Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Some Christians Read Harry Potter

Because the evening was young and the rain was falling and it was 24°C, we had a Harry Potter marathon.

Because Harry Potter was hard work, there was lamb stew with shiitake mushrooms and loads of thick gravy for mopping up with rosemary ciabatta.
Because Harry Potter got heavier as we went along (try dropping one of the later books on your foot), there were chocolate muffins with rainbow sprinkles for reading late into the night.

Harry Potter is bad news amongst some Christians. The series has been accused of embroiling innocent young things in occultism, Satanism and witchcraft. Calls have been made to ban and burn the books, and sometimes, the author herself.

As usual, most rumours about kiddies turning to devil worship have been proven to be but scare-mongering urban legends, as are the tales that JK Rowling is a Satanist. Actually, she's with the Church of Scotland if anyone cared to ask. And she's said,"I don't think [the Harry Potter books] are that secular. But, obviously, Dumbledore is not Jesus."

  1. Crucifying Harry Potter is not the way to live. The biblical way to live in the now-but-not-yet is not to take oneself out of the world, to be a hermit in the desert or a monk in a lonely monastery on top of a desolate peak. It is to live in the world but not be of the world. It is to live amongst pagans who worship idols but yet to live as aliens and strangers in worship of the one true God (Philippians).
  2. Crucifying Harry Potter is not the way to understand evil. Evil is not Satanism, occultism or witchcraft per se. Evil is our rebellion against God. This can take place even when we are perfectly nice people who care for animals and hug trees and help old ladies cross streets. It is not what we do but what our relationship with God is like.
  3. Crucifying Harry Potter is not the way to understand the source of evil. The biblical understanding of the problem of evil is not that it is external, but that it is an internal rebellion against God. We might be affected by the temptations of the world, but left alone, we soon construct our own temptations to make ourselves gods. We are felled by our wickedness that suppresses the truth about God as our lord and master and are chained by the sinful desires of our own hearts (Romans 1).
  4. Banning Harry Potter is not the way to teach children how to live in this world. Children need to be taught to distinguish between fiction and non-fiction, fantasy worlds and reality. It's no good people taking fiction or the workings of someone's fantasy world that is meant to remain just a fantasy world and assume it to be reality. In fact, most "children's classics" are mired in fantasy: Peter Pan, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, some Enid Blyton, Aladdin and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights, Hans Christian Anderson, Greek myths, the folklore of most cultures...That's just how stories are to be understood. Being taught to tell fiction from fact also has the added advantage of preventing junior from jumping off the roof with a red towel around his neck thinking he is Superman.
  5. Banning Harry Potter is not the way to teach children the truth. Children should be taught the truth by being taught the fear of the LORD (Psalms 34:11) in the word of God. They are to be taught not to let the truth slip from their hearts by talking about them when they sit at home, when they walk along the road, when they lie down and get up (Deuteronomy 11:19).

    Children should also be taught that the truth is not so flimsy that we have to run away from everything that isn't Christian (hey, even the evening news presents a worldview that isn't Christian). But the truth is strong and hardy and we can stand firmly and confidently in the armour of God: the belt of truth buckled around the waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, with feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, taking up the shield of faith, with which they can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6).
  6. Banning Harry Potter is not the way to have a consistent theological framework. Why are Harry Potter books vilified while the Chronicles of Narnia praised and promoted by many Christian groups? It is not for lack of magic in latter series. In Harry Potter's layered world, there are Muggles and those with magic. There're astrology, crystal balls and spells. In CS Lewis' series, his Muggles gain strengths and abilities in Narnia they don't have in their own world. There are nymphs and river gods. The children cast spells and use magic objects given to them by Aslan (the Jesus figure). Oi!
However, yet again, if a brother or sister thinks that we are condoning witchcraft by reading (and enthusing) about the Boy Who Lived, then in our freedom we must show them love by not offending their conscience (1 Corinthians 8,10; Romans 14; Galatians 5:13-14).

