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One Christian’s Perspective on The Harry Potter Series

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On July 21, 2007, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, the last book of the wildly popular Harry Potter series, hits the stores. The release of the seventh book marks the end of a ten-year journey for fans all over the world. To date, the first six books of the series have sold more than 325 million copies and have been translated into 63 different languages. For the last book in the series, publishers have already announced they'll print a record-setting 12 million copies, just for distribution in the United States alone.

Of course, the books are also becoming, one at a time, major motion pictures. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is scheduled for release on July 13, about a week before the final book goes on sale.

So, to say that anticipation is growing among fans is an understatement. Take a bit of time to visit Potter-oriented blogs and you'll see that fan anticipation is growing exponentially. Understandably, fans are expressing both exhiliration at the prospect of having so many of their questions answered by the final book, and sadness at seeing the series come to its final close.

And in the midst of the wild sucess enjoyed by this series, there has also been ongoing controversy surrounding it as well. It's ironic that, while the individual books in the series have all enjoyed high best-seller rankings, they also suffer high rankings on "banned" lists as well. Author J.K. Rowling even mentioned the fact that, in 2006, her books featured prominently on the year's list of most-banned books.

As an evangelical Christian, I have listened to the "Harry Potter debate" unfold in our community since shortly after the release of Sorcerer's Stone. What surprised me was the fact that there were such strong feelings on both sides of the issue within the Christian community. I remember listening to a debate moderated by James Dobson on his show, Focus on The Family.

Dobson didn't take a position; rather, he sat back and listened to his guests debate back and forth regarding the value vs. the danger of some of the themes in the book. These books do, after all, prominently feature the practice of witchcraft, with most of the story taking place at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

What could be clearer than this? The Bible condemns the practice of witchcraft. In Deuteronomy 18, versus 10 and 11, for example, we're told, "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead."

What most people do not know, and what God is addressing in Deuteronomy, is the practice of witchraft in Canaan, which happened to commonly include ritual human sacrifice. As Deuteronomy tells us, and archeology has confirmed, newborn infants were often burned alive as sacrifices to their gods.

Witchcraft was unacceptable then and it is unacceptable for believers today. I believe that and, ultimately, know that practicing "witchcraft" or "Wicca" as many call it today, is fundamentally (no pun intended), a rejection of God. That said, I know quite a few people who are Wiccans, including one who is a High Priestess, and I'm happy to count them as friends. I disagree with what they believe, they know I disagree, and we have some good debates regarding our beliefs.

But I digress…

The important question then is whether or not it is clear, based on Biblical exhortations, that Christians should avoid this series of books? Believe it or not, the answer is not a clear "yes" or "no." As I mentioned previously, there are devout Christians who adamantly oppose this series and those who who wholeheartedly endorse these books. So, where do I stand?

It just so happens that I am one of those who wholeheartedly endorses this series. In order to explain my reasoning as well as my recommendations to fellow Christians who may not yet have read these books yet are considering it, I think it is necessary to step back a number of years to the time when I first learned to love reading.

It was 1975, I was ten years old and was in the fourth grade at Germantown Elementary School in Annapolis, MD. One day I walked over to the library during a break in classes to see if I could find something interesting to read.

When I entered the library, it was very busy, with the librarian frantically working to get books back on the shelves as quickly as students were pulling them off. I thought to myself, "the librarian should know what is worth reading," so I walked over to her, standing near a particular shelf of books with her book cart, where she was diligently creating order out of chaos.

I asked her, "Could you help me find a good book?" She gave me hardly a glance. Instead, she looked quickly up to the nearest shelf, grabbed a book, and placed it in my hands. "Here," she said, "this is a good one." I looked down and read the title, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I thanked her and walked off.

I vividly recall opening the book to begin reading it later that same day. I remember because the book captured my attention quickly and I remember reading about a little girl named Lucy, who entered a wardrobe thinking it a good hiding place during a game of hide-and-seek with her two brothers and sister. Trying to hide as completele as possible, she walked farther and farther into the wardrobe, until she found herself in a quiet wood with snow falling all around.

When I read this, my eyes widened and I said out loud to myself, "it's a magical wardrobe!" I was, no pun intended, enchanted. And my love of reading in general was greatly enhanced because of this wonderful book. Over the next few years I read all seven books in the series and loved every one of them.

Now, many know that the author of those books, C.S. Lewis, was a good friend of his fellow Oxford Professor J.R.R. Tolkein, and was one of the greatest Christian apologists (defenders of the Christian faith) of the 20th century. His friend Tolkein had helped him move from devout atheism to devout Christianity. Lewis was a prolific author and the body of his work includes fantasy, sci-fi, Christian theology, and some biographical works.

Lewis wrote the series we know today as The Chronicles of Narnia because he wanted to write a children's series that would help readers to feel the power of the Christian story. He did not write these books in an allegorical manner; rather, Lewis literally inserted Jesus into his Chronicles as Aslan, a great lion who created Narnia, was sacrificed on the Stone Table by the White Witch, and rose again to free his people from her tyranny.

Through this mode of story-telling, Lewis hoped to teach a story readers likely already knew, but in a different way. For me, the strategy worked perfectly. Growing up, I longed to know the Aslan of those stories. And one day, mid-way through college, I met him in the person of Jesus, whom I gave my life over to and whom I today call Lord and Savior.

But as a child, I read these books over and over again, longing to visit Narnia, and longing most of all to know God the way Narnians knew Aslan. A personal relationship with a Lord who saw through them, understood all the weaknesses of those who loved him, and loved them anyway with a love that transcended all understanding.

