Archives for posts with tag: Žižek

I had originally intended this as a comment on JJ’s recent critique of Zizek’s theology (which is really a theological critique of ideology, via Marx, Hegel, et al. — the usual players). However, it’s thorough enough that I think it’s more suited for posting. Maybe we can start a ‘conversation’ of sorts this way.

You’re right that there seems something false, self-righteous, self-aggrandizing and even ‘obscurantist,’ ironically, in Zizek’s theological (and other) work. He does make glaring omissions, and he always uses the critique of capitalism as the ultimate excuse to take potshots. It’s a painfully obvious crutch. If he weren’t so good at theory in general, it’d be an embarrassment.

It’s true, as you say, that many on the far-Right use the notion of the supreme, ‘sacred’ right to one’s own (irrefutable) beliefs/opinions in order to avoid criticism. However, they also use this in defense of what they truly believe to be real facts (think of Creationism). The obsession with reading the Bible as fact, regardless of the evidence, does not mean that fundamentalist Christians cling to belief despite facts, despite the inaccuracy of the Bible. They’re still obsessed with facts and not belief. It’s just that they develop their own facts against any reasonable position, and they claim that the Bible is the ultimate source of facts. They’re still very anti-Kierkegaardian. There’s only one way to God, and it’s through their own, bizarre facts.

I think the same could be said of the misogynist, homophobic, etc., strains in fundamentalist Christianity. These beliefs are based on what they assert to be facts. It’s as if anything they don’t like, they can say they don’t like it because they Bible tells them they shouldn’t (the ultimate proof of this false reliance on the Bible as an authority is that, ironically, they add their own ¨facts¨ to the Bible when it doesn’t say something they want it to say about a form of social life that’s alienating to them).

In a way, it’s very risky what Zizek is doing. He’s bypassing the critique of the specific problems with the fundamentalist beliefs in order to critique the basic form they take, their ideological ‘matrix.’ This leaves open the possibility that those specific problems will continue. In other words, the ultimate way to bring down the fundamentalists wouldn’t be to convince them of the ridiculousness of their theories (since obviously that’s failed time and again). It would be, rather, to meet them head-on, on their own terms, take what they believe, and criticize how they themselves do not even follow their own legacy, how they themselves, if they wanted to be good Christians, wouldn’t cling to their ¨facts¨ (see how that’s more appealing to them, to hear a critic who’s ostensibly like them? — even though, yes, Zizek is an atheist). By accepting their terms, he could begin to start a successful dialogue with them (if one can speak this generously about such a confrontational personality). In a way, I think this is what reviewers mean when they say Zizek is ¨the most dangerous philosopher in the West¨ — he’s doing great work, but his ideas are so radical, it’s risky and dangerous for even the Left to follow them.

Of course, then the question becomes, well, is he actually speaking to the Right at all? That is up for debate. I think I’d say he’s actually not at all speaking to them… so, perhaps I’ve just contradicted myself… hmm, maybe Hegel has something to say about that?

But to continue anyway, as far as Zizek’s real audience, here’s my argument for why he’s actually speaking to the Left. The type of rhetoric that goes on in far-Right and fundamentalist Christian discourse is so disturbing, it almost seems hopeless to continue to critique it. It’s just astounding. People won’t listen to reason. And when there’s a new critique, whether an article or a documentary, etc., the author’s always preaching to the choir… no one who needs convincing is actually going to be convinced. So in some ways, frankly, I think that Zizek is right to avoid making criticisms that seem very important to us. He’s said somewhere that the way to triumph is to symbolically ¨castrate¨ the far-Right so that, all of a sudden, ¨their voices will get a little bit higher,¨ meaning that no one will listen to them. It’s like giving someone the cold shoulder. Sometimes that’s more effective, I think, than directly confronting them. So I think  Zizek’s ultimate concern is to help the Left formulate its own project, to convert more and more people already on the Center or the Center-Left to the radical Left. Then, maybe, we’ll be a majority, and the conservatives simply won’t have an effective platform?

I’ve always had suspicions about Zizek’s ‘theories.’ I keep thinking that there’s gotta be a reason for it — that there’s wisdom behind all the weirdness. But my doubts keep lingering. I usually defer to his word because I haven’t done nearly as much study as he has. And sure, he’s just as fallible as anyone else. But I think you’re right on some points. He does seem to misread, or misleadingly read, several philosophers. I haven’t read as much Kierkegaard as you have. And I might dive back into it.

