’ magical powers.

“This is WAY more badass than lighting candles and talking about the Goddess for two hours!"

You can imagine my chuckles when it was revealed that J.K. Rowling is an active Christian attending a church in Scotland,  and has been the whole time. In fact, the Christian themes in Harry Potter are so obvious that my good friend Forty Ounce threatened to rip me a new one on a comment for this post.  So either a whole bunch of whackos completely misinterpreted the most popular young adult series of the past twenty years, or J.K. Rowling’s soul-trapping web of deception goes so deep that it’s endorsed by the Anglican Church. You decide.

Well played, Rowling. Well played, indeed.

Going back to my original story, I had a short conversation with my mother- and father-in-law about the subject of what my kids are allowed to watch, now that they’re back home. While I obviously don’t want them watching things that they are too young for, anything that’s age-appropriate is okay. I trust that my children can handle seeing a goddess on Young Justice without deciding, “That’s it! That’s what I want to do with my life! Forget this Jesus crap, I want to worship super hero goddesses!”

I’ve been tempted for years, for different reasons.

We’ve got to give our kids some credit, Christians. They don’t need to live in a box, protected from the parts of the world that don’t come wrapped in a Jesus-shaped bow. There is a world outside that isn’t always perfect, and some day your children may be needed in that world. We need to trust ourselves to guide them in a way that is deep enough, meaningful enough, that it can survive an encounter with that supposedly-gay Teletubby or Spongebob Squarepants. And also, lest we forget, we also need to trust God to guide our kids where we fall short. I’m positive that God can undo any damage done by J.K. Rowling.

At least until her next series of books, "The Socialist Gay Adventures of Antichrist Jones, Hero of the Beast!"


About Daniel Mitchell

50% of "What the Faith?!?!", a blog about two skeptics who turned to God for no apparent reason. View all posts by Daniel Mitchell

10 responses to “The devil and J.K. Rowling – Protect our Children!!!

  • Peter Benedict

    As a kid my parents wouldn’t let me listen to secular music for a few years. KISS was a no-no. I took to hiding my music and any books I thought they’d find objectionable. They sent me to a Christian school (the second, actually… I got expelled from the first for being a bad influence) where I got in trouble for listening to Stryper (I kid you not) in the bathroom.

    All this culture warrior crap makes me sad. Jesus loved the culture & people around him; I endeavor to do the same. Therein lies the hope for this blog 🙂

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Stryper? Really? It’s very brave of you to admit that, Pete! 😉

      I think the biggest thing that drives parents to strictly monitor what media their kids encounter is fear. And like everything else, the argument can be made that fear comes from a lack of trust in God. God is so much bigger than Stryper. . . did I have to type those words? I just typed those words, didn’t I?

      No offense to any Stryper fans reading my blog.

  • JP Rennquist (@JPRennquist)

    I’m gonna take a risk here and say that “Honestly” is one of the best four-minute lighters-up hair ballads of the 80s. I’ve been a DJ 20 years and that song is still a floor-filler for the 30-50 set. Especially now that they’ve given themselves permission to like Stryper either ironically or unironically.

    But anyway ….

    I get concerned when my kids are too obsessed with any media, be it music, book series, TV or movies. I think Harry Potter got a bad rap from the Christian right. I always say that folks should spend less time banging Bibles on people’s heads and more time reading and studying what it really actually says.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      I’m YouTube’ing “Honesty” right now. 🙂

      I like media for my kids – I like the idea that they will get involved in stories, get invested in them, and learn to love storytelling in general. I believe that storytelling is one of the most powerful teaching methods there is, and the Bible is such a cool narrative. I want my kids to read the Bible with a sense of excitement, like I do – and I think that media plays a part in building in them the mindset to enjoy the story.

      If only I could get them to put it down long enough to go play outside.

  • DB Beem

    My issue with most children’s programming has more to do with the low quality of the story telling and animation. I also have a general problem with shows that paint adults and parental figures as buffoons and morons and shows that seem to emphasize that girls should be obsessed with their own physical appearance, boys or being princesses (this coming from a father of daughters).

    On the whole goddess thing, I remember being introduced to the whole Greek Pantheon and the story of the Trojan War at a pretty young age. I don’t ever recall being confused at the relative merits of Apollo and Jesus. That said, recently we watched something about the destruction of Pompeii, which showed all these doomed people praying to Zeus/Jupiter. We had to explain to my daughter that they weren’t really praying to Jesus.

    As a parent, I think it’s easier to ban something than to explain it or discuss it with my kids. It’s funny because fifty years ago, the Christian movie and book industry did not even exist. What did Christians read fifty or even a hundred years ago, when they were not reading the Bible? They read popular literature! Although, for some, before they started banning Harry Potter, they were probably trying to ban “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

    Apologies for the long comment (and the following digression), but maybe part of the problem is that the same Christians who try to apply a kind of bounded set approach to faith, also apply a bounded set approach to media and literature. Either you’re in or you’re out. In other words, unless Harry Potter is talking about Jesus, he’s bad. Unless New Justice is handing out tracts, they’re evil. Unless the trailer for Don Miller’s new movie has someone giving a three point sermon in it, then clearly people might get the “wrong idea.” This bounded set approach has lost the capacity to see people as they really are and doesn’t really see people the way God sees us. People are usually not black and white. Most of us are kind of gray, but if we approach story telling as a black and white proposition, then we are left with characters seem saccharine, a view of faith that is phony and contrived and happy endings that never happen in the real world. Personally, what makes Jesus most wonderful to me is that he can meet us and redeem us even in the muddy waters of real life.