It was many years before I understood that this is exactly what Jesus offers, a personal relationship. So, the Chronicles of Narnia gave me that first taste of what God really offered, not staid religiosity, but a personal walk with the creator of the universe.

The lesson I ultimately learned from this experience was that stories, even ones which include magic, can still teach important moral lessons. And because of my love for these books, I was encouraged to read other series; including The Lord of The Rings. And, while J.R.R. Tolkien consciously presented a clear "good vs. evil" message, he did not overtly or covertly insert a Christian theme into his books.

Regardless of the fact that both Tolkien and Lewis were devout Christians, there have been ongoing debates over the fact that protagonists in both series understand and, at times, employ magic to accomplish their goals. So, is the use of magic in the context of a fictional story a bad thing? Many Christians, and I include myself among them, do not believe so.

Understanding this, one can better understand why there are many Christians like myself who have enjoyed the Harry Potter series. And in may ways I believe that this series is as significant as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings.

I did not begin reading the Potter books until late in 2005, seven years after the first book appeared. But then a co-worker began to loan me the books on tape and CD. I was so enchanted — again, no pun intended — by the books that, I finished listening to books one through six in the space of just about four months, the entire time thrilling at the quality of each of the books and the awesome narration skills of Jim Dale.

I listened to the books while driving to and from work each day. With a 100-mile-per-day round trip, I was, at that time, a prolific audiobook consumer. And during those months of listening to the Potter books, I was never so happy to be stuck in traffic.

Despite my own love for these books, other Christians might ask if there are worthwhile themes in this series from a Christian perspective? The answer is a definite yes!

From a high-level perspective, some of the most important themes relate to love, family, friendship, loyalty, forgiveness, and even redemption. Specifically, we see the constant and overarching theme of love.

Professor Dumbledore, the Hogwarts Headmaster, expresses the belief that love is more powerful than any magic several times, and tries to teach Harry that this is his only hope of defeating his arch-enemy, Lord Voldemort. Dumbledore is the personification of love, just as Voldemort is the personification of hate.

So, you can see while we do not hear the words "good vs. evil" much in the series, we constantly see the theme of "love vs. hate." And the benefits of love and the consequences of hate are constantly, and quite effectively, portrayed by Rowling.

The hate-filled Lord Voldemort loves no one, trusts no one, and confides in no one; not even his closest followers. Voldemort is utterly without mercy, eliminating anything and anyone who gets in his way. As you read about him, you see his psychotic personality. A genius, but one who is utterly controlled by his hate, fear, distrust, and ambition.

In contrast, Dumbledore is ever-loving, always forgiving, and seeks always to influence his students in a positive way. In the sixth book of the series, Half-Blood Prince, Dumbeldore shows love and compassion even to one of his students who is threatening to kill him. Dumbledore believes in the power of love and lives his life in a manner that is consistent with his beliefs. And as Rowling hints throughout the series, Dumbelodore's insistence on the power of love will somehow be the key to victory over Voldemort and his followers.

Another well-expressed theme in the series is the value of family. Harry Potter's parents were ruthlessly murdered by Voldemort when he was just an infant, and his non-magical relatives do not treat Harry well while raising him. So the family of one of his best friends from Hogwarts, Ron Weasly, takes him in and treats him as one of their own.

Ron Weasley is one of seven children, a family which is poor in monetary terms but incredibly rich and alive with their love for each other. And Ron's parents show great love and devotion to Harry, showing Harry, and readers of the series, the joy and value of family.

Here, Rowling does a phenomenal job of communcating something that many of us never understand, that a loving family life is worth far more than a mountain of gold. You feel right down to the depths of your soul what the young Harry Potter understands; he would gladly give up every ounce of his family's personal fortune to have his parents back.

Overall, I think it difficult for anyone to argue these books are "devoid of value," as some claim. Like the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series is full of important values and lessons, only in the backdrop of a magical world.

Does this mean that I recommend the Potter series unequivocally? No, I do not.

Rather, I think that, for parents who are concerned, they should read through the books before their children and decide for themselves if they wish to let their children read them or not. For adults who feel the content, despite the positives, is too dark or too oriented on witchcraft, then I recommend they not read the series.

Just as in every community, there are varying levels of opinion, I think it important for both Christians and non-Christians to respect those who might respectfully disagree with the themes written into the Harry Potter Series. And I place an emphasis on "respectful disagreement."

In the end, this is a story, not a biography, and the events of the story are fictional. That said, what a wonderful experience this has been for fans of the series! A story this engaging and compelling does not come along very often, and we've had the opportunity to watch both the characters and the tale itself unfold and develop over the past ten years.

It has been a great ride, and in July of this year, we'll see the conclusion of the series with the release of Deathly Hallows. Like other fans, I'm excited and sad to know that the final book is almost here.

I wish her all the best and I truly appreciate the work she has done in the creation of this wonderful, inspiring, and worthwhile series of books. What an amazing adventure it has been so far.

