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177. How Does J. K. Rowling’s World Expose Legalism, Fandom, and Sexual Activism? | with Marian Jacobs

Harry Potter’s author proves more complex than many of her characters, seeking to show human nature better than her critics.
Fantastical Truth on Aug 29, 2023 · Series: · No comments

Alas! We must report that another back-to-school season has come upon us, and we Muggles haven’t gotten our letter to Hogwarts.1 But since the 1990s, that infamous wizarding world has received plenty of Howlers, not just from concerned Christians but from zealous fans and even sexual activists. One recent podcast, “The Witch Trials of J. K. Rowling,” brewed all this into a bubbling cauldron of controversy. Now our own staff writer Marian Jacobs, who’s crafting her own book about a biblical Christian worldview of fictional magic, appears in our studio to help teach defense against these dark arts.

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  1. Enclave Publishing: Savage Bred by Victoria McCombs
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  3. Michelle M. Bruhn: Songflight and Stormdance

Concession stand

  • This is less about the Potter series and more about this “Witch Trials” podcast.
  • Just like Rowling, let’s be careful to discern between victims and victimizers.
  • This podcast includes gross worldviews and misogynist, vulgar quotes.
  • When we say “legalism,” we mean any unbiblical rules treated as biblical.
  • When we say “fandom,” we mean any group of story readers/viewers.
  • When we say “sexual activism,” we mean a new political/religious/social cause.
  • This newer religion prizes human sexual autonomy over traditional human views.
  • Stephen calls this novelty religious/social belief system “Sexualityism.”
  • When leaders use this to alter policy, he calls this “sexual imperialism.”
  • This all seems very philosophical—thus our Back to Magic School series!
  • But we think this podcast is vital to help Christian fans discern our world.

Reintroducing guest Marian Jacobs

Marian Jacobs has created Lorehaven stories since the first print issue, exploring Jesus, monsters, and spaceships. Her work has also featured at Desiring God and Stage and Story. Follow all Marian’s progress at Sign up and get her free steampunk fantasy Automated. Her first nonfiction book, a scriptural analysis and guide to discerning fictional magic, is set for summer 2025 release from B&H Publishing.

1. Her fictional wizards uncloaked Christian legalism.

  • Witch Trials” episode 2 focuses on this, with great sense of proportion.
  • One implicit point: Christian critics should have seen Rowling as human.
  • Unlike one infamous Onion satire, she was never a witch, just a woman.
  • We need the biblical anthropology that Rowling reflects in her world.
  • But she needs the biblical theology Christians have in the real world.
  • Rowling shows compassion toward HP’s conservative Christian critics
  • Largely, so does the podcast, with sympathetic portrayals on all sides.
  • Yet many Christians must answer for being driven by secular media then.
  • (Similarly, we must practice better discernment with conservative media.)
  • John MacArthur and John Hagee make cameos; only Hagee gets named.
  • Todd Friel of the Wretched ministry also makes a cameo, but not named.
  • (Friel is also a much later HP criticizer—not in the era being described.

2. Her bestselling books built a next-gen fandom.

  • Podcast episode 3 really focuses on how Harry Potter met internet.
  • MuggleNet: founded in 1999 by 12-year-old Indiana homeschool kid!
  • Early fandom bullies and trolls had disproportionate power in forums.
  • We can view “trolls” as similar to the biblical term fools (as in Proverbs).
  • Starting around 2012, Rowling observed a negative shift in fandoms.
  • Rowling does well showing “critical appreciation” for her own fandom.
  • As in our last episode 176, this shows some amazing common grace.
  • In the ’90s, people hoped for “collective consciousness on the internet.”
  • Now we’re dealing with reality. Digital worlds connect yet divide us.
  • On person on the show said, “Social media has corrupted the dream …”
  • No, that was human sin—the greatest ignored villain in this whole series.
  • Of course, Big Tech profit motives, valued over humanity, is also an idol.
  • The show cites nonfiction book Kill All Normies about 4Chan vs. Tumblr.
  • This meme seems true: Tumblr was a big source for synthetic morals.
  • By “synthetic morals,” we mean inorganic, social lab–grown “holiness.”
  • For example, notions of “cultural appropriation” and “problematic” sins.
  • Tumblr, et. al. made expressive individualism go viral at popular level.
  • These cultural influences aren’t like earlier “cancel cultures,” either.
  • Tumblr spread ideas to Twitter, which spread them to elite journalists.
  • This made a far disproportionate influence on culture’s thought leaders.

3. Her new critiques anger modern sexual activists.

  • Who said this: “You will die alone and you will burn in Hell!”?
  • In this case, it was not a fundamentalist Christian zealot, but an activist.
  • Ep. 4 shared wisdom about internet trolls with disproportionate power
  • Ep. 4 also exposed how fans abused imagination (at best) for “identities.”
  • Later episodes seem to forget this and assume sexual activism is valid.
  • Bari Weiss, Megan Phelps-Roper and others can “afford” to be moderate.
  • Rowling has similar gifts of good education and a process of healing.
  • Desperate and angry younger sexual activists do/will not have either.
  • Hosts and guests talk about “the common good” but cannot define this.
  • Similarly, they have no ultimate moral foundation for “human rights.”
  • They also talk about reflecting human nature, but again, can’t define it.
  • The HP series is not limited to mere presentations of “acceptance.”
  • Rowling herself said they explore much more: a fuller human experience.
  • This will of course includes but isn’t limited to concepts of “acceptance.”
  • Critics claim that Rowling is in a “bubble,” but often lack self-awareness.
  • They take the presumed moral high ground, often showing arrogance.
  • Frankly, the podcast unwittingly grants them this premise in many ways.
  • Episode 7 may have a “tell.” Rowling says, “I’m afraid…” Clearly she is.
  • It makes sense that she does fear; loudest voices have the most power.
  • Yet she is also courageous, perhaps even more without Christian hope.
  • Why prioritize one victim group’s pain over another? It is self-defeating.
  • Apart from Christ, you can only resolve this through raw acts of power.
  • Apart from Jesus, the only solution is culture war, anger, activism, hatred.
  • Finally, Rowling and the host speak of “discernment” and righteousness.
  • They even speak of “grace” and “redemption” for characters and people.
  • These are very biblically based terms, making it sound almost Christian!
  • So logically, let’s go the whole way and return to biblical foundations.

Mission update

Com station

One hero of the Guild, BlessedArtistHW, loved last week’s ep. 176:

As someone who was raised in a very sheltered, almost no-magic, limited allowed Disney movies, keep-away-from-the-world environment, I really appreciated this week’s ⁠🌴176: Oasis of Imagination? episode!

Next on Fantastical Truth

We hear a lot about “evangelical bubbles,” even on this podcast. People say that Christians ought not live in their insular spaces, but make better stories that help reflect our world. Some, like our last guest Ted Turnau, encourage believers to plant oases of imagination to serve the common good. Others seem to put their own “oases” onto armored platforms to roll around the territory, firing paintballs. Are these our only choices: influencing mainstream culture versus “owning the libs”? Next week, we shall explore pros, cons, and legit “Christian alternative” creative works that are busting both categories.

  1. Photo by Gabriel Kraus on Unsplash.
Fantastical Truth
Fantastical Truth

Lorehaven explores fantastical stories for God's glory: fantasy, sci-fi, and beyond.

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