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Alan Keyes is Making Sense
Alan Keyes
January 24, 2002


I understand that my friend, Bill O'Reilly, has actually suggested a name change for the show. I showed it to you the other night, “Alan Keyes is Changing Clothes.” Well, I don't know about that. But tonight, I think the name of the show really ought to be “Alan Keyes is Having Fun,” because we're going to do that this evening.

We're going to be talking about something that is one of the little secrets about my enthusiasms, because from the time I was a teenager, I have had a love of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. And I have, along with a lot of the other Tolkien enthusiasts, have been going through a wonderful grand old time in the course of the last several weeks, after the release of the new movie, “Lord of the Rings.” Now, I am not, I'll have to confess to you, one of the real adepts, one of the real enthusiasts. I have only seen “Lord of the Rings” four times. Well, that's a measure. There are people who have seen it more, including one of my children.

Now, I love these works. I love the story. I love the books. I love the movie. And so tonight's topic is a result of that enthusiasm, I have to confess it to you. Now, of course, you're right. There's probably going to be a little bit of a serious point to it, which we'll be making in the course of things. But it's really about the fact that we have lived through, in this period, a time when this great movie has been brought to the screen with faithfulness, with love, with an integrity that I think has satisfied the hearts of many, many folks, like myself.

We've also seen, of course, the enthusiasm with which another fantasy movie was greeted in this season. And that is “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,” which played to huge crowds and especially young kids over the course of the weeks of the Christmas holidays and before. Again, a movie that's all about the kinds of things that populate the imagination of young people and have been part of the saga that appeals to the young for many, many, many years in our culture and tradition.

Why now? you ask yourselves. When we see the enormous success of two movies like this, well, I think it's in part because the technology has finally caught up with the works of the imagination. Because of the computer-generated graphics and other techniques that have been developed over the years, there are scenes in these movies that are more realistic in which the wonderful conceptions of the mind are brought to the screen with a greater sense of reality than I have seen in my life, and I think that anybody else has ever seen as well.

In terms of “Lord of the Rings,” there's that wonderful scene with the Balrog and the Quidditch competition, the wonderful horse race (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I mean, there are so many things that were put together seamlessly in this movie, where the fantasy elements and the actors blended together in a way that just brought these worlds to life, and of course, has delighted many, many people, not everyone to be sure, as is always the case. But there's actually been a great deal of controversy in some quarters over Harry Potter, because of the prominent featuring of witchcraft and magic and things of this kind that have raised concern with some folks. And as you can imagine, we'll be talking about some of those concerns in the course of the night. But the question always arises when this kind of controversy occurs as to whether or not it really makes sense to be taking these works of the imagination, these works of entertainment that seriously. Well, the truth is that thought has been around for a long time. In his great work, “The Republic,” Plato actually addresses the issue of whether or not one should take the works of the imagination seriously, what the Greeks called Musique, the wonderful works of mind. And he wrote the following: “Musical training,” he said, “is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly-educated, graceful, or of him who is ill-educated, ungraceful. And also because he who has received this true education of the inner being will most shrewdly perceive omissions are false in art and nature, and with a true taste while he praises and rejoices over and receives into his soul the good and becomes noble and good, he will justly blame and hate the bad, now in the days of his youth, even before he is able to know the reason why.”

I think those words very wonderfully capture the powerful impact that the works of the imagination can have, particularly on the souls of the young. And sometimes I think we don't appreciate that enough in our culture. We put entertainment over there somewhere. That's amusement. People are just having fun. And we don't realize the powerful impact that the wonderful works of the imagination, the images, the characters that are drawn, the great issues that are presented in a way that brings them right into the mind and into the heart of our young. We don't realize the tremendous impact that this can have in preparing their hearts as fertile fields for the good ideas and the virtues or as fertile fields for the vices and temptations.

But there are those who have given a lot of serious thought to this, and we are joined by one of them tonight, the author, Connie Neal, author of “What's a Christian to do with Harry Potter?” Somebody who is familiar with the controversy with Harry Potter, who has spent a lot of time thinking about the powerful importance of these fantasy works, and is here to join us now to talk about just the facts — welcome to the show, Connie, and thank you for joining us tonight.