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This post is a bit anachronistic, considering our recent focus on #OWS. It’s something I wrote as a reflection on a reading of Žižek’s Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology, from our postmodern philosophy course, one of the last I took as a senior at Kalamazoo College. It’s been on my hard drive for quite a while and I’d like finally to put it up. So here goes. Warning: it’s fairly short, but dense. For a more exciting Žižek text related to this, scroll to the bottom; I link to an article there. . .

People use Hegel’s dialectical triad to describe numerous phenomena, perhaps most notably the history of modernity: modern thought progresses through (1) a premodern attachment to a supernatural or metaphysical essence, (2) a modern, hyper-rationalist attachment to scientific paradigms, and (3) a postmodern, qualified rationalism which understands its limitedness.

Žižek distinguishes these three stages based on their different qualifications of the concept of “form:” each ideological paradigm is characterized by its attachment to a particular relation between a stated form or prototype (e.g., a literary genre, scientific paradigm, or political ideology) and (2) that which is said to characterize the form. This ideological change, mapped onto the history of modernity, is the movement as follows: form / essence, form / matter, and form / content.

First, an entity posits a simple notion, a form “in itself,” one with no other source of verification; this is the couple form / essence, in which form is determined tautologically by an a priori essence, an eternal or Platonic ideal that precedes even the existence of the form — it “is,” because it should be.

Second, the notion sees itself reflected in an external material reality that challenges the assumptions of its original “essence;” this is the couple form / matter, according to which the notion seeks to determine its form based on an a posteriori empirical (usually scientific) investigation of the material truth of its premises, which it revises based on evidence.

The third and final movement is determinate reflection, in which the notion posits itself as a manipulation of matter, not a pure representation of it; this is the couple form / content: instead of using empirical evidence to provide a substantial ground for itself, the notion realizes that this material reality can never be captured “in itself,” can never be accounted for in its totality by form, is always subject to the limitations of the presuppositions of the formal operations used for studying material reality, and thus matter only serves as the manipulable substratum through which the form posits a particular content that is always an incomplete representation of the underlying matter.

Content is the “oppositional determination” of form; it is the misstep which indicates the incompleteness of the form: content and form are two sides of the same coin. It is because form is able to manipulate matter, the purely empty universal, existing beyond any formal appropriation of matter, that content exists at all. The “pathology” of any purportedly closed system of ideology — capitalism, ethnocentrism, racism, sexism, etc. — is that the form itself never comes into question; we simply continue the search for a truest possible content that would revise the form to match a better picture of reality, rather than analyzing the form itself as a limitation beset with flawed presuppositions.

Modern ideologies tend to operate at this second stage, the level of form / matter: we can avoid capitalist financial catastrophes by discovering a safer way to invest in the market; we can avoid racism or ethnocentrism by showing the cultural-historical or genetic similarities of all human beings; we can avoid sexism by showing that males and females are equally smart and capable. All of these rely on the second type of formal relation; they make use of science to investigate material reality in order to develop a closer and closer formal approximation to that reality. The problem with this, as Zizek points out, is that these systems don’t challenge their own presuppositions. What if, after all, the market can’t function without wild speculation, or races and ethnicities really do have discreet genetic or cultural-historical markers, or the sexes really do differ in major ways?

There is no guarantee out their in the world that our ideologies or paradigms are sound. The fact that we seem to go on forever finding a better picture of things shows that we run up against a deadlock when it comes to understanding material reality: there is always something that, despite our best efforts, eludes our grasp. What is the best economic system? What is the best way to think of race and ethnicity, or national identity, or sex and gender? These things are inherently ungraspable. The Lacanian point is that any system of knowledge (the Symbolic order) will always run up against the Real, the deadlock of explanation.

This facet of human existence — uncertainty — is that which separates (and distinguishes) us from the rest of the universe. We are more than things, because we reflect on our situation (we can never grasp the world outside of thought; we don’t have the immediate sensation of “being” that an unthinking animal has); but we are not gods, because thought is always flawed (the Understanding simply can’t grasp all potential phenomena; we can’t conceive of the entirety of the universe like a deity could). Rather, we are stuck in the middle ground.

Ideology is false inasmuch as it denies this fact: it takes as knowable that which we can’t ever know. Think of these two examples: on the one hand, we have scientism or logical positivism, which tries to hold up human intelligence/rationality (pure thought) as the ultimate authority, as a god; on the other, we have deep ecology, spiritualism, or Zen, all of which try to hold up the un-thought (pure being/nature) as the ultimate authority. This is a false dichotomy. It is stuck at the level form/matter, instead of form/content. We need to get to the point where ideology becomes comical and ironic.