Like most aspects of contemporary local culture that can be used effectively for bridge building, people have leveraged on the popularity of Harry Potter for evangelism and some Christian kids even have led their friends to living knowledge of Christ through the books.


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At November 24, 2005 12:15 pm , Blogger Raven said...

Very well written!!

Being of strong Christian heritage I really appreciate your view here. Christians can be very sheepish when it comes to following the herd on things like this. Somtimes I wish more Christians would just stop and think before speaking or jumping on a bandwagon.

At November 25, 2005 8:56 am , Anonymous Travis Prinzi said...

Very, very well put. Thank you. I may link to this in the future.

At November 25, 2005 4:34 pm , Anonymous Kelly Low said...

Personally, having experienced spiritual disturbances and having read the books, I would advise those around me to be careful of influences of the world. Afterall, all that glitters is not gold. And yes, even Christians can be deceived.

Well, I must say that Harry Porter is interesting, but just because it is interesting doesn't mean that we should read it. I've read the books and it's a story that gets absorbed into the mind pretty easily.

Sure, I didn't go around casting spells on others after that, but I dream about it. And I can't put the book down because I got hooked onto it. But in life, many a times, we don't have that same sort of passion in reading the Bible. Then why Harry Porter?

I must say that fantasy is not a bad thing. But some people get hooked to it and it ensnares them. Adults are not so easily influenced, but I can't say the same about young children. I know of a seven year old girl who finished Goblet of Fire...

On relationship with God:
If a person really has a close relationship with God, that person will do things that pleases Him.

Maybe it's good to ask ourselves three questions when faced with grey areas (like Harry Porter, since some say it's ok, some say it's not).

1. Does my action glorify God?
2. Does it stumble others?
3. Does it benefit me?

Yes, it seems quite stringent. Some may agrue and say, "How can? Don't glorify God means cannot meh?"

Well, the above are guidelines. But if a person really has that close a relationship with God, that person would willingly give up all earthly pursuits.

Having said that, I would like to just add on that some things look very innocent. But it may not be. There is something abt the Harry Porter books that appeal and draws us to it.

Chronicles of Narnia and even LOTR are fantasy too. But the difference is that those are completed works and so you can analyse them. Harry Porter, however, is still uncomplete and developing. Perhaps we can take a look at Harry's character. Yes, he shows signs of courage and other good traits. But I also noticed that with age and because he faced great uncertainties in his life, he has grown to be confused and showed signs of distrust. Whereas in the Bible, God teaches us to trust in Him and commit all our cares to Him.

The youths nowadays can indentify with Harry Porter and so I guess that may be one reason why the books are so popular.

But I feel that there isn't really any good values in Harry Porter compared with Enid Blyton books, which also has wizards and stuff. There's some difference between the two. And the difference is that those spells in Harry Porter are not too far from the real thing.

My point is this, there are many children's books. So, why Harry Porter? Is it the best for our kids?

Maybe we can examine the following (random) example and see the value conveyed behind:

Was it ok for Hermione to travel back in time to study more? (In a form, that's cheating...)

Peter Pan and Cinderella are fairytales and we know fairytales are not real. Our kids don't grow up thinking that they are.

But witchcraft is real. I have known a friend who practises the occult here in Singapore. And it's not a nice sight to witness manifestation of spirits.

So, maybe I can just end off by quoting:

"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible" — but not everything is constructive.
1 Cor 10:23

We all make our choices in life. True, we don't all get hooked on fantasy. But why test ourselves? Especially when the subject in question churns out such divided views.

After all my experiences, I just prefer to stay close to God and flee from the fire.

Hope the Christian readers can really ask themselves if watching/reading Harry Porter glorifies God, stumbles another's faith and benefit their emotional n spiritual growth.

God bless.

At November 25, 2005 7:26 pm , Anonymous wingless angel said...

I agree totally with what Kelly has just said. Being clear of our motives when doing things are definitely importantly. Why we do things is as important as what things we do. "Does it glorify God" goes together with "Do I do it to glorify God"; "Does it stumble others" goes together with "Do I put others before myself"; "Does it benefit me" goes together with "Am I a good steward of my time and energy".