CONNIE NEAL, AUTHOR: Well, I'm really thrilled to be here, especially now hearing your introduction, we have a lot in common.

KEYES: Well, tell me something. Do you think, in your experience, background, the thinking that you have done, the examination you have made, particularly of these works, is this something that needs to be taken seriously? After all, on one level, these are just entertainment. They're just for amusement.

NEAL: Well, you take it seriously after you take it for fun. With any good mythology, in fact, Tolkien, he had a firm belief that any good story was actually a gleam of divine truth that was falling on the human imagination, and that you could find in the great myths and the great stories of all time really a glimmer of all that was wonderful and other-worldly. And so, you receive a story in the way it was intended to be received, with all of the wonder and the fun and the joy and the delight and the suspense. But a good story will go to the heart, and then you go there with it, and if you're a good parent or a good reader, you will receive it, reflect on it, and you will be enlarged as a person because of it.

KEYES: So we really see this in the context of things that have existed in the world for a long time. I mean, some great epic poems, things like the “Iliad” and so forth, have been the basis for shaping the moral sensibilities of whole civilizations. And there are others that obviously have played an important part in literature and in forming ideas of chivalry and so forth. There really is an impact that spills over into the conception people have of right and wrong...

NEAL: Right.

KEYES: ... of virtue and vice that comes out of stories like this. Isn't that so?

NEAL: Well, and even with the Harry Potter stories, my daughter had to do a report, an essay on Beowulf in her 12th grade class, and she looked at the classic features of the classic hero and had to find a contemporary literary figure that would meet those. And she came up with the idea that Harry Potter is Beowulf on a broomstick, and she did a whole essay, which I have available on my Web site, where you see that if you're looking for classic stories, the woman, J.K. Rowland, who wrote the Harry Potter stories, her degree is in the classics. And yes, that's why any good classic story, you will be able to mine such truths and lessons and morals and warnings that it bears re-reading again and again and discussing with your children and going deeper.

KEYES: Now, I don't think it's any secret to my audience or to others in this country that I am a Christian. I believe myself to be a man of great faith, and I think it's terribly important that we impart this to future generations. I, myself, of course, put the Bible and the stories in the Bible in an entirely different category than fantasy, because God's word is the ultimate reality for me, and therefore, imparting that to my children is a deep foundational part of their moral education. But I do think that there is a role to be played by things like Harry Potter and Tolkien, so long as they are properly presented, so long as they are put in the right context. Now, what do you think is the kind of moral universe that the works of Tolkien represent? And is it different from that that you found in Harry Potter?

NEAL: I'm glad you asked that, and I'm glad you framed it the way you did, because first and foremost, I, too, am a Christian, and I was a Bible teacher and a youth pastor for 10 years. If you start by teaching your children the moral absolute you believe, in this case for Christian families or for Jewish families, the Judeo-Christian truths are in the Bible, and you teach them, there is absolute moral truth. Then as they read anything, you hold that up and test it against the moral truths and reality of what is in the Bible. Much that's in the Bible is actually similar in that they have these things that you would think to be are fantastical, but they're called miracles, because they actually happened.

And we need to drive that distinction for our kids, and we need to also help them discern as they are reading fantasy stories, you see these haracters, you see the sin nature at work, both in the characters and “Lord of the Rings.”

KEYES: But I've...

NEAL: You know, and then you teach the kids to watch to discern the choices all being weighed out by the absolute moral truths we have given them.

KEYES: I have taught my children, among other things, that we ought to take seriously Christ's words, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

NEAL: Yes.

KEYES: To look at what will be the results and consequences of the moral views...

NEAL: Right.

KEYES: ... that are contained in these works, and where they tend to bad, you know they're bad. And when they stand up to the test of biblical truth and the standard of good that's there, then you can accept them as good. Just very briefly, because we don't...

NEAL: Yes.

KEYES: ... have much time left, what would you say would be the summarizing, sort of moral view that comes across in works like Harry Potter and works like Tolkien? And how does it measure up to that standard?

