Friday, July 27, 2007

Pondering Potter . . . Harry, that is.


It's a miracle that I've been able to work at all today. Some online friends and I have been discussing Harry Potter, and several raised rational, informed facts about how the Potter books HAVE spurred some children to evidence an interest in the occult. That's not good. Definitely not good.

Someone asked, "As a Christian novelist, could you have your hero use witchcraft in one of your books?" And I had to answer . . . no. Not even if I could sell it. Not even under a pseudonym.

My opinion about Potter has always been that they didn't bother me, but parents need to be the guide for their children. Still, I worry about children who don't have spiritually-aware parents.

Because the issue came up on this blog, I think I need to be as honest about my reservations as I've been with my praise. So all day, as I’ve been working, I’ve had this ping pong match going on in my head. Like this:

Side one: They’re right about the occult and witchcraft. It is an abomination and we should steer clear of it.

Side two: But a STORY about witchcraft isn’t the same as dabbling in witchcraft. In fact, we write stories about murder and lying and adultery all the time; we even touch on some of those issues in children's books. What’s the difference?

Side one: Yes, but are we writing stories in which the murder and lying are portrayed as good?

Side two: Well . . . no. But there are godly themes in Harry Potter, and now everyone knows it! And the HP books are more about good versus evil than witchcraft. They're about self-sacrifice and the power of love.

Side one: There are godly themes in lots of the world’s literature, but that’s simply a reflection of common grace. And good versus evil is the plot of practically all books.

Side two: But so many people read HP without being tempted to use or even think about witchcraft. So isn’t Potter sort of like a glass of wine? Innocent on the surface and for most people, but dangerous for children, alcoholics, and weaker brothers?

Side one: Yes, but Angie, you don’t drink wine for the express reason of not wanting to hurt the kids in your world.

Side two: Well . . . . okay, so you have a point. So . . . Where does that leave us?

Side one: Pondering, that’s where it leaves us. Praying for discernment.

See what I mean? :-) No wonder I talk to myself.

In any case, my friend Marlo Schlansky has written an excellent blog piece on Potter. You can read it here: http://marloschalesky.blogspot.com/.

And now, I need to finish up the day's work.

~~Angie

13 comments:

Marla Taviano said...

Thanks for sharing the devil/cherub on the shoulder dialogue. I've been thinking many of the same things. I'd really like to read the HP books to my daughters (6 and 5). Mostly want to make sure it's a worthy investment of our time. And that they're ready for all those themes/explanations.

Nicole said...

I've found that we can just about justify anything we want to do, read, see, hear, if we insert Christian values into it. Although sometimes we can see them there, an unbeliever can't. So what does that say to him?

It's a choice we all must make about "art". Is it really valuable (profitable) or is it simply permissable?

Evil is what it is, you know? Dress it up or dress it down--just don't call it good.

(This is not specifically directed at HP unless it fits.)

Jill Eileen Smith said...

Hi Angie,

Thank you for sharing your ping-ponging thoughts. :)

Personally, I think you can read "Christian" into a lot of things. People thought the movie The Matrix had Christian themes until the directors came out and said it didn't. I believe they said the inspiration for the movie was New Age. It goes to show that the director or the author is the only one who really knows what they intended, if they're telling.

I agree with you. As a Christian writer, I could not write a book with witchcraft in it unless it was portrayed as the Bible portrays it. Same for all the other vices God warns us against. It goes along with that "calling evil good and good evil."

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Blessings,
~Jill

Kay said...

I've had the same arguments with myself. I am intrigued and I love certain fantasy books, so I think I might like them.
Then I hear you like them and I trust your insight, but not to the exclusion of my own conviction.
I have stayed away because the Bible says to have nothing to do with witchcraft. Also, I've heard he's quite the liar. My kids do that on their own!
One article I read said we wouldn't be justifying it if it were the same story, but homosexuality were inserted in place of witchcraft. hmmm.
So, in spite of my back and forthing on it, I don't read them at this point because my husband prefers I don't.
That pretty much settles it for me.

CrownLaidDown said...

I personally have no interest in HP, because it does not spur me on towards loving Jesus more. However, my husband is reading all the books through right now and can hardly put them down. If this would cause me to stumble, Chris would most certainly put them down, but they don't. I think that it may be as you said, an issue of "drinking wine" or as the Bible talks about eating meat or not. Is it causing others to stumble?

I'm enjoying The Elevator! Drawing me in... :)
Love in Him,
Holly

Carrie K. said...

I have no problem with parents saying they want to err on the side of caution, but I've found the case to usually be that people who avoid HP will embrace Lord of the Rings or Disney fairy tales - and not worry that they might lead their children to use sorcery. I'm no more worried that my kids will think they can do magic like Harry Potter than that they can do magic like Gandalf. They know they are make-believe characters. They also know that there is real witchcraft and sorcery in the world - and that's why we don't ever pretend to cast spells on someone or read palms, etc.

