Should Christians be reading the "Harry Potter" books? This question raises huge amounts of debate among Christian experts. Some equate the books with the fantasy novels written by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien while others believe that the books promote the occult through witchraft and spells. Let's take a closer look at some of the arguments surrounding these seven books.
A Little Background
If you have not been exposed to the "Harry Potter" books series you may not have the background needed to understand the controversy surrounding the books. Here is some basic information:
Author: J.K. RowlingBook Titles:
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Philosopher's Stone in U.K.)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Plot Synopsis: Harry Potter begins the series as an 11 year old orphan who discovers that he is a wizard. He is accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where his adventures begin. His parents were killed by an evil wizard named Voledmort who also attempted to kill Harry, but who's spell backfired, causing Harry's trademark lighting bolt scar and providing Harry with even greater wizarding skill. Voldemort continues his rise to power while also attempting to ride the world of his nemesis, Harry Potter. Harry's best friends are also wizards-in-training - Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. Harry and his friends have faced various magical creatures and Volemort's evil followers known as "Death Eaters." Throughout his adventures he has had to face mortal peril, and in the last book will have to face, and possibly kill his greatest enemy, Voldemort.
The Objections to Harry Potter
While millions of people around the world read and enjoy the "Harry Potter" books, there are many people that object to the content of the Harry Potter books, stating that they go against the world of God. The objections are based on the bible teaching that practicing witchcraft or other occult acts is a sin.
Objections to "Harry Potter" usually reference Deuteronomy 18:10-12, "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you." (NKJV)These Christians believe that the books promote the modern religions of Wicca, Paganism, and Neopaganism. They point to the terms "witch," "wizard," and the variety of spells presented in the books as leading children and Christian teens down the path to the occult.
Other Christians believe that the novels are just pure fantasy, but they object to the dark nature of the books for younger children. As the books go on they become more violent, scary, and people die. Some parents believe that these book's violent undertones promote violence in children.
Finally, many Christians have an issue with the moral ambiguity presented in the books. J.K. Rowling has presented a world where moral questions do not always have clear answers, and this presents an issue for some parents who feel her characters are not being appropriate role models for their children. There are good characters that commit murder and other good characters that lie and steal. Some characters are considered "evil," but Rowling presents them as having a psychology that makes them somewhat sympathetic. Also, there are some references to swear words that offend some Christian teens and adults.
The Positive Side of Potter
Are you surprised to hear that there are Christians that actually stand behind reading the "Harry Potter" books? While many conservative Christian groups have gotten a lot of press with talks of book burnings and banning the books from school shelves, there is also a large contingent of Christians that see Harry Potter as a fantasy character in a fantasy world. They equate the books with those written by Tolkien and Lewis.
The pro-Harry Potter Christians believe that the books do a good job of describing a world where good and evil are not always obvious, while giving readers a hero on the "good side" fighting evil. They also applaud the virtues of compassion, loyalty, courage, and friendship present in many of the main characters.
These Christians also denounce the idea that the witchcraft present in the novels represents anything close to Wicca or new age beliefs. Many of the people on the side of Harry Potter books believe that it is up to parents to discuss occult practices with their children and explain why Christians do not participate in occult religions. They also advocate parents discussing the darker aspects of the novels with their children, opening up the door of communication between Christian parents and their children.
The pro-Harry Potter Christians also stand behind the author's statement that she does not believe magic even exists, only using it as a plot device to tell a story. They believe other Christian authors have used magic as plot devices, and the magic used in the stories is not the same magic Christians are warned about in Deuteronomy.