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JK Rowling and the Deathly Hallows of the Culture Wars -CT

So Christian Today asked me to write about the JK Rowling saga – after I had already done the article on Why I Won’t/Will Bow the Knee   The two are obviously related and again it is clear that both touch a nerve – going by the reads and reactions.  Be interested to know your thoughts!  You can get the original here.

J K Rowling and the Deathly Hallows of the Culture Wars

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” play co-creators John Tiffany, JK Rowling and Jack ThorneYouTube/Pottermore

There is a lovely café in Edinburgh called the Elephant House. It was a place I used to frequent in my student days – for coffee, cake and writing. Another aspirant writer had the same idea. Her name was J K Rowling, who has since become one of the biggest selling authors of all time – selling over 400 million of her Harry Potter series. The Elephant House even has a wee plaque indicating that this is where Harry Potter was birthed. But one wonders how long it will last in today’s intolerant culture. For J K Rowling – once the darling of the literati – has sinned against Woke culture and the revolution is about to eat her.

Last December, she tweeted her support for Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who lost her job for allegedly tweeting ‘transphobic’ comments. The level of abuse and hatred Rowling got (she has 14.5 million followers) persuaded her to step back from Twitter because it wasn’t doing her mental health any good. She returned to share a free children’s book and inadvertently tweeted about an article that had referred to “people who menstruate”.

“I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” she wrote.

The backlash has been ferocious and revealing.

You have to stop, take a deep breath and try to grasp what is happening here. Because a woman objects to women being called ‘people who menstruate’ rather than women, she is treated as though she is a racist Nazi. The misogynistic abuse is breathtaking. Her books have been burned and in this ‘cancel culture’ world she is being cancelled in many places.

Mercury or Rowling?

My favourite is the school in West Sussex, which has cancelled the idea of one of its ‘houses’ being named after Rowling because “it did not wish to be associated with these views”. The letter from the deputy headteacher Sarah Edwards is a masterpiece of newspeak. Despite cancelling Rowling because she “may no longer be an appropriate role model for our pupils”, Mrs Edwards says the school is “inclusive” – except of course for those who think that being a woman has something to do with biology”. She adds that “as a school, our business is education, it’s not about coming down on one side or another”. To which one can only respond by wondering whether real biology is taught in the school – or logic?

The school actually illustrates the madness of modern culture. Its houses were previously called Austen, Darwin, Elgar, Livingstone and Wilberforce. Now they are all to be renamed “to make them more representative of gender, ethnicity, and sexuality/gender identity”. One wonders in passing why the school is discriminating against the protected characteristic of religion?. One of the houses is to be named after Freddy Mercury, who the school clearly sees as a suitable role model for pupils!

Compassionate and Intelligent

It’s also revealing how Rowling has been dealt with. She wrote an incredibly moving, gracious, articulate, personal blog explaining why she was taking the stand she does. She revealed details of her own personal abuse, concern for transgender people and gave detailed arguments, reasons and facts. J K Rowling is a fabulous writer and in this piece she came across as a wonderful, compassionate, intelligent human being.

But that did not stop the wolves from circling. In fact it seems as though the more gracious she was, the more virulent the attacks; the more intelligent, the dumber the responses; the more conciliatory, the more she had to be cancelled. Feminazi, Terf, Witch were some of the milder names that she was called in social media. But it wasn’t just social media. The mainstream media sometimes joined the pack. Several newspapers carried op-eds and opinion columns that both explicitly and implicitly attacked Rowling. One of the most invidious methods is when they get a trans ‘victim’ who has struggled with their identity to write a piece stating that Rowling is responsible because of her outdated views.

Potter Stars Pile On

Harry Potter film stars were cited disowning Rowling. Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter, wrote an article in which he repeated the doctrine of the zeitgeist that “transgender women are women” – thus we were faced with a man who went to a male only school, mansplaining to an older woman what a woman is! Emma Watson (Hermione) was pictured with a t-shirt saying “trans rights are human rights”. Rupert Grint (Ron) gave us the following pearl of wisdom, “Trans women are women, trans men are men.” He then showed where this was coming from when he said: “I echo the sentiments expressed by my peers,” before adding, “We should all be entitled to live with love and without judgement.” Grint seemed unaware that he had just issued a press release judging Rowling and joining in the hate fest against her. Perhaps, ‘love is love’ only when people agree with you.

