Awhile back I heard a piece on NPR about the Harry Potter Alliance. It’s a group of fans who come together around various philanthropic and social justice issues. They sent five cargo planes full of supplies to Haiti after the earthquake. They’ve campaigned on behalf of marriage equality and genocide prevention. They’ve stocked libraries in Rwanda and the Mississippi Delta.
The Harry Potter Alliance has converted many politically apathetic young people into activists. I was intrigued to hear the commentator discuss why so many people will join the Harry Potter Alliance who have never considered being socially engaged before. It has to do with our deep human connection to story.
Activism based on a loved narrative has a depth and passion that is missing from activism based simply on party affiliation or budget numbers.
People will come together around a story—and its characters—more energetically than they will gather around a statement of purpose.
The truths people learn from a tale well told will lodge more deeply in their souls than the most eloquent persuasive essay.
In this day of instant messaging and fast food and multi-tasking, people will still take the time to read over 4100 pages-worth of a good story. And talk to their friends about it. And watch the movies. And develop organizations around it.
As a pastor, this is all incredibly encouraging to me. Because what the Christian Church has to offer is one fantastic story. The story of God’s relationship with humanity throughout time. The story of God’s intimate connection to us through Jesus Christ. A story—like that of Harry Potter—that delves deeply into the messy questions of good and evil.
I am glad to know that people are still willing to give their life energy to a story, because that is exactly what the Church asks (or should be asking) them to do. While the biblical text is basically set, the Christian story continues and we are all called to be part of it.
It seems that, at least for some of us, there is nothing more natural—or satisfying—than anchoring our lives in a good story. A story gives us principles to follow, people to love, futures to envision. Not to mention adventure and fun and laughter along the way.
It is a grace to inhabit a good story, to let the best of stories inhabit us.
And Advent seems the perfect time of year to re-enter and re-commit ourselves to the story of Emmanuel—God with us.
It’s the part of the story many of us know by heart: “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
Go ahead. Read the story again. Talk to your friends about it. Watch the movies if you want. And join your life to the incredible narrative of God’s intimate love for the world.
[Personal Note: I have read—and loved—every Harry Potter book; I have not seen the movies.]