NEAL: Well, in both of them, you see flood heroes who are capable of doing evil, but choose to do good, and that really is the struggle you see throughout the Bible. All the heroes in the Bible are human beings, who have the potential for good or evil, and with God's help, manage to overcome good — overcome the evil with the good. And so, that is the struggle you see working out, and if you're an adept parent, you can show them — I'm working on a book right now on “The Gospel According to Harry Potter,” where you can bring these out. There is another book on “Finding God in Lord of the Rings.” If it's a good, true myth, and you're a good parent, you can weave it into the truth of the moral teachings you want to teach your kids. KEYES: By holding it up to the ultimate standard of that truth...

NEAL: Yes.

KEYES: ... and making your children understand the difference. Thank you, Connie. I really appreciate your willingness to join us, share those insights with us and joining us on the program — thank you for coming. Next of course, we're going to have “People Just Like You,” who will be joining me to talk about the question of Harry Potter, Tolkien, the place that these works of the imagination and fantasy have in shaping the hearts and minds of our young people and the moral sensibilities of our society. Later, we'll get to “What's on Your Mind.” You can call us at 1-866-Keyes-USA — K-E-Y-E-S-U-S-A. Contact me at And of course, you can join our lively discussion at the chat room —

But first, we all know now that these hearings have started with folks coming before the Hill to talk about what's happened with Enron, the collapse wiped out the retirement savings of a lot of people, because what? Because they had over invested in Enron stock. When it went south, they lost everything. Well, tell me something. Does this make sense? There are a lot of 401Ks in the country. Other companies, in fact, that have been in the situation where they have over invested in these very same — in this very same way. Sherwin Williams, 92 percent of 401Ks in company stock; Pfizer, 86 percent invested in company stock; Coke, 81 percent. Think about it, my friends. We've seen the disaster that's resulted. Enron was only 62 percent. Do you think this makes sense?


KEYES: Welcome back to MAKING SENSE. We now come to that portion of the program we call “People Just Like You.” And that's, of course, because we have brought together some folks, who are just regular people out there raising families, making a living and so forth and so on — not professional talkers and pundits — to come together and share some thoughts and common sense, try to achieve a clear understanding of the topic of the day.

And admittedly, the topic of the day today is one that I told you, it's very close to my heart. I am an enthusiast for Tolkien. I have to say I was kind of rooting for “Lord of the Rings” to pass Harry Potter and it hasn't done it yet. They have both have been doing very well. Harry Potter is now over $300 million. I think a figure they showed me “Lord of the Rings” was about 248, and it only cost 270 to make it, I think, so they must be very happy with that. But in any case, I think I have had some great fun at the movies with my kids and their friends and so forth going to see these films.

Now, how many of these — have you seen the book?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen the book.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have seen both.

KEYES: Or read the book, seen the movie?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Both, I read those.

KEYES: Both of them. Both of them. But first, before I do that, I'm forgetting myself here. Nobody will even know who I am talking to. The folks who have gathered here, Jennifer Burkholder is a full-time mother with four children, Kimberly Booker, who is an attorney, and Chris Dunn, who is an environmental engineer. And you all will have to forgive me. I am so enthused this evening, I forgot to introduce you. But we had been talking and getting to know each other a little bit beforehand, so I forgot, you don't know them yet, but I do. But what about you? Have you read the books, seen the movie?

KIMBERLY BUCHER, ATTORNEY: I've read the books, both movies, enjoyed all of them.

KEYES: Chris?

CHRIS DUNN, ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER: Yep, read all the books, saw the movies. They were great flicks, a little bit long, no one warned me. You know that you'll need to bring a little seat cushion, but you know, I really enjoyed them.

KEYES: Now, did you see them with or without kids? Anybody go with any kids?

JENNIFER BURKHOLDER, FULL-TIME MOTHER: I brought my oldest, my seven-and-a-half year old.

KEYES: You brought your oldest?

BUCHER: Without.

DUNN: Without kids.

KEYES: Without. Yes, because I think the experience is different. I have seen it both ways, and the experiences are definitely different, depending on what age group you're going with. I kind of think maybe “Lord of the Rings” is a little much for really young kids, because the realism is so graphic. But at the same time, I think it was an experience going with my 12 year old. It was quite wonderful.

Tell me something. My first question that I raised with Connie, how seriously should we take this kind of movie? I mean, it is amusement. What kind of an effect do you think it ultimately has in shaping minds and hearts? Must we be careful of this with our children? What do you think?

