Harry Potter, “Tell Me You Love Me,” and My Conscience

I haven’t written for a few days. There’s nothing much to say it seems. I’ve been trying to finish the latest Harry Potter book. I’ve read all of them (Book 5 being my LEAST favorite). This last book was about 250 pages too long, but a decent read. Sometimes the characters are a little stereotypical or one-dimensional, but hey, it’s a book for children, not rocket science. (I’m sure I’m going to incur some wrath for that remark, oh well). The most interesting character in any of the novels is Severus Snape and he isn’t really given any amount of space in the books at all, except this last one. The juicy Alan Rickman plays him in the movies and it’s only the actors involved that keep me watching those. But all in all, the series is not worth the attention some fundie Christians have given to it. There’s no Wicca in it and practically no serious magic presented at all. We have a few Latin phrases used as spells and even these don’t change over time. Nothing new is added and nothing is explained. It’s a take it, leave it narration. But anybody who reads this to learn about witchcraft or any kind of magic is missing the whole point anyway. Magic is merely the backdrop for a novel about good vs. evil, which, besides the bildungsroman motif, is the most common myth incorporated into fiction, film, etc. Well, anyway, I’ve finished it. So there.

Watching HBO on Sunday night has just gotten very interesting. A new series premiered called Tell Me You Love Me. Jane Alexander, a marriage therapist, seems to me to be a focal point around which several couples revolve. All are in various stages of married life: the soon to be newlyweds, the long married with kids, the childless but seeking fertility couple, and finally the long, long married elder couple. Let’s just say right now that it is a sexually explicit show. Yet, this is not something to be protested or sullied by pietistic puritans itching for a boycott in order to make them feel like they are doing something legitimate. It’s an HONEST look at the sex lives and loves of married couples. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and certainly nothing to get prurient about. But, like any show about the sex lives of married couple, it shows…well…sex. Some will call it porn, but porn is nothing like this. Porn is stylized, blown up, Barbie and Ken doll sex with overblown genitals and boobs and phalluses that in no way resemble real human beings. It’s Kabuki-theater for the imaginatively challenged. No, this show is “real” sex as real couples no doubt live it (or without it as the case may be) every day of their lives. I was a little taken aback at first by the graphic nature, but then I thought, “Thank you!” First, thank you HBO, for treating me like an adult who can handle such material, and second, thank you for not pulling any punches in what you show us. Every married couple, I think, will find themselves depicted in this program. Hey for the cost of HBO, it’s free therapy!

Last, but not least, I’ve been making my way slowly through the book Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman and am more and more convinced that there is no such thing as a “true” text of scripture, let alone an inerrant scripture or a “verbally inspired” scripture. There ain’t no such animal. It’s all verbal and doctrinal gymnastics to keep the faithful ignorant. I think that’s precisely the dirty, little secret of textual critics or anyone else who’s been to a university not tainted by religious bias and committed to honest inquiry. There is no “text” of scripture at all, but several letters, treatises, gospels, and other bits and pieces that were chosen randomly by a bishop here or another teacher there according to their whims at the time. No women were allowed to choose the texts, even though women were apostles and prophets as well. God no more orchestrated the gathering of these bits and pieces together than Zeus orchestrated the gathering of all of his children from several different mothers for a family reunion of the gods in ancient Greece. Of course, I always knew this from my own studies. Ehrman just solidified it for me.

Ehrman began his career as a conservative Moody Bible College graduate who, after working his way to a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, realized that what he was taught as an ultra-conservative fundamentalist Christian just didn’t jibe with the facts. In fact, the tossing about of texts, the castigating of those of differing opinions, and the fighting over words went on from the very beginning of Christianity. This was no seamless growth of a new movement, with faithful martyrs, or wonderful conversion stories. From the beginning NO ONE AGREED on how the church should be organized, which texts were considered authoritative, or what the mission of the church was. Many claimed they knew, or had a sanction from God to have the right opinion, but they were no different than anyone else. Jon is right when he writes, “The reason the christian church is failing it’s mission is because it can’t agree on what the word “christian” means, what the word “church” means, or what is its actual “mission.” In fact, a cursory read of any history of Christianity will clearly show that Christians have been disagreeing since the death of Jesus, hardly a sign that God is directing it and a sure sign that it’s of human origin (as is everything else in the world). I’ve believed for some time now that we create the mythologies that help us cope with the world. Mine is a mix that works for me. Fundies call this the “cafeteria approach” which I see nothing wrong with. I’d much rather take that approach than the approach I call “here’s your dinner and you’d better eat all those damn peas or I’ll kick your ass six ways to Sunday!” approach. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with believing anything that helps me move with love through the world. For me, as long as you harm none, live and let live, and leave a small footprint on the planet, you can believe pretty much anything you want! If the fundie God wants to send me to hell for that, so be it. I’ve lived according to my conscience.