One of the quickest and most exciting reads on this is an article on Kierkegaard and belief in which Žižek discusses the paradoxes of human existence by giving two different readings of Antigone — one tragic, the other comic.

In homage to #OWS, let me say that I think the protestors are breaking out of the vicious cycle of the second type of relation, form / matter; the form itself is under interrogation.

In The Fragile Absolute, starting with the chapter “Coke as objet petite a,” Žižek discusses the advent of modernist art. When modernism comes to self-awareness, it is said to enter the realm of the postmodern; thus postmodernism is a stage of modernism. When modernism falls from its lofty heights into the postmodern, anything that reaches the level of a “transgressive excess” cannot any longer have its shattering effect on the values of the age, since these values are no longer so clear. Because the transgressive excess does not have the same shock value as it once did, the excess can be integrated into the traditional spheres of artistic exchange. Take as an example the fact that if you visit NYC, you won’t have any trouble finding a museum that features a piece of trash as a work of art.

That a piece of trash can be elevated to the level of a sublime object, an object of art, bares witness to the cultural reality of the “ever-present threat” that our noblest values will reveal themselves to be nothing more than pieces of shit. This is not simply to say that what we believe is actually a fiction. Rather, the threat includes the risk that our society as a whole cannot maintain its would-be values, that, for example, the government won’t follow through on its promise of justice to the people. Thus the artist’s desperate attempt to answer the question, Is anything sacred anymore? Will we (and I, with this work) accomplish anything of value?, takes the form of the discourse of the hysteric, of the scientist, the investigator and gad-fly philosopher: each of these elusive values is none other than the elusive Lacanian objet petit a, a nothing that captures the gaze of those who long for there to be, in the end, some actual substance in the object.

Thus whereas premodern (traditional) artists attempted to fill the place of the sacred Thing – approaching it, as it were, asymptotically – postmodern artists have first to probe for the mere existence of the Thing, the Void or Place which would theoretically embody the unimaginable Whole, absolutely pure Value itself – beauty, courage, whatever one wants to represent. And because one can no longer take for granted that the value is there as something the community believes and expects to be shown by the masterful artist, the artist’s task is to probe for the existence of the Thing, and, in the process, to provoke and inspire the audience to reveal and acknowledge both their belief in and reliance upon a value of some sort.

That is to say, by placing a piece of trash in the gallery, the artist provokes the viewer, and the viewer responds with a question – Why is this here? Is this gallery not a sacred place? Is there not something that this artwork should embody? And what is it, exactly, that we are supposed to imagine upon viewing this artwork? The artist’s task is thus “to make sure that this Place itself will ‘take place,’” that the gallery will have a meaning (25).

Put simply, the premodern artist had an ideal to shoot for, whereas the postmodern artist doesn’t. Imagine it this way: before, there was a universal standard of beauty and other artistic ideals, whereas today we have fragile, elusive, fleeting instances of these ideals that don’t ever reach consensus.

On to the titular topic: dubstep is the music of our age. It is the shit of musical art. Other radical subgenres merely take to the extreme their parent-genre’s original musical characteristics. Think of punk, metal, and the like: these are desperate attempts to purge everything “pure” and “wholesome” about original rock music, and for that very reason, they remain passionately attached to their parents; it is as if the sole purpose for their performances were to scream “we are NOT that.” Yes, punk rock has a legendary history. It is political, revolutionary music. But dubstep goes further: it is a species of post-apocalyptica. (The gas mask epitomizes the dubstep aesthetic). As such, dubstep heralds the emergence of something other-worldly. It is radically new, independent of any previous generation of music – since it uses new instruments, its sounds literally haven’t been heard before. Thus it is beyond expectation.

And yet for however expansive and awe-inspiring it can be, it isn’t quite pleasant. That is to say, it is far from high culture. Dubstep’s entrance on the musical scene is like the debut of an ugly, scandalous exhibit at the Guggenheim. Pop music, on the other hand, distills to a cheap plastic imitation the aesthetic values expressed in a more sophisticated way by the traditional genres of high-culture art; the simple purity of an autotuned voice is also a form of beauty – thus, pop is kitsch. And of course, dubstream is likewise kitsch.