    (My only big criticism of your post here Dan is that you should be defending music that is a little better than Belinda Carlisle. That song makes me ill for reasons having nothing to do with faith.)

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Hey DB – let me clear the air here. I do not support the music of Belinda Carlisle! Let us approach this subject with caution, as this is how rumors get started. “Hey, I heard that WTFaith guy likes Belinda Carlisle!” I would never live that down.

      So yeah, children’s programming can be very low quality, absolutely. And I strongly discourage my kids from watching shows that I consider to be stupid and vapid – but I don’t do that because those shows put their souls in jeopardy. Rather, I do it because I’m a little “culture snobbish” myself, perhaps out of self defense against all the crap that they spew at me (Michael Bay, anyone?) all the time, and I want my kids to develop the same snobbery. Quality is quality, regardless of medium, and there is no substitute for quality programming.

      That’s also the reason I didn’t encourage my own daughters to read the “Twilight” books – I firmly believe that the character of Bella Swan is a huge, regressive step toward the “damsel in distress” archetype I think we should be moving away from. I don’t care that the books/movies have vampires and werewolves – they have a ridiculous depiction of women, and I don’t want my daughters to think they should be emulating that!

      I also think that the question of “ban something versus discuss it”, I agree that banning is definitely easier. But doesn’t that make our kids want to watch it/read it even more? I know that’s what it did for me as a kid, and I was only banned from seeing Rated R movies. So what you do think I did my best to sneak out and watch at my friends’ houses?

      One last thought (and never apologize for a long comment – I love them) about the Greek Pantheon. I enjoy exposing my kids to stories that depict ancient, non-Christian cultures, because the Bible gives me lots of ways to tie them back to Jesus. After all, Paul pointed out the altar “to an unknown god” to the population of Athens, and that’s a super-cool historical tie-in. For me, it’s sort of like when I read my sons (my youngest kids) their Read & Learn Bible stories at night. . . the history allows me to tie everything together. “No, those people are praying to an Egyptian god. Remember when the Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians, then God delivered them through Moses and Aaron?”

      • DB Beem

        Regarding your comment on the effects of “banning”, I hear what you’re saying.

        I attended Christian High School. One popular topic of our chapel services was the effect of backwards masking. This usually involved someone who would play Zepplin and ELO records backwards. What was the effect? Did it scare us? Did people stop listening to these bands. Actually, instead they went home got their records and played their own albums backwards. It was too much to resist.

        I guess in this digital age, kids playing their records backwards seems like a whole different world.

      • Daniel Mitchell

        Oh I’m sure we’ll hear about a new kind of horror being hidden in MP3’s any day now. The newsmakers in this country like nothing better than coming up with new and creative ways to frighten parents about what their children are doing.

  • Holden Caulfield

    I have to agree 100%. Although I am sure there are people responsible for some nefarious content in the production of what our kids view or consume, my greater concern is the pure crap that is passed off as entertainment these days. I try to tell my kids that music today is really only music by technical default. It has a rythm and lyrics. But it is not art by any means. The remake of every half successful movie from the 80’s should be proof of this. The artistic, original content tap has been run dry. They are taking all the same stories and adding cgi and making a ton of jack off of it. I am really more concerned that my kids (and wife) become part of the massive consuming machine. If anyone wants to disagree thats fine. everyone is entitled to their opinion. But please look up some side by side voice comparisons of modern “musicians” with and without autotune. What would they do it you took away their beat producing software and autotunes?

    I have listened to my share of Church rule on my kids. I laugh now. I remember the evil that our blessed churches have exposed over the years. There was the D&D and Kiss as you mentioned but there have been so many more. Pokemon was one that i loved. It was short for poket monster and for some reason that would give satan blood right to your soul because of the word monster or some crap like that. My point is that dont you feel sorry for these people? I mean I get mad because the drag the name of Jesus through the mud but i also pitty them. They have no idea what a true walk with God would be. Basically they are saying that Christ’s sacrifice and payment for us was not sufficient. On top of that we have to follow all of these legalistic laws and rules and OH, be careful because now they are hidden and only the prophetic man and woman can sense them. Please tithe now.

    Sure I believe that we can be attacked. of course. But what they fail to remember is how powerful our God is. They are so busy following man made myth and doctrine that they litterally invent more amongst themselves. It is almost like an addiction. No actually it is just like an addict. There God is their doctrine. There daily worship is being better than their neighbor and hoping God sees this and allows them a pass based on their works.

    You know what God says of our works? they are like filthy rags. Look up the translation of that verse in the original. Rags translates to menstral garments. That proclaims the disdain God has for us forsaking Jesus to do it ourselves doesnt it?

    • Daniel Mitchell

      I like what you’re saying here, because it really touches on a much larger conversation than a Christian media-watch. It really touches on salvation by faith versus as salvation by works. I get the feeling that some people really are put off by salvation by faith, because it doesn’t really give church leaders as much to DO. You talked about people worshiping their own doctrine, and I have seen a lot of that over the years. Sometimes I suspect we “over-think” the scriptures – Jesus said to love God, and to love everyone else. If you do both, seems to me, you’re doing alright, regardless of what cartoons you watch.

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