say goodbye to luke skywalker, and hello to harry potter

it is a mystery what stories capture the imagination of a generation. the ancient recipe of good vs evil, quest, self discovery and redemption are mandatory ingredients. for me and my generation, no story put these ingredients together better then the epic movie series star wars. in these movies we journey alongside luke skywalker as he discovers his mysterious past, explores his high aptitude for the force, and discovers his sense of personal destiny. and for 30 years this story has dominated our pop culture. as someone who has grown up on star wars i couldn’t begin to imagine a better saga to be the backdrop of my life. many authors and directors have attempted to challenge the throne of the star wars empire, but none have succeeded. that is at least until j.k. rowling entered the scene and challenged the star wars empire with a new story for a new generation.

to tell you the truth, i never really appreciated harry potter. not because of the crazy anit-harry potter movement in the early 2000’s, but simply because i just don’t get fantasy, wizards, and potions. this genre makes no sense to me and is for people who play dungeons and dragons. and because of my prejudices and my age it was easy to dismiss the growing momentum of the harry potter franchise.

as book after book was written, and movie after movie released, i became more and more impressed with the way that this saga was captivating an entire generation. i think in the back of my mind i was hoping to be done with student ministry by now and /or the harry potter fad would be over. but the truth is that harry potter is not a fad, and i am still called to student ministry. and because of those two truths, harry potter is a story that i must embrace.

in a similar way to star wars for my generation, harry potter is the retelling of the ancient story of good vs. evil, of quest, self discovery, and redemption for my current students. when they process their lives, their struggles, their battles, it is the story of harry potter that helps illustrate and frame their experiences and gives them perspective. when students wrestle with issues such as parents who don’t understand, bullying, self-discovery, friendship, and betrayal, students find a fellow sojourner in harry potter.

because i am called to continue to minister to and walk along side adolescents as they wrestle with parents, deal with bullying, and discover their inner strength and ultimate spiritual identity, i will use any and all tools at my disposal. and now that i have gotten my head out of my butt, i realize that harry potter is going to be a strong ally in identifying with as well as framing some significant social, emotional, developmental, and even spiritual truths.

i realize that i am pretty behind the curve with all things harry potter. to fix that i have decided to watch all seven movies over christmas break. that is over 16 hours of movies in a genre that i don’t like. (watching 16 hours of the notebook would be the only thing more challenging.) but because i love my students and i want to understand them and the things that are important to them, it is actually going to be a labor of love.

the older i get as youth workers the further i get from youth culture. and once again i have a renewed calling as a cross cultural missionary. i am called to explore a foreign culture, to understand the stories and ethos of that culture. and as a cross cultural ministry it is imperative to find the cracks, the thin places, where we can use their shaping stories and begin to re-frame them and connect those stories to the greatest story. the apostle paul used the tomb of an unknown god and popular poets. this generation’s popular poet is j.k. rowling, and their hero is harry potter.

may the saga of harry potter, his journey of destiny and self discovery be a vehicle that helps illustrate our ultimate destiny and self discovery. may it be a tool to help students realize that they are children of the king, endowed with every spiritual blessing, called to stand up for the poor and oppressed, commanded to love one another deeply, and empowered to live our entire lives for the glory of god! amen.