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J.K. Rowling’s collision with the culture

Daniel Darling | The realms of reality and fantasy butt heads in the Harry Potter author’s world


J.K. Rowling Associated Press/Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision (file)

J.K. Rowling’s collision with the culture
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Recently, HBO Max assembled the actors from the Harry Potter movie franchise for a 20-year reunion special. For anyone who grew up watching the films, it was a wonderful bit of nostalgia. But there was a glaring omission. J.K. Rowling, the author of the bestselling Harry Potter books, was absent, though clips of interviews she did in 2019 were interspersed throughout. Officially, Rowling and HBO denied that her outspoken comments on women and the transgender movement hovered over Hogwarts. But the truth was obvious.

In the past, Rowling has committed the cardinal cultural sin of expressing concern about the obvious conflict between the rights of women and the transgender movement. Her first crime was to like a tweet by feminist Magdalen Burn, who affirmed the science and reality of biological sex. Her seemingly innocuous affirmation of this tweet invited significant pushback from the media and many celebrities, including actors from the Harry Potter franchise. Unlike many who are easily intimidated after speaking out on this issue, Rowling doubled down, and in a lengthy statement on her website in 2020, she explained her concern, noting that the blurring of biological gender distinctions adversely affects scientific research into the way disease affects men and women differently. She also expressed concern about the exploding number of young people who, having transitioned early in life, were now regretting their decision and seeking to de-transition. 

Since those comments, the vitriol toward Rowling has not abated. It has only increased. Most media outlets cast her comments as hateful and bigoted, with many celebrities, quite predictably, denouncing her. And yet, the popularity of the Harry Potter franchise, both on screen and in print, has not diminished. Rowling will not be canceled. 

There is a certain irony, of course, about where Christians find themselves in relation to Harry Potter. When the books first burst on this scene in the 1990s, evangelicals ranged from entertained to skeptical to antagonistic. The fantasy world Rowling created was seen as an embrace of sorcery and witchcraft. And yet today, it is Rowling’s unwillingness to live in another fantasy, the willing suspension of reality that says gender is fluid, that has evangelicals finding common cause with the iconic author.

Untrue worldviews are always incomprehensible and eventually run into reality.

Rowling has found herself in a massive collision with the culture. Her position is consistent with the unavoidable common sense of God’s natural law, unchanging through the ages. That creation grace shines through the cracks of the secular worldview and its sexual ideologies. The immutable laws of the universe, set in motion by a loving Creator are a signpost to truth, a doorway to discovering God’s revelation about Himself. Untrue worldviews are always incomprehensible and eventually run into reality.

Of course, we will have many areas of disagreement with Rowling, who doesn’t exactly adhere to a fully formed Christian sexual ethic. And yet we can admire her courage in defying the reigning narrative. If the author of Harry Potter can see and state what is plain about biological reality, why can’t Christians, who possess God’s full revelation, do the same? 

Too often Christians seem embarrassed to believe (or defend in public) what the Bible clearly says. But we should not be moved from declaring, to a confused world, what we know to be true and beautiful about God’s unique design for men and women. We are to speak, not with words of condemnation but with words of compassion, communicating that God has a better word for those who struggle with gender dysphoria than the false promises offered by the transgender movement.

To those who struggle with their identity, who don’t feel at home in their bodies, we offer the gospel promise, not of temporary transition but of permanent resurrection at the end of the age, when Christ will renew our broken bodies and make us whole again. We point them to the Spirit of God who is a comforter in affliction who regenerates our sinful desires. This promise may seem like fantasy to a secular world, but it is, thanks be to God, reality.


Daniel Darling

Daniel Darling is director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a bestselling author of several books, including The Original Jesus, The Dignity Revolution, The Characters of Christmas, The Characters of Easter, and A Way With Words. He is also the host of a popular weekly podcast, The Way Home. Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College, has studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Angela have four children.

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SAWGUNNER

The only thing worse than being attacked by the gaystapo is to find oneself besieged by screaming hordes of trans-tulas out to slam and slander you in the Trans friendly media. That's why Dave Chappelle and Rowling need all our prayers. Chappelle said that to genuine real women the trans-women are the moral equivalent of minstrel show black face actors. As black face cast members exemplified the bigoted distortions of whites so too trans women often seem to be crude approximations of what some men imagine women to be

GC

I think our biggest challenge as Christians in regard to this topic is not that we are embarrassed to declare the truth of God's word, but that we fail to do so with compassion and grace. More often, I hear or see us respond with ridicule and mockery.

ormondotvos

I'm heartily in favor of living in reality and avoiding lies and fantasy about the world we live in.
That's why I rejected religion at an early age: because it so often conflicted with the obvious truth I and millions of others perceived through science, and observation.
Are you people nuts? How can you condemn genderism and embrace myths?
Grow up!

not silentormondotvos

You are certainly entitled to your opinions, but there are a lot of people (like me) who do not see a conflict between our religious beliefs and science. If anything, I find they are complimentary. I read an article a few years ago from UC Berkeley that made the same point and noted that many scientists have deep religious beliefs (just as many do not) and that science and religion serve different purposes. For one thing, science, as an objective discipline, is more about studying how and why instead of defining morality.