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About David

  • Anonymous

    THANK YOU! It’s not often that you hear from a tolerant Christian. It encourages me SO much – you don’t even understand – I live a life where I have friends who don’t believe what I believe; but we debate, we discuss, and above all we respect eachother. I can respect people who decide Harry Potter is not for them (even if I do believe it is probably one of the greatest works in the twentieth and twenty first centuries) I DO respect the beliefs of others. I want them to respect mine too and not condemn me for them and it is incredibly encouraging to hear from a Christian who appears to share this same mindset!!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

  • Another Anonymous…

    I second that thanks. I love hearing a kind voice of reason who defends fellow Christians and doesn’t point the finger in one direction or another. I love the series myself, and having known the goodness in the series for so long before this debate heated up, (I got into the series relatively early, before this insane level of media hype), the debate is dizzying and, in my opinion, yet another example of how people of the same faith seek out ways to criticize each other for their disagreements rather than embrace each other for their common beliefs. Having read the Harry Potter series I am no more inclined to become a Wiccan than I ever was! I think that what is important to remember is that if you are firm in whatever religion you practice, when you read a book with both good aspects and bad you will always notice and cherish the good because you’ve been doing that since you were six. If all I get out of Harry Potter is a brilliantly written story with beautiful family values and emphasis on loving self sacrifice conquering evil, it isn’t an enemy of mine. I think its also important to remember that although called “witchcraft”, the series is basically fantasy or a fairy tale, and there is actually more traditional Christian symbolism within the series than Wiccan.

    God Bless, and thank you so much for sharing your opinion! As I said before, a kind and understanding voice of reason that doesn’t screech off the page, or…erm, computer screen, is always welcome.

  • http://viewpointjournal.com David Flanagan

    Thank you both very much for your kind words! It is truly appreciated.

    Regards,

    David

  • http://www.areyasimmons.com Areya

    THANK YOU!!!! I echo the thoughts and comments of those above. FINALLY, someone who is Christian AND tolerant of other people’s beliefs and what books they read. Way too often, I read about fundamentalist Christians attacking this wonderful series for reasons that are unfounded, not researched, and pulled out of the air just to support their conclusions that were already made before they even looked into a possible foundation in facts. However, what you have written has given me back my faith in the future of the human race. You presented both sides of the issue, provided well-founded evidence and examples that were accurate to support your opinions and conclusions, and you did not start a flame war, like so many others have. I am very proud of this editorial and will gladly provide a link to it on my website. Once again, THANK YOU very much!

  • http://www.myspace.com/knownbeforetime Ashley

    Hello, I got here via Google News Alerts. I’m a charismatic, calvinist, dispensational Christian (just to give some background, lol). Anyways, I am glad to hear of a fellow Christian who sees the amazing potential of these books!

    I will disagree with you on one thing. The story is not about “love vs. hate”. It is about “love vs. fear”. Harry is full of love. Voldemort is full of fear, mainly the fear of death.

    Jesus said in John 12:25, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” I think this is the central point of the Harry Potter story. Voldemort loves his life so much that he’s willing to take other’s lives to preserve his own. Dumbledore, however, thoroughly believes that death is the “next great adventure”.

    This is the one advantage that Harry has over Voldemort: Harry is willing to die for who/what he loves. Voldemort is not willing to die for anything. Voldemort has nothing to die for. He is devoid of love for anyone/thing.

    However, I don’t think Harry is going to bite it. I think there is going to be a resurrection theme in the last book. There is another theme in the story and that is ‘love produces life’ and life vs. death. The love of Harry’s mother allowed him to survive the AK (or, as some theorize, the horcrux creation spell). That love allowed Harry to survive again when he was 11 and facing Voldemort for the second time in his life. Dumbledore also said that there was a room in the Department of Mysteries that contained a force stronger than death. This parallels with Song of Songs 8:6. It’s apparent that love is the only thing that can match and defeat death (sound like something Christ did?). I think Harry’s love for a certain someone* will bring him back from death.

    *I have my own crazy theories that this person will be Hermione. Harry’s time with Ginny was a fling. Harry and Hermione have the deepest relationship in the series despite being “just friends”.

    I’m leaving a lot out. Why does Harry have to die? Because Harry is a horcrux. He’s carrying a bit of Voldemort’s soul (just like Christ carried the sin of the world). With that, the prophecy says that “neither can live while the other survives”. They cancel each other out in a sense. To completely destroy one, you have to destroy the other. Let me explain. Harry has a bit of Voldemort’s soul and Voldemort used a bit of Harry’s blood to gain a new body. So that’s why Harry has to die but he will come back because of love. Voldemort doesn’t have the ability to love so he can’t come back.

    I really didn’t mean to get into a whole theorizing tangent… lol

  • daryl d

    Christian AND tolerant of other’s beliefs? There is some hope in this world after all.

  • Kellie

    For many years I did not read, nor did I allow my children to read the Harry Potter series. I felt it was just too much of a conflict of my faith. I am also an evangelical Christian, very conservative, graduated from a very conservative Bible college and have taught for years in private Christian Schools.

    When the first movie came out though, and my daughter, who was much older at the time than when the books had first come out, asked me to seriously consider watching the movies, because she really wanted to see them, I decided to go see the movies. I did not want her to sneak out with friends to see them, and I honestly wanted to know what all the hype was about regarding these “terrible, wicked” children’s stories, that everyone was complaining about…lol

    After watching the first movie I was instantly enchanted and that has started a 6 yr love affair with the books and with the movies and I eagerly await movie five and book seven, just as much as my 16 yr, and now my 8 yr old who loves the books and movies as well.

    Here is the issue though and I feel a Christian really needs to be honest with him or her self when reading the books. In all the author’s arguments above for the books, none were founded on Scripture. If you were to take a strict interpretation of Scripture you have to come face to face with the concept that it appears as if Rowlings is trying to mix “good” with witchcraft, and just because both Tolkien and Lewis did mix good with “magic”, it does not make it acceptable in the eyes of God.