I'm sure that for many of us here watching Harry Potter fails all 6 tests. We are be the light of the world, mind you, not the wand which lights up when someone shouts 'lumos'. (I've read some of the books before but now I've decided not to continue)

Such movies are more dangerous than their books. Yet they are both dangerous. How many of us keep a concious mind when watching movies? Most of us turn off our firewall and download everything that the movies show. Even when we do not know it. Guess why kids nowadays pick up Hollywood values so easily. Our spiritual firewall is the weakest when our mind is idle. And we don't really use our mind when watching movies do we? Well King David fell because his mind was idle and he yielded to temptation. The books are the same, except to a lesser extent - we use more of our mind and our attention is not so focused to the book (as compared to the everchanging screen).

Having passed through our firewall, such bad substances easily influence our lives, as shown in Kelly's life example. Dreams - where the mind is idle - is another weak spot. And such attacks from the Devil, when they are frequent, are enough to stumble a Christian if he or she doesn't keep a tight watch over his or her life. So in the end we have to go through the No-U-Turn Antivirus system scan and remove all indwelling demonic influences in Jesus' Name. Which is very tiring on the victim's behalf. Imagine a spiritual battle taking place right inside you. Ouch.

If you don't want to get sick, watch what you eat. Just as in the Chinese proverb "sickness enters through the mouth", I hope all Christians out there vigilantly keep watch of what goes into your system. Be sensitive to things of the spiritual realm, turn your firewall levels to high. And get periodic system scans too. This is the main issue about benefiting oneself.

But the main crux of the issue - even though the above problem is significant enough - is that kids are being influenced by such things too! Kids! Must I scream it out? The way the Devil wants to win is to cut off the next generation from taking up the roles of the current generation. Not to see kids as just successors, we are to love children. Loving children means being good examples for them too. This is the main problem of stumbling another's faith.

Now the problem about glorifying God... I don't want to seem to be defending God as if He can't defend himself, but I'll make this as short as possible. Will Jesus watch or read Harry Potter? We are to reflect God's glory on Earth, in other words, make WWJD* decisions every time.

Don't allow your mind to be idle. Don't allow the children to be influenced. Don't let God down.

Hope this short sharing helps. =]

At November 25, 2005 9:40 pm , Anonymous Travis Prinzi said...

How can anyone possibly answer the question, WWJD when it comes to Harry Potter? The Bible never spoke disapprovingly of Moses, Daniel, or Paul knowing the mythology, folklore, and pagan religions of their cultures. How can we honestly pose the WWJD question as an argument against Harry Potter?

And who's Harry Porter?

"Hope the Christian readers can really ask themselves if watching/reading Harry Porter glorifies God, stumbles another's faith and benefit their emotional n spiritual growth."

What do you mean by "glorifies God"? We throw that phrase around, but what it actually means has a lot of implications for how we answer the question. I've already said that Moses, Daniel, and Paul were allowed to read, learn, and even draw sermon illustrations from their surrounding culture.

Does it cause others to stumble is also an unfair question. Reading HP might cause a legalist with no appreciation of literature to stumble. Sorry - Jesus did things that made the Pharisees "stumble" all the time. And that's ok. If I upset a bunch of Pharisees by reading HP, so be it.

HP has been of great benefit to me. They are powerful stories with strong Christian themes and symbolism.

At November 27, 2005 12:56 am , Anonymous wingless angel said...

Yes. That's good news for you. But you seem to overlook something. Kids.

The main thing is kids. Not you. You as a theological student might find it easier to not be influenced by whatever that is in the book, but if I may say so not to the average Christian, especially the young ones.

Seriously, none of us have ever judged the book if you have read closely enough, what we are saying is that Christians should reflect upon theirselves upon what they do and why they do things, which goes beyond the books too.

The same question of glorifying God. Glorifying God means that when people see you they see the Father. Like Jesus. Means doing what Jesus would do because of the same reasons as He. And not doing what He would not do. I'm not saying that I am representing Jesus in making a decision to read or not to read the series, but it seriously is a question to ask why He would read it. In isn't really edifying for the general reader, you know.