Considering the violent undertones in some dubstep music, it’s worth asking whether the emergence of the genre reflects the same currents underlying the recent concrete manifestations of Hegel’s “abstract negativity.” Žižek has written about this kind of violence in response to the London riots, here. And after all, West London is the birthplace of dubstep (see artists like Mala, Skream, Caspa, Rusko, and Chase & Status).

(As an aside, dubstep music often features randomly interspersed clips from TV shows and movies, or even just words that originate in the song itself. It is as if dubstep musicians were channeling the media onslaught we come up against every day into their works. In fact, many of these same works have as their principle musical feature a very basic melody/harmony set with a simple “wobble” bass and a variable, occasional treble line. This is a quality reminiscent of ambient music, and yet, simultaneously, we hear multiple intrusions of clips taken from various media, breaking up the omnipresent, streamlined, bulging waves of bass).

I was inspired to write this after reading one of Zizek’s articles on Lacan.com, titled “Deleuze and the Lacanian Real.” I think it’s the clearest thing Zizek has ever said about the Real, mostly because he’s focusing on it and illuminating it by reading Deleuze and Hegel side by side.

The Real is the minimal gap between the appearance of one and the same thing at time N compared to some later time. We patch over the gap so that, ontologically, the house we see today appears to be the same house tomorrow, even though, since we see them at different times, they are not strictly identical.

It gets more interesting when we consider that the minimal gap gets filled in by the subject, who renders it as object a; repetition is the process by which the stubborn Real gets patched over by an X, just as mathematics puts an ‘i’ to stand in for an imaginary number (since such a number doesn’t actually make any sense).

So, with regard to trauma/repression, it is not the case that, as Freud proposed, ‘that which we cannot remember, we are doomed to repeat;’ rather, it is only after we repeat something that we can forget it, because only then does the thing acquire an ‘existence of its own’ outside any particular instance of it; only after repeating the thing can the two instances, side by side, support a third, middle term that mediates between the two instances of the act or object, relieving the subject of the burden of creating a virtual screen/supplement for the thing in its bare, meaningless actuality.

In other words, the middle term swallows up the minimal difference between the two instances such that, regardless of what those instances actually were or will be, the middle term becomes and remains an elusive ‘je no se qua,’ or, in Lacanian terms, the object petite a.

Thus only if a thing is repeatedly encountered can the subject forget about it, in the sense of enjoying it via the virtual screen/supplement of object a; otherwise, the thing is laid bare, absent any significance. Conversely, forgetting is impossible when the thing is utterly unique: it is this uniqueness which is traumatic, haunting the subject as if the encounter with the thing must be repeated so that the subject can turn it into an object of knowledge, a thing with sense, versus the non-sense of bare, inhuman(e) reality (to be clear, this is a reality in which any one instance appears to be the result of a purely mechanical, unnecessary succession of events with no actor, lacking the support of the (virtual) depth of meaning, the supplementary object a, provided by a human being, the only being capable of ‘virtualizing’ reality, adding meaning where there is none).

When we cannot repeat our gesture, that is the truly traumatic thing: without repetition, the thing can’t be processed by the subject, since, without the gap in time, there is no second version of the object that could be compared with the first, the both being absolutely crucial for the time ‘in between,’ the third term, to become the minimal distance between the two versions of the identical object. This ‘distance’ can then be translated into object a and therefore rendered enjoyable.

But in order to avoid a direct encounter with the traumatic kernel of the Real in everything (the object a or das Ding that we posit), which, up close, turns into excessive enjoyment (jouissance) and threatens our ability to comprehend/enjoy, the subject repeats the same appearance/gesture over and over in order to, as it were, see the self-posited object a from all possible angles, swirling around it by repeating the confrontation with the Thing in as many new contexts as possible, in order to avoid directly encountering it (it seems a bit like centripetal force). I think David Cronenberg’s Crash would be a good source to look to for a representation of this return/repetition.

Also, Zizek makes it very clear in the same article that the Lacanian Real is not the same as the notion of a great Reality beyond any of our modes of grasping it, an infinite depth. In fact, it is nearly the opposite: the Real is, again, a minimal content, a minimal difference; and it is just this gap itself, not something beyond the gap of which the gap shows us merely a glimpse; essence is appearance.

