Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Encouragement from Harry Potter

Well, friends, I just finished HP #7 and then read a short article from Christianity Today about what Jonathan Edwards would think about Harry Potter. The author of the article claimed that the draw of the Potter series was transcendence and the lure of the afterlife. It stated that death was at the core of the Harry Potter books and that, as Christians, we needed to counter the Potter view of death and the afterlife.

My brother-in-law wanted my thoughts on the article. This is what I told him . . . and what I thought you might be interested in as well. And if you keep reading here, you’ll see what I found encouraging, for all of us. (Note: I’m not meaning to address occult issues, witches, wizards, or any of that below as I have nothing new to add that hasn’t already been said. What you’ll find below, I think, is a different perspective – not about whether HP is good or bad, but rather what encouragement we, as Christians, may gain from the HP phenomenon, and how we might speak to the heart of our culture about the wonder of Christ.) So, here goes:

I'd say the author of the CT piece fails to understand the true draw of Harry Potter. The author says, "it does mean that if the world's imagination is captured by Potter-esque versions of the afterlife and the transcendent—a less-than-Christian way of looking at the world—we have work to do." But I would say that the world's imagination was not captured by the versions of the afterlife or the transcendent in Harry Potter (nor even with the idea of witchcraft and wizardry!), but with the triumph of good over evil and the power of self-sacrifice. What fascinates people, I think, (besides all the interesting details of Rowling’s wizarding world) is the fleshing out of John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (NIV) That's the underlying theme that Harry Potter is built on.

The author of the CT piece misses the point when he says that death is at the core of the books’ meaning. Harry Potter is not about death, it's about how to live - it's about becoming selfless. And there's something in people that wants good to triumph, that understands the nobility of sacrifice for others, that still deplores self-seeking. What's truly at the core, then, is friendship, loyalty, putting others' needs before one's own. That's what attracts people, that's what has them cheering for Harry and the other good guys in HP.

What this should tell us about our culture is less that it's interested in the transcendent and more that the heart of the gospel will still resonate with the people of our generation. It tells us that people want what Christ is. They are, as always, drawn to the things that make Christianity unique - laying down one's life, sacrifice for others, selflessness. So, I think the message to take from the HP phenomenon is not "we have to write better than HP to draw imaginations away" but rather "we who know Christ can share with freedom, because the heart of Christianity still captures the hearts of the world."

I firmly believe that God plants metaphors of the gospel in every culture - things that can help Christians to open the gospel in meaningful ways to people who don't understand Christ. Countless missionaries to before-unreached civilizations can attest to this fact. So perhaps Harry Potter can be a metaphor for our generation, a starting place to expand on the wonder of our vivid God, to help people grasp, with breath-taking awe, what Christ has done for us. Just as Paul used the monument to the unknown god in Acts, so too we may use the underlying themes in Harry Potter to expose the wonder of Christ.

So, there's my take on the whole Harry Potter craze. As to what Jonathan Edwards would say, I don't know. Hopefully, he would use Harry Potter to talk about the amazing thing that Christ did for us on the cross, and how we, in turn, can be more like Christ by putting others first, by sacrificing for them, by emulating true love. And hopefully, we too, will take encouragement from the Harry Potter phenomenon to share the heart of Christ’s work on the cross, and to capture our generation with the wonder of self-sacrificing love, love that laid down its life that we might be freed from the evil one.

7 Random Things

Hi Friends!

My incredible website designer, Kelli Standish, tagged me the other day for 7 Random Things. So, I'm supposed to post 7 random things about myself to my blog for y'all to read. So, here you go:

1) I once helped build a church in a small village in Madagascar. We built the church out of re-mud bricks, put together with mud. It was the first church the villagers had ever had.

2) I was a cheerleader in 7th and 8th grade. Go Newcastle Knights!

3) I got a horse, Hustling Hobo, when I was 9. I paid for him with my own money that I'd been saving since I was little.

4) I've been a licensed minister in the Church of the Nazarene.

5) I can eat A LOT of pepperoni pizza.

6) My hubby and I have been married almost 19 years. It took 11 years of infertility before we had a baby. We now have 4 girls (yay!) and so far have also had 5 miscarriages (ugh!).

7) I am a really, really awful singer. But that didn't stop me from helping my hubby with worship leading some years ago when we were co-pastoring a small Nazarene church. It also doesn't stop me from singing worship songs at my current church, to the chagrin of the people around me.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tragedy: Is God Mad At Me?

Dear Friends,

Thanks so much for stopping by my newly designed blog (isn't it great?!!?). Here, now and in the weeks to come, you’ll find insights into my latest book, Veil of Fire, as well as thoughts about the living life with God, and occasional spotlights on other novels from a Christian perspective.

My goal is to make this a place where you can come to think deeply about the things of God, to ignite your faith, to shake up pat answers, and to discover the wonder of God’s love for you.

And so, to that end, I offer the following . . .

Not long ago, someone asked me this question about an aspect of Veil of Fire, "One of the characters thought the fire might have been a judgment from God. Yet, your story didn’t give assent to that idea. What do you feel is the danger of ascribing every tragedy to a form of divine displeasure?"

And here’s what I answered:

When I think of the great men of faith in the Bible, I find people who were both close to God and also faced tragedy and pain – not for punishment or because of God's displeasure, but because that was part of what God had called them to in their journey with Him. Abraham, the father of faith, faced infertility. David was chased by a crazy king. Peter was hung upside down on a cross. Paul was beaten and thrown again and again into prison before being finally martyred. John, named the disciple Christ loved, was exiled. And those examples don’t even include prophets like Hosea, Jeremiah, Habakkuk.

And what happened to Christ Himself? He died on a cross.

So, these examples and many, many more in the Bible tell me that hardships, tragedies, and pain are often not a sign of God’s displeasure or punishment but rather are to be expected in a life lived with God. They also tell me that every tragedy can be transformed. It may still hurt and be oh-so-hard, but it need not be purposeless and futile. When God weaves the tapestry of our lives, some of the colors are those of pain and tragedy, but if we let him do the weaving, the picture can be one of breathtaking beauty.

So, given that, I see two big dangers in ascribing every tragedy to divine displeasure. First, such a view causes us to focus on ourselves and the question of “why” rather than focus on the “who” of who God is and how He is with us in the midst of our tragedies and pain. And second, the “punishment” view causes us to turn away from the very one who is there to help and strengthen us in the face of tragedy. Instead of looking to God to help us, we look at Him as an adversary, as the One causing the pain. The result is that we become estranged from God just when He is seeking to transform our tragedies into something that will strengthen us and make us new.

In the epilogue of Veil of Fire, the hermit says, “I am . . . loved by God even through fire. Loved too much for him to leave me in my pain. And I know that even though I will always carry the scars, inside I am healed of wounds far more deep, far more ugly than those the fire caused . . . I am made new.” And that is what I think is the main goal of God in our hurts, our hardships, our firestorms. He’s not looking to punish us; instead He wants to transform us and make us new.