    Harry Potter is a complex issue because it does mix things up and blurs the lines. Yes there is evil and yes there is love and goodness…but there is also witchcraft, something we as believers are warned to avoid in both the Old and New Testaments…

    So how does one come to terms with it? Well for one it is fantasy…there is no power in what we are reading (except maybe the power to enchant us to read more!). No matter how much I would like, I can not cast one of the spells and make something disaperate…it is just make believe…like the good witch from OZ…just a story…

    Second…I really do not see what is presented in JKR books as real witchcraft. It is not the same as what it was described during the Biblical Times. As mentioned above, this was human sacrifice, idol worshiping, it was despicable, because they worshiped and prayed to idols, then sacrificed to please them…curses and spells called the “gods” of the idols to do favors for the humans… and honestly I just do not see any of JKR books calling upon the name of a god for power…

    I do not say this to make excuses to justify my actions…actually this has taken me a great deal of time and thought to come to terms with whether or not it is right to read the books.

    As believers we are to test all things, and if something is a stumbling block to us it is to be put off. I do not consider Harry Potter a stumbling block in my faith…I also do not consider it real witchcraft and that is what causes me to feel in essence it is ok for me and my family to read.

    However if you do, you should not read the books or be part of the movie. If these movies and books cause your children to move from the faith and into other areas that would lead them to stumble then this is wrong for you…just like alcohol is wrong for some because they become addicted to it and others do not…it is a personal choice. And that is what is amazing about Christianity and about God…He gives you a free choice…To the person who questioned a Christian’s ability to be tolerate…all I can say is you must not have come in contact with many who are truly living their faith…we are COMMANDED to love others…not just be tolerate…but to do good to those who hate us…if that is not tolerance I am not sure what is…

    I also think you can consider the following verse as a key in determining what is worthy of our thoughts:

    Philippians 4:8
    Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

    I believe JKR lives the above verse wholeheartedly. I believe her books are a testimony of the creative power the Creator gives each of us and shows what we can do with it if we let it fill us…I personally am inspired not only by the books but by JKR life…I thank God for her…

  • Kevin

    While I applaud the notion of a tolerant Christian, I’m afraid that your essay contains some disturbing (and common) inaccuracies regarding the witchcraft in Harry Potter.

    There is no relationship–NONE–between the Wiccan faith and the “witchcraft” in the Potter books. What we see in HP is best termed “fantasy magic” and bears more resemblence to the old TV show “Bewitched” than it does to the biblical or real-life practice of witchcraft or Wicca. As you know, magical people in HP books are born with supernatural powers that they can call up with a wave of a wand or the utterance of a magic word or two. There is absolutely no religious component (such as praying to deities or Satan) and certainly none of the dark baby-and-animal sacrifice stuff of biblical witchcraft. Harry and his magical friends even celebrate Christmas in one of the books.

    I bring this up because I think it’s essential that Christians not confuse the fantasy magic of HP with either biblical witchcraft or the real-life Wiccan faith. And because it seems to me that many Christians that have opposed HP have purposefully confused the witchcraft issue in a calculating and disingenuous way designed to fear-monger. Case in point: the Georgia mother who demanded that her school system ban HP books. She produced a young witness who claimed that she had tried one of the spells in HP and succeeded in sending her teacher to the hospital. Of course, this is the equivalent of someone claiming that they wiggled their nose ala Samantha and turned their husband into a toad!

    Certain Christians have sought to paint the HP series as witchcraft handbooks or guides to the Wiccan faith. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • atheist

    I second Daryl D. I’m an atheist, and it’s hard for me to understand why some christians can’t read a book just becauseit goes against what they believe in. It’s called “opening you mind”. I can read the bible, and still have my own opinion about it. I can think it’s all a fairy-tale if I want, but I can enjoy the fairy-tale because it’s a nice story. Harry Potter is a great book, a wonderful book, but it’s a book. Harry is not a real person, performing wizardry. It’s fantasy.

  • http://viewpointjournal.com David Flanagan

    Kevin:

    Thank you for reinforcing my point. I agree with you that comparing the witchcraft of the HP books and the practices of Wicca are quite different.

    I’m sure someone could point out some superficial similarities, like the concept of dark magic vs. what Wiccans call “white magic,” but that’s probably about it. The fact is, Rowling’s world is fictional, which is why so many Christians are fine with reading these books.

    Atheist:

    I would recommend you learn a bit of tolerance. The fact is, there are things that some people can do, and some things people can’t do. For example, since becoming a father I have had difficulty watching movies, reading stories, or even listening to news that discusses the topic of child abuse, or the death of children.

    Becoming a parent made me very protective, not only of my own children, but of all children. So when I hear of children being harmed, it upsets me far more than it used to.

    In the same way, some people can watch slasher movies all day and night and they are fine. Some can’t do that. I used to be able to do that, but now I can’t any longer. I count that as a good thing in my life though others might call me “weak” or a “weany.”

    You need to understand that there are different people in the world, with different beliefs, and that it is okay for them to be different, act differently, and want different things. If you can’t do that, then the problem is yours and no one else’s.

    Thanks!

    David

  • http://viewpointjournal.com David Flanagan

    Kellie:

    Thanks for the scriptural verses. I think they are very relevant both to the books and the debate regarding the Potter series.