BUCHER: I think you probably need to take them differently. I think the brouhaha now about Harry Potter, you can either take it too seriously or too lightly. I think we need to come with a good middle ground. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a little bit different. It's hard to take that really seriously, I mean, there are elves and trolls and things like that. So I enjoyed them both immensely, but I think you can take it too seriously and maybe too lightly.

KEYES: Chris?


DUNN: Why people are concerned about Harry Potter, you know, turning our children into witches and warlocks and spreading mayhem around our communities, that's beyond me. You know, if I were to make up a list of, you know, the top five things I think our young people need to be protected from, it's things like, you know, drugs and alcohol and, you know, gang activity and crime and that sort of thing. You know, even recently, we had some very mean people flying planes into my office building, you know. So that's now an issue that we need to, as a society, you know, really protect ourselves from, especially our kids. So way down at the bottom of that list is something like Harry Potter, you know, or “Cinderella” or the “Wizard of Oz” or any of the other, you know, pieces of entertainment.

KEYES: Jennifer, what do you think?

BURKHOLDER: Well, I think that the written word especially is very powerful. I mean, I can think back to my own childhood and some of the books I read, which probably a lot of read, “Little Women,” “Ann of Green Gables” and just what role models they were for me. Even now, I can think of Jo as being someone I would want to emulate in some respects. And so, I disagree. I think that the written word, and certainly visual images are very powerful, and especially to small developing minds. I mean, they don't have the same ability adults have to discern things. I think I agree with Socrates — Plato — excuse me. You know, they absorb a lot before they even know what they have absorbed.

KEYES: I have to say, obviously I read the quote, because I think — and it was Socrates, by the way. It was Plato, but it was put into the mouth of Socrates. So, Jennifer, you are right. And I think that sometimes we see the fruits of what we are doing, but we don't see them until much later. Obviously the kinds of things that are having an effect on the mind of our children today, we probably won't see the real consequences of that before quite a while. But those consequences will be real. Some of the people are flying the planes into buildings and thinking of us as people to be hated and killed have been taught in various ways to understand from the time, as Plato said, they were actually too young to know what impressions were being made. So the use and abuse of words and of images and of stories can obviously have a powerful effect on young folks. What, however, do you think is the moral universe that's being presented in these works? Because I think at one level, yes, they are just simple tales, but at another level, there is a struggle going on in each one between good and evil. And that obviously has deep moral implications and it conveys an understanding

of good and evil. What do you think that is, say, in Harry Potter and Tolkien?

DUNN: I think those stories are, you know, like you said, stories of good and evil, of friendship, of loyalty, and I think it's great that, you know, hopefully good, you know, beats out evil at the end of the movies and the books. And I think those are actually good lessons to be teaching our children. You know, whether they — whether good conquers evil because of witchcraft or because of, you know, good police detective work or whatever, you know, I think those are good messages, you know, to be giving to our children as, you know, Jennifer, you've got four kids and another on the way. As a parent, you know, allowing your kids to go see these movies and read the books, you know, it's kind of up to you to take sure that, you know, they're getting right message.

KEYES: Kimberly.

BUCHER: Continuing our famous argument that we have been having, I do think that there's a difference, though. The Harry Potter books seem to have the kids controlling their environment. They use magic to lift feathers. That seems innocuous enough. But they are changing their world to fit the way they want it to, which is a fairly deep tenet of pagan theology, if you will, as opposed to Tolkien, which has much more of a there is something out there that we need to be responding to. And it's not so much us doing the magic as it is that we are responding to it. And I think those are different lessons to teach children.

KEYES: It's interesting, because one of the things I thought, as I was watching these films, and then in preparation of course for this show and among other things, thinking about it in my mind. I came to somewhat the same conclusion. That Tolkien, you seem to see people that are struggling in terms of good and evil. But the ultimate confrontation comes out of themselves on account of an acceptance of a standard that is obviously higher than themselves.

Do you think that there is that same sense of a standard beyond yourself and beyond even the power that you can wield that's inherent in Harry Potter or not? What do you think, Jennifer?

BURKHOLDER: I think Harry Potter is a story about a boy in some ways coming into adolescence. I mean, you know, it's definitely a story about good vs. evil, and good wins, which I think is an important element in any good book or good movie. But I think it's a lot about a boy coming to know who he is and his identity, and in somewhat of a lesser way, is about, you know, a struggle between good and evil.

