Fiction, Heroism, Faith and Dogma
This is another of my “defense of the fantasy genre” posts. Sort of. Random thoughts, really.
I just got done watching a rental of the second part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I never “got into” the Harry Potter fandom and I haven’t even read the books, but I’ve seen and enjoyed the films. Something really struck me with this one – I really have a “thing” for the idea of heroic sacrifice. It’s one of the most beautiful things I can see in a fiction (one could argue as such in real life, but real life contains real tragedy). While real life makes me sad, I just eat up this stuff in stories – heroes facing death bravely, sacrifice for the greater good, that kind of thing.
I’d like to read the books now. I am struck by the *bitter regret* that I didn’t read the books when they first came out and Harry was staring to get popular. One of the main reasons why I didn’t read them? The church. I’m not talking “religion” in general – as people who read me know, I find world religions intensely interesting and am very much into and a supporter of true faith. What I’m talking about is - I used to go to a Southern Baptist church – and actually split time between two of them when my home church split (not due to politics, due to a financial upkeep of the building/land issue). It was a very nice church family with very good people in it, but many of the people there and the leadership had a lot of viewpoints that were suspicious of certain things. In fact, I remember being a bit hesitant in sharing my preference for reading and writing in the fantasy genre to people I knew from church, and when I did share it, I’d emphasize how “Narnia-like” my work was.
It’s kind of funny, I read all the time now on the Internet about people who have to stay “closeted” to their church about their sexuality, or something that they did, serious stuff, and my “closet” (which I didn’t even stay all the way in) was my love of science fiction and fantasy.
Harry Potter was one of the things people had suspicions about. When the church split, the pastor of one church even preached an anti-Harry sermon because of all the “pagan influences upon the children.” I wasn’t in attendance for that sermon due to some life issue or sleeping in that Sunday or something, but I’d heard about it.
Yet, I remember the church kids being allowed to bring their Gameboys to church (kept them from fidgeting during the adult-sermon) and no one had problems with me drawing dragons and stuff all over the church-bulletins. *Hee.* And I look back and think “These overprotective parents who wouldn’t let their kids read Harry Potter let them play Pokemon and Zelda games (The Oracle games were out then) – oh, if ONLY THEY KNEW the ‘paganism’ in those!”
Harry Potter just has magic and wizardry without too much (that I remember seeing from the films) in the ways of a theology – those videogame titles I saw the kids playing and know because I play them myself? Pokemon have gods – at least I think a mythology was developed for the latter games along those lines, I haven’t kept up with recent games of that series. But – yes, your teenage pokemon trainer character can capture gods if I recall correctly. The Legend of Zelda series is based upon a mythology full of gods, spirits and a grand Trinity of Goddesses.
And yet, all these very “pagan” things have much more “Christianity” in them than some of the church-approved books that I’ve read and “Christian” things I’ve seen. (At least, if you, like me, like to define “True Christianity” as something involving a higher calling, striving for goodness, self-sacrifice, love…) Back when lots of people were reading Harry Potter years ago I was reading…. *makes the “I have met Excalibur face from the anime Soul Eater* … Left Behind.
I only actually *bought* the first book (I’m thinking of making it into a paper-mache’ art project loaded with symbolism because I can never bring myself to throw *books* away and don’t know what to do with it), and thankfully read the rest of what I read of the series through library-checkouts. I also, thankfully only read about halfway into the series, to book 8 or something, I can’t recall.
I don’t feel like giving a link to Slacktivist – since people who read me probably know that blog already. If not, look it up. You really shouldn’t need Slack to tell you how bad LB is, but, really, the blog gives one a nice reminder. Not only does LB make the apocalypse boring, the characters have a lot of … the authors try to tell us how heroic they are without the characters showing much in the ways of heroism. As I recall what I’ve read of the books (years ago), the characters really are more about seeing prophecies come to pass than they are in *caring* that the world’s falling apart. I also seem to remember large portions of the novels being taken up by the characters trying to escape this or that, avoid death even if it meant that lots of other people were going to die because “it’s prophecy!” and the others were just the “unsaved” rabble, anyway. Sort of the opposite of the heroic sacrifice and courageous facing of death I so love.
I think about those cold, ineffectual “heroes” and compare them to Harry Potter, whom I just saw willing to face down death if it meant the end of the ultimate evil Big Bad and the saving of his friends and the whole entire world. I even compare them to Link of the Legend of Zelda videogame series (an *intentionally blank* character / series of characters who displays only a very few core personality traits in order to take a backseat to the emotions of the player as an immersive player-character. Yes, even Mr. Blank Slate has more heroism in his little toe than some other fictional “heroes”) - While Link is, in part, you, the character makes loads of sacrifices and is willing to face down death to save his world. (And the latest installment of the series, Skyward Sword – has title-character Zelda as a once-goddesses who *gave up her immortality and goddesshood* to become a mortal because that’s what it took to seal the Big Bad in an ancient age).
I mean… wow.
These “pagan” things which are supposed to be so bad for everyone according to some “church” types have so much more of the “core” lessons of the stories and sermons I’ve heard in churches in them and read in my New Testament than some supposedly “Christian” media.
I know I’m not the only one who sees this.
Also, it is one of the reasons why I let portions of myself (including ideas I have on faith, life, the universe and everything) color my work as any author’s views will color their work - but strive not to write anything particularly allegorical or particularly “segregated” or “for a market.” I want the messages in my fiction to be universal, like the heroism and beauty in all of the fiction I really love.