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Harry Potter and the Christian’s Response

Looking at the controversy over J.K. Rowling’s 'Wiz Kid'

by S.E. Shepherd
November 19, 2002

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Harry Potter and the Christian’s Response_S.E. Shepherd-Looking at the controversy over J.K. Rowling’s 'Wiz Kid' Once again Harry Potter faces forces that would destroy him. No, I’m not talking about the bad guys of “The Chamber of Secrets,” the newest Harry Potter movie; I’m talking about the Christians and other religious leaders who would have us believe J.K. Rowling’s writings are promoting witchcraft and are tools of the Devil.

The majority of these people have not read the books or seen the movies. Yet because they know the stories contain elements of witchcraft and sorcery, they brand the stories as evil and make public protests. Have they not learned their lesson from “Last Temptation of Christ?” Public protest only draws more interest. With “Last Temptation,” they turned what would have been box-office poison (how many films about Christ are box-office smashes?) into one of the most watched films of that year.

When the first Harry Potter books caught public interest, these same people saw witchcraft being “promoted,” and began making a fuss. By the time the first Harry Potter movie came out, they were in a full frenzy, staging protests outside theaters. They quieted down, as J.K. Rowling claimed major writer’s block putting the series on hold at book number 4. Now that the second book has been made and released as a movie, these Christians are back.

However, I know many Christians who see no problem with Harry Potter. “It’s just fiction! It’s a children’s book! It’s fantasy!” I hear them say. They say the books are well written. Yes, there are elements of witchcraft; spells, potions, magic, etc., but it’s a fantasy and these books encourage witchcraft about as much as Disney’s “Bedknobs and Broomsticks.”

Now comes a new twist. A Christian author has come out speaking in favor of Harry Potter. Connie Neal says Harry Potter actually has made several Biblical references; when Dumbledore tells Harry “you will also find that help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it,” Neal hears echoes of John 16; “If you ask anything of the Father in my name, He will give it to you.” Neal has published a book “The Gospel According to Harry Potter: Spirituality in the Stories of the World’s Most Famous Seeker,” on the subject.

So is Harry Potter a subversive appeal to witchcraft and the occult, a harmless children’s fantasy, or an obscure parable to Christian truths? How should Christians react to Harry Potter?

I have only seen the first movie; I have not read any of the books, so my opinion is based solely on that. First of all, it seems to me that Rowling likes to borrow from everywhere. A famous quote on writing states, “Bad authors plagiarize; good authors steal,” and I believe Rowling steals quite well. I am not saying her stories are not original; Rowling creates a wonderful and unique world with an intriguing story. However, her story seems quite familiar in some spots; we’ve seen this somewhere before.

This being said, the Harry Potter books are still well written children’s stories. From what I’ve heard they’ve made reading interesting again for a lot of children, and that can’t be bad. They do have elements of witchcraft, and like it or not, they do glorify sorcery. Yet the Harry Potter books are ultimately battles of good and evil, with Harry clearly representing good.

We of the Western World philosophy tend to shun witchcraft and sorcery as pure fantasy; a way uneducated people explain things they can’t understand. Everything can be scientifically explained, more or less. But if we as Christians believe the Bible, then we do know that witchcraft and sorcery do exist and these occult practices do not come from God.

Does this make Rowling and Harry Potter advocates of the occult? No. I have no idea what Rowling’s religious beliefs are, though I highly doubt she believes in witchcraft. Harry Potter is a work of fiction and his fanciful tales are geared towards a secular audience. They are to be taken like any other work of children’s fantasy, in the same vein as “The Wizard of Oz” series (they had witches and magic too).

However, those that condemn Harry Potter do have validity in their arguments. Christians should always be alert and aware when dealing the occult as entertainment, as benign and harmless as it may be seem. If anything, we should be grateful to the Harry Potter series as a reminder that magic does exist, and there are those that seek to harvest its power, good or evil intent aside.

My conclusion on Harry Potter is thus; the Harry Potter books and movies are entertainment and should be enjoyed as such. Yet as Christians, we are called to be aware of forces that most non-believers choose to ignore. We can make the distinction between the magic of stories and the “magic” that really exists.

Any parents concerned about Harry Potter’s influence should dialogue with their children, the same as they would about any other concern. “Playing Harry Potter” is different from trying to do spells (or flying on brooms), and most children can distinguish between real and make-believe. Perhaps it’s when we become adults that we lose that ability.

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Puddleglum from Southern Ettinsmoor, Narnia writes:
December 9, 2002
Having now seen both movies and read the first book (I would like to read the others but have not found time to), I can easily explain the popularity of Harry Potter. Simply put, the Harry Potter movies a good story-telling rendered well and the books are good literature made accessible. To fellow Christians, I would not bother reading much into either the witchcraft or the pseudo-Christian wisdom found in Harry Potter. S.E. Shepherd's assertion of Rowling taking from everything and mixing it into a pot to produce a good story is precisely true. C.S. Lewis once remarked that every good story ever written serves only as a reflection to remind us of the Real Story. (I have occasionally heard of a similar comment being attributed to J.R.R. Tolkein, but have not myself found the source.) The best thing that an aspiring disciple of Christ can do is to study the Real Story over and over again and to seek out stories (movies, television, and books) that serve to remind him or her of all the great things found in there. By doing so, I would be willing to bet you find yourself drawn to better quality literature (whether Christian or not) and drawn away from such fifth-rate pulp as the Left Behind series.

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