    I wholeheartedly agree regarding the fact that Dumbledore shows the kind of love espoused in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

    Some have mentioned that Harry may ultimately do this as well. For that, we’ll just have to wait and see. :-)

    Regards,

    David

  • Dr Dreadful

    Very well-written, balanced and positive article.

    The only reason the Harry Potter series has been surrounded by so much controversy is that it has been so spectacularly successful. There’s a vast amount of fiction – especially children’s fiction – that features magic and witchcraft, and it’s just as likely to be used on the side of good as of evil. The character of Mary Poppins is a witch in all but name (and not an entirely pleasant one either, in the books at least), and I haven’t seen any Christians going into conniptions about her!

    To those who charge that Rowling doesn’t address Christianity in her books: well, neither does the vast majority of fiction.

    I would say that some parents’ concerns are legitimate, in that the Harry Potter books’ themes are often dark and not suitable for the very young: parents (of whatever religious stripe) should consider carefully before letting their kids read them.

    On a related topic that was touched upon in the article and on the thread: because Tolkien was a devout Christian, it’s striking that there doesn’t seem to be any organized religion in Middle Earth. It’s such a completely realized world in every other way (historically, geographically, culturally) that it seems a curious omission.

  • Kevin

    David, thanks very much for your reply to my comment regarding the confusion of HP fantasy magic with biblical witchcraft or real-life Wicca.

    I’m not entirely sure how I’m “reinforcing your point,” though, since for much of your piece you seem to suggest that they’re all one and the same. In the essay you ask “what could be clearer than this” and proceed to lay out the biblical argument against witchcraft. That’s fine, but I don’t see where you’ve drawn a clear distinction between that and the magic in HP. Yes, you’ve cited plenty of other excellent reasons that Christians might enjoy HP, but you’ve left their main objection with the series basically unaddressed, and even give a pass to those that believe that the books are dangerous and evil by suggesting that their beliefs be “respectfully disagreed with.” This despite the fact that you seem to agree that the foundation for their objections about the series is built on a misconception.

    Sorry, but I don’t think it’s responsible or intellectually honest to promote misconceptions about the issue or to imply that Christians with religious objections to the series may be correct in some way. And I’m afraid that it seems to me that that’s what you’ve done.

  • J Bone

    There are many good people in the world that are not Christian. And not all Christian writers produce Christian literature. Narnia and the Lord of the Rings are excellent examples.

    The Narnia books are truly enchanting, in the most delightful sense. Aslan sacrifices himself for one person, not for all as the myth of the Christian resurrection tells, and is ‘resurrected’ based on a loophole and not by devine plan. Tolkien’s LOTR is more problematic, having been written more for adults and based on Anglo-Saxon myth and story, good and evil in battle, which sounds a lot like the eternal battle between heaven and hell, until the story of Ragnarock is considered. Rowling’s story of a child that will lead them seems more Christian than either Lewis or Tolkien.

    It is well and good, I suppose, to find Jesus where Jesus isn’t, but is it well and good to find diabolism where it isn’t? I think the Harry Potter books have been maligned terribly based purely upon guilt by an imagined resemblance to such. I think Rowling’s crime is that she is not obviously a Christian, as if only Christians may be good people in this difficult world.

    Best wishes, and thanks;
    bb, -jb

  • http://lashawnbarber.com/ffc LMB

    A fellow Christian Harry Potter fan agrees. I used to be a Harry hater but I’ve reformed, running a blog called Fantasy Fiction for Christians. Check it out.

  • http://viewpointjournal.com David Flanagan

    Kevin:

    I’m not saying that witchcraft I described in the Bible is the same stuff we see in the HP series. I think, as many here have also expressed, that the magic of the series is simply a backdrop to the story.

    And I certainly do not think that my friends who are practicing Wiccans do the things that the ancient Caananites did. Instead, what I’m trying to help readers understand is why Christians react so strongly sometimes to this kind of story. And yes, sometimes they react in an overly strong manner.

    But, as this is a free country, I think it’s perfectly okay for them to disagree with you or with me on this issue. They have a choice and so do we; I’m just trying to make a case for why I chose the way I did.

    And let me say, though I do not believe in witchcraft, or the powers that Wiccans claim to have, even if such power did exist, Christians cannot and must not pursue it. To pursue personal power is to turn our backs on God and that we cannot do. Our victory does not come from us, but from God.

    Wouldn’t it be ironic, then, in the final book, if Harry had to lay down any thought of using his own magic and instead relied on the power of love to win final victory?

    Just a thought. :-)

  • http://www.holicraft.com ShannonJ

    Amen! Amen! Amen! May I say it again? Amen! I do not understand why so many of my fellow Christians forgot the most important lesson Jesus taught us….”Love one another as I have loved you”. Most articles and blogs I have read that are written by Christians who hate the book (and even the author)and it is shocking to me that a Christian can justify hate. My father’s mother was a Southern Baptist, then I married a Catholic. WOW did I see hate come from my fellow Christians! I ended up joining the Catholic church, and when I hear a hateful Catholic specifically or a hateful Christian in general, I always think “You missed it. Somehow, in reading about Jesus’ life and his message, you missed.” It’s so very sad to me. I was taught that we will be known by our works. NOT our words, and there’s a reason for that. Our words are worthless. It is our works. To be intolerant and hateful is NOT what Jesus told us. He told us the opposite. I am a HUGE Harry fan, and as the mother of 2 grown children, I wish terribly that those books had been around when my kids were growing up to encourage them to read, to think, to dream, the way kids are supposed to. I promise, I will make sure my grandchildren (when I’m so blessed) will own The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe series AND the Harry Potter series! AND I will take them to Mass!