The Four Olds

In the wider context, this is all part of the Woke cultural revolution that is taking place – one which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Maoist Cultural Revolution. It sought to get rid of the four ‘olds’ – old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits. The new Cultural Revolutionary Guards are also determined to stamp out old ways of thinking which challenge their absolutist ideology. Dare to express biological truths and you will be the victim of a mob witch-hunt. The Queer theory doctrine of gender fluidity is now taught in classrooms, lecture halls and media as absolute truth. Question it and you are guilty of blasphemy.

But Rowling – and many other feminists – as well as ordinary concerned parents are having an effect. The UK government announced this week that it was not going to go ahead with its Gender Recognition Act. Rowling’s bravery is having its rewards.

The Church Responds?

But what about the Church? While there has been some outstanding analysis – such as this piece by Carl Trueman in the Gospel Coalition, the general response has been underwhelming. Bishops who were quick to speak out strongly on Dominic Cummings have been silent about the abuse and misogyny dished out to Rowling. The Church has largely bowed the knee to the new religion of the progressive ideology or has buried its head in the sand. It’s embarrassing for us that a children’s novelist is braver and more of a prophet than many church leaders.

Some would of course argue that this does not really matter. After all, in a world where Christians are being massacred in Africa, war is being threatened between India and China, and Covid-19 is creating death and destruction, what does one author’s views about a tiny minority of the population matter? They matter because the transgender ideology is, as Rowling sees, a way to eliminate ‘woman’ as a meaningful term. The deconstruction of gender is just part of a wider deconstruction of humanity – the humanity that in the beginning God created ‘male and female’. This is not just a general philosophical or political issue, it’s’ personal for many people.

Theories and People

Thirty years ago, I had a transwoman in my congregation. A few years ago a teenager contacted me wanting to tell her hard and heart-breaking story of being ex-trans and the abuse she had received. You can read it here.

These issues are not just theory. More accurately they are theories/ideologies which affect how people think about themselves and others. They can do great harm.

Society seems to be having a collective meltdown – losing its grip on reality, truth and compassion. The Church seems to be joining in. Christian comments tend just to reflect those of the wider culture. There are those who seem to have a fear of trans people and express themselves in a hateful and ungodly manner. There are others who just accept every jot and tittle of the current cultural doctrines. For example, I was confidently informed by a Christian brother that “if Jesus was around now, I bet a couple of His disciples would be trans”. They too often express themselves in a hateful and ungodly manner.

The Master of Death

But enough of the analysis. What is the solution? Let’s return to Harry Potter for the answer! In The Deathly Hallows, there are three things which enable the owner to become the ‘master of death’. The invisibility cloak, the resurrection stone and the elder wand. I suspect that Rowling would be glad of the invisibility cloak just now. But I think of these in terms of Christ. The Christian is someone who is clothed in the righteousness of Christ – that doesn’t make us invisible, but it does cover all our sins. Christ himself is the resurrection stone – the one who guarantees us eternal life. The elder wand is better than all the other ‘magical powers’ – Christ is above all the powers. And of course, Christ is the one who has defeated death – he is the master of death.

Harry Potter is a fantasy but J K Rowling is living a real nightmare. We know that only Christ is the reality that can save us all and it’s time the Church took a stand for that truth, instead of leaving it to children’s book authors to take pitifully lonely stands.

David Robertson is director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at www.theweeflea.com

Quantum 98 – American Police; Statues; Cancel Culture; Stella Creasy; Ben and Jerrys; JK Rowling; India and China; Bob Dylan; Tim Keller; The Irish Blessing

14 comments

  1. Hi David. I’m puzzled how you went to The Elephant House as a student. I was at Edinburgh about the same time as you (1979-1983 in my case) and I don’t remember it. Its website says it opened in 1995. Maybe there was another cafe round there that you went to?

