“A Single Word Shall Fell Him”


I recall the line from Luther’s great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress.” When speaking of our adversary, whom I need not name, it boldly proclaims, “A single word shall fell him.” It goes on to say, “That Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth…” etc.

A single word is indeed powerful, particularly if that Word, is Jesus.

It also true, however, that as James says: “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Thus, I personally found it unfortunate that with a single slip of the tonge J.K.Rowling chose to declare one of her major characters in her children’s books’ series, to be “Gay.” A single word will delight many who would call it an introduction of reality, while others, myself included, will simply see it as setting into the magical world of children the political games of adults. Why can children not be children?

I recall my conversion into Orthodoxy, and my 10 and 6 year-old asking many questions. I could speak of the Orthodox Church, and a little of our leaving Anglicanism. I could not mention the sexual scandals and false teachings on sexuality that were beginning to abound simply because I refused to have my first such discussions with my children over such an intimate subject disturbed by the proclivities and politics of others.

But the world of children has always had its intruders. A single word, a question asked, and a blessed naivety ends, to be replaced with this mortal battle we all face day to day. I do not mean to be harsh here – just to note the sadness of a world in which children are less and less children and more and more a market, a political chess piece on someone’s board.

May the Word of God keep us all, and the children above all.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



, ,



15 responses to ““A Single Word Shall Fell Him””

  1. Graham Cochenet Avatar
    Graham Cochenet

    Perhaps this is related to trend there are no matters that are priviate.
    All is publicly broadcast with a complete lack of decorum

  2. ochlophobist Avatar

    Spot on. Thank you.

  3. james Avatar

    When we try to play the ‘game’ by the world’s standards, even if good motives, how easy it is for the sneaking temptation to be ‘popular’ can strike and overcome. It is often the small things that bring us down.

    Lord have mercy.

  4. James the Thickheaded Avatar
    James the Thickheaded

    Innocence has been reduced to a legal value, or equated with inexperience. It attaches to persons in this modern sense and not to “abstractions”…. like childhood. But for so many of the rest of us… childhood is not an abstraction, but something or someone treasured and held close. Nor indeed is the childlike acceptance of others as they are rather than as they project themselves. Rowling’s projection… if immaterial… may be just an unnecessary projection. But consider her compulsion to comment may reflect a certain adolescent awkwardness of her own with whatever comes next, and thus the “backstory” of her characters is still an absorption but no longer a driving force.

  5. Death Bredon Avatar

    I think you should be very harsh only Rowling indeed. She has acted both deceitfully and irresponsibly by retroactively “altering” her storyline.

    (1) She has been dishonest in that, had her books ever explicitly included this supposed unrequited homosexual love story, then — in all likelihood — her publishing empire never would have come into existence, at least not enjoying the tremendous success it has. In short, she has betrayed a large part of her audience, who see her work as a lovely good-versus-evil children’s morality tale.

    Also, Her behavior of springing it now calls to mind homosexuals who only “come out of the closet” after making it big, claiming to be courageous. Actually, its cowardly and and unprincipled behavior.

    (2) She has been irresponsible in precisely the manner your post notes. Why are the children and innocents always made to pay for adult silliness?

  6. Mark Avatar

    The comment by JKR was most disappointing.

    I’ve read through the series with my eldest daughter. I find myself somewhere between John Granger’s well-documented delight and Alan Jacobs’ description of the books as “Penny Dreadfuls” for a new generation. In conversations with my daughter about the texts, we’ve engaged issues ranging from virtue and vice to the power of friendship. I’m hoping we can continue this practice with better literature in the future.

    Regarding the issue of childhood innocence – even with our family’s sad history in the Episcopal Church, my children still don’t really have much of a clue about homosexuality. When the question comes up about Dumbledore, as I suppose it will, I intend to describe him as a man who struggled with sinful temptations, sometimes falling prey to them, but who worked at repentance and amendment of life. That’s certainly manifest in the actual text, and not only in the retroactive “backstory” injected by the author.

  7. Alana Roberts Avatar

    I feel the same sadness. And I do think “slip of the tongue” is a good phrase to use here.

    I also agree it’s still possible to interpret Dumbledore as a great and proud pagan who became infatuated with his own image in another man. Humanists and those who valued the mind above all else often did; look at the Greeks. This caused his downfall (that much is clear) and the death of both his sister and his dream of saving his culture. He came out of the experienced a humbled and we might say redeemed person. Though his failure helped give rise to the great enemy of his time, he was also granted the honor of nurturing the hero that would do the work he once aspired to and would defeat that enemy. It reminds me a lot of King David, actually.

    But ‘gay’ was truly, truly the wrong word. The sordid speculations and assumptions now abound.

    Does anyone know whether Rowling is Anglican? I almost feel it’s her that needs to be reached out to at this moment, hopefully she has someone who can advise her.

  8. The Scylding Avatar

    Rowling belongs to the Church of Scotland, ie she is Presbyterian – but a relative “High church” variety compared to that found in the New World.

