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Fr. Giliguist: Let's Take a Lesson from Harry
By Pearl Homiak

"What is it in the Harry Potter books that attract kids and adults?" This was the central question that Father Peter Gillquist addressed at our Second Annual Forum on Orthodox Christianity. The title of the Forum this year was Christianity in the Age of Harry Potter. Father Peter approached this topic in an unexpected way. He asked two important questions: "Why does author J.K. Rowling touch a nerve?" and "What can we learn from the Harry Potter phenomenon to teach people about Jesus Christ?"

Fr. Peter concluded that there are three areas of appeal within the Harry Potter books. First, kids identify with Harry Potter’s family world; second, the moral challenge within the stories; and third, Harry's other world - his magical world.

Fr. Peter said that for many kids Harry Potter’s life mirrors much of their lives. Harry Potter’s parents are dead, so he lives with step-parents (his aunt and uncle and their undisciplined, over indulged son) who ignore and neglect him. Fr. Peter pointed out that this reflects the situation in much of American culture today. "Often parents are not available physically, emotionally, and spiritually for kids. Long hours on a job, involvement in away-from-home activities, or zoning in on computers or television remove parents from the focus children need. As a result, these children are often ignored and not disciplined. Sometimes we parents get so preoccupied that we don’t answer our kids." He mentioned a survey, which revealed that the average American parent talks to his or her child or teenager on an average of only 11 to 15 minutes per day. "It is no wonder, then, that kids identify kingdom, too, but it is a world of light.

Fr. Peter went on to briefly discuss what the Harry Potter books call "Muggles." They are people who are not wizards. Harry’s aunt and uncle are Muggles and lack the understanding of mystery. All of us are Muggles by the nature of the Fall of Man. Many of us are confounded by the miracle of the Virgin birth and have difficulty believing.

You can’t be a Muggle and be Orthodox declared Fr.Peter.

Before answering questions from the audience, Fr. Peter concluded his presentation by reminding everyone to make home a place where your kids want to be. Experience the life of the Church (‘Seek first the Kingdom of God...’ -Matthew 6:33). Put the life of the family and parish first, not a good job, education, food, transportation, and so on. Why? Because by doing this we will lead our children to Jesus Christ who is real - not a fictional character like Harry Potter.

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