Evangelical Update

A resource for lefties who want to understand conservative Christians.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Harry Business

by Jennifer

The release of J.K. Rowling’s latest book in the Harry Potter series last week stirred up the dust on a debate that’s been brewing ever since the boy wizard’s first appearance. Many conservative Christians believe Harry is nothing more than mouth-watering candy used by Satan to lure our children away from their faith in Jesus Christ. The satirical publication The Onion caused widespread panic when it published an article about Harry when he first flew onto the scene in 1997:

"I used to believe in what they taught us at Sunday School," said Ashley, a nine year old conjuring up an ancient spell to summon Cerebus, the three-headed hound of hell. "But the Harry Potter books showed me that magic is real, something I can learn and use right now, and that the Bible is nothing but boring lies."

"Harry is an absolute god send to our cause," said High Priest Egan of the First Church Of Satan in Salem, MA. "An organization like ours thrives on new blood (no pun intended) and we've had more applicants than we can handle lately. And, of course, practically all of them are virgins, which is gravy."

Most of the well-meaning, but ill-informed, Christians who fell for the article now realize it was satire. But many still insist that the danger of Pottermania is very much legitimate.

The Exposing Satanism website states:

“There are many books out about Witchcraft but none so cleverly packaged like the latest. Satan is up to his old tricks again and the main focus is the children of the world. The latest craze is a series of books by author J. K. Rowling, known as Harry Potter.”

Take A Stand Ministries says:

“...through the often subtle and occasionally overt occult practices carried out by characters in J.K. Rowling's series, there is a general dulling of the conscience concerning the occult. Through exposure and acceptance, readers slowly begin to view the occult in a favorable light, abandoning any thought about the very real and present danger that interaction with the occult realm can and does bring.”

I picked up these bits and pieces about Harry on a trip around the Christian blogosphere:

"I've encountered an increasing number of kids since the release of the Potter books who have become deluded into thinking they have magical powers."

"Harry Potter could very well be the poster child for Neo-paganism."

Many other mainline Christians have supported Harry, not only for the dramatic rise in children’s reading skills since the series began, but also for what they see as parallels to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Several well-known Christian leaders, including Chuck Colson, have compared the books to Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein, both of which carry an undercurrent of Christian beliefs.

In fact, according to a search on Wikipedia, J.K. Rowling is on record as a Christian who admires C.S. Lewis. She says she did not emphasize Christian ideals in the book because her goal was never to preach or dictate a philosophy of life, but to tell a story; besides, if she had, intelligent readers would be able to guess important plot details. She is a member of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

I think I’ve pretty much established myself here as a moderate Christian, so it probably won’t be a shock that I have no problem with HP. Earlier this week, I posted an article on my blog in which I attempted to draw a parallel between the witch hunts of Salem, MA in 1692 (which began with young children reading a book), and those determined to vilify J.K. Rowling and her muse. (Notice how The Onion article quoted above places the First Church of Satan in Salem?)

To the non-Christians out there: What do you think about all this Harry business?

To the Christians who oppose Harry: What makes HP different from Narnia and LOTR, both of which contained occultic references and pagan symbology, invoking magic as well as fantasy?