Your safety line

Let’s say you get a job washing windows on skyscrapers. During training you’re shown your safety line, a new type of super-strong wire that attaches your personal harness to a hook far above you… but looks exactly like a single human hair.

It’s going to be the only thing between you and falling hundreds of feet to your death.

Despite your trainer seeming trustworthy, and other employees assuring you it’s safe, you doubt. The stakes are too high, and the appearance of the wire too uncertain, for you to believe completely enough to trust the safety line. Your life is on the line (literally) and you’ve never seen something so thin that was that strong. At this point, you can choose to disbelieve the trainer, and walk out. But if you do want this job, listening to others isn’t enough. You have to try it out.

First you pull as hard as you can on the wire. Surprised at it’s strength, you gain confidence to tether yourself to practice hooks only a few feet from the ground. When that holds, you try throwing your whole weight on it, jumping around, hooking it to higher hooks.

After a day of this, you realise the wire is exactly as strong as you were told, and you try it from a skyscraper 200 feet up. Your mind still fears, but the evidence seen so far helps you choose to do what you want to anyway. After a month on the job, you trust your life to that wire without hesitation.

Your friends may be shocked when you describe your safety line to them, but you can’t doubt it’s strength anymore. You have too much evidence.

This is how faith in God works. If you accept the possibility that scripture is true, and try out what it tells you, you gain confidence in it.

The seed analogy in Alma 32:26-43 explains it well.

Like any principle of the gospel, there’s nothing magical or mysterious about faith. It’s just understanding how fickle the human mind is about accepting some facts and building your confidence in the truth of something by testing it out over and over.

Harry Potter and Christianity

A very small (but very vocal!) minority of Christians view J.K Rowling’s series as a gateway to the occult for young people (“look how popular it is! Anything today’s kids like must be evil!”).

A much larger group of Christians view it as harmless fun (many have actually read the books, and I imagine the others simply rely on the fact that of all the millions of kids who’ve now read Harry Potter, the percentage who’ve actually started worshipping Satan as a result is zero).

But the rest of us Christians think Harry Potter is not just harmless fun. It’s extremely-beneficial-to-humanity fun.

We believe J. K. Rowling is a Godsend. Here are a couple of reasons why:

For one, the Harry Potter books are chock-full of good moral values:

  • Guess what, that terrible guy Snape wasn’t so evil after all – guess you can’t judge anyone, can you?
  • The recurring theme about “purebloods” – showing how evil prejudice and bigotry are
  • The recurring theme that our choices, not our circumstances or innate talents that determine who we are: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” and “…the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are…”
  • Harry’s Mum, and that bloke Dumbledore, actually sacrificed their lives to save others (who do we know who’s done something like that?)

… just off the top of my head. Here’s some more MissInterpretation added last time I wrote on this topic:

  • Doing what’s right instead of what’s popular is its own reward (Longbottom trying to stop Harry, Hermione, and Ron)
  • Magic doesn’t fix real-world problems (peer pressure, homework, etc) even if you’re a wizard
  • Adults are there to help you in situations too big to handle (in the beginning, Harry & friends did not trust the teachers enough to bring their problems to them; by the end, Harry learns that he can benefit from the guidance and council of those older and wiser)

This is no big surprise really, as Rowling identifies herself as a church-going Christian.

But the excellent morals in Harry Potter, while leaving most of popular entertainment in the dust, aren’t even the best argument in favour of Harry Potter, even strictly from a Christian perspective. That honour belongs to their ability to encourage people to read.

How many children (and adults), worldwide, now read books regularly that never would have picked one up if not for Harry Potter? 50% more? 10 times as many?

Think how much more literate the world is, as a result of this one woman. Think how much a person’s life (and the lives of those around them, and often the lives of many others only vaguely connected to them) are improved by that person’s acquiring a lifelong love of learning and knowledge from an early age.

In a world where video games are entertaining enough to entice kids to play literally all day, where enough movies and TV shows are released to take up all our waking hours many times over, young people are actually reading books.

Christ taught that if you want to know whether something is good or not, you have to look at the actual results:

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit… Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Matthew 7:20

That’s why Christians should be the last people on Earth to condemn these books.

Ken Jennings: “Ask Me Anything”

The most successful Jeopardy player of all time is a mormon trivia buff and pop-culture nerd named Ken Jennings. He’s a pretty hilarious guy, and his blog is great.

He’s doing an AMA on Reddit right now, check it out:

IAmA 74-time Jeopardy! champion, Ken Jennings. I will not be answering in the form of a question.

Bonus Trivia: He was roommates at BYU with my current favourite author Brandon Sanderson (I originally found out about Brandon from Ken’s blog).

Warbreaker Map

If you’re reading Warbreaker, you may have noticed that it’s a bit hard to find the landmarks on the included map of T’Telir.

I did, anyway, so I made a colour-coded version:

Warbreaker Map - coloured

Click the image for the full sized version. If you’re reading the book on your phone, you can download this to it for reference as you read.

Enjoy.

Brandon Sanderson’s “The Way of Kings” is out

Brandon Sanderson is my favourite author at the moment. He writes epic fantasy novels with carefully constructed plots and colourful, life-like characters.

He is famous for complex, cohesive “magic systems” – that is, the magic in his books is always consistent within its own internal rules. He’s also known for original story concepts; many of them turn well-known fantasy tropes on their heads, such as the Mistborn trilogy, which is about a world in which “the Dark Lord won” – a prophesied hero, fated to destroy an evil villain, unexpectedly failed.

If you’d like to try out Brandon’s work I recommend Warbreaker, a full novel he released for free (cc licensed) which you can download as a .pdf or .prc from his website: Warbreaker downloads (I tried to convert the latest version to an .epub but my reader won’t open it, anyone else succeeded?).

I can’t wait to read his latest book, The Way of Kings:

It’s just been released and is available as an eBook, as a physical book ordered on-line and in bookstores in the US (and some here in Australia, try Borders). There are sample chapters available on tor.com, too.

So if this looks like something you might like, given Brandon a try.

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