Looking For God In Harry Potter
On June 26, 1997, the world was forever changed by the publication of a story, which single-handedly sparked a love of reading in the hearts of millions, generated billions of dollars in profits, and led to one of the most contested debates in the history of literature. Author Joanne Rowling made her debut in the United Kingdom with the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, under the pen name J. K. Rowling. Though the book made respectable profits for Londons Bloomsbury Publishing Company, it was not until Scholastic bought the United States publication rights that the book became a cultural phenomenon.
A host of other attractions have been created in response to the series, including theme parks, real-life Quidditch leagues, websites, movies, musicals, and Wizard Rock groups. Harry Potters prevalence in popular culture is nearly impossible to avoid. Those who feel the series is a bad influence are bombarded by film advertisements and Potter paraphernalia, which line the shelves of libraries, bookshops, video stores, and clothing shops. Religious parents that denounce the series likely have to deflect the pleas of their children, who wish to read the books along with their friends. It is no wonder that fed up conservative Christians feel the need to speak out against books they believe are demonic, which in turn prompts fans of the novels to react.
So What Happened To Those Who Didnt Read Harry Potter
Ive been reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone for the first time while working on this article. I know how the story goes, because by the time the movie series was reaching its conclusion, I was an adult and a working film critic, and I watched them all.
But Id never gotten around to the books, so now Ive read the first in the series. News flash: Its pretty delightful. I was surprised by the wit and by the clever characterizations, and I like the careful attention given to building out the world of both Muggles and wizards. I wouldnt say Im very invested in it, but its fun.
Would I have liked them if Id read them when they first came out? Probably. In 1998 I was 15, a hopeless bookworm who didnt watch many movies or TV shows but did read books like This Present Darkness. I had read and reread the Narnia series since I was in third or fourth grade, and I loved the movie versions that sometimes aired on PBS. I wasnt into fantasy all that much, but Harrys world feels enough like my own that I would have enjoyed them. And as a conservative Christian teenager, I probably would have found a lot to praise in them just like many others did.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
To Kill A Mockingbird
Banned For: racial slurs, profanity, and sexual content.
Why Christians Should Read it Anyway: Harper Lees fantastic novel has long been praised for shedding light on serious issues such as racial inequality and the destruction of innocence. Set in Maycomb, Alabama, during the Great Depression, To Kill A Mockingbird follows the development of a young girl named Scout along with her brother, Jem, and father, Atticus. Through her eyes, the reader witnesses how poverty, prejudice, and ignorance lead to the wrongful conviction of an innocent man. Yet, even in the bitterness of injustice, hope can be found in characters who stand beside their neighbors, regardless of race or financial status. To Kill A Mockingbird doesnt hide the ugliness of racism, yet the book itself can only be described as beautiful.
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What You Should Know About Harry Potter
Though the magic used in the book isnt necessarily tied to Wiccan practices. J.K. Rowling used old Latin root words, some traditionally used for spells in witchcraft to create the spells.
She took the original root of the Latin word for specific spells and altered it so that its technically a different word and not a real spell.
Each spell does have roots and still means something in Latin.
Many of the different magic elements are also inspired by real herbs or items that are believed to be magic or hold powers by some cultures. She would look into different mystical stories and even used science for some of her inspiration as well.
J.K. Rowling herself does not practice or believe in the occult. She just has a very creative mind that she wanted to use to inspire others.
In fact, she gained much of her inspiration while in Portugal. She used places she visited in the history of Portugal for inspiration for Hogwarts and many of the magical shops in her fictional world.
The Satanic Panic And Stories Circulating In Evangelical Christians Subculture May Have Bolstered Opposition To Harry Potter
In my discussions with those who werent allowed to read the books, or who didnt allow their children to read the books, the idea that the books use of magic was tied to the real-world occult seemed strange to many in retrospect, for one big reason: Many of those same children were allowed, even encouraged, to read C.S. Lewiss Narnia series as well as J.R.R. Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings series.
And yet there are a few cultural reasons this particular criticism caught on so powerfully. Most would require a whole book to thoroughly unpack, but two in particular are notable.
First of all, Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone was released in the US in 1998 right on the heels of the Satanic panic.
A rash of false allegations of Satanic ritual abuse of children by cults, made mostly against day care centers during the 1980s, were already being debunked during the 90s. But the memory of those accusations was still fresh in the minds of many, especially since it continued to be a pop cultural plot point in TV shows and movies.
The books paid particular attention to New Age spiritual practices: Meditation was portrayed as a way for people to become possessed by demons, insidiously pushed upon people by a powerful New Age group that engaged in practices that seem drawn from accounts of Satanic groups. And their special target was children.
Harry Potter And The Catholic Divide
The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide
A few weeks ago, I reached out to Nancy Brown, author of The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide for a story I was doing to coincide with the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I in theaters.