Accidental Poet said...

The big difference, for me, between HP and most other fantasy is the strong identification with the magic-wielding protagonist. In most other fantasy, even if the main character is capable of magic, the world is "other" enough that it doesn't tempt me to believe it's possible. (hopefully that makes some kind of sense)
In addition, in the books I've read, the times that Harry is most successful are when he is bucking authority, even benevolent authority.
On the flip side, they're a great read, and my own children would be welcome to read them if they were so inclined (which they are not). I do get a bit tired of the attitude towards ESPECIALLY Christian fantasy, where some individuals seem to feel like they must pick it apart with tweezers and examine every aspect of story for analogy, etc, to make sure that it is Scriptural. You're not going to find a talking, sentient, beaver, and it's time to stop looking. (umm I think this is better suited to a blog post than a comment ...)

Amy said...

I would like to know these truthful facts about kids who have pursued the occult as a result of the Harry Potter books. There is one story floating around out there that has since been exposed as a lie. Which makes you wonder....

The witchcraft portrayed in Harry Potter is not actual witchcraft. If it was, this would be a different story, however, it is completely fictional. That she uses the words witchcraft to describe the sort of magic in the books is unfortunate. I believe that more than anything else has been the stumbling block for Christians being able to embrace the books.

Most Christians embrace the Lord of the Rings, and while I haven't read the books I remember seeing the movies and thinking it wasn't all that different than Harry. Even the good guys did "magic"

One of the great things about fantasy books is that they enable us to see the battle of good and evil that takes place in our lives on a daily basis, in a more physical world.

I believe the Harry Potter books have such enormous popularity, not because they are evil and evil is so alluring, but rather because they are about love, redemption, moral courage, and because they say the world is a dark and scary place, but the power of love is stronger than all of that.

Nicole said...

Just an observation (having never read or had an interest in the HP series) . . .

Just listening to/reading various commments about the series over the years, I haven't heard word one about the redemptive qualities of the books until this last one.

I think their popularity with the kids of unbelievers (and believers' children, too) is the supernatural occurrences, the ability to go over the top of your limitations as children, the imaginative powers of being able to control things be it broomsticks or situations. Without any understanding of how God views certain supernatural events, the potential for danger is definitely there. And that goes for nearly any book where a possible "evil" (by God's definition) is portrayed sympathetically in any way.

Amy said...

Nicole,

I'm surprised you haven't heard of them having any redemptive qualities, I noticed them immediately when I read the first book, knowing nothing about the books but that Christians hated them. The fact that Harry owes his life to the sacrifical love and death of his mother is the foundation of the entire series.

I recommend checking out John Granger's work...you can read about just how Christian the Harry Potter books are at his website www.hogwartsprofessor.com

oh amanda said...

I read this post before I went to bed and for some reason woke up thinking about it! I agree with so many things you said, Angela. I love to hear honest thoughts about Harry! Not super-spiritual! And I also agree with your commenters--to me the magic in Harry is as fictional as Mary Poppins. It's magic. If I could get a wand with a phoeneix feather inside, that might be one thing.

I just remember when the first Harry came out some Christians I knew DID NOT want their kids to see it. Which I agree with! I want parents to protect their kids! But they allowed their oldest daughter (probably middle-early high school) to see Pearl Harbor which was full of pre-martial sex. Now, which of the 2 sins would this girl fall into--witchcraft or pre-marital sex? I would have rather her seen Harry than Pearl Harbor!

I know you have to draw lines and when parents choose to draw lines with Harry I applaud them. But as an adult who doesn't tell encourage kids to see/read them, I feel like it's on the same page as the other books I read where you want the thief to get away, you're glad when so-and-so is killed. It's sin we're reading about plain and simple.

So, the crossroads to me is not Harry or NOHarry. The choice is books/movies where you sympathize with sin or NOT!

What a great post! Thanks!

Rachel Hauck said...

Nice post, Angie. :)

Rachel

Deena said...

I can identify with your struggle, Angela! I myself do the same thing. I think as parents we cannot afford to be misinformed. We can insert any well publicized battle into this discussion, be it MySpace or Harry Potter.

My only issue is, if you truly believe Harry is evil, then we must be consistent. There IS magic in Tolkien and in Lewis, as well as many animated films we have no problem with.

I've read Harry, and my son is in the process. I wouldn't let him read the books until I knew the final outcome. But if he was spiritually immature or had trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality, he would be told no.

We have to be the guardians for our children. Being informed is one way to do so. I have no problem with Harry, but I respect those who do.