What Do We Do About Harry Potter?- The Potentially Harmful Conundrums of Religious Christianity

“You remember Harry Potter? Big publishing phenomenon. I remember when the books came out. There we had a world full of war and terror, a world where millions were dying of malnutrition, where children were being born into slavery, where drugs were rampant and violence was endemic. A world where people flew planes into buildings, and greed and avarice wiped out whole communities around the world. And the burning issue for Christians was ‘should I let my child read Harry Potter?’ “ – Nick Page, The Church Invisible

“They only were hearing it said, ‘He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God because of me.” -Galatians 1:23-24

I came across the above quote in my readings today and felt this really put us on the horns of a dilemma: what about Harry Potter? Of course, Harry Potter is just a placeholder. You could just as easily replace it with ‘The Beatles’ or ‘moshing’ or ‘South Park’ and get the same essence, that being the question of whether or not Christians should condemn aspects of the culture which move into the vogue?

Of course, the question is really more than this. As the rest of the quote says, there are all of these things going on around us, 9/11, the war in Iraq, mass suffering of AIDS patients in Africa, and yet what does the world see? They see a Christian community whose biggest ethical query involves a children’s book. As the author points out, “No non-Christians were worried about that.” No non-Christian goes to bed at night and loses sleep because their child just received Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. And if that’s the case, then why should we? Should we be more concerned about a nerdy junior magician in a fiction novel than we are about the sufferings, whether physical or spiritual, of our fellow humans? At the risk of exposing a bias I would have to say no.

Why? Shouldn’t we care that our children are being exposed to the dangerous world of witch craft and black magic? I mean, isn’t Harry Potter trying to turn all of our children into pagan worshippers of the paranormal? Well, even if he is, we as parents should have enough influence over our children and should be making our devotion to Christ apparent enough in the home that our children are left with little doubt as to what team we’re on. This seems to me as the same question that comes up in the home schooling movement that is running throughout Christian circles these days. As Christian parents we see a public school system which no longer reflects our moral values (didn’t we just talk about this golden age thing?) and so the cry comes out to have an “exit strategy” to save our children. (However, this is a discussion which is likely to come any day know, so I won’t go into it any further at this time.) To me, I wonder how we can ever claim, as Paul did, that people glorified God because of us when all the world sees us doing is fighting against every new piece of pop culture and secularization that makes its way onto the scene.

In the end, I guess the big question is this: how do we possibly become “all things to all people” when we spend the majority of our time running away from them?

2 Responses to “What Do We Do About Harry Potter?- The Potentially Harmful Conundrums of Religious Christianity”

  1. Elliot Says:

    I think that, on the whole, the positive far outweighs the negative when it comes to Harry Potter. In a culture of relative truth and, for some, relative morality, the real battle between good and evil in Harry Potter is a breath of fresh air. There are some powerful Christian themes in these stories, especially book 7 (http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/viewpoints/stories/DN-weiss_28edi.ART.State.Edition1.2758dd6.html, http://www.christianitytoday.com/48545). I would imagine that, for parents who are willing to become acquainted with Harry’s world and his struggle against evil, there might be great opportunities to discuss the parallels to Christian theology with their children. The review of book 7 at pluggedinonline.com says HP “conjures a world that practically begs for something to have faith in.”

  2. Todd Burus Says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I want you to know that I do not have anything against Harry Potter, it’s just that HP is a contemporary example of how Christians can be so passionate about attacking society and yet so weak on actually standing on the Bible itself.

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