KEYES: See, I think what was fascinating too, the Harry Potter book also places an emphasis that I really don't see the same degree in the

Frodo character. Harry Potter, his powers, his magical abilities are very much determined by what in the old days would have been called his blood.

Right? His parentage, his heritage. It's like this is some occult quality in his blood that then gives him this magical power. To some degree, I think one of the things that hasn't been discussed is that the Harry Potter books seem to come out of this sort of class consciousness and traditions and aristocratic traditions of the British lady who authored the book. I mean, British school tradition, but also this sense of the importance of the bloodline and somehow the power that comes from that. Isn't that different, Kimberly, than something that omes from — how can I put it — a virtue that is in fact imparted from a standard of virtue higher than ourselves?

BUCHER: I think it is, and I think what you see in the Tolkien books, and in the movie specifically, are people and hobbits reaching for a higher standard. And they're reaching towards something else. You see Frodo taking the ring and trying not to wear it, so that he can do something great and protect the world, whereas in Harry Potter, it's much more of an internal thing, how can I fulfill my destiny. There's a — I think there's a difference in kind between the two series.

KEYES: Now, Chris, you're looking quizzical at that, so I...


DUNN: No, I understand the difference between the two, and you know, we as adults, you know, can have a great academic discussion about this, and it's all fun. But I'm wondering what seven-year-old kid is going to understand the difference and understand that his or her parents might actually be concerned about how the power is portrayed, you know, being internal or from an external source. Is a little kid going to get that? Is that something that we should worry about?

KEYES: Jennifer?

BURKHOLDER: I think it fundamentally comes down to your view of magic, and I think you fall into one of three camps. One, you would have — I mean, there's one group that might think that magic is a total fiction, in which case it's subject is academic and evil (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And then, there's another group that thinks that magic is, you know, at the worst (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at best, you know, has a positive influence in the world. And then there's another group of people who believe that magic is not something that you can wield in a positive way, that's it's a negative force. And as a Christian, you know, I believe that there is a negative force to magic, and I think that would influence, you know, how I see both of those books, and I'd have to look between each of the books to see how magic is wielded.

KEYES: I want to thank all of you for coming this evening and sharing the thoughts with us, because I think that one of the things that does come to me from this discussion is that a lot of the responsibility, in terms of the impact of these kinds of works on our children, lies with us. And I think that Connie made a very good point when she talked about the need for us to be the filter, to interpret these things in light of the faith, the standards that we bring to it, because in the end, that education isn't the responsibility just of directors and moviemakers. It's the parents. It's our responsibility, and we've got to take it seriously. And I can see that in the thinking, even given the differences of opinion, I think there are a lot of folks in this society like all of you who do take it seriously, and that's something we need to continue to do and to trust to.

So thank you all for joining me. Thank you very much — appreciate the discussion.

Next, we're going to get to the bottom line. Joining me will be Mona Sharon (ph), a very good friend of mine, who I have known for many years. And we are going to have a good discussion about this, I am sure, because she is a lady who always has a delightful thought.

And later, we'll take a look at what's on your mind, and later still, we're going to be talking a little bit about the impact that you and I are

having from this show every night. It has gone beyond my expectations. You can reach me at 1-866-keyes — K-E-Y-E-S-U-S-A,, and you can join our lively chat discussion at

But first, think about this. Florida passed a three strikes law, one of those laws that says if you're a felon, you are convicted three times of felonies, then you're going to face life imprisonment (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at the end of that time. Well, that law has just struck down by a Florida court that says that the legislature has gotten tough on too many different types of crime. I sure thought that that's what the law enforcement people were for. Does that make sense to you?



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That was bloody brilliant.

MAGGIE SMITH, ACTRESS: Thank you for that assessment, Mr. Weasley. Perhaps it would be more useful if I were to transfigure Mr. Potter and yourself into a pocket watch? That way, one of you may be on time.


MAGGIE SMITH, ACTRESS: Then perhaps a map.


KEYES: Welcome back to “The Bottom Line.” We get to the bottom line on this issue of the moral significance and importance of great works of fantasy like the two movies that we have seen so popular in the theaters over the course of the Christmas season. Joining us to talk a little it more about that in light of the discussion with that is syndicated columnist Mona Charen.