  • http://viewpointjournal.com David Flanagan

    Shannon:

    Thanks for your comments. I know how you feel in regards to the way you sometimes can be treated when you convert. I left the Catholic Church while I was in grad school and joined a local Evangelicaly Presbyterian church here in Annapolis. My parents, to say the least, were quite upset.

    But then they saw that I lived a normal life, loved going to church and reading the Bible, didn’t shave my head and start singing on the streets, etc. :-) So, after a while, they were okay with things. But it did take a while.

    At the same time, I have an Aunt and Uncle who are still big in Catholicism with a faith that I admire. Your denomination matters little.

    Anyway, thanks again for your comments and I’m sure you, like myself, look forward to reading the last book in the series. It is very exciting to be so close to seeing all our questions answered, don’t you agree?

    Regards,

    David

  • atheist

    Right. Sorry if I came off as non-tolerant, I didn’t mean to and when I read it now I don’t think that I wrote anything to suggest it, but okay.

    My experience with christians isn’t all that good, you see here no one cares about other beliefs than christianity. Being not christian, that affects me a great deal. I think that I am tolerant of others, what I said wasn’t that you’re not allowed to believe differently, or that you’re not allowed not to read the books. Of course, be my guest. My point is just that I think some takes it too far (and pay attention: I’m adding “I THINK”).

    But think about this: Were you really tolerant to my views in your reply. Ironic, huh? I say that I think people need to be able to read about stuff which doesn’t follow their beliefs, but are you being tolerant of that? I offended you in no way, we both love Harry Potter and we both know it’s a story. Still you accuse me of being non-tolerant, even though you know nothing about it/me. Now that’s an insult!

    And are you really comparing Harry Potter to child molesting? Harry Potter is a story, child molesting is the horrible, horrible truth. It has nothing to do with one another.

    Please don’t take this insulting in any way, I’m not trying to insult you or your beliefs, but the world doesn’t develop without critisism…

  • Olytanis

    Thank you for a well-reasoned article. As a practicing pagan (you can read Wiccan or witch, if you like), I often hear my religion dismissed by Christians as occult, anti-Christian, and evil. I consider it none of the above. You can be anti-Christian without being a pagan, and definitely pagan without being anti-Christian. Paganism is as valid a spiritual pathway as Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. It’s just not Christian.

    And it doesn’t have to be. Don’t judge a book about witchcraft by Christian standards, any more than you would judge a book about Christianity by Wiccan standards. We are all working for good over evil here. We are just doing it in our own way. Of course (as Kevin pointed out), being a work of fiction, the Harry Potter books are not really about witchcraft as it is, just Hollywood witchcraft as you would see in “Charmed,” “Bewitched,” or “The Craft.” Some elements are right, but many are not. Witchcraft is not really about flying brooms around the castle (doggone it!), but it’s about changing yourself to make your world better. It’s more exciting to read about Hogwart’s, of course.

    Regarding David’s response to Kevin in comment #16 about “…the powers that Wiccans claim to have, even if such power did exist, Christians cannot and must not pursue it. To pursue personal power is to turn our backs on God and that we cannot do. Our victory does not come from us, but from God.” Wiccans do not draw power from themselves as such, but from God and Goddess. The power does not emanate from ourselves as much as it is from our connection to the divine that is in and throughout everything. A Wiccan that is in it for personal power is practicing for the wrong reasons and will get his/her butt kicked by karma (whatever you do comes back to you-or you could say you reap what you sow; same thing). The reaching for power thing is definitely a Slitherin thing!

    The difference is more subtle: that Christians believe God is a separate entity, perhaps watching from a distance, while Wiccans believe that God and Goddess (recognizing a female aspect of Deity) is within us all.

    By the way, I like the comment by Kellie, especially the new word she invented (I assume; I’ve never heard it before): “disaperate.” Kind of a cross between “disappear” and “evaporate.” It’s cute! Can I keep it? The comments are also right on with a basic theme: love and tolerance are the way to heal this poor world. Let’s follow Harry, Dumbledore, and friends and love each other. If not, whatever our intentions, we are following Voldemort. Is that what we really want? I don’t think so. So thanks for the tolerance!

  • sean Paul Mahoney

    David thank you for a fair and well written article. Like you said, I think it’s important to remember that the series is fiction and not to take it too seriously. I think the best thing about Harry Potter series is has made millions of kids around the globe excited about reading. That’s what I call magic!

  • http://viewpointjournal.com David Flanagan

    Lots of great comments from everyone. Thanks so much. Let me answer a few that were directed my way.

    Athiest:

    I certainly am not offended by your challenges to me. Quite the opposite; I appreciate them. And it’s not my goal to offend you, but to challenge you right back. Secularists/Atheists often criticize Christians for arguing from faith rather than logic or science. Some Christians do, but not all. I’m firmly founded in my faith while, at the same time, I understand I can’t just tell you that something is so because “the bible says it’s so.”

    So let me just say that one thing age has taught me about human beings of all types is that they are all different. Even among a community of Athiests, I bet there are some pretty big differences. Definitely, there are huge differences within the Christian community.

    For that reason, not all materials will be acceptable to all people. I accept it because I believe that people have the right to be different in that way. If a fellow Christian does not want to read the HP books, then I’m okay with it. You should be too. Who are we to tell someone that they MUST read something that we think they should read?

