A Resting Place

"It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me."

Monday, June 06, 2005

a harry topic

Forgive the bad pun. Anyway, my readers will notice that certain titles of books from the Harry Potter series will be appearing in book lists to the right. I read the five available books last year, and I am reading books 3-5 again in preparation for the release of the 6th book in July. Some will be just fine with this; others will not. I thought about just not putting the names up there, but then I thought that instead, it might be an opportunity to share another point of view besides the one that says, "Harry Potter books are evil because they contain witchcraft."

Let me first address a few peripheral concerns:

1) This is a "non-essential" issue for Christians. What I mean is that we should have a little perspective - no Christian is going to hell for reading or even enjoying the series. So let's all take a deep breath and learn from each other.

2) Yes, I believe parents can and should decide what their children can and cannot read. These blog posts are not an attempt to convince any parent to read Harry Potter to their kids, nor an attempt to deceive your children (no kids read this blog in the first place). I also tend to be of the opinion that even if you're fine with the series, children should come to a point of being able to clearly distinguish make-believe from reality before reading the book. This, of course, will be different for each child, so there's no particular age in my mind.

Now, on to the two main concerns of those are opposed to the series:

Concern: The Book is about witchcraft.

Answer: No, it's not.

First of all, we should understand that the magical world is the setting for the book, not the point of it. Secondly, the magic within the book is not even close to modern day wicca. I once heard a pastor argue that a book would not be "cute" like Harry Potter is if it were about a little girl named Harriette Potter who went to school to learn to be a prostitute. Well, if by "prostitute," the book meant, "a job in which little girls sell cookies on street corners of a magical world that doesn't exist," we might not find the same danger (though we might cringe a little at the word used to describe it).

Thirdly, we have to be consistent about this. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia series portrayed magic in both positive and negative lights. Again, magic was a setting for the point of the story.

Concern: Harry and his friends are sometimes rebellious, and sometimes there are no direct consequences for their actions.

Answer: Yeah, just like the real world.

C'mon, folks - have you read those Bibles lately? Can you imagine if today's Christian editors got a hold of the story of Abraham, who got to lie and get away with it multiple times? Or Rachel the cookie-seller (I mean, prostitute) who was actually praised for lying in order to hide the spies? I'd rather have the heroes in the books I read have gigantic flaws and be realistic than to always make the right choice. In the books, we see Harry's character develop and grow through trials, even while he still struggles with rebellion, lying, and other such things. Sounds a lot like the Christian life, doesn't it?

Which brings me to my final thought for now and reason for this post. As I read through these books again, I plan to note from time to time parallels to the gospel that we can see in the Harry Potter series. Believe it or not, they're there. I'm not re-reading book one, so let me include a brief one from that volume. Harry descends into the place where the philosopher's stone is kept and there comes face to face with Lord Voldemort. In protecting the stone and keeping it from Voldemort, Harry is taken down and slips into darkness. Three days later he recovers, Voldemort having been defeated. Book two, Chamber of Secrets, follows a similar pattern in which Harry once again descends into an underground chamber to defeat a serpent. See the parallels? Hopefully you'll come along with me as I try to find more of them.

If you're interested in futher reading on this topic, I recommend Looking for God in Harry Potter by John Granger. You can read an excellent article by him from Touchstone - The Alchemist's Tale - about the role of alchemy in the stories. Very insightful. Eric Rigney's The Good Spell of Harry Potter is also a good read.


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