11 July 2007

The Great Harry Potter Debate

Today is opening day for the movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I took my kids and a couple of friends to see the 12:01 am show for Kaitlyn's birthday because she wanted that instead of a party for her upcoming 14th birthday. Fans of the series will not be disappointed, but in the Christian community the debate remains.

I did not let my children read the Harry Potter books when they first came out. The first and most obvious issue is the "witchcraft". Second, as a believer, I tend to be leery about anything the world loves as much as they loved Harry Potter. I held the position that with so much other good that there was to read, why did they need to read the Harry Potter series?
Years later, I was reading a book by Gladys Hunt called Honey for a Teen's Heart. This author had also written a book that was a superior resource for finding great books for my children called Honey for a Child's Heart. Her recommendation of the series was enough to cause me to more thoroughly investigate them. I was at a place in my life where I had started reevaluating everything that I had put on a list of things we "don't do", to thwart a root of legalism that had been encircling my ankles much like a boa constrictor. I also read What's a Christian to Do With Harry Potter, and Harry Potter and the Bible. Both books were very informative, but allowed you to take the information and come to your own conclusion. Then I cautiously picked up the first book on a trip to the beach. I read the book in a matter of 3 days while sitting in the sand and sun and then allowed my 11 year old daughter to read it. She devoured it even more quickly, and we talked about it all along the way.
What I found first was that the books contained well developed plots and characters. The books are fantasy, on the same lines as Lord of the Rings or the Narnia Chronicles with both sides having magical powers. I also found it curious that our society accepts so many other things benignly that are laden with witchcraft - for instance, the Wizard of Oz containing both good and bad witches, and the occultic practice of astral projection used in the Christmas Carol movies as Scrooge is transported to the Christmas past and future.
I used to speak my opinions vehemently against the Harry Potter books. However, as I have taken a closer look at the books for myself instead of leaning on the investigation and opinions of others, I have been amazed at the things people will say to set up a defense against Harry Potter. One family told us that the author J.K. Rowling has claimed to have had sex with Jesus. (It feels wrong even writing that!) This was unconfirmed by an internet search, and while that is not watertight proof that it was not said, it is likely it would have been on every Christian website as a legitimate reason to avoid the books and movies. Another lady told me that she burned a set of books that were given to her child, and that they heard screaming when the books were set on fire. All sins being equal, is lying not as much a sin as witchcraft? And the lady that practically went to the floor repetitively saying the name "Jesus" in front of the life-size Harry Potter display advertising the next book do anything short of making Christians a mockery?

One thing that I was always concerned about culturally is that in a world that is spiritually hungry, the hype surrounding the Harry Potter and witchcraft may have piqued an interest in actual occult practices. I wonder if Christians may be inadvertently fueling that hype. Our culture has an epidemic of uninvolved parents - who put all of these things in front of their children and never discuss it, or help their children sort reality from fantasy.

Biblically, if your conscience tells you to refrain from something, then you should refrain, and if your conscience gives you freedom, live in that freedom. I refer you to I Cor. 10:


23"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive. 24Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. 25Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26for, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."[c] 27If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28But if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake[d]— 29the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience? 30If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? 31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

I would not promote Harry Potter to someone who has a spiritual weakness in this area – just as I would not pour a glass of wine with a friend who had a tendency toward alcoholism. If it is someone that I do not know, then I would refrain in both areas, as well as many others. For my family and I, we have enjoyed the Harry Potter books. We discuss the themes of love, redemption, good versus evil, etc. The movie last night made some pointed statements about “school” – with one professor stating that the point of education is to assist students in passing their O.W.L.S. (exams). The movie also illustrated the dangers of over-regulation and micro-management, and the importance of resisting evil – both physically and mentally.

When I was a little girl, watching Sesame Street, the "a la peanut butter and jelly sandwiches" used by the count did not make me want to do spells. I watched the Wizard of Oz and A Christmas Carol and was never had my interest piqued in witchcraft. I watched magicians on television make things disappear and reappear, cut things in half and put them back together, and made people levitate. As a child I found it entertaining, and nothing more than that.

I am interested in a respectful discussion for both sides of the issue. I am sure there is much I haven’t articulated here, or haven’t articulated well. I am not attempting to convince anyone, but merely sharing my journey through this issue, from one Christian mom to others.

13 comments:

  1. I'm with you on this one.

    I have a friend who does not allow her children to watch Harry Potter movies because apparently JK Rowling interviewed witches to get background info.
    I think as long as it's the good side we're going for there's no problem. It is after all just a book/movie. Pure entertainment.

    Like our mothers always said, "If Susie jumped off a bridge, would you too?" No. We can think for ourselves. Little harry Potter isn't going to turn us all into devil worshippers!

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  2. Like you, we avoided HP for the first book or two. I started reading them about the time that Book 3 came out, and we've loved them ever since. They're fun, enjoyable, and totally fantasy. We've made that very clear to our girls... they have no desire to run around casting spells, etc.

    For us, it's been a brought great discussion about what makes good literature, what makes entertainment, what truly is evil and witchcraft and what is imaginary fantasy.

    We don't watch witchcraft stuff like Sabrina... stories that are set in modern time, with teens calling on a higher power do manipulate people and situations around them. That really is too much into occultism, in my opinion. But the fantasy world of HP, where their wizardry is a talent that can be honed and perfected, like attending culinary school or sports camp... it's all in good fun for us.

