Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Harry Potter and Christianity

Apparently, the debate has flared up again about whether Christians should read the Harry Potter books. This comes up in varying intensity every time one of the books or movies comes out, so this is to be expected.

The basic argument is thus: the kids engage in magic, so somehow the franchise promotes the use of magic which is prohibited in the Bible. Some replace the word 'magic' with 'paganism' or 'wicca' or something more sinister-sounding to rouse more emotional reactions. It glorifies such things, some say, and for that reason we as responsible Godly people should refrain from reading/watching them. An excerpt from the article:

Wohlberg denies he is a zealot bent on trampling other Americans' freedoms of religion and speech, and admits Rowling's talent.

"I can be marginalised really quickly as somebody that is an extremist, as someone that is rabid," he said.

"I am not a witch basher, I don't believe in stoning witches, I believe in religious freedom -- I also recognize that JK Rowling is a very good author.

"Ms Rowling has a right to write those books, .... there are people like me that have a right to warn society about them."

Wohlberg sees a link between Potter's popularity and what he says is the rise in the pagan wiccan religion in the United States.

"When parents and educators think there is no connection whatsover from the fictitious world of Harry Potter to the real world of wicca witchcraft ... I just think they are naive."

In other words, to rephrase Wohler's last statement, there IS a connection between the fictitious world of Harry Potter and the real world of wicca witchcraft. Potter promotes such things. This is the argument. Here's a part of the counterargument that is presented:

Rowling has said parents must decide whether a book is for their child, but condemned banning her works from libraries.

"If we ban every children's book that makes a mention of magic -- or witches and wizards ... what are we going to be doing -- removing three quarters of the children's classics from the book shelves," she said on WAMU radio here in 1999.

Let me give you two book series that would be included if the fantasy magic-using genre were banned from libraries: C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. These two series also contain heavy references to magic and sorcery (both good and evil). However, they are also cited as being heavy on Christian religious imagery. Lewis and Tolkein were/are both noted Christians who wove their faith into stories of...wait for it...MAGIC. And yet one never seems to hear much uproar from Christians about these books. Is it because they were pre-empted for being authored by Christians and thus we know they couldn't possibly have had intentions to turn our youth to dark lives of Satan worship, or because there is simply a double standard at play?

All three of these series are stories chronicling the classic fight between good and evil. I find them all to be well-written and enjoyable (though Tolkein might be a little more dense). Furthermore, they all happen to use magic. This is nothing that a few 'you DO know that this fantasy, right?' types of conversations with your kids wouldn't fix. I grew up watching He-Man, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and, yes, professional wrestling, and that's exactly the talk I got, and I'm relatively unscathed. I'll admit a few bumps and bruises from emulating Ric Flair's figure 4 leglock, but we've taken care of that. Nobody's perfect.

Potter 4 comes out this weekend. Perhaps somewhat coincidentally, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe comes out in a few more weeks. I'm seeing the former on Friday morning and hope to see the latter soon after it opens.