Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Yearning for Authority

February 08th, 2017 by John Mansfield

“Harry Potter has become a surprisingly obsessive allegorical tool for liberals’ opposition to the Trump Administration [ . . .] I’ll disobey Occam’s Razor and offer another mostly unrelated hypothesis about why Harry Potter stories are such useful allegorical material for contemporary liberals, aside from a general hunger for myth and meaning in a post-religious age.

“Harry Potter, especially the movies, is about the legitimacy of authority that comes from schools.”

–Spotted Toad


This yearning for authority occasionally manifests itself in some apostates. One of the top five things that Kate Kelly, Esq. wanted you to know is that she is a lawyer, though I don’t think she has ever been a member of any state bar association. Dr. John Dehlin seems a bit obsessed by PhDs, his own and any held by those he interviews.

That yearning can be heard when some invoke science. I don’t get a sense when most nonbelievers invoke it that they have much of a personal feeling for science; it seems to just be an alternate authority to turn to in the absence of God, revealed to them by prophet-substitutes like Richard Dawkins or Bill Nye. Immersion in the workings of science sometimes leaves me with a feeling of despair at ever being able to nail anything down. There is a lot of faith that goes into sticking with a scientific process long enough and comb through all the errors in method and design to arrive at a point that an experiment or theory isn’t producing nonsense.

Returning to the Harry Potter link, appeals to the movies and books may stem from a yearning for authority transferred into a love of the academy, but like Star Wars decades before it, Harry Potter is an extended body of fairly widely known work, and so lends itself easily to modern metaphor.

Comments (9)
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February 08th, 2017 14:37:49
9 comments

Ivan Wolfe
February 8, 2017

“Dr. John Dehlin seems a bit obsessed by PhDs, his own and any held by those he interviews.”

Only if the PhD holds views JD and his ilk find amenable. No one in that realm gives a fig that I have a PhD – to them I’m “Ivan Wolfe” whereas Jana Riess is often referred to as “Dr. Riess.”

Not that I care all that much about my PhD. For me, it was a credential for the job I wanted, not club with which to beat my lessers.

I think Jeff G. explained this fairly well in this post:
“If neither mainstream Mormon culture nor femininity are what characterize the core values of the Ordain Movement, then what does? While the influences of male and non-LDS thinkers are far too prevalent within the movement’s core to characterize it as essentially female or LDS, there is another (hidden) thread which does serve to unify the movement’s core: Intellectualism. The texts and authorities which are cited, the media channels that are frequented and the paradigmatic arguments and slogans which are offered within the Ordain Women movement are (beneath the LDS packaging) at their origin and core moderately radicalized and unambiguously intellectual in nature. A quick glance at the profiles on the movement’s website will find ubiquitous references to advanced degrees, academic and authorial professions, bookwormishness and other deep-rooted habits revolving around the production and consumption of the written word. Their resources tab similarly links to symposia, books and articles, blogs and podcasts – the bread and butter of intellectuals. At the core of the Ordain Women movement, then, is a set of values which is neither female nor Mormon in character, but instead belongs to the intellectual culture of critical discourse (CCD). . . But do not be fooled into thinking that these intellectuals are for equality across the board, for nothing could be further from the truth. While intellectuals are unambiguously against those social differentiations which structure other cultures, they not only tolerate, but actively reinforce a hierarchy within their own movements which are stratified along intellectual lines. Public influence, authorial citations, the skills of eloquent rhetoric, public debate and bureaucratic management all serve to differentiate and stratify movements such as Ordain Women. Indeed, it is precisely the fact that women within the church which have these intellectual qualifications are denied access to priesthood authority that most scandalizes the core of the Ordain Women movement. To be clear, intellectuals do not spawn social movements in order to do away with social stratification altogether, but to reorganize social stratifications in a way which is more conducive to their own influence, leadership, recognition and interests. Consequently, the intellectual leadership has a great interest in producing a false consciousness within the social movements which they inspire so as to mask the way it is the interests of the former which are truly being served by the latter.”

http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2014/06/ordain-women-whose-movement-is-it-2/3595/


Wm
February 8, 2017

That sounds like a lot of work to gain access to the meagre table scraps provided via bourgeois respectability.


