The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024
Instagram

God Squad misses the joke

OP/ED
 God Squad misses the joke
God Squad misses the joke

God Squad misses the joke

In the middle of last summer, my place of employment, Barnes& Noble Booksellers, had a party to celebrate the release ofJ.K. Rowling’s latest Harry Potter book. I worked thatmorning, so I was not on duty during the party itself, but I didstop in that night to get a look at how things were going. Ienjoyed seeing my costumed co-workers amidst the throngs ofsimilarly costumed children and parents. Everybody seemed to behaving a good time, and I was happy just being there.

A few days later, one of my co-workers mentioned to me that hethought the Potter series was something like an oasis for childrenin a world filled with hate, violence, greed and such. Not havingread any of the books and not planning to either, I found hisremarks interesting. I thought it all the more lamentable that somany fundamentalist Christians in the United States have waged acampaign against the books, evidently believing them to be somesort of Satanic menace. Enormous numbers of children want to readsomething that is evidently very good for them — leave it tothe God Squad to try and ruin it.

A few months after the book release party, I tore off a page onmy Onion calendar to reveal the article “Harry Potter BooksSpark Rise in Satanism Among Children.” For those of youunfamiliar with The Onion, it’s a satirical newspaper that isfrequently as insightful as it is funny.

The article in question, first published in 2000, is a classic,filled with “blasphemous” quotes from children said tobe joining Satanic covens in droves. Adult Satanists are quoted asbeing delighted at the sudden spike in membership, and arepresentative of a fictional religious group called Focus on Faithvoices his displeasure. The article closes with an over-the-topobscene quote attributed to Rowling. I thought the article was awonderful jab at those people backward enough to seeRowling’s books as the embodiment of evil, and yet I forgotabout my firsthand experience with satire.

I was on the staff of my high school’s newspaper in 11thand 12th grade. The paper had a tradition of releasing an issueresembling a supermarket tabloid, filled with fictitious stories,towards the end of the year. Within minutes of distribution, it wasevident that people were taking our undisguised hoaxes seriously.This happened two years in a row, despite our addition of numerouselements that seemed sure to give away our intentions. The mostnotable hoax was an advertisement featuring a photo of one of ourstaff members, mouth agape, with the caption “Boy forSale!” The leader of the school’s ROTC program wentballistic over a story claiming that ROTC was actually a front for”Russia’s Red Army.” The Red Army did not existin the year 2000, but since the story appeared near a “BoyFor Sale” advertisement, the ROTC man took enough offense tostorm into the newspaper room, complaining vociferously. Later on,some ROTC members who got the joke apologized for theirleader’s actions. In subsequent years, the newspaper staffdecided not to publish a hoax issue.

I’m sure you can all see what’s coming.

Yes, Christian fundamentalists took the Onion story seriously,and it was rapidly disseminated through the country’santi-occult network. As the article was forwarded to thousands uponthousands of people, it usually contained an edited version of theRowling quote. Also, the forwarders commonly added messages oftheir own, exhorting recipients to send the article to every”pastor, teacher and parent” they knew, along withpleas for prayer.

It gets worse. According to a recent article in Salon.com, morethan three years since the spreading and debunking of the Onionarticle, some evangelists are still on the same anti-Pottercrusade. Some have even suggested that The Onion itself is involvedin a devilish plot.

All of this would be funny if it were not so pathetic and sad.I’ve seen the kinds of books these anti-Rowling forces wouldrather have kids read: books claiming that humans and dinosaursonce lived and worked together, books claiming that there is nary adark spot on American history, and, worst of all, those books abouthow “the end is near.” Not an end of our own making,no, a supernatural one in which some people disappear and othersare “left behind.”

If forced to choose, I find wizards more believable.

 

Scott Charney is a biweekly columnist for The Daily Campus.He may be reached at [email protected].

More to Discover