When I was a kid, I used to read comic books and I used to watch superhero cartoons on television. Out in the neighborhood, the children on my street used to play "Superman" and act out some of the other roles of the superheroes we read about or watched on television.However, though we spent a lot of time reading comic books, my parents still made sure we spent time reading the Bible. And while Saturday mornings were dedicated to superhero cartoons, Sunday mornings were always dedicated to church.
By the time we were ten, we began to outgrow these cartoons and comic books, and realize that the real heroes in the world were our parents, our teachers, our policemen and firemen, our doctors and the countless other hard-working men and women of the world. We were able to separate fact from fiction, religion from mythology, and miracles from magic.
We understood that the story of Jesus giving sight to a blind man was a miracle, and that a magician used slight of hand and trickery to fool us. We read the Greek myths as stories to entertain us but we read the Bible and let it be the guide for our lives. Unfortunately, in today's world, parents and teachers and society in general blur the lines of fact and fiction, miracle and magic, faith and mythology. Our heroes have become the athletes and not the saints, we call a hair-regrowth formula a miracle, and religion has become in many circles, whatever set of beliefs works in your life. Just as there was nothing wrong with reading a comic book when I was a child, there is nothing wrong with reading a Harry Potter book.
However, there is something wrong with allowing a child to devour Harry Potter books and never delving into the Bible. There is nothing wrong with watching the Harry Potter Movie, so long as it is watched for entertainment purposes. When I was a kid, we played Dungeons and Dragons with an electronic gameboard and it provided hours of entertainment. Today, there are thousands of clubs on college campuses that are dedicated to Dungeons and Dragons type activities. And what starts as a fun game, becomes a club, where members dress and behave like the mythical game characters. And soon the clubs develop rituals that make a game into a religion, and a club into a cult. And this is wrong! When a person starts believing in Harry Potter and begins to think of the Bible as a fairy tale, this is wrong. The Bible and the Church Fathers warn us about the danger of witchcraft and creating false gods. The first and second of the Ten Commandments warns against creating other gods and worshiping other images.
Many of us enjoy watching athletes hit home runs, watching superhero movies, or reading a comicbooks with our children. Each week when the Newsweek magazine comes, the first place I open to is the political cartoons. But I know that cartoons are not the news and so I read the rest of the magazine too. And I know that magic is something to captivate a child, just like daydreaming captivates adults. Real power emulates not from a magic wand, but true power comes from miracles -- the miracle of life, the miracle played out each time we celebrate the Eucharist, the miracle when someone leaves this life as a person of faith and is embraced in the bosom of Abraham. And real miracles come from God.
So, enjoy watching Michael Jordan dunk a basketball, watch Star Wars again, and see Harry Potter if you wish. Just make sure that you, and your kids, keep these things in the proper religious perspective. If you or your child can make it through a Harry Potter book, as an Orthodox Christian, you need to be able to make it through the New Testament. If you can sit through a two-hour movie, which many of you will see again and again, you can sit through the Divine Liturgy each Sunday. If you can memorize countless statistics about your favorite athletes, you need to be memorizing theTen Commandments. And if your children imitate the deeds of their superheroes when they play, then they need to learn to imitate the works of Christ when they are in the real world. Discernment is something we can all learn to do a little better.
Fr.Stavros N. Akrotirianakis serves Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Asheville, NC and serves as the Atlanta Diocese Youth Advisor. This article is reprinted with permission of the author.