Bookslinger
February 8, 2017

“To be clear, intellectuals do not spawn social movements in order to do away with social stratification altogether, but to reorganize social stratifications in a way which is more conducive to their own influence, leadership, recognition and interests. Consequently, the intellectual leadership has a great interest in producing a false consciousness within the social movements which they inspire so as to mask the way it is the interests of the former which are truly being served by the latter.”

Sounds like Leninism/Bolshevism/Communism.


Bookslinger
February 8, 2017

In other words, leftists/progressives are henchmen of the devil. See:
http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/02/david-warren-defies-the-empire-of-lies


Bruce Charlton
February 9, 2017

“Harry Potter, especially the movies, is about the legitimacy of authority that comes from schools.”

This statement is nonsense, I’m afraid!

Leave aside the movies – which are not really about anything very important or deep – the books are profoundly Christian with themes of the importance of self-sacrificing love and courage especially.

This is made explicit in the final volume – HP and the Deathly Hallows – which begins with two Christian quotations, and includes two more from the Bible on the gravestones in Godric’s Hollow.

The work of John Granger is excellent on this theme – probably How Harry Casts his Spell is the clearest and most complete of his books I have read.

My interpretation of the use of HP in attacking Trump is simply that Leftists (mis)interpret everything through the narrow and distorting lens of Leftism.

They do this with Harry Potter as they do with everything else; and then use their distorted understanding as a convenient club to beat whatever they currently dislike.

Activist SJWs infiltrated and subverted HP fandom several years ago – I observed this happen at the Leaky Cauldron website – and used their influence actively to promote SSM when that was the live media issue. This is especially liked with the movie (rather than book) fandom – and the actors etc. involved in that franchise (nearly all cinema people are ultra-liberals, of course).

Nothing deep, nothing real, nothing specific to HP happening here – just generic numbskull mainstream Leftism doing what it always does!


Bruce Charlton
February 9, 2017

Correction – the first Epigraph of Deathly Hallows is by Aeschylus – who presumably wasn’t a Christian – the second was by William Penn. And “especially liked with” should read “linked with”.

As a bonus – here is a wonderful short talk by Jerram Barrs (a Professor at a Calvinist Seminary) on his reading of Deathly Hallows and its Christian significance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxySk24J_bs


Bookslinger
February 9, 2017

My view of “doctors” was formed early and forever tainted by watching this on television: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=53KcqITIPlA


MC
February 10, 2017

The most depressing part of that article was the stories of all the college tours saying, “THIS COLLEGE IS JUST LIKE HOGWARTS.” It combines so many tropes of modern cruddiness:

1) Elevation of the superficial over the substantive
2) The commercialization of the college experience.
(“I hope you like these Gothic arches, because you’re borrowing $200k to look at them.”)
3) Incessant reference to pop culture (“Oh, right, you never learned what “Gothic” means. IT’S JUST LIKE HOGWARTS!)


Spotted Toad
February 10, 2017

Hi Bruce,

I’m a fan of your blog and enjoyed Thought Prison quite a bit, so I’m pleased to see you comment on something I wrote, even if in disagreement. I’d agree that Harry Potter makes use of a considerable amount of Christian symbolism (you might be interested in the other essay I wrote about Harry Potter, about the centrality of Lily Potter’s sacrifice to the overall work https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/ghost-witch/ ), which is somewhat inevitable that our culture is still Christian in its roots if perhaps no longer its branches. My bigger point is that we simply don’t have a vocabulary for community or fellowship or just authority outside of what we draw from schooling, and so the books (and especially the films) offer that vocabulary to contemporary liberals, but at the cost of submission of individual conscience and self-determination to collective conscience and collective, bureaucratic authority. I think this stands as a way of explaining how Harry Potter is used politically, even if it is distant from the “meaning” of the books as independent archetypes or myths. To echo your structure in Thought Prison, Hogwarts and Harry Potter allows a melding of New Left qualities of adventure, excitement, and self-discovery to an Old Left substratum of bureaucratic authority, the authority that emerges from schools but is channeled through the mass media and government. This is in spite of schools and colleges still being among our few remaining sources of in-person community, and there still being a lot of good amid the bad. The problem is that as schools and colleges have become more institutionally important, and educational credentialism has become an ever more central source of authority in the broader society, they’ve in some ways had a harder time of doing what they’re supposed to do in their own terms.

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