We have had many great scientists and wonderful discoveries, but it doesn’t appear that we have figured out how to get along with each other. Some might blame “religion” (and, to be fair, many atrocities have been committed in the name of various religions); but atrocities have also been committed in the name of non-religious causes like Communism. So it appears to me that the problem is humans.

ormondotvosnot silent

And religion has no objective basis for imposing morality, whereas science does.
I'd much prefer that powers-that-be actually exist.
Opinion vs opinion is a mug's game.
First agree on terms and processes.
Mere belief authorizes hallucinations and fairy tales.
Admit that your beliefs are social enablers, not fit for moralizing.

not silentormondotvos

Respectfully, you don’t know me or my beliefs. What is your objective basis for judging me or assuming I believe “fairy tales” or “hallucinations “?

For example (Sorry for the edit): How exactly does science objectively impose morality? And how do you know (scientifically and objectively) that I and others haven’t encountered a powerful and benign extra terrestrial being who can exist in multiple dimensions and/or universes?

ormondotvosnot silent

Typical shifting of the burden of proof.
YOU posit gods, and arrogantly pretend to speak for a being you can't sensibly define, in order to tell me what to do.
Define your terms. Define your lab processes.

not silentormondotvos

(Again, sorry for the edits; they are for clarity.) I was just responding to your original claim. I don’t see anything in my comment which tells you what to do or claims to speak for anyone. All I did was ask a few questions.

Big Jimnot silent

Hey not silent, does this exchange remind you of the old days?

Salty1ormondotvos

But is it rational to reject God when we see the fine tuning of the fundamental constants and the fine tuning in the laws of physics? The incredible complexity seen in all the nanomachines of the human body working together harmoniously also points to the existence of God! I believe in God because it is most rational.

ormondotvosSalty1

Most rational, or most comfortable?
Is the universe adapted for us, or are we adapted to this
crusted molten cored rock?
We're fake talkin' if we purport to know something we
can't even describe.
Describe God.

not silentormondotvos

Respectfully, I have a few more questions . Before I ask, please note that I am not making claims, just asking you to clarify your comment. Would you mind explaining why you are asking if belief in God is “more comfortable” or “more rational”? Is there some connection or disparity between objective “reason” and the subjective feeling of “comfort”? Along those lines, exactly how “comfortable” are you personally with the concept of God as described in the Bible?

ormondotvosnot silent

Q1: Some people find that rationality stresses them by challenging their cultural beliefs. Take for instance a Christian pastor who rationally becomes atheist. Big social problems. Uncomfortable. Thus I'm implying that my rationality may not be everyone's choice, for lifestyle reasons like family relations and the shaming and distrust of atheists.
Q2: Which of the historically many Bibles do you refer to? As a cultural anthropologist, the editing process is expected. The concept of God in the Christian holy book? Confused and contradictory. Vengeance, racism, violence, cruelty. Then undefined love. Very derivative of previous religions. Obviously invented. I especially detest the "mystery" cop-out, where all contradictions are brushed away by self-appointed explainers of ineffables. Much prefer "I don't know" rather than goofy talk-arounds.

not silentormondotvos

Thanks for your answers. Fair enough. If I may share my own perspective, it was not extremely difficult for me to believe in God. (Sorry for the edits): One might say that my belief in God agreed with “truths” that seemed obvious to me and with my observations.

By contrast, it WAS very uncomfortable (to use your terminology) to actually follow my beliefs or take them seriously. I was bullied from the beginning because I refused to cheat and didn’t want to drink (my dad was an alcoholic and I saw how much it hurt people around him.) My dad claimed not to believe in God and mocked me and others who did. I was told I could lose my job if I mentioned my beliefs. So it certainly wasn’t easy or comfortable!

However, it has brought me peace, joy, meaning, purpose, and freedom to be the person I was meant to be. For what it’s worth, my current beliefs are different from what I was taught as a child. THOSE things didn’t make sense to me and I immediately rejected them.

Re which Bible, that’s a complicated question (as I think you know). I will tell you that I have looked into the historical evidence and history of the Bible quite a bit, so I'm not just accepting it without question. I can also say that the God I believe in is not racist, abusive, or cruel-though he does care about justice.

ormondotvosnot silent

No True Scotsman again.

not silentormondotvos

I'm not trying to pile on, just add another observation: For what it's worth, I admit there are quite a few mysteries and things I don't understand/can't explain about the Bible. But that alone does not mean it is not valid or "real." I.e., Surely you aren't going to claim that there are no contradictions in science and no "mysteries." (I'm in the medical field, and I hear contradictory data all the time. There are also many things which cannot be adequately explained at present.)

ormondotvosnot silent

Tu Quoque.
And medicine is hardly a religion.

I'm done.

No beef here.

not silentormondotvos

I’m replying here because otherwise it’s too hard to read on my phone. Thanks for the discussion. I wish you the best.

SAWGUNNERnot silent

I generally avoid replying to troll posts. No, I don't mean yours. See the exchange above for a good example. Mud wrestle with a hog and you just get dirty while the hog enjoys it!

Jason Maas

In his book "Live Not By Lies" Rod Dreher encourages us to form alliances with those who speak truth on a topic, even if we disagree with them on [many] other things. We can stand in agreement with J.K. Rowling about the truth that male and female are real characteristics with real impact.

SAWGUNNERJason Maas

The black comedian Dave Chappelle also is not afraid to expose the absurdity of trans ideology.

JDUN2750

J. K. Rowling's recent book, The Ickabog, spells out in story form how people are led into believing lies; how to recognize lies when confronted with them; and how to stand up to them and counter them with truth, as well as why it is so important to do so. I was very impressed with that book, and will be encouraging my children to read it regularly. Ms. Rowling understands these concepts, and I hope and pray she will hold firm- and that wherever she is with the Lord, He will draw her closer.