Well, Mona, I know to a lot of you, as somebody who I think typifies the main goal of this program, a person able to apply clear thought, look at the facts, consider the value and come to some common sense conclusions that she shares with delightful prose with people every day. Thank you for joining me, Mona. Really appreciate it.


KEYES: Now we heard — one of the things that intrigued me in the last discussion when Chris said that movies like this will be seen by children of seven and they won't have any idea what kind of concerns their parents might have and so forth and so on. I was put in mind, of fact, of the Plato quote where Socrates is saying, yes, it slips right into the heart, it shapes the inclinations before you're aware of it. Doesn't that actually mean, though, that things of this kind can be even more powerful in their impact on the young?

CHAREN: Well, absolutely. First, let's, though, make the distinction. You said children of seven will see these movies, and of course, we agree, I think, that the “Lord of the Rings” is not appropriate for children under the age of 10. Probably, I would say under the age of 13. It's very, very intense violence and too much for young children in my judgment. But, yes, you know, I was intrigued by the Plato quote, Socrates Plato quote which I, of course, did read back in my college days. And there's deep wisdom there, because he understood that one of the aspects of our nature — and we're not exactly sure why this is, but that music and the arts can touch us and move us in ways that ordinary words cannot. And that's why people respond with tears to opera. That's why people weep at their favorite song or whatever. I mean, there's a side of us that is very easily touched, and the emotional part of us can be manipulated more easily by fantasy and these grand themes and things that touch upon our artistic side.

At it's very worst, it can be manipulated the way the Nazis did, you know, with pageantry and music and the drumbeat of a crowd, a mob.

KEYES: In light of that, do you think that these days, this whole issue of the effect, whether it's movies, the music that our kids listen to and so forth, do you think that it's taken seriously enough now?

CHAREN: No, absolutely not. There's a failure to understand the whole person, and that moral messages are received by human beings in everything that they see and imbibe. You can't say, you know, here's — we're going to take you to Sunday school and this is where you're going to learn your morals. And when you listen to music, and we'll go to the movies and go about your daily life — watch television, read magazines — all of that is extraneous.

KEYES: Well, does that mean, Mona, that folks who will look at a “Harry Potter” and out of their sense of concern for their young people will be out burning the book and really reacting to the theme of witchcraft and so forth? Are these people reflecting unnecessary and serious concern?

CHAREN: Well, they have the serious concern. I think they're misguided if they think that “Harry Potter” is bad for their kids. I mean, I don't dispute for a second that parents ought to be concerned about what their kids are seeing and hearing, but I think in this case that most of the parents who are worried about “Harry Potter” are exactly the kind of parents who would like the “Harry Potter” message.

KEYES: Now, that's what I'd like to get into for a moment, because you're talking there about the message overall that comes out of “Harry

Potter”. What do you think that is?

CHAREN: Nobility of character counts, that loyalty and taking on evil and fighting for good, sticking up for the little guy, not being intimidated by bullies...

KEYES: Well, what do you see then as the role? Because, obviously, the theme of witchcraft, the theme of this manipulation through some kind of magical qualities of objects and other things is an important part of that work. Why don't you see that as a sinister element?

CHAREN: Well, because it is very — this is about as moral a book as you're likely to find these days for children of these ages. It is very clear that the hero of the book and the — there are several heroes, actually: the three — the pair of three children — the trio children, rather, all use magic only for good. And the evil characters use magic for evil. It's a straight good versus evil story, and the magic is more atmospherics and entertainment to tell that basic good-versus-evil story.

KEYES: You don't think then that — because one of the things that have — that does concern me and that I think might be in one sense — and I think that Kimberly was talking about this a little bit and Jennifer as well — a difference between Tolkien and Potter. They do reach the same place in terms of the moral outcome, heroes who, in essence, put aside power because it's wrong, because it's bad, and they're not going to surrender hemselves to evil.

CHAREN: Right.

KEYES: But then a question arises as to whether the principle that allows them to distinguish between good and evil is an internal principle, one that is somehow self-generating, or whether it's a principle that reflects a higher power than themselves. And I would think that particularly for people if that distinction would be critically important. Do you think that that kind of a difference — because I sense it. I am not sure if you ask me to analyze the book right now I could put my finger on why, but it does seem to me to be a difference that I sense between these two stories.