  9. […] JK Rowling, Literature, Pagan, Religion, Rowling, Writing I think Father Stephen’s comments on Rowling’s statement about Dumbledore are wonderful. I feel the same sadness he does and I […]

  10. cp Avatar

    Father, bless!

    Forgive me, but there are at least a couple of things that I find troubling about this post.

    The first is simply the notion that such an announcement from the author of pop fiction intrudes upon the innocence of our children…as if we ourselves as parents are not the first intruders. Is not such innocence compromised the minute our children first learn that we (their parents) are not perfect, do not know everything, and that we are, in truth, sinners in need of forgiveness?

    The second concern is just the question of why this sort of intrusion upon the innocence of our children is somehow worse than the evils which are actually described in detail in the books themselves?

    The third, and most troubling of all is that concern “which cannot be named” in a public forum such as this (I couldn’t find an email address for you anywhere here). But the concern, especially for Orthodox Christians, is out in a very public forum, anyway. Suffice it to say that if we are so disappointed in Rowling for “outing” her most noble character, what will become of us when such stalwart characters are, in fact, real people in our lives – and they are either outed or out themselves? If even addressing this issue in fiction is so sad. how will we ever deal with it when it becomes real, as it surely will for most of us in some way?

    Do these comments and question make any sense?


  11. Fatherstephen Avatar


    Of course the topic is dealt with and appropriately in Orthodox contexts frequently. And, of course, children’s innocence is constantly invaded. Just a comment on a piece of culture that I thought was sad.

    Nothing absolute – not from the pulpit – just an observation.

    Still think it’s sad.

  12. cp Avatar

    Thanks for your response (I guess).

    I think it’s sad, too – but obviously for different reasons.

    Forgive me,

  13. Fatherstephen Avatar


    I didn’t mean to sound flippant about it, forgive me. I read your blog post and thought that your points were quite sound. My own reaction was really just a reaction to the culture in general. It was just one more thing – sad was the only word I knew of – and probably not worth my spending blog time to comment on it. Though we both did… sigh.

    I don’t think addressing the issue of homosexuality is sad – indeed I think it requires profound and sensitive responses. The sadness is the whole thing trotted out as essentially another political thing. It has little other meaning.

    Your thoughts were on the mark – Dumbledore, et. al., have a more serious problem – they’re not real! Talk about existential crises!

  14. cp Avatar

    Father, forgive –

    Your comment didn’t sound flippant, but it did feel perhaps a little dismissive. I’m certain that this wasn’t your intent, and more likely than not the fact that I felt this had much to do with my frustration over the whole issue.

    I understand and am in complete sympathy with your concern about it being a political thing. I guess I’m naive – I read the account of the question and answer with Ms. Rowling and didn’t see her response as a gay agenda being pushed (I am so weary of the gay agenda), but I heard, at least initially, an honest reply to an honest question. It was the response of the gathered assembly, I think, which turned it into an agenda item – then the media attention.

    You are right – the whole issue does require profound and sensitive responses – particularly from those of us who are straight and Christian. This is most certainly true (as they say in my former tradition).

    While Dumbledore and co. are not real – the issue is very real. And I believe that much of what I’ve read out there about this isn’t REALLY about Dumbledore at all …

    Thank you for your response and for your patience, Father.


  15. Andrew Avatar

    Well-meaning silence may also prove harmful. I’ve been reading your dialog with CP and admire your patience and opinions in general. I’ve also read a post of yours on the role of scripture in the church, a position somewhat similar to my own.

    I grew up in a Protestant family. I began to read the Bible at a very early age and remember very clearly having read Leviticus 18 and 20 as well as portions of the New Testament on adultery in the mind. For over a decade, I tried (as many do) to get rid of desires which I considered sinful. I prayed earnestly for years and suferred much. I have diaries since second grade, which, though sparse, express vividly very important parts of my life.

    My parents never discussed sexuality with me — somehow it must have slipped their minds. I’m not sure how my life would have developed if they had. I talked to myself about it, fueled by a few proof texts, my peers (for whom “gay” was a synonym for “bad”) and not much else. I’ve found that whenever I’ve been able to muster the courage to have an honest conversation with someone on this topic, that that person doesn’t even come close to being as harsh as I was to myself.

    Above all, I think we need to emphasize charity and respect toward others, which we can do without sacrificing what we see as correct moral teachings. That, more than anything else, will help children when they face such difficulties.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to blog via email

Support the work

Your generous support for Glory to God for All Things will help maintain and expand the work of Fr. Stephen. This ministry continues to grow and your help is important. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!

Latest Comments

  1. Father, this discussion about true self/false self puts me in mind of your (frequent?) admonition that it is at the…

  2. Andrew, thank you so much for all of those wonderfully substantial and refreshing quotations about repentance/metanoia — I especially love…

  3. Father Stephen, Regarding Lossky’s book, do you think it would be of use to an unbeliever, or did it affect…

  4. FWIW, I think there’s some substance to the “false self” – not total illusion/delusion. Sifting through the mist is part…

  5. Matthew, Speaking for myself and my own understanding the false self is an illusion. It forms like condensation from the…

Read my books

Everywhere Present by Stephen Freeman

Listen to my podcast