    It might just be that you and I are wrong and the other person is right. You never know, which is why I think there’s an old saying which is highly pertinent to this kind of debate. It goes like this:

    “Keep your words soft and sweet in case you have to eat them.”

    I think someone on this board taught me that one.

    Olytanis:

    I wanted to say that my one friend who is a High Priestess believes herself to be a Goddess. Perhaps she believes she has “Goddess” in her. Of course, I believe that God is a separate entity, but not distant. You and I are distant because we have no relationship, but if we were to develop a friendship like I have with my other friend who is active in her Wiccan beliefs, then I wouldn’t be distant.

    I know, I’m sounding rather simple here, but my point is that I have a relationship with my savior. I know him and he knows me, not because I’m special — just the opposite — but because he is special. And I say he, but God is neither male nor female, and the Bible is clear on the fact that there shall be neither male nor female in heaven.

    I could say much more, but I’ll save that for later perhaps.

    Thanks again for everyone who has taken the opportunity to leave comments. I very much appreciate it. :-)

    Regards,

    David

  • http://viewpointjournal.com David Flanagan

    Sean:

    I forgot to mention that I agree with you wholeheartedly. Its great to hear how kids are streaming to the bookstores to buy a book because they’re excited about reading. Kudos to Rowling for that and the fact that her book will spark the same kind of love of reading that the Chronicles of Narnia did for me.

    Regards,

    David

  • http://www.holicraft.com ShannonJ

    David,

    haha…so you went from Catholic to Evangelical? So you know exactly what I faced! I really feel that everyone feels close to God in different ways, and what’s right for me isn’t necessarily what’s right for my neighbor.

    The most important thing is to find peace in your heart and to be kind. My youngest is getting married next month, and she asked me if I could tell her one thing about being married, what would it be? I said it’s the same thing in any relationship. Be kind. Even when you’re angry, be kind. Sometimes that means shut up and take a walk and think about what you really want to say. Words are like toothpaste. Once they’re out, no matter what you do, you can’t get them back. I feel that’s what Christ taught.

    Anyway, tolerance is not something that we’ve got a lot of in this world right now, and it’s up to us to teach tolerance. The Harry Potter series certainly teaches that. These kids, all from different worlds, different situations, all have learned to love and accept their differences and even use their differences to help one another. What a wonderful message for children. Pagan, Wiccan, Christian, Hindu, Muslim. Let’s use our differences to make the world a better place.

    Yes, I look forward to reading the last book! I just love the story! I will, however, like you, be kind of sad to see it end! It’s really raised my standards for reading (I’m a SERIOUS bookworm!)

    The Best,

    Shannon

  • Sally

    I agree wholeheartedly with what you originally wrote re the Potter series. I try not to talk about the books very much as I have so many friends who have chosen not to read them, or to allow their children to read them. One interesting thing, however. I read an article in the C. S. Lewis fans magazine quoting some articles that appeared in Britain when “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” first appeared. At that point it was not generally known that Lewis was a Christian, and the book was savagely attacked by Christians until the knowledge of his Christianity was well broadcast. There was a virtual 180 degree turn almost over-night in the approval/disapproval feelings of the Christian community. Interesting, eh?

  • http://viewpointjournal.com David Flanagan

    Shannon:

    I definitely know what you faced. :-)

    And I like your advice to your daughter. As someone who has been married for sixteen years with two daughters of my own, those are very wise words.

    We’ll have to chat about the last book when it finally hits the store. :-)

    Regards,

    David

  • http://viewpointjournal.com David Flanagan

    Sally:

    I do think that is interesting and yet I’m also not surprised. At the same time, while Christians have had some very heated debates regarding the Harry Potter series, there have been some very well known Christians who have defended the series.

    Personally, I enjoy a good debate and I think this debate is good for Christians to have. Trashing an author for his or her work is the wrong approach, but debating the material is fine.

    And I think a good example was the almost universal disagreement with so-called “facts” laid down in the book “The Da Vinci Code.” Most Christians were fine with the book as a work of fiction, but for the author to begin to claim that there was a lot of truth behind the book so that he could sell more of them, well, that called for an informed response, such as an investigation of some of what the author claimed were “facts” written into his fictional story.

    Personally, I think the controversy behind the book was much more interesting than the book itself. ;-)

    Regards,

    David

  • Mykel

    Thank you so much fo writing this. All of my friends and fellow students believe that these books are completely horrible and to read the meant that you are automattically not a Christian. Reading these words finally bring comfort to an unsettled soul. Again, thank you so much.

    Regards,
    Mykel

  • http://viewpointjournal.com David Flanagan

    Mykel,

    I think the message to your friends and fellow students is in Romans 14:1-4

    “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

    Thanks for your comments and I hope to hear from you again sometime.