CHAREN: I'm not so sure there's that much difference, because where does one get one's moral sense if not from a higher power, that here's some order in the universe that prefers good over evil and wants us to choose good over evil? It doesn't just spring naturally out of the human heart. It has to come from God. So I think that would be pretty much the message of both Tolkien and Rowling.

KEYES: I think — and I had started very wary of Potter, not of Tolkien, of course. I've been exposed to it for many years and I also knew some of his background. And I think I came away after reading the book and seeing the movie with the same sense that you have, that there wasn't implications here that is not out of harmony with acknowledging the authority of God. But at the same time, all of these things, I think, as we constantly emphasize by you, by Connie Neal, by folks on the panel, all of these things have to be put by parents in the context of reality, of the true principle of reality that very often must come from their faith and from their sense of imparting this to their children. That responsibility we can never escape.

Mona, thank you so much for joining me today.

CHAREN: My pleasure.

KEYES: We appreciate it. It's always a pleasure.

CHAREN: Well, I wanted you to be president, but this is second best.

KEYES: God bless you.

Next, I want to hear what's on your minds. We'll take your phone calls and e-mails. You're watching MSNBC, the best news on cable.


KEYES: Well, what's on your mind tonight? Let's go find out. We go first to Tyler in Missouri.

Tyler, welcome.

TYLER: Thanks a lot, Dr. Keyes. I'm a radio talk show host. I, too, wish you could have been president. Unfortunately, I had to hold my nose and vote for other people after you lost the primary but that's OK. I think with this whole “Harry Potter” problem, it's been more of a problem with “Harry Potter” than “Lord of the Rings” in recent talk show interviews and people I've talked to. And most of the opposition to “Harry Potter” seems to stem from Bible verses which reference witchcraft. It may have been a different meaning back in biblical times, but some have translated it in and interpreted it to Harry Potter saying there can be no such thing as a good wizard or a good witch based on possible biblical teachings from the KJV. But on the other hand, when I counter most of these people, they're not willing to go the full mile with things like “Bewitched” or with “Wizard of Oz” or with “Snow White,” which references fictional black magic several times, and there's a cauldron and potions, much like “Harry Potter.” And I think my theory is that most people aren't willing to — they give those a free pass because it's something they grew up with, I think, in many of these people's minds.

KEYES: You know, I think that that's a fascinating observation. It's one that I have brought up with folks going through the list of things that extend way back in time in the western tradition, in the Christian context as well where there have been instances in literature and story that have been accepted by Christians down through the ages that include elements of witchcraft. But I think the kind of witchcraft spoken of in the Bible is actually very particular. It's just like the idolatry in the Bible and so forth has a particular meaning, and that particular meaning is connected with the rejection of God and the embrace of the diabolical, of the devil and putting yourself in that service. And, of course, the “Harry Potter” stories explicitly distance what is shown there from a surrender to evil, and they are premised on the rejection of that evil. And that's something, I think, we need to think about.

Let's go to Kathleen in Pennsylvania.

Kathleen, welcome to the show.

KATHLEEN: Thank you. Hi.


KATHLEEN: How are you?

KEYES: What's on your mind? I'm fine. What are you thinking?

KATHLEEN: I'm going to vote for you next time.

KEYES: What's your thought tonight?

KATHLEEN: I just wanted to say I agreed with the gentlemen who spoke before me. And I think “Harry Potter” is great. It's a definite good versus evil. And the other thing is in this day and age, we need magic. Magic is — good magic is something we all need and fantasy. Tolkien may be a little bit mature for the kids who read “Potter,” but we still need some magic.

KEYES: Kathleen, I think in one sense, I agree with you, because one of the things that can be lost and yet that I think is an element that has to be kept alive if we are to be open to the true meaning of God's work in the world is that we must be open to the miraculous.

KATHLEEN: Exactly. That is magic.

KEYES: We must keep that sense of the wonderful possibilities that transcend our human knowing and our human power, and that ultimately are connected I believe to the power of God. But the soul has to be willing to entertain that or you fall into the cynicism that I think is incompatible with faith. So there is a role to be played if you rightly understand it. Let's go to Warren in New York.

