Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I was one of two "religious" representatives on a panel about "Morality at the Movies." The diverse group included movie-industry people, journalists, and lawyers, but somehow I got branded as the radical. Here is what I proposed: parents should support one another as they try to guide their kids on which movies are appropriate to see. "My kids know much better than I do which movies are best for them," one parent responded. "What right do parents have to say what is right for teenagers?" said one college student. "What's the big deal?" another adult chimed in. "As long as it doesn't support hate and violence, it's just entertainment."The discussion soon became heated and enjoyable, but I came away surprised at the cultural resistance to adults' acting like parents. Even in this post-Columbine era, daring to say which entertainment choices ennoble and which degrade children gets one quickly branded a "fundamentalist."So I have read the Christians Object to Harry Potter headlines with a jaundiced eye. These Christian protesters are newsworthy only because in our culture there is so little debate about what is good for our kids. Christians often serve as the cultural superego. In a morally chaotic world, it has become our task to voice objections to moral deviance, and it is the mainstream culture's job to tell us why we are "uptight," "ridiculous," and/or "bigoted." Along comes a popular children series about witchcraft and journalists scurry to their Rolodexes, looking under "F" for "frothy fundamentalists" to get a good quote. Thus when a relatively small number of Christian parents ask that their kids' schools not read Harry Potter, we read about it in all the major newspapers.

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September 4, 2000

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