Interestingly, Zizek uses Badiou’s terms to help illustrate this minimal difference. Badiou explains that Hegelian negation involves two parts, first destruction, then subtraction. Negating a positive social order does not mean the rejection of the entirety of that order. It is the move away from the standard form in which the social order is maintained (Badiou’s example is the invention of atonal music, which, while still working with music per se, worked with it in a different form than the previous standard, tonal music). Subtraction is negation’s mature self-becoming, the move from in-itself to for-itself. Badiou calls this subtraction because the negative force (e.g., atonal music) becomes a movement of its own, which, as a definitive movement, can be isolated as the equation of the normal symbolic order minus all that was before in the standard form. In other words, after subtraction, we’re left at the fringes of the symbolic order, the eye-sore that the symbolic fails to acknowledge.

This failure of knowledge is the same as in the above case in which the Real is patched over with signifiers and perceptual-representational anomalies, like object a. Zizek says that this exposed fringe of the symbolic threatens to directly represent the minimal difference that keeps the symbolic working. The Real is less than its representation; it is the ‘kernel’ that, as we’ve agreed, is never shown directly. But because negation approaches the level of the absolute minimal difference (since its actor is merely the sum left after the subtraction from the symbolic of the standard form of that which the symbolic struggles to represent) the position of the actor in negation is a good way to think of the Real.

The important thing to see is that, even in subtraction, negation is still part of the symbolic (it never actually is the Real). Zizek makes this clear when he uses another quasi-analogy, the difference between sacrilege and profanation. Sacrilege is the breaking of religious rules, the failure to follow customs. Although this example isn’t quite apt, I’m thinking particularly of the inept mishandling of a sacred object or ritual by, say, a young, inexperienced member of the clergy. The point is that this is simply a failure to live up to ideals that aren’t themselves challenged — in fact, they’re reinforced. In music, it would be the equivalent of writing tonal music, but writing it poorly or incorrectly.

Atonal music, on the other hand, is more similar to profanation; profanation involves the perfect execution of the law, except it takes place in an unexpected, even unwanted, context (just think of taking high culture to the streets, ‘vulgarizing’ it not by poorly representing it, but by representing it in the wrong kind of place, to the wrong kinds of people).

So whereas sacrilege still stays within the framework of positing reflection (that which comes before negation), profanation is reflexive in the way that only negation can be; it is something absolutely true of the symbolic, but which is formally disavowed. As such, it is the act that threatens to reduce the symbolic to the Real, the minimal difference, which can only occur after an act’s repetition in multiple contexts.

To add to my analysis of the final installment of the Harry Potter (movie) saga, I’d like to turn to the subject of Harry as Christ. Let us examine the concept of the support of the believers, the symbolic community, more closely. Of course, first we must take a detour through (who else?) Žižek. Please forgive the perhaps excessive length of the following quote!

In Metastases of Enjoyment, pages 39-42, he outlines Hegel’s examination of Christianity:

the ‘death of God’ designates for Hegel the death of the transcendent Beyond that exists in itself: the outcome of this death is God qua Holy Spirit – that is, the product of the labour of the community of believers. The relationship between cause and effect is dialectically reflected here. On the one hand, the Cause is unambiguously the product of the subjects’ activity; it is ‘alive’ only in so far as it is continually resuscitated by the believers’ passion….

On the other hand, these same believers experience the Cause as the Absolute, as what sets their lives in motion…Subjects therefore posit the Cause, yet they posit it not as something subordinated to them but as their absolute Cause. What we encounter here is again the paradoxical temporal loop of the subject: the Cause is posited, but it is posited as what it ‘always-already was.’….

[Christianity] involves the absolute mediation of both sides in the person of Christ, who is simultaneously the representative of God among human subjects and the subject who passes into God. In Christianity, the only identity of man and God is the identity in Christ – in clear contrast to the pre-Christian attitude, which conceives of such an identity as the asymptotic point of man’s infinite approach to God by means of his spiritual purification [e.g., paganism, the great Eastern religions, Judaism, etc., in which God is a mystical ‘Beyond’ that can be approached but never reached]….

[The content of Christian Doctrine is the death that happens to a particular individual who achieves reconciliation with the universal]. Here the death of Christ is “still experienced as the force of negativity that affects a particular, finite being; it is not yet experienced as the simultaneous death of the abstract Beyond itself….

[The content of Christian Faith, however, is] salvation, accomplished by Christ when he took upon himself the sins of humanity and expired on the Cross as a common mortal – salvation thus involves the identity of man and God. This identity, which in the Doctrine was a mere object of knowledge, occurs in Faith as an existential experience….How do I, a finite mortal, concretely experience my identity with God? I experience it in my own radical despair, which – paradoxically – involves a loss of faith: when, apparently forsaken by God, I am driven to despair, thrown into absolute solitude, I can identify with Christ on the Cross (‘Father, why has Thou forsaken me?’)….[M]y personal experience of being abandoned by God thus overlaps with the despair of Christ himself as being abandoned by the divine Father….

