Pastor Walter Mitty was listening to a report on NPR’s “Morning Edition” about how the Taliban executed a second member of the group of 23 South Korean missionaries they were holding in Afghanistan, when the phone rang.
“Hi, Walt. It’s Herman.”
“Good morning, Herman. What’s going on?”
“I’d like your advice. See, your nephew has been reading a lot of these Harry Potter books; he was at the Blue Dolphin at midnight last Tuesday. Had to get his copy right away. I’m worried, Walt. Don’t those books have a lot of magic and that kind of stuff in them? I’m afraid they might give Brian some weird ideas. And besides, there’s not a thing about God in them at all.”
Pastor Walt paused. He should know something about this. “Herman, I have to admit that I’ve never read Harry Potter. I’ve heard the kids at church talk about the books, but I didn’t pay much attention.”
Mitty promised his brother that he’d do some research and hung up. Going out to the front porch to get his paper, he saw Michael Rosenthal. “Morning neighbor.” Michael waved. “Say, do you know anything about Harry Potter?”
Michael laughed. “No, Walt. I think I’m the only one that doesn’t. In his sermon Saturday morning, Rabbi Levine said he was worried about kids reading all of this stuff about magic.”
“That’s what my brother said on the phone just now. He’s worried about Brian.”
“Well, I’m not too worried,” Michael continued. “Remember how obsessed we were with Superman comic books when we were your nephew’s age? We didn’t really ever believe there were super powers. It was just a fantasy escape, wasn’t it?”
“Maybe you’re right,” said Mitty as he went back into his kitchen to finish his coffee. “I think I’ll see what Zaphne has to say,” he thought as he put his cup into the dishwasher. “She’s probably into Rowling.”
The first person Mitty saw as he walked into the Retro was Dominique who was studying a 1959 Hank Aaron baseball card.
“Oh, hi Pastor. I was just thinking about how Aaron accomplished what he did without using dope; without any Harry Potter magic, so to speak.”
Mitty was just about to reply when Zaphne appeared from behind a display of 45 rpm records and said, “Magic wasn’t the point of the Harry Potter series.” The two men looked puzzled. “See that Spiderman poster over there? The whole story line in superhero comics is that someone with some extra power saves the day for poor, helpless humans. But in this last Harry Potter book, it’s clear that the evil people have just as much magic as the good people. It’s human qualities like love and duty and a willingness to sacrifice that allow Harry to defeat Voldemort.”
As Pastor Walt walked home, his thoughts returned to those Korean missionaries. Were they naive and foolhardy to think they could oppose what the Taliban was doing with anything except superior power? Or, did they and J.K. Rowling understand something about power that he should have known all along? He wasn’t sure, but he did know what he was going to say to his brother.