    Regards,

    David

  • http://63785 zyra

    thanks

  • http://63785 zyra

    im a christian..(i need someone who can understand my point of view) but i really cant help reading harry potter books..i dont have intention that this book is evil..ever since harry potter starts…im one of the fans before i watched the movies i need to read the book first,,..and when i read,like now im reading the 5th book..its like im picturing out what thescenes is..since i was in college i keep on bringing the book and when i have free time i read it…but yesterday in the church of all my church members shocked and keep on asking who owns the book and when they find out its me…they told me its not a good book! by the way im still 19 and so childish in mind..i keep on reading any kind of book..i also love the chronicles of narnia i watch the movie thrice…that time i was in a catholic school and our school recommends to wtch the narnia…im a born again christian..ok lets go back what happend yesterday,after they found out it wqas mine they put a bible aboveon the book and i left that book on our church office because that time where still having our service..and then after our service i ask one of my elder whats wrong with the book..then she answer me wait and i called our pastor to explain it to you…and then our pastor callled me and my mom..he explain it to us whats on the harry potter..he said its a witchcraft and its in the bibile its forbidden…but what i amazed most is that when he said all the powerful witch did not denied that there the one who made the harry potter book and when they made it they made some rituals…he said they used harry potter to enhance the mind of the people whos reading on it especially the youths whos a vivid fun on it..and one of my co-church members said she also have a harry potter book in there house where shes working and the moment the kid reads the book she can now see different kind of spirits…after she said that to us what she experienced..my mom also felt same with her..my mom wont believe in ghost coz she believes that ghost cant harm us coz we have cjesus christ in our hearts…but she said she never felt that theres something in our house already since i brought that book..something she cant explain…a cold air…and like past midnight she saw a dark thing past by at her back…

    i was so freak out i dont know how to explain the moment i heared my mom what she experienced…and then our pastor wants to burn the book as what they did before they burn the harry potter books with one of my church members…i was so confused im already in the half page of ther 5th book..so my mom also dont wnat to bring it back in my house…im so confused yesterday…i dont know what to do..i keep on bringing the book in my office..in the bus stop..coz im thinking when im free i read it..

    and then yesterday my pastor prayed for me..and she asking me to research more about the books…

    i know i loved God and i believed in God..i have a strong faith in God…and it never came up in my mind about the book…and then last night when i was sleeping all alone in my room but last night the i did not put the book beside me as i always do ever since im reading the harry potter book..i admit i felt scared last night i cant sleep properly…i keep on opening my eyes as i counted it around 5 times i think…but before i sleep i prayed to God…

    it made me so freak since today..im still bringing the book until now…and what im doing is researching about the book…thanks for reading my comments hope you can give a point of view about what im writting in your blog.

    thanks so much and God bless..

    zyra

  • Anna

    Thank you so much! i am both a Christian and a major Harry Potter. You have completely refleected my thoughts on the series. What some peole don’t realize is that the book does have true morals and values, but the book itself is still fiction. Thank you agian!

  • Sophia

    Zyra,
    I also am a Christian and I was deeply saddened to hear about how the people in your church have treated you over reading the books. I myself was struggling with whether or not it was good to read these books and watch these movies or rather if the Lord would approve or not. I love God above all else and I only want to do what is acceptable to my Savior. I was praying about it just this morning and then I found David’s blog article and I felt peace and I also thought of the scripture Romans 14:1-4 “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”….which amazingly enough David quoted in one of his responses above….coincidence? I think not! One thing that is crucial for you to remember is that the Bible says that “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world”(1 John 4:4). The Spirit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who lives in our hearts is more than able to defeat any spirit of fear or darkness that is trying to make you afraid. You pray and ask Jesus yourself what He wants you to do. He is faithful and He WILL answer you. To all of you who do not share the faith that Zyra and I do please do not feel the need to tell me that anything I said you do not agree with. I am not here to debate you or to promote my faith, but rather to comfort another believer. The church (some factions)can abuse the power that they hold over others. That is why I truly believe that you have to “test every spirit” and hold fast to the Holy Spirit, God’s Word and what He speaks directly to you. You have direct access to Him and His thoughts and heart and NO ONE not even a pastor has the right to tell you that what the Lord has allowed you the freedom to do is evil or wrong. They can have their opinions. I am not speaking of direct clear instructions of what not to do such as listed in Scripture and I know you know the things that I am talking about. I agree with David when he says that the witchcraft in these books are not the same as the witchcraft spoken of in Deuteronomy. That is the conclusion I have come to WITH prayer and what I feel God has said specifically to me. One other note…if your mother does not want the books in her house and you live under her roof than I do think that is her right and you are obligated to respect that. The Bible does command us to honor our father and mother…BUT that does not mean that you can not agree to disagree. You can have what you want in your house when it is yours ;) I know that is hard especially when you are 19…but such is life eh?!
    Anyway….. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying like many of these other Christians that it is okay to be a witch in God’s eyes. I am not open minded and I am proud of it. I am not tolerant of what I allow in my life due to past experiences with the occult, but I do believe that as a Christian I should not be known for “telling people off” or judging them. It is not my place to do. I am only concerned with living out the faith that Jesus Christ has put in my life and obeying my God. That is my conviction and if you are reading this and it is not yours than that is your right and choice. No one can take away that right and that is the same way God is. He allows us our choice. To know Him is by choice.
    By the way I love Harry Potter and glean all the good that I can from him and all of the characters. I think that it is exactly all of the things that David said in his article about love, forgiveness, family, friendship, faithfulness…etc. Hope these words help you Zyra. That was truly my ONLY intent for writing this. God bless you and you are in my prayers!

  • http://www.logosbooksonline.com Christian Books

    Great post. Definitely going to start following your blog.

  • ColdForge

    Oddly enough, the discussion lives on today. I’m pretty much in one hundred percent agreement with you and actually have a similar path as you did to fantasy literature, but mine started with the Hobbit, then I got into the Narnia titles, and eventually LOTR. Great post, though I know I’m waaay late to the party.

  • Anna

    My child was just invited to a book club whose first selection is the first book in the Harry Potter series. Thanks for this great review. I’m going to read it simultaneously with her, and I will encourage my husband to check out the audio book for his long commute as well.