What expires on the Cross is thus not only the terrestrial representative of God (as it still seemed in the first syllogism of the Doctrine) but God himself, namely the god of Beyond, God as the transcendent Substance, as the divine Reason which guarantees that our lives have Meaning….

The content of the Ritual, finally, is the Holy Spirit as the positive unity of man and God: the God who expired on the Cross is resurrected in the guise of the Spirit of the religious community. He is no longer the Father who, safe in His Beyond, regulates our fate, but the work of us all, members of the community, since he is present in the ritual performed by us….

Conceived this way, the ‘death of God’ can no longer appear as a liberating experience, as the retreat of the Beyond which sets man free, opening up to him the domain of terrestrial activity as the field in which he is to affirm his creative subjectivity; instead the ‘death of God’ involves the loss of the consistent ‘terrestrial’ reality itself. Farm from heralding the triumph of man’s autonomous creative capacity, the ‘death of God’ is more akin to what the great texts of mysticism usually designate as the ‘night of the world’: the dissolution of (symbolically constituted) reality.

In the Christian faith, Christ’s resurrection is the resurrection and continuation of the principles that Jesus stood for, not of Jesus himself. But in the final stage of the Harry Potter saga, Harry must literally be brought back to life.

So the most unfortunate aspect of the movie is that, instead of exemplifying the triumph of the revolutionary Cause (Good vs. Evil), with the transmission of the Cause to the Holy Spirit, sustained through the ritual action of the community of believers,  the plot takes the shallow turn of Harry’s actual, corporeal ‘resurrection.’

Worse still is that this resurrection requires a magical/mystical supplement; the community doesn’t have any part in Harry’s resurrection – the magic of the Resurrection Stone is a kind of ‘deus ex machina’ that relieves the community of its own, existential despair, and of the hard work of keeping the Idea/Cause alive, taking away the most fundamental sacrifice of any revolutionary/religious commitment.

If Harry had died, we wouldn’t have the cop-out happy ending. Rather, we’d have utter despair within the community of believers. Harry’s death could then symbolize for the community the fragility of their own way of life, the non-assurance of their safety in the world, even, yes, the possibility that they will die (literally or figuratively), forsaken by what they’d thought was a secure life, held in tact by an everlasting guide/father figure (Dumbledore).

So while we do get the death of Dumbledore, who stands for the God of the Old Testament, the father figure for Harry and the rest of Hogwarts, the movie never runs its full course; the New Testament and its hero, Jesus Christ, with his Good News — the news of the community’s salvation in their own, collectively sustained (and never guaranteed) belief system — never arrives!

Harry never made the ultimate sacrifice for the community, thus sabotaging the birth of the Holy Spirit.

In a sense, Harry, since he somehow comes back from the dead, becomes, for all intents and purposes, a new Dumbledore. So this moment of ‘ressurection’ is not a moment of triumph, but, rather the ultimate failure of the series’ guiding force.

Rather than accomplishing the radical gesture of faith, Harry’s survival signals the series’ regression toward a kind of pre-Voldemort world.

For a contemporary analogy, this is the same kind of regression into premodern beliefs that’s been frighteningly successful among Christian fundamentalist groups. These groups search for material evidence of the Bible’s authenticity. They want hard evidence, proof. They take the Bible literally, as if the Bible’s literal meaning were even half as important as its existential meaning.

When Harry survives, the community’s freedom dies. Instead of the ‘death of God,’ in other words, we get the opposite, the reassurance that there really is a God: Magic.

Thus instead of accomplishing the radical gesture of Christian faith, the Harry Potter sage ends with a regression into the myth of the God as a mystical, metaphysical Beyond that one can’t ever fully grasp, but which nevertheless has enormous consequences for human life. Even the best wizards can only approach ‘asymptotically,’ as it were, the possession of the ultimate, universal power of Magic.

This is why Christians might rightly oppose J. K. Rowling’s remarkably successful franchise. But not for the cliche, stupid obsession with magic as some kind of metaphysical alternative to the ‘real’ world as ostensibly posited by the Bible, the obsession with Harry Potter as some kind of anti-Christian evil. Rather, Christians should remark that the message of Harry Potter doesn’t offer half the ‘good news’ of the Bible. (But it’s still a lot of fun to read. And damn, what a great movie! Five stars).