Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Harry Potter as evil as we want it to be

Recently in the Young Adult class at our church the leader brought up the evils of Harry Potter books. The idea was that magic in the books is something demonic whereby Satan is trying to make it appear that evil is used to fight evil. Perhaps a novel interpretation among the anti Harry Potter crowd and not even logical if you take the meaning of Jesus when He said:

(Mat 12:25-26 NIV) Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?

Adventists have generally followed Steve Wohlberg’s understanding on the issue, here her explains in a nutshell the problem.

In a nutshell, What's wrong with Harry Potter?

Wohlberg Answers:

In the midst of fun and fantasy, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels make witchcraft appear cool and exciting, especially to teenagers. It doesn’t matter that these novels are only “fictitious stories.” Stories are powerful. They influence both individuals and society. Just look around. “Wicca” (a religion that practices witchcraft) is exploding in popularity among kids, teens and adults. Even nine-year-olds are frequenting Wicca websites, lighting candles, casting spells, joining covens, and practicing so-called “white magic.” The Harry Potter craze and Wicca’s growing popularity go hand in hand. Harry’s last name is “Potter.” A “potter” molds clay, which is exactly what’s happening. Make no mistake about it, the Harry Potter books (along with other magic-made-fun films and TV series like Charmed, Buffy, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch) are whetting kid’s appetites to check out real witchcraft. The biggest danger is witchcraft itself, whether “black” or so-called “white.” Unknown to Wiccans themselves, it’s all a doorway to the demonic. Witchcraft itself (and the supernatural forces behind it), this is what’s wrong with Harry Potter

See also: Harry Potter and the Bible by Richard Abanes.

However there are other views such as these expressed in a Worldnet Daily article:

But even some Christians are endorsing Harry Potter. In a November 1999 broadcast of his radio series "Breakpoint," author Chuck Colson commended Harry and his friends for their "courage, loyalty and a willingness to sacrifice for one another – even at the risk of their lives." Colson dismissed the pagan practices as "purely mechanical, as opposed to occultic. That is, Harry and his friends cast spells, read crystal balls and turn themselves into animals – but they don't make contact with a supernatural world. … [It's not] the kind of real-life witchcraft the Bible condemns."

And popular Christian publication World Magazine reviewed book one of the series in May 1999, calling it "a delight – with a surprising bit of depth." Author Roy Maynard assured World readers that "Rowling … keeps it safe, inoffensive and non-occult. This is the realm of Gandalf and the Wizard of Id, not witchcraft. There is a fairy-tale order to it all in which, as Chesterton and Tolkien pointed out, magic must have rules, and good does not – cannot – mix with bad."

Christianity Today presented this editorial:

You may have read newspaper accounts and heard radio reports of how Christians are fighting school boards over having the books in libraries. As a concerned parent, what should you do?

We think you should read the Harry Potter books to your kids.

First, we should all be suspicious of the media's hype of Christian parents objecting to the books. Reporters love the dialectic of first presenting the Christian stick-in-the-mud who objects to or is outraged by something, followed by the "reasonable" person who demonstrates how to be both moral and fun-loving. What remains unreported is that many Christians—such as Charles Colson and Wheaton College literature professor Alan Jacobs—enjoy and defend the Potter series.

Second, Christians should never apologize for rigorously scrutinizing what influences our children. A major scandal of our day is how seldom this happens. Modern witchcraft is indeed an ensnaring, seductive false religion that we must protect our children from (see "The Bewitching Charms of Neopaganism"). But the literary witchcraft of the Harry Potter series has almost no resemblance to the I-am-God mumbo jumbo of Wiccan circles. Author J.K. Rowling has created a world with real good and evil, and Harry is definitely on the side of light fighting the "dark powers."

Third, and this is why we recommend the books, Rowling's series is a Book of Virtues with a preadolescent funny bone. Amid the laugh-out-loud scenes are wonderful examples of compassion, loyalty, courage, friendship, and even self-sacrifice. No wonder young readers want to be like these believable characters. That is a Christmas present we can be grateful for.

Reflecting on the concluding book Christianity Today’s Alan Jacobs writes:

The key theme of the whole series is the opposition of death and love: the devastation wrought by those whose fear of death causes them to shun love as a weakness, and, in contrast, the rich rewards in store for those who will not allow the fear of death to block love, who know that love risks all for the beloved. Preceding the events of the first book are the sacrificial deaths of James Potter, in a vain attempt to save his wife and son, and of Lily Potter, in an equally vain attempt to save Harry. In the fourth book of the series the deaths resume: Cedric Diggory in that one, Sirius Black in the next, Albus Dumbledore in the sixth. In this final installment the named dead exceed a dozen, and many more remain unnamed. Among those whom Harry knows and cares for, all of them, in this book and in the previous ones, die for someone they love, or for something they believe in.

See also: Redeeming Harry Potter Looking for God in Harry Potter What's a Christian to Do with Harry Potter?

What some people frequently miss about books, especially fictional books is how they deal with choices and just how they open the world of ideas to people. Ideas that the author may not even overtly deal with and leaves the reader to ponder the situations in the light of their own lives is one of the greatest values of literature. Of course the people who think that a fantasy world is reality and that their literalism must be read into the books lose that ability. In literary terms they are not capable of suspending disbelief. A science fiction book which involves star travels at faster then the speed of light such as the Saga of the Skolian Empire series by Catherine Asaro have little meaning if you the reader constantly says “no the physics really don’t allow for going faster then the speed of light”. If traveling faster then the speed of light were thought of as being the realm of Satan, because well if he is out there doing all we say he is doing he must really be traveling faster then the speed of light, than the people may be like those who reject Harry Potter because it supposedly espouses evil as a means of fighting evil.

Books depend upon the reader suspending their disbelief so that the book can tell a story from a different world, place, time, history, creature etc. A good book creates discussion of those who have read them. There is no discussion of a book with someone who refuses to suspend disbelief and frankly that has been a problem for Adventists as well as other Christians with the Harry Potter series. Can a person ponder the religious (see J.K Rowling on religious undertones interview) implications of a book they fear to read? Apparently, but then when they talk about the book it has little in common with the book the actual readers read. Which is a functional disconnection, it is the easiest thing to do to condemn and criticize, the Pharisees did that to Christ in Matt 12 above. Yet modern Christianity really needs to move beyond the devil behind everything, because it makes us look foolish and possibly more importantly shows our own foolishness.

No comments: