A few of you have mentioned that you wanted to hear my thoughts on the Harry Potter debate. Here’s your chance. This is a copy of a post i just made on the same topic over on the Worldview forums. If anyone is interested in referencing the discussion over there you can click here to read the thread–but be warned…it’s presently 7 pages long and counting. You’ll get the gist of what i’m trying to say without reading the thread.
And here it is….
I’ve been reading this thread with interest for the past few days. I think it’s interesting that most of the arguments are revolving around the ‘magic’ angle of the Harry Potter books. Sure, we’ve got sorcery, magic, wizzards, witches, dragons, giants, unicorns, hippogriffs, and whatever else. But, is that really what the argument should be about? I think that perhaps we need to explore why we are having such a strong debate about this subject.
I’ll admit, i’m a casual reader of the HP books. I’m not a fan of all fantasy, but i found this series interesting and so i’ve been following the story. So here’s my two cents on this whole argument.
There is a lot of debate here about the ‘magic’ used in the HP books. Here’s the thing that i think a lot of people miss. In order to accept the story, you have to accept the world that the story creates. For instance, if I’m reading “The Chronicles of Narnia” and i can’t wrap my head around the fact that it’s possible to have “always winter and never Christmas”, i’m not going to be able to accept the rest of the Narnia story. In the case of Harry Potter, i think we need to first accept the world that the author has created for her story. Rowling has (quite creatively i think) created a world where ‘magic’ is like electricity. The characters don’t really do anything to get it, they just have access to it–for good or for evil–like we have access to electricity. Now, just because they have access to it doesn’t mean they can use it properly. They have to learn to use it the way i have to learn to use the tools in my work shop–tools that are completly worthless without the knowledge of how to use them. I have tools in my shop that could do any measure of harm to people or property if they are used in ignorance, carelessness, or with malicious intent. But that doesn’t make them evil. Someone could use this computer to write an excellet Biblical commentary and the same computer could be use to publish a pornagrahic website. That doesn’t make the computer (or the electricity that powers it) evil. I think the same is true for the Harry Potter stories.
Thus, i think that if we’re going to debate these books we need to debate them on something other than the world they contain. For instance, I don’t think we should be debating the ‘magic’ in the story–that would be like debating the snow in the Narnia books. But, we should be talking about the worldview of the story–such as the morals and values. What are the decisions of the characters teaching us? What is considered ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in the stories? Are the heros really heros? Do we want the good to win, or do we find ourselves rooting for the villian? Other than a strong desire to discover the secret of broom-stick flight, or the temptatioin to put an owl on his Christmas list, what would your little brother take from these books if he were allowed to read them?
This isn’t a sandbag defense of the Harry Potter books. I do believe that there are some serious issues that we need to be talking about. While i do think that the world HP lives in is creative and interesting, i also realize that it does closely mirror some of the darker aspects of our own world. I would be much more comfortable with a world where the characters used the energy of the sun to power their invisible flying skateboards. I think it’s unfortunate that a good story can become dangerous to people who are too young to know exactly what they are reading.
My biggest concern is not that people are reading Harry Potter, it’s that young children are reading Harry Potter–without the knowledge or the spiritual insight to realize what they are reading.
Anyone that has been through Worldview Academy is going to be able to read Harry Potter and understand what’s going on. We can read it without harming our spiritual walk because we understand how to evaluate it though our worldview. We realize that it’s just fiction and that it’s a set of fictional rules governing a fictional world. The problem is that a generation of children are ingesting Harry Potter (and hundreds of lesser-known books written for children that are potentially just as harmful) without the benefit of a proper worldview. That is the true danger.
Harry Potter has become an altar in our culture at which millions of children are beginning to worship. It’s also an altar we can use to teach others. We as Christians need to stop bickering about whether or not we should be reading the books and need to start focusing on the children who are. We have an amazing opportunity to speak into the lives of children in a language that they understand. I guarantee that we’ll accomplish a lot more by sitting down and talking with a child about Harry’s relationship w/ Dumbledore than we would by trying to convince everyone that Harry Potter is going to usher in public animal sacrifices in the town square
A few posts back there was a brief discussion about black and white vs. grey. That could be a topic on it’s own so i don’t delve in too deep–but we need to realize that there is room for black, white and grey. We’re talking about art, and art has never been a black and white subject. In it’s very nature art is open to interpretation. True, there is no grey when it comes to our salvation–we’re either saved or not. But art isn’t like that. The Bible clearly teaches that what is acceptable for one person might not be proper or safe for another. We are all individual and we all have our very own relationship with God. And so, let’s keep that in mind when we’re talking about and debating topics like this that pertain to the artistic. There is much room for dogma in the question “will mormons make it to heaven?” But there is much less room in the question “is it wrong to read Harry Potter?