I saw the latest Harry Potter movie this past week. I see in Harry as he moves into his teen years this frustration and loneliness – “you don’t understand! I can’t take this anymore!” – that alludes kids who don’t know yet that there could be something different. He is growing up. We watch and wait in anticipation of the process and the journey.
I missed the cultural excitement of a generation of readers who had to WAIT, sometimes years, for the next installment of the story. What would happen next? For the kids reading the books, who happened to be around same age as the characters, they see the images of themselves and what they have to go through in life. They relate, even if but a little, to the trials and tribulations, the friendships and the loves, that the characters must endure – for good and for bad. (And, the bad is never glossed over – it can’t be avoided!)
Such excitement. Such anticipation. Wait. Wait, and don’t tell me about it before hand because I want to experience the discovery myself!
I just read an article about the Harry Potter phenomena and some parallels (or anti-parallels) with the Christian faith and the culture. Interesting points. Here is an excerpt:
Those of us who have been reading the Harry Potter novels as they were being published were able to experience something special that future generations of readers won’t â€” the anticipation and suspense of waiting several years between each book. From now on, new readers can read all seven books straight through if they want to. But for the past decade, Harry Potter readers have been part of a global community that has experienced the dramatic tension of waiting for the next installment.
I wonder what it would look like for the gospel story to be more suspenseful. I think one of the most significant aspects about the experience of reading the final Harry Potter book is that we didn’t want to hear spoilers. We had come to know and love the characters so much that we wanted to journey with Harry and his friends. We needed to experience and discover for ourselves what they were going through. We didn’t want to find out in chapter two of book one how it was all going to turn out. Instead, we read seven books and thousands of pages, staying up into the wee hours of the morning, because the journey is every bit as important as the ending. Indeed, without experiencing the adventure of the journey, there wouldn’t have been as much dynamic power to the ending.
Are Christian “gospel presentations” less like the adventure of a Harry Potter novel and more like spoilers that tell you what happened but take all the suspense and delight out of the journey? Maybe Christians have been so intent on getting to the point and bottom-lining things, for the sake of saving souls, that they’ve taken the mystery and surprise out of the narrative. We jump to the end. God loves you, Jesus died for you, pray this prayer, yada yada yada.
It’s well-intentioned but self-defeating. We don’t get to know the characters, so we diminish the experience and the power of the biblical narrative. Often we are so concerned about getting people from here to there that they don’t experience the journey enough to really make the faith their own. We have short-circuited the narrative imagination. What a loss.
I couldn’t agree more. What have we done in the name of religion – or power, or prestige, or insecurity, or fear, or…
This thing called Christianity, this faith, this way of life, this way of being and thinking, is a journey that necessitates personal discovery. It cannot simply be told to us or demanded of us with the expectation of honest and real understanding – the kind that satisfies our inner-most being. Most of all, it takes a whole heck of a lot of waiting, anticipation, and more waiting – and work. This is how it is, no matter how we want it to be. Rawlings was not going to write any faster, no matter how much her fans demanded it. “Make me whole, right NOW!” “Solve all my problems, right NOW.” “Make me feel good, right NOW.” “Make me a millionaire, right NOW!” “Make me popular, self-assured, healed, powerful, funny, straight, ruler of all things, NOW!”
Christianity doesn’t work this way. It just doesn’t, and because the form of the faith that is now in the ascendancy says that it can, we all experience a very deficient faith. And you know what? Most people realize it and have said, “We don’t want anything to do with you all and this Christianity of yours’.” They see the superficiality, the hypocrisy, and the self-deception that runs rampant within American Christianity. It is empty, it is bland, it is irrelevant to the deep calling to the deep. I’m telling ya, the monastics have it right (or as right as possible this side of the divide), even though we cannot all be professed monastics. What then can we be?