    HP also incorporates so many classic themes of great literature... good vs. evil, man against man, man against himself. Harry is a classic hero, giving of himself for his friends and for the greater good. We've learned a lot over the years. It's not an obsession, except in weeks like this... we watched HP 1, 2, 3 and 4; we just returned from HP5, and are re-reading HP6 in preparation for the release of HP7 next week. Finally, an end to the story!

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  3. I'll also add that it's been a great opportunity to teach our daughters. We know a few families who are adamantly against HP, and my girls have learned to be discreet in discussing it. We've also talked at length about not judging those who feel that they should not participate. We've since run into that sort of thing in other situations... kids who are certain my girls are sinning by not going to a Sunday service, who are shocked that my girls don't know all the right Bible verses, etc. My girls are pretty good at defending their own beliefs, and never attacking someone who thinks differently then they do about what God requires of us.

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  4. I guess I'm no fun because I have never read the books or seen the movies. I personally am not interested and my kids have shown no interest. If/when they do then I'll probably watch/read with them. I know some of Kieran's internet buddies were shocked when he said he never read Harry Potter, so it won't surprise me if he brings it up sometime.
    I agree with Kathleen, we can think for ourselves :)

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  5. The books are to hard for my kids...maybe they'll read them when they're published as "Junie B. Jones and the magical stinky Harry Potter."

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  6. Hope you don't take offense, and we can agree to disagree, but somehow this logic (to me) is reminiscent of the scene in the garden.

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  7. Hey Mom! It's hard to add anything to that, but I agree completely. I put up a blog entry about our movie night if you want to go look!

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  8. I enjoyed reading your point of view. I myself do not have peace about my kids reading the books or watching the movies. I am not into the Christian hype about JK Rowlings (ex- she is a practicing witch,etc), but at this point I am just leery about it. My kids also don't really ask to see the moview or read the books. I noticed that this last one was rated PG 13- since you have seen it, I am curious why you think it was rated that. Anyways, occult issues aside, my kids are too young for PG 13.

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  9. I think many times Christians do more harm to Christianity than "heathens". There is a fine balance between downplaying the real threat satan is and ascribing more power to him than he actually has!

    I believe satan is indeed very powerful and wants to devour us. His manifestations are real and so is the harm that he inflicts. I think many people have made him come accross as comical with his horns, tail and pitchfork. He seems like no real threat whatsoever! The other extreme is to blame him for everything and give him so much power and authority that God comes accross disinterested and helpless!

    We do have liberty in Christ. Growing more like Christ means we can give up those "right" and entitlements for someone else's good. That's the sign of Christian maturity. Like you, I wouldn't want to be a stumbling block to someone else. The price is way too high!

    Godd thought-provoking blog!
    Connie

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  10. The PG-13 rating is because of the heavy thematic issues, violence, and scary sequences. It's not overly gory, but it is very suspenseful and can be frightening. It's definitely for an audience that can handle the intensity, and not for young children.

    We took our ten year old, because she has read the books. I never considered taking our seven year old, even though she has seen some of the earlier movies. The later movies are so thematically heavy, it's above her head... the familial issues, the events that happened in the past and relate to why people do things in the present, lots of characters to keep straight, etc.

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  11. Here's a website you may find useful. http://www.addicted.com is a site for friends, families, and those who suffer from various addictions.

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  12. You know my thoughts here. We saw the movie yesterday as well. In the line of movies it was good. Nice special effects. But it is a scrape off the top of he actual story. Some things were changed, we guessed, to lead in to changes involved in the next movie which is slated to come out 08.

    HP 5 was the book I found had most biblical lessons. One thing I really don't like about these later movies is the new Dumbledore. Unfortunately, this actor portrays Dumbledore unlike the character in the book. Dumbledore is in control of his emotions, is kind, long suffering, and promotes love as an action, not a feeling, among other things. All Godly principles.

    In this particular movie, from a mom standpoint, I found that the exclusion of the development of the relationship between McGonagall and Umbridge, is that Mcgongall spend time trying to assist HP to learn about long suffering and the control of emotions. When readin the book we had a GREAT discussion about these Godly traits. This was completely cut out of the movie.

    My opinion, as you well know, is never to take others opinions as your own. Prayer and individual fact finding is the only way, as you stated here. Secondly, the books are filled with opportunity to discuss Biblical concepts and principles. For those who have children who are interested, this is a good opportunity to pull those into the reading. =)

    However, for those who are pre-disposed to a weakness in this area, well, you said better than I ever could.

    Lastly, there will never be a point when everyone will agree. My prayer is that people would handle this conflict with respect towards all.

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  13. Having read just the first book, I really got to thinking after I read your post. I love that you put your thoughts into this.

    I went looking -and found that CBN has an entire page dedicated to this topic. Pros & Cons listed on the same page. http://www.cbn.com/special/harrypotter/

    One of the articles I read, made the distinction between the talking to the dead in the Potter books & the visitors from Dicken's books. The main point - those in the potter books are actually dead and were sought out through whatever means they used.

    The visitors in the Dickens books were manifestations of "Christmases Past, Present & Future" They were not sought out - they came which reminds me of the line from Veggie Tales -- It's a vision! Like a dream, with a point.

    I thought it was an interesting distinction.

    Thank you for making me think.

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Awaiting your words......
♥ Juls ♥