I#039;m just wild about Harry

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 28, 2001

"Modern life is rife with rumors, half-truths and innuendoes, as life has always been in society. Only nowadays with faxes, e-mail and the Internet we can mislead our fellow man with greater speed and efficiency than ever before…sometimes quite unintentionally.

Case in point: the great Harry Potter' Hoax. If you have been living in a cave the past year or two, you have, perhaps, not heard that name. Otherwise, you probably know that Harry Potter is the creation of author JK Rowlings, who has written a series of children's books featuring the adventures of the young wizard in training.

There has been a huge storm of controversy surrounding these books. Preachers have thunderously denounced them from pulpits, warning they will lead our children into nothing less than Satan worship. Concerned Christian parents have sent out dire warnings by the thousands by e-mail. The fact that the first Harry Potter' movie recently opened with record-breaking success will cause many good folks to weep, wail and gnash their teeth.

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In the meantime, the writers at a newspaper called "The Onion" are sitting around laughing their heads off.

They know it's all a big joke. They came up with it in the first place.

Said "Onion" is a satirical publication, you see. It pokes fun of anyone and everyone in stories laid out in a traditional newspaper format.

One of these "articles" was all about some cute little all-American kids who had become hooked on Harry Potter and sold their souls to the devil, as it were, in order to become practitioners of the Dark Arts'.

The article' included "quotes" from the kids and from author Rowlings denouncing Christianity and calling Jesus weak' and a loser.'

Now remember what I said: This was all made up by some clever writers. The kids and their Satanic cult didn't actually exist. JK Rowlings has never publicly denounced Christianity.

The Onion's style of parody may not be your brand of humor, but the fact remains-it was ALL meant to be a joke.

The problem is, many, many copies of this made-up article were sent out over the Internet without mention of its original source. Thousands of people read it and believed it to be the real deal. They passed it on to their pastors and PTA presidents and other well meaning , sincere people and the whole brouhaha kicked in.

Voila, a new urban legend' was born, one rivaling those persistent (and totally unsubstantiated) stories about the Proctor and Gamble Company being a nest of demonic vipers. (Sad to say, that particular hoax has been kept alive by a well-known competitor of the personal and home care product giant.)

Christian writers who defended the Potter books in print were bombarded with negative e-mail in which they were called things like "the whore of Babylon", "Satan's imp" and "an evil witch from Hell."

Gee, people-lighten up! Let me risk being branded the Devil's handmaiden by stating I have read some of the Potter books. If I had any children I would have no qualms about them reading the books or seeing the movie-even though I AM one of those Bible reading, hymn singing Baptist-types.

I think Rowlings is a writer with a terrific imagination, a great sense of humor and a keen appreciation for what it's like to be a young person who walks to the beat of a different drummer.'

There are lessons about friendship and courage and standing up for what is right in her books. Since when is that such a terrible thing?

I respect parents who want to protect their children from evil influences

God knows, there is enough rotten stuff out there today.

However, before you rush to judgment, be sure you know the truth. Be able to separate the facts from the fiction.

Folks, there are plenty of other things to be more concerned about than worrying yourselves into a frazzle over a fictional character.

Nuff said.