This month’s edition is provided by
Rev Nigel Jones
Confession time: appropriately, since by the time you read this it will be well and truly Lent. My shameful confession is that I like Harry Potter and Star Wars. Both of which are considered by the cognoscenti (or should that be the chattering classes? i.e. people talking to each other in a Radio 4 studio at 3 o’clock on a weekday afternoon) to be low-brow. Even the Lord of the Rings (of course, my favourite book) is looked down upon by ‘those who know’ about literature, despite being the nation’s favourite book and despite having been written by an Oxford professor of linguistics and literature! For some reason being completely ignorant of 20th century science seems to carry no shame for these people! LOL
Star Wars can be appreciated for (if nothing else) the special effects. Not just impressive but also truly beautiful images of what distant planets, stars and space-ships might look like. There is a sense conveyed that other parts of the Universe are just as stunning as what you might see on Blue Planet II.
I suppose I also like Star Wars because it has accompanied me through my life, the first film (intriguingly called Episode IV) having come out in 1977 when I was 8 and just the right age to latch on to what has become, for much of our world’s population, the new mythology. Many people today are far more familiar with the Jedi, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader than with the Holy Spirit, St Paul or the Last Supper.
So we can be thankful (to George Lucas, I suppose) that this new mythology, despite its faults, is at least wholesome, with a clear sense of right and wrong, and the need to fight for what is good and true even when all seems hopeless. Childish? Maybe, but kids’ stuff is what dreams are made of.
When I was ill a couple of months ago and wanting some easy entertainment I picked up again the first Harry Potter book. My recollection had been that the first 3 or 4 of the series of 7 were very funny (which they are) but that the later part of the series becomes rather stodgy, and I wasn’t intending to read them all. But for some reason on re-reading I was gripped by the whole lot.
Some Christians initially objected to Harry Potter because it portrays witches and wizards as benign but that seems to me a superficial critique. As in Star Wars the values it imparts (to- let’s not forget- millions of people!) include: bravery; the importance of being a faithful friend; the difference between right and wrong (“Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right”); the importance of admitting you are wrong and saying sorry; mercy (Harry rescues his enemy Draco from certain death); respect for others (‘If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals’); the need to stand on one’s own two feet as one grows up (Harry’s hero and mentor has to leave him); a belief in life after death and that greatness in this world and in the world to come look very different indeed; in the saving power of love; in the reality of the need to live with grief and come to terms with loss; the need to be positive (can you conjure a Patronus?); and, yes, the healing power of laughing out loud.
And finally here’s one to reflect on: ‘It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.’
Reverend Nigel Jones
Vicar at St Andrew’s Church, Caversham Heights