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A Clearer Demarcation

Is it possible that poor Harry Potter has gotten a bad rap?

  • Troy Kinney,
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The book series is rushing out number five, the first movie is a huge success with the second hitting theatres soon, and the battle rages about J. K. Rowling's now legendary character, Harry Potter. It is amazing that a little known mom has become the center stage star in Christian debates because she wrote a few books about a little magical orphan boy.

It is important that as Christians, we are becoming aware of real evils in the world. This will enable us to pursue a more righteous course, wading through the muck and mire so we can protect our households. I say real evils because there are more significant dangers out there beyond what a few books of creative writing might hold. Saying this however, does not quell the serious concern Christians have over Rowling's book series.

Is it possible that poor Harry Potter has gotten a bad rap? He is only a fictional character caught in the midst of a non-fictional battle over whether or not he is a good guy, or an evil and corrupt sorcerer instructing American children on the secrets of black magic. Many parents are now fearful of this wee little wizard Harry Potter, as if he is currently flying over our neighborhoods snatching our little ones away and teaching them how to summon up the dead and speak with demons.

This has become one of the biggest problems with the J. K. Rowling series. Many Christians are talking about it, fighting about it, fearful of it, but few have actually sat down and read it. I agree that parents need to be integrally involved in their kid's lives, in effect to protect them from wicked things and instruct them on worthy subjects. It is biblical. Parents, however, ought to be pro-active not reactive. We should be informed of what is going on in the world. Often that includes doing more than simply listening to the debaters. Sometimes we actually have to get our hands dirty, dive in, and investigate matters ourselves. In the case of Harry Potter, it would mean, sitting down and actually reading one of J. K. Rowling's books.

In doing this, one might actually find that the books are fun. There might be a realization that they are essentially well written. A parent reading about the adventures of Harry Potter could even appreciate that in the end, good triumphs over evil.

If we are going to point fingers at Harry Potter because he happens to be magical and wants to hone that inherited gift, we need to point fingers at Tolkien and Lewis for creating magical characters as well. Granted, in the Tolkien books, we mostly follow the adventures of the hobbits, who are not magical. That however doesn't mean that Gandalf doesn't have a story as well. In fact, it would not be hard to imagine a life for Gandalf as a wizard boy. What was he like when he was young? Did he always know he was a wizard? When did he discover this? Was he ever tempted to use the magical arts for evil? The list of questions could go on. Just because J.R.R. Tolkien doesn't follow the life of Gandalf through his famous trilogy doesn't mean the questions aren't real. The fact is that both Tolkien and Rowling explore the imaginary world by creating magical characters that in essence look and act as if they are human. If this is evil then we should stay far away.

In defense of the imagination and creative writing, Rowling makes a fairly clear demarcation between magical and non-magical beings in her books. Muggles are non-magical creatures and basically want nothing to do with magical creatures. Harry's aunt and uncle display this very clearly. They not only express zero interest in magic but also exhibit a serious fear of it. Essentially, muggles couldn't care less for magic and wish it were not around. Harry is not a muggle; he was born magical. Being magical in his nature, he wishes to learn all he can to become the best at what he is, a wizard. This is fantasy, non-reality. Flying on brooms, fighting three-headed dogs, transforming into animals is all in the fantastic realm of the imagination. None of it is real and none of it really happens. It happens in the book, but the novel is not a textbook reporting on events that happen in the real world. It is fictional and utilizes all of what fiction has to offer, a great use of our imagination.

Magic is not real. Making a magic event happen is more than merely making the wrong moral choice; it is the tweaking of the laws of nature God has given our universe. Wizards and witches are not real, not in the sense that they have any real power of their own. God must take an active hand to give the wizard any result in the real world. When people in general think about witchcraft, images of broomsticks across the moon, the turning of people into animals, and all other sorts of fictions pop up. These are not real. People might pursue the dark arts and call themselves all sorts of interesting names, but is it real magic? Pursuing and practicing might occurr, but real magic, I wonder. It seems that this is just another fruitless groping for satisfaction outside of God's intention that we glorify Him. It is just another selfish endeavor to make one feel as if he has purpose or meaning. It all comes down to sin. And a sin by any other name is still sin. For those perishing it still smells just as sweet. God is in control of the universe and every part of it. Magic is not somehow outside of His reign. The witch in 1 Samuel only exists and is able to perform her acts with the privilege of God. God is the one that caused Samuel to speak to Saul from the dead. Without God, the witch would have just been standing there with nothing to show, except maybe for a few fancy moves. Witches don't have power of their own. Actually, no one has power outside of what God grants him or her.

Are there people in the real world pursuing witchcraft? We know there are. Does God condemn this? Yes.

It is true that a reader of Rowling is led into an imaginary world through the character of Harry. He is our protagonist. We may even live a little vicariously through him as we would through any central character in any novel. If this is wrong then we should, again, stay far away. But in the imaginary realm is there a real difference between slaying a dragon with a sword or with a wand?

It would seem that Christians make too much of the wrong things. God hates the practice and pursuit of witchcraft and we are to avoid them. This applies to the real world. However, the line seems to gray a little when it comes to fiction. That is where the difficulty lies. Can we use our imaginations to summon up a magical character? Is this sinful? If it is, then Tolkien and Lewis are in the same boat as Rowling. Tolkien's style and breadth of writing is far superior to that of Rowling but each has, in effect, done the same thing: magic, magical items and magical creatures exist in their fiction.

So, is Harry Potter an evil reality that needs to be rooted out no matter the cost? Is J.K. Rowling destroying our children's minds and leading them into the hideous and sinister realm of witchcraft? Or are Christians, like Don Quixote, on another hunt for windmills all the time thinking they are dragons?

Where are the Christian horn blowers against other sorts of writing? God hates adultery and fornication, which are found by the overflowing ton in the romance novels sold by the billions. Where are the flag wavers and debaters, the rallies of Christians calling for a mass ban on those authors and booksellers, and screaming about how evil they are for society. Who is descrying how these books, and movies made in the same vein, are leading housewives and mothers away from their families and kids? Those books do portray a real world scenario; Harry Potter does not.

There is much in the world that parents need to guard their children against. What are we allowing to pass through our home-castle walls? As sentries, are we inspecting all that comes and goes? Do we know all that our kids are watching on television, or what they are listening to thru their headphones? Do we know what is taught in the government school some Christian parents send their kids to? How about what these children hear during their Sunday school class?

True evil likes to wait until the guardians are gone. A walk through the local mall could perhaps cause more of an obstacle to the average muggle, young or old, than a reading of all the Harry Potter adventures combined.

But people like to pick an easy target. Something like Harry Potter, a fictional character, that can't talk back is easy. It is easy for us to sit on the cover of a book or burn it in a bonfire to keep it closed. It would appear that our real concerns and efforts should be focused elsewhere. If Christians are truly concerned about an imaginary boy coming in and sweeping their kids away, taking them to never-never-land, out of our reach and control, maybe there are more serious problems than Harry Potter.

We need to impress upon our children God's lovely Word throughout each day, during mealtimes and during play, understanding that we are helping to shape our children's minds and hearts. We are to aid in their conforming to God's will and Word so that when the time comes, our children's hearts will be well guarded, shielded by Scripture. Then we may say, "Come Harry Potter, Sauraman, or Grendel." Because we will be able to trust that our children will be safely outfitted in the armor of God.