    1. Yes – I used to go to the Christian bookshop (above the Elim? Church). – somewhat eccentric (I remember once buying a wordless book and a gospel nut!) – then down to the cafe that (I think) is now the Elephant house. Obviously, Rowling was not there then – she wrote Harry Potter 1990-1995 and I believe she only came to Edinburgh in 1993. When I came down to Dundee in 1992 I would go to the same cafe when I came down to Presbytery (and the Italian up from it)…from what I recall there was also another cafe beside it…for some reason I never went over the other side of the road…..I don’t recall it morphing into the Elephant House and the JK Rowling connection only became a selling point in the late 90’s. I find it intriguing that Potter is considered to have been written there – although she didn’t come to Edinburgh until 1993 – perhaps she went to the same cafe?

      In the late 90’s I was accepted as a Phd student at the University of Edinburgh and I would go to the Elephant House, as it was then, when I went to the National Library across the road…it was the best place to sit and write (and read the newspapers)and the coffee and cake were great……I preferred the meals in a place on the Royal Mile – The Filling Station!

      1. The Christian book above the cafe – I remember my visits to McCall Barbour in my student days and chatting to Theodore. I also sometimes popped into the reformed bookshop just a hundred yards away – Dickson books I think it was called.

        But yes, the country is going mad and is in a terminal decline.

      2. I thought she started Potter while teaching in Portugal?

        Whatever … the insanity surrounding all this gender stuff is simply, well, insane.
        While I don’t for one second agree with all the Christ nonsense , Rowling’s defense of Maya Forstater, is right on the money.

  2. The 2010 film “Within the Whirlwind,” starring Emily Watson, is a pertinent story. It tells the true story of Evgenia Ginzburg, a Soviet professor who in the Stalinist purge fell victim to her own fellow Party members. The denunciations by her colleagues, at first shocked at her charges but then who join in against her, are one of the most striking scenes in the film.

    The “mansplaining” by Radcliffe struck me as well. And yet so few could see the irony, and the pile on by the others was too predictable.

    Thank you for your piece. Even though I disagree with JKR over a number of issues, I do not enjoy seeing her beaten up by the next phase of the revolution that she has been a part of heretofore.

  3. Well-written! I am re-blogging because your opinion and explanation of Rowling’s views are extremely well done. I’m sad that she is a “lone voice” because Christians are not standing up to the whole trans things.

  4. Do you agree with the Nashville Statement?

    It seems to me, from her recent words, that J K Rowling doesn’t yet see transgenderism or transsexuality itself as disordered, a deranged doctrine that ought not to be heeded at all by the secular state. (Do you, yet?)

    One might expect those who do come to see transgenderism/transsexuality itself as disordered, upon discovering how deeply entenched the doctrine has nevertheless become in our jurisprudence, to clamour for repeal of the Gender Recognition Act and of the provisions of the Equality Act that make gender reassignment a protected characteristic, and for the UK’s abrogation from the ECHR to the extent necessary to assert the Common Law doctrine of Corbett v Corbett, over the aberration of the ECtHR ruling in Goodwin v UK.

    Rowling isn’t yet as vehemently opposed to the trans movement as I am, and you should be by now. She only cottoned on we had a problem when Maya Forstater brought her test case. She downplays the problem, bemoaning how trans undermines feminism, and how vicious are the demons who curse her through the lips and keyboards of trans activists. She searching, using on-the-one-hand and on-the-other-hand dialectics, for the dividing line between good and bad trans-ism, because simply saying that transism is all bad, to her, smacks of transphobia, which (she has been told) is bad.

