On the way into town this morning, I saw the newspaper headline: “Political scholar studies the Harry Potter Generation.” Searching for more content online, I learned that political science professor Anthony Gierzynski has studied the effects of the Harry Potter narrative on the politics of, yes, the Millennial generation.
One of the key points Gierzynski makes in this morning’s Metro is this:
As we become immersed in the story and identify with characters we tend to internalize those lessons and sometimes adopt those characteristics for our own.
I don’t know what this says of me, but immediately my mind went to the book of Deuteronomy, where God through Moses shares these words:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
Keep these words in your heart. Tell and re-tell the stories of your people. Morning, noon and night. Whether at home, or far away. Rehearse the stories of God and God’s faithfulness.
I wonder what would happen if we immersed ourselves in God’s stories just as much as we immerse ourselves in stories like Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Bachelor or the Hunger Games? How would that affect the way we live? What kind of people might we become?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we get rid of these other narratives. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and a number of other stories are incredibly compelling stories that teach us a great deal. Whether JK Rowling or Suzanne Collins had these lessons in mind when they wrote them, I don’t know. But there is a great deal to learn from each of these stories – whether explicitly or implicitly. That’s where Gierzynski’s argument settles:
The key thing is that, while the Potter series was a story designed to entertain, the nature of the story (and indeed any story) is that the characters learn certain lessons as the plot moves along and exhibit certain characteristics.
When it comes to our faith formation. When it comes to our participation in the Christian community, and embodiment of the Christian gospel, we need to be immersed in our story. Not just to know it academically. Not just to know True Statements About God. But to have a sense, a feel, a muscle memory of the story we’re enacting.
Harry and his friends evince an aversion to violence, fight for tolerance and equality and oppose oppressive authority
According to Gierzynski’s research, Potterheads exhibit similar traits and attititudes. Immersed in this seven-part unfolding narrative over the course of 10-15 years, these young people are coming to embody the same values and traits as Harry and his friends.
I wonder what would happen if we took as seriously our immersion in the great narrative of the one who was, and is, and is to come. Surely it’s got more twists and turns than a Harry Potter novel. Surely it’s got as many plot twists as Lost. Surely it too is a story worth living by.