There’s a chill in the air this morning that warns of impending winter and the visceral melancholy of autumn’s graceful death. As I try to warm up like a lizard awaiting the ascending sun, I think that maybe I’d better write this post before everyone forgets Harry Potter completely. It is the beginning of the witching season as sometime late tonight fall officially begins and people in temperate climes are permitted to show their fears as the barrier between seasons becomes effaced and the darkness slinks in. A few Harry Potter novels ago, a local town in Wisconsin sponsored a downtown release party for the book with a street-fair sporting a feel of general bonhomme. While sauntering down the incongruously sun-lit streets, enjoying the sense of people just having fun, I spotted this man with a placard across the street.
The truly scary part of this scenario is that I knew exactly where this fellow was coming from: the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it. Black and white. Right and wrong. Good and evil. Strangely enough, there was no such dividing line for fact and fiction. Yes, I knew that the Bible condemns witchcraft, but I also knew that J. K. Rowling was a fiction writer. I had read the Bible enough times to know that it contains no commandments about what genre of fiction is permissible and to know that some biblical heroes were deeply flawed characters. Jonah and his big fish. David and the giant monkey on his back. Hezekiah and his doubts. I can’t pretend not to know the searing sting of needing a clear answer, and yet I had already discovered the infinite shades of gray that reside between pure white and absolute black. Bible covers should all be gray.
That very year a conservative evangelical administration had axed a highly praised job of over a decade’s duration, believing it to be in the name of righteousness. A conservative evangelical president was unleashing hellish terror on a country that had the misfortune of being the victim of a bloodthirsty dictator. And this man with a placard felt he had to underscore that even a flight of fantasy on a broomstick over a quidditch field of imagination was evil incarnate. Once again my mind turned to Molech, the perhaps fictional Canaanite deity who is never satisfied. In the Bible it was enough simply to believe that people were sacrificing their children to the fiery Molech. “White and black,” I could almost hear the tremulous author whispering as he penned his horrid fiction. History tends to paint a different picture, but then, historians make liberal use of the myriad shades of gray.