Interesting Conversations, “Harry Potter” and Vulgarity

I’ve just come back from a mini-conference this afternoon and decided to check a couple of items on the internet when I came across this essay, “Harry Potter is Dreadful and Vulgar.” Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsAs someone who has loved all of the Harry Potter movies that have come out, and recently discovered that the books are so much better, I found this article to be very intriguing, and helpful actually. One of the quotes in the article really stuck out to me:

“In 1901 GK Chesterton wrote an article entitled, “In Defense of Penny Dreadfuls.” In it he states that we fail to realize the importance of popular literature.

‘One of the strangest examples of the degree to which ordinary life is undervalued is the example of populaG. K. Chestertonr literature, the vast mass of which we contentedly describe as vulgar. The boy’s novelette may be ignorant in a literary sense, which is only like saying that modern novel is ignorant in the chemical sense, or the economic sense, or the astronomical sense; but it is not vulgar intrinsically–it is the actual centre of a million flaming imaginations.'”

One of the purposes of the conference was to have some people who want to start churches that actually serve the city instead of just seek to build up their little world within the church talk about ways of connecting with the culture. We do this by discerning the values and the idols of the culture – any culture (this includes your trypical church culture too). I found this quote by Chesterton, and blog on Harry Potter very illuminating of this point. Modern fiction, or Television, or movies, or any other possible thing you can think of tend to blacklisted as “secular” or “wrong” by some people in the church, but in reality, they are the “centre of a million flaming imaginaions” and really, the seat of the values and idols of the culture we live in.

Here are some good questions to consider (and even respond to if you feel up for it):

1. What are the “texts” of your culture?
2. What movies, music, television, internet-phenomenons either reflect or inform the culture where you live?

On another note, I met a couple of guys at the conference who mentioned that there is a difference between being a cultivator of culture, and being a consumer of culture. It was at this point that one of them had mentioned that he had resigned himself to not “writing” anything simply because there were too many intelligent people out there who had already said anything he would want to say, so why bother. But then he shared that he realized that you don’t have to write to make it on a best-seller list, but because you enjoy it, and maybe you do have something to contribute to the world through your writing. “So,” he said, “Even if it’s a C+ book, then its a C+ book, and I’m happy with that.” I have to say that I think I agree with his outlook.

My dad always taught me to do what I love. You don’t have to be the best and better than everybody else out there; just be the best that you can possibly be. I think if we actually thought through ways that we can contribute to the cultivation of the culture and world around us, we would probably have alot more “vulgarity” and strangely enough, the world could become a much more beautiful place to live.

This entry was posted in Culture, Mission, Random, Reflection and tagged by Chris Gensheer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Chris Gensheer

Husband and father of four, living in Mansfield, TX, serving as Lead Pastor of Christ Church Mansfield. Connect with us at I also provide research and social media consulting work for other pastors, churches, and ministry leaders. Contact me at for more.

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