Disclaimer: As some of you may know, my kids have spent the past year with my mother- and father-in-law, after Brandi and I moved to Minnesota. We were finally reunited last week – so yeah, thank God, man.
I was at home the other day, sitting on my La-Z-Boy (which I plan to have surgically grafted onto my ass, once I can find a doctor who will take payments), and scrolling through my TiVo’s recorded programs. My eleven-year-old daughter was with me, looking over my shoulder to see what I had recorded. Because I’m a geek, she quickly noticed that I had recorded a cartoon called Young Justice, which is a (super friggin’ awesome) show about the sidekicks of the superheroes in DC’s Justice League – Robin, Superboy, etc. I love the show – the writing is tremendous, the artwork avoids that feux –Anime style that I can’t stand, the characters are well-rounded, and the drama is very intense. It’s a great show, and my daughter knows it.
“Wow!” she said. “You recorded Young Justice?!?”
“Sure did,” I said, inordinately proud of my taste in cartoons.
“Am I allowed to watch it?” she asked incredulously.
I looked at her curiously.
“Well,” I said slowly, “I can’t imagine why not. It’s not gory, there’s no boobs on it. . . so, of course you can watch it.”
“Sweet!” she exclaimed at top volume. “Nana never let me watch Young Justice because there was an episode with goddesses on it.”
This wasn’t a huge surprise to me. My in-laws attended a church in Tucson, Arizona for many years, and like many churches, it gives advice to parents about what movies and television shows might not be safe for the souls of the children attending. It spoke out against the Harry Potter franchise, following a general outcry from the Christian community that Harry Potter endorsed witchcraft and Satanism. So while I doubted that the church would have specifically spoken out against Young Justice (but how rad would that be?!?!) it had created an understanding that some programs teach our children dangerous ideas about the supernatural world, and that you should always be vigilant to protect children from bad juju.
Now, this isn’t new at all. Maybe it started in the seventies with K.I.S.S., and Dungeons and Dragons. Maybe it goes back further than that. But the practice was alive and well in the days of my youth, and I was barely encountering Christian culture at that time. When I was a kid, my sister listened to the local top 40 radio station all the time. One summer, I remember a cheesy, saccharine pop song that was lighting up the airwaves – it was Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth.” If you were fortunate enough to miss that one, I’ll give you a little taste of the lyrics to this profound work of poetic perfection.
“Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth?
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth.
They say in heaven love comes first.
We’ll make heaven a place on earth.
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth.”
Does the song have problems? Well, yeah. I’m pretty sure nobody is going to win a hip-hop throwdown on the streets of Detroit by rhyming “earth,” “earth”, and “earth”. But when my cousin told me that somebody at their church had told them that the song was Satanic (because it preached heaven on earth, instead of heaven in. . . . heaven?) even as a little boy I was like, “That’s some crazy shit right there.” But they were serious, so my sister fast-forwarded past that song.
More recently, the aforementioned Harry Potter series seemed to create a stir within certain populations of the Christian culture. It was said to promote witchcraft and Satanism, and some people even took a fake article by the Onion so seriously that it had to be de-bunked. If you want to have some fun surfing at work, I recommend that you Google “Harry Potter promotes Satanism” and just go for it. You won’t have a hard time finding some giggle-worthy stuff.
Now, I was not any sort of Jesus-guy when the Harry Potter craze was reaching its peak a few years ago, so I thought the whole idea was ridiculous. I’ve never known a kid so stupid as to base their theology on a fiction book (although hippies can take Stranger and a Strange Land a little too far). Also, the many years I spent as a neo-pagan never showed me anything half as cool as the magic that was done in the Harry Potter series, so I was pretty sure that kids weren’t accidentally going to sell their soul to the devil for rockin’ magical powers.
You can imagine my chuckles when it was revealed that J.K. Rowling is an active Christian attending a church in Scotland, and has been the whole time. In fact, the Christian themes in Harry Potter are so obvious that my good friend Forty Ounce threatened to rip me a new one on a comment for this post. So either a whole bunch of whackos completely misinterpreted the most popular young adult series of the past twenty years, or J.K. Rowling’s soul-trapping web of deception goes so deep that it’s endorsed by the Anglican Church. You decide.
Going back to my original story, I had a short conversation with my mother- and father-in-law about the subject of what my kids are allowed to watch, now that they’re back home. While I obviously don’t want them watching things that they are too young for, anything that’s age-appropriate is okay. I trust that my children can handle seeing a goddess on Young Justice without deciding, “That’s it! That’s what I want to do with my life! Forget this Jesus crap, I want to worship super hero goddesses!”
We’ve got to give our kids some credit, Christians. They don’t need to live in a box, protected from the parts of the world that don’t come wrapped in a Jesus-shaped bow. There is a world outside that isn’t always perfect, and some day your children may be needed in that world. We need to trust ourselves to guide them in a way that is deep enough, meaningful enough, that it can survive an encounter with that supposedly-gay Teletubby or Spongebob Squarepants. And also, lest we forget, we also need to trust God to guide our kids where we fall short. I’m positive that God can undo any damage done by J.K. Rowling.