That book came out in 2007 and sought to address the concerns of families when it came to the Harry Potter series. Some Catholics, and Christians, have steered clear of the books and movies because of the witchcraft and wizardry in the series, most commonly referred to as the occult.
Matt Palmer: Nancy Brown:Matt Palmer: Nancy Brown:
Well, I thought, who wants that?
Matt Palmer: Nancy Brown:
Matt Palmer: It seems like the Potter series has splintered Catholics. Some are on board with it as an arresting story, while others are rejecting it because of the overwhelming witchcraft elements. Was your book aiming for one of the audiences in particular or both? Why?
Matt Palmer: Nancy Brown:
Matt Palmer: Can a person be opposed to the witchcraft and still enjoy the series?
Nancy Brown: I am firmly and vociferously against witchcraft, as are most good people. I believe most Catholic families teach their children about the evils of the occult and of witchcraft. And yes, one can have those opinions and still enjoy the series because, again, it is a story about good and evil.
Matt Palmer:Matt Palmer:Matt Palmer:
Harry Potter: Satanic Witchcraft Or Christianity
Story by McKenna Middleton | Opinion Editor, Video by Jenna Welch | Broadcast Reporter
Since the first Harry Potter book was released 20 years ago, more than 500 million books have been sold all over the world in 80 languages. However, many children who grew up in conservative religious families were not allowed to read one of the most popular fictional stories ever written.
Dr. Greg Garrett, professor of english, teaches a class on the Harry Potter novels and said religious objections to the books surfaced because of their association with witchcraft.
It immediately sort of grated on people from really religious communities who think of witchcraft and sorcery as satanic, Garrett said.
When the seventh book came out, Harry Potter series author J.K. Rowling revealed that Christianity largely inspired her narratives at a press conference to mark the beginning of her Open Book Tour in 2007.
To me, the religious parallels have always been obvious, Rowling said. But I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going.
The seventh book demonstrated the ways Potter served as a Christ figure and made direct references to Christianity, particularly through the inclusion of two Bible verses on the tombstones of Harrys parents, Garrett said.
Graham senior Alyssa Ray said she was allowed to read Harry Potter despite her parents initial concerns with the contents of the novels.
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The Diary Of Anne Frank
Banned For: discussion of puberty and sexuality
Why Christians Should Read it Anyway: Hopefully, this one shouldnt require much argument to win over readers. The Diary of Anne Frank is a surreal and tragic collection of journal entries by Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl who hid for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Throughout her time in hiding, Anne recounts her hopes for the future, desire for friendship, struggles with loneliness, but perhaps most touching of all, her faith in humanity despite the presence of evil. The Diary of Anne Frank gives its audience plenty to think on. If anything else, its worth reading to preserve the memory of those lost to the cruelty of the holocaust.
One Pastor’s Response To Harry Potter
I’ve just returned from seeing Harry Potter and theSorcerer’s Stone and for the first time I understand what allthe fuss is about. Well, maybe not ALL of it.
I understand the best seller sales. I understand how peopleof all ages have been captivated by the story. I understand why thepublisher was able to translate and market it in 30 differentcountries.
What I do not understand is the vilification that this storyhas received by people who call themselves “Christian.”
Perhaps it is the wands and the word “witches” that trip thewires? Indeed, the most excoriating criticism has come from someChristians fixated on the literal meaning of things. However, itrequires more than literalism to get from Harry Potter’swatered-down version of whimsical witchcraft and wizardry toserious Satanism. In fact, as I reflect on it now, the assertionthat this story is either blatantly or cryptically Satanic seemsdownright absurd. Quite to the contrary, the plot, themes andsymbols in the movie I just saw militate against the veryevil forces that Christian traditionally and doctrinally attributeto both sin and Satan.
This is precisely why I think every devout Christian shouldsee and relish Harry Potter.
A description of some of the differing views on HarryPotter and the Sorcerer’s Stone can be found on gospelcom.net.
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So Should You Read Harry Potter
Most Christians stand on one side or the other when it comes to the Harry Potter books, and there are biblical experts on both sides of the Harry Potter argument. If you are considering reading the “Harry Potter” books, then you may want to sit down with your parents first. Talk to them about what they believe. Wheaton College professor Alan Jacobs describes the “Harry Potter” books as having “the possibility for serious moral reflection,” and that reflection should come from a discussion with the others in your life.
There are cases when “Harry Potter” should be avoided. While most Christian teens considering reading the “Harry Potter” books never turn to occult practices, some Christian teens may have a background that makes reading the books tempting, because there are some Christian teens that have been drawn in toward occult practices at some point and time in their lives. If you feel you will be tempted back into the occult from reading the books, then you may want to avoid them.