  5. 4 years I have been amazed at the number of Christians who do not see the danger in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books. She actually studied witchcraft before writing her books, and a bookshop owner told me many years ago that she had done more to encourage children to be involved in witchcraft than any book he had ever known in his shop. Sales had increased exponentially in anything to do with witchcraft since she wrote her first book.
    As for the issue of transgenderism, the church has indeed been largely silent. Here in Victoria (Aus.), transgenderism is taught as normal, along with homosexuality, in our schools and our government has largely removed terms women and men from the State dialogue.
    The Marxist sexual/political revolution has been going on for many years in Australia. I personally fought it for 20+ years, with very little support from the church here in Victoria.
    Since the church stopped believing in Genesis 1 to 3, and taking it literally, it has gone downhill to where it’s now become hypocritical for it to suggest that God made men and women.

    1. This is an old one. No JK Rowling did not study witchcraft before she wrote the books. In fact the books borrow more from the biblical story (which given she is a professing member of the church is not surprising) than they do from witchcraft manuals.

  6. Reading your post today David, comes off the back of some difficult conversations I have been involved with in Christian circles which with some has resulted in the breaking of fellowship, and with others time will tell whether I’m still welcome in particular communities or not.

    Some things I will comment on. With regard to the “progressive” party line in school education regarding trans “it’s not about coming down on one side or another”. It’s time to start calling this out as a lie. I offer evidence of the claim I have made of this being a lie. In this religion (for it has all the hallmarks of a religion) you are guilty of the sin of not being “inclusive” for claiming that sex and gender are the same, there are two genders and anything else is what someone self – identifies as as is evidenced in this video where a student is taken out of class for expressing this view. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeCxZXfuymg.

    You say “the Church has largely bowed the knee to the new religion of the progressive ideology”. I’m going to look at history here with the principle that lessons are learned from the mistakes of history or are doomed to be repeated. If we were living in Germany in WWII it’s likely that we either would be supporters of Hitler or passive about what happened. Many of us would like to think we would have actively opposed Hitler but statistically the likelihood of this would have been slim and if we had then we would be the first to be sent to the Russian front where almost inevitably we would be killed. How did the church engage with this? For the most part, it was complicit with Hitler and his “positive Christianity”. Where the swastika appeared next to the cross and Mein Kampf next to the bible with the former superseding the latter. There were brave exceptions of course with Bonhoeffer for example. History teaches us about how we are today, so is it any surprise that the zeitgeist is making its way into the church?

    There is nothing new under the sun – sad but true.

    You mention the “deconstruction of humanity”. I love that term “deconstruction”. It covers all manner of sins. I fear it is not a deconstruction of what has held humanity back that is happening in order to usher in a better world but the destruction of humanity with dark forces that aim to steal kill and destroy. The deconstructionist philosophy emerging from France in the 20th century from people like Derrida it itself resistant to being deconstructed. And if everything can be deconstructed then nothing has any meaning and there is no purpose in life. It has all the hallmarks also of a religion, in this case a religion of nihilism and with no purpose or meaning to make it worthwhile to endure inevitable suffering that happens in life then what happens when life gets difficult? It’s the blame game isn’t it? It’s someone else’s fault? does that story sound familiar? Who told you, you were naked?

    And finally I come to what you say with “truth and compassion.” And to that I say amen. The truth will always be forthcoming sooner or later and love never fails.

    So I guess the choice is, do you want to be a loser or winner in this? Do you want to give in to lies for an easier life in the here and now but with consequences of destruction further done the line? Or do you want to adhere to truth and compassion for a more difficult immediate time but also for a healthy, full life, and feeling like a winner?

  7. David, consider the utmost irony.

    All of the claims secularism has pointed at the church in recent decades….

    Imposing beliefs
    Imposing morals
    Imposing laws
    Ostracising outsiders
    Judging
    Condemning
    Controlling government
    Restricting behaviour

    to name but a few,

    the current secularists are guilty of themselves.

    The very reasons (falsely accusing) for dumbing down the Christian faith and the church, the secularists do instead.

  8. In another article, David very kindly acknowledged the role of the Catholic Church in upholding the rights of the unborn child. It might also be added that the Catholic Church in Scotland submitted a response to the Scottish Government’s Consultation on its proposed Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. There is a link to the response on this page:
    https://rcpolitics.org/consultations-callsforevidence-bills/#1489785235536-a4e29091-692f

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