WARREN: How are you?

KEYES: I'm fine. How are you?

WARREN: Pretty good, thanks. I just wanted to say that I'm a religious parent, and in today's society where there's so much negative culture in regards to sex, violence, drug use in the movies and on television, I think it's tremendously wholesome to have books like “Harry Potter” with positive messages about friendship and loyalty and right from wrong and understanding about character. I think there is a matter of perspective, and parents should be grateful that we have these issues and we have books like “Harry Potter.” And perhaps we should focus more on the negative aspects of the culture at large which promote drug use and violence and sex in movies and so on and so forth.

KEYES: Warren, thank you for your comment. Really appreciate it.

Let's go to James in New Jersey.

James, welcome.

JAMES: I think it's very important that these books be read. I mean, these kids are now reading these books. How many “Harry Potter” books have been sold? How many Tolkien books have been sold? These kids are reading. KEYES: But James, don't you think that it's important, though, to make sure — and that's what we were about tonight.

JAMES: Oh, sure.

KEYES: You can't just without examination put things in your kids' hands and just trust. I think it's important to take seriously the concerns that have been raised, to look at it. I had to do that and come to a conclusion about it conscientiously in the light of that faith which provides for me the ultimate standard of right or wrong. And I think all parents have that responsibility. We want to encourage our children to read, but at the same time, we want to make sure that what they are reading ultimately corresponds to what is going to make them into the kind of folks that we think they ought to be. Thanks for your call. Really appreciate it.

Now we're going to go to your e-mails. Dave in New York writes, “Alan, another excellent show. Your defense of the death penalty was impeccable. Isn't it strange that pro-abortionists are always anti-death penalty? Go figure.” I think that one speaks for itself.

Let's go to Barbara. She writes, “My husband and I were fans of MSNBC until they decided to air your right-wing demagoguery. As a pro-choice position, I find your views on abortion repugnant. We have stopped watching.” You know what I think is indicative about that, though? One of the things on the show — we had somebody on the show who didn't share my point of view. We've had it quite frequently. But it's sad, don't you think, that folks close their mind to the arguments and the possibilities and just say, “I won't even listen”? That's not what our show is about. Our show is about people who are, in fact, willing to exert their common sense. And even if we're going to have a difference of views, we can, in fact, understand that there can be some sense being made and that we have to listen before we confirm ourselves in those views. And that's why I hope that folks — even folks who disagree will continue, as I know they are a lot of them, continue to watch this program and be challenged and stimulated by it. I'm not going to shrink from expressing my mind, but I'm not going to shrink either from taking on others who are willing to come on the show and express their mind.

I want to thank you all for your calls and e-mails. This has been an important part of the show during this first week, and we've enjoyed the encouragement. I've enjoyed the sense of your participation. And, of course, we are building up a list now, because folks have been expressing their interest in being on the program. And I want you to understand that that's a real possibility. Write, let us know if you would like to be part of one of these panels. We'll get back to you and see where we go with it.

Now, up next, I want to tell you about the fact that our getting together here every evening is having an impact that goes way beyond my greatest expectations. I'll tell you about it when we return.


KEYES: Next week on ALAN KEYES IS MAKING SENSE, Dr. Laura joins us.

Welcome back. We're four days into this program and you got to know we're already having an effect. Take a look at this.


BILL O'REILLY, “THE O'REILLY FACTOR:” Time now for “The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day.” Our pal Alan Keyes has a new program on MSNBC. And we noticed that Alan is changing from a suit jacket to a nifty sweater right in the middle of the broadcast. So why is that happening? Well, we believe Alan is trying to become a bit warmer and fuzzier and is taking a cue from Mr. Rogers, the champion of humidity and fuzzy business. But my question to you is this: Should I, your humble correspondent, follow Alan's lead and change into a sweater sometime during “The Factor”? This is what it might look like. This is what it might look like, and you can feel the warmness enveloping your TV screen. Oh, I see, you got the little thing on — what a cheap way to do that. What a cheap — I thought we were going to have an actual sweater on me.”


KEYES: Bill, I think you look really great in my sweater. Too bad Fox didn't get you one of your own. But you never know.

That's my sense of it. Thanks for joining us. Lester Holt is up next. See you back here on Monday.
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