Friday, July 20, 2007

Wild about Harry!

Like many, certain members of our family are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the seventh and final Harry Potter novel. But I haven't always been this open about my enjoyment of Harry Potter. I've known several very fundamentalist Christian people who would never dream of having one in their house. They'd put their point of view forward in what sounded like a very logical manner. "The Bible forbids witchcraft! And Harry Potter glorifies and promotes witchcraft. Therefore, Harry Potter must be forbidden in our household."

Although I'd always had many answers to this in my own head, there were none that seemed short enough or convincing enough to say what I wanted to say. Until now. Last May at the Christian writing convention, a speaker named Andrew Lansdown gave the clearest answer I'd ever heard on why, in his opinion, Harry Potter is OK. Here goes.

1) The confusion is that what the Bible means by the term "witchcraft" is an entirely different thing to what fantasy authors such as J. K. Rowling mean by "witchcraft". The witchcraft and magic condemned in the Bible always involves evil spirits. And it is the evil spirit, not the witch/wizard, who performs the magic. In the Bible, involvement with the spirit world manifested in people evoking and revering pagan deities to gain knowledge and acquire power. It always involved dealings with demons. Humans who practised witchcraft and magic wanted to foresee the future and consult familiar spirits to determine the courses they should follow. They were ordinary men and women who craved the extraordinary and tried to fulfil that craving with the aid of evil spirits. Just the same way some ordinary men and women still practise the same things today.

He went on to say that the so-called "witchcraft" and "magic" in Harry Potter is a completely different thing. The Bible is not talking about self-stirring cauldrons, enchanted castles, magical phoenixes, living chessmen and strange, fantasy animals. This is the stuff of story-books and literary imagination. They are physical impossibilities and not to be mistaken for what the Bible means as "witchcraft". Their author is not to be denounced as Satanic. There is no alliance between humans and evil spirits within the pages of Harry Potter.

Furthermore, in the Harry Potter novels, there are two types of people. The witches and wizards are magical, the "muggles" are not. Harry never seeks to be a wizard. He simply is one. He's brought up as a muggle and discovers that he's magical by nature, quite accidentally. He never invokes any spirits to make him "magic". And, of course, there is no such thing as innately magic humans. The Bible doesn't condemn the type of witches and wizards found in Harry Potter, because this type of witch and wizard does not exist in real life. Christians who associate Ms. Rowling's novels with the occult are way off track. I was very grateful to Andrew Lansdown for pointing out that it's time for Christians to appreciate this.

2) He mentioned that Lord Voldemort, of course, is the closest thing to an evil spirit in the Harry Potter stories. I think anyone'd agree with that. He's completely despicable. But J.K. Rowling condemns him utterly as murderous, treacherous and ugly. She encourages readers to view him in this manner too and makes it clear that as long as he's at large, the whole structure of society is in danger. This is no different to "Narnia" or "Lord of the Rings" or any other fantasy literature that Christians have chosen to regard as more "acceptable."

Andrew Lansdown finished off by saying that his advice for Christians is to either read and enjoy Harry Potter or completely forget about him. And having enjoyed the first six, we're anxious to make up our library.

(Just an aside, I was watching some interviews with the cast from Harry Potter. Daniel Radcliffe said he rather hopes Harry will die in the last book, so that he'll get to play a death scene! Whereas Emma Watson said she'd be terribly upset if Hermione was killed. This is a major difference between boys and girls, I suppose. I just warned my 12yo that there were a few main deaths in the novel he's just begun reading, to which he responded, "Cool")


  1. Hi Paula,
    Thank you for writing this. Eloquently spoken!
    I'm glad I could give you some happiness. Thanks for your sweet comment. I'll post more of my "How we met" story tomorrow.
    Peace and Laughter,

  2. Well said Paula. I have a friend who doesn't allow HP and it makes me sad. Theya re such great stories! We just saw The Order of The Phoenix Last night. It was wonderful!

  3. Hi Paula!

    To get to my blog on here, just click on call*me*kate above OR you can get there from my HSB site, under Links on the right.

    We're still waiting for Chad's glasses, hoping to get them by his birthday on the 25th. By the way, I'm getting new lenses but keeping my current frames so I'm wearing "loaner" glasses that fit my old lenses for 7-10 days. These loaners have gems in the corner, reminding me of my mom's cat-eye glasses when I was a kid. It's true - we do eventually become our mothers!!!


  4. Nicely said! I just posted a little about Harry yesterday.

  5. great post. I printed it off because my husband has brought up so many of those points and I want him to read it.
    I think before one forms an opinion on this topic or any, they should at least research it properly!

  6. I came across your blog from reading someone else's who I came across from someone else's...

    I wonder if you've ever heard this problem with the HP books: Christians should be aware that one of the main thrusts of Harry's and others' "power" is that they must just concentrate, and they can do anything (almost) themselves. Christians are taught that we can't just concentrate or focus and make things happen ("The Secret" mentality), or call on God in a special way to have things happen that we want to happen (prayer as magic, perhaps). I had not considered this angle myself, but it made me stop to think, that I'd better make sure my children understand these things.

  7. Rats - I forgot to say: Thank you for posting this. It's nice to have this written out so concisely! :)

  8. I still haven't decided how I feel about them, so we still haven't read any of them. I did however buy a book about why it is ok (or even good) for Christians to read them and what we can learn from them. Unfortunately I have not had enough time in the past two years to read the book to know whether or not we should read the Harry Potter books (or see the movies, either). :o)

  9. Thanks for that post! I knew that the difference between what the Bible calls witches and wizards and the witches and wizards in Harry Potter was great, but the clear distinctions you made were really helpful!

    You're also right about the difference between boys and girls...My guy friend Devan has been highly anticipating the seventh book for quite some time, and has constantly remarked about how much he hopes Harry dies...I don't know what I'll do if he dies! I'll be devastated!

    I've got to start reading that book...