The argument over whether or not Christian teens should be reading “Harry Potter” will continue. Anyone who is not sure about the books can read more from experts that have written books on both the pros and cons of the books. Discussion, prayer, and strong consideration should be given to any subject that remains as controversial as Harry Potter.
Why I Believe Christians Should Read Harry Potter
While Harry Potter does use magic and wizardry is the main aspect of the storyline, it is not the main theme of the book.
Reading the series, I found that the main themes were good vs. evil, friendship, courage, and overcoming your fears. All important aspects of life that everyone needs to learn and take part in.
The series did not teach me that I need to start practicing magic or that I now want to do some sort of deep dark sorcery. It taught me that above everything else, the mission is to bring love and hope to this world and fight against death and evil until it is fully destroyed.
Noticing some themes with the Bible already? Thats because, just like represented in the books, we are in spiritual warfare, as Christians. When we are saved through Jesus death and resurrection and we accept His gift of grace and forgiveness, we are now his servant. We align with Him and His army and swear to His allegiance forever.
Our mission as Christians is to represent His love to the world and share the good news of our Savior. He saved us from sin, death, and evil and now we owe our lives to Him.
Watch this video by Eric Ludy to see what I mean:
What about the connection with magic? Harry Potter uses magic as a tool to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort. Magic is used for good.
Scripture is quoted a second time, in 1 Corinthians 15:26, The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death representing Voldermort and the devil being destroyed forever.
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Should Christians Avoid Reading Harry Potter
I was asked recently about Harry Potter:
Im just curious about your opinion on whether Christians should be reading Harry Potter. I was recently warned about being involved with witchcraft and the Bibles warning against it. It doesnt seem like reading HP quite fits into what Scripture is talking about.
Should Christians avoid reading Harry Potter? My answer is, not necessarily, but some should.
I agree that it doesnt quite fit into what Scripture is talking about. The magic in Harry Potter is more like superhero powers than witchcrafti.e., its not about calling on outside spiritual forces or entities but about developing an innate ability. The ability is naturally held by some and cant be learned or acquired in any way by those who were not born with the abilityand theres a clear distinction between the two kinds of people The magic simply isnt similar to the witchcraft that happens in the real world in any way that matters .
Even more importantly, in stark contrast to most popular culture, the worldview of the story is startlingly more Christian than pagan . A cultural phenomenon like Friends should be a far bigger worry to Christians than something like Harry Potter both because of its values and because it presents itself as an example of normal life for everyone to follow. Its more likely to negatively affect a persons worldview, behavior, and attitude towards God.
That being said, two caveats:
Christians Shouldnt Watch Harry Potter
The other side of this view is that Christians should not watch or read Harry Potter. Though at first glance this series seems innocent, it can have very real implications to watching it.
Though the magic used in it is not directly connected to the Wiccan culture. It is still a form of magic.
There are still spells, wands, witches, and wizards. Some of the spells are used for good and fascinating. While others are incredibly cruel and one can even kill someone.
There are evil creatures who suck souls and a whole group dedicated to following the villain in the story.
Yes, you may learn something from these movies. You also need to ask how the series is impacting your spiritual life and what youre allowing into your life.
It may be easy for adults or even older teens who are solid in their faith, but what kids? Their discernment isnt quite there to view this as fictional and know which parts of it they shouldnt believe.
They start becoming in awe of magic, because who doesnt want a cool wand after watching these movies?
But what prevents them from not getting into real magic or even pretending to use these spells?
As I mentioned earlier I was a huge fan of Harry Potter as a kid. I owned the entire series and was trying to have the entire book series as well. I would pretend to be the characters and dived deep into this fictional world.
It made me think that witches and wizards were okay.
I realized how dark it was and what I was really allowing into my life.
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Should Christians Read Or Watch Harry Potter My Journey With Harry And Jesus
My parents never encouraged my brothers and me to join Harry Potter mania. I loyally avoided the movies and dodged the books . To many of you this may seem pretty silly. What is wrong with Harry Potter?
An excerpt from a very conservative Christian comic/tract warning people of the evils of Harry Potter
According to the American library association the series has been the most challenged book series of the 21st century! It has been the victim of at least 6 book burnings in the United States. It is banned in some countries and has received outspoken opposition from Christian and Islamic groups since the first book was published in 1997. The books have also been translated into 67 languages, sold over 500 million copies , and spawned very successful film adaptations. The Harry Potter brand is estimated to be worth around $25 Billion!
I decided to see firsthand what all the fuss was about, and between January and March of this year I read all 7 Harry Potter books and watched all 8 movies. What a journey.
Themes of friendship, courage, mentorship and elitism challenged and inspired me as I read the stories. Despite the fact that Harry and his friends attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I couldnt help but notice the Biblical themes and imagery that are peppered throughout the overarching narrative.