I know. I read things that take a different viewpoint from Christians. But whenever I pick up a book I ask myself why. And only if I know that I am reading so as to further defend my faith do I read on. But I'm not so sure for all of us who used to read or are reading the series why we read the books.

And the reason of "defending your own faith" shouldn't be used so flippantly or Christians around you or under your care might just take it as excuses for things they do.

But if you were stumbling kids. And other Christians who are not Pharisees. Young Christians. Who don't have a solid foundation of faith. Think about it.

I'm not sure about your personal background but as a person put in responsibility of the overall growth of some Christians - mature and young - I surely don't want them to be stumbled.

Even if it means being misunderstood as a Pharisee.

The main difference between a Pharisee and a young Christian is that one is hypocritic and the other is immature.

And of course you know that that was a typo error.

At November 29, 2005 1:45 am , Anonymous Travis Prinzi said...

That was the most consistent typo error I've ever seen...

Anyway, I understand what you're saying. I just can't figure out what possible answer there is to the "why am I reading this" that would cause me to put down Harry Potter in specific as opposed to any other book.
I'm certainly not ignoring kids. Children should be instructed by their parents, of course. But I think these are great stories for kids, introducing them to Christian themes. Of course, there's an age appropriateness that must be determined for each child, 'cause the books get serious and scary. And I hardly think I'm stumbling kids, since my whole point is to connect Harry Potter readers to the gospel. How is introducing the gospel a matter of stumbling?

And really, I just don't find the books to be "dangerous."

At February 25, 2007 11:11 am , Blogger bubbygirl said...

Hi. I am a totally blind christian who has listened to all six books and likes to read HP fan fiction. I can see lots of Christian themes in the books and I thik that may be a reason they'e so popula. I think the overall theme in the book is that love is the greatest magic of all. I'm prayhig about writing a fanfic that will touch lives and bless people. I have no problem with the magic in the books as in my mind it's not about real witch craft but about a fantasy type magic where evil spirits aren't involved in the magic, and where it's fantastic enough to be fantasy not real witchcraft. I think JKR cleverly gives her characters special powers in orrder for her to talk about important issues like racism, love, loyalty etc and people thinking they are just reading a storry but it has something to say. I love the characters most of all about the series, the magic is just the way they get things done.

Just my thoughts. I stumbled across this blog and just thought I'd leave my two cents worth.

At October 24, 2007 5:37 am , Blogger Alyssa said...

I was just searching the web to see if there were other Christians out there who feel the same way I do about the Harry Potter books. I love them! I've seen a bunch of church websites that pretty much call them the work of the devil. But my mom always told me things don't belong to the devil unless we let him have them. It's the same thing with Halloween. It can just be a fun night when kids get to use their imaginations an get dressed up and collect candy, or there are some people who think Halloween belongs to the devil and associate it only with evil and the occult.It is what you make it. And that's how I see Harry Potter books. If people would just stop associating made up characters and places, waving a wand and saying a few made up words with actual witchcraft,they would be able to enjoy these great stories.

At November 11, 2009 4:42 pm , Anonymous I believe in The Chosen One. said...

Oh. Finally--Bless you. Bless you. For finally stating the very thing about Harry that many of us are too hesitant to voice for fear of, ah, the Schutzstaffel in our midst. Bless you.

It makes one feel a complete alien, and almost Horcruxed: nodding sage 'Amens' and trying to turn away the queasy third eye when listening to (in this case, friends who grew up in the church) rants and factually-quoted verses and more rants and verses. The act of countering seems almost as Tabooed as (DH spoiler!) Voldemort's spoken name (/spoiler). Which I'm thinking the text version is too, seeing those lengthy and admiringly earnest comments on the list.

And then I felt very much de-Horcruxed when I read your little schpeel on zimbio, and some other posts you made. While reading some of the cute little cracks I felt very much about to lose control of my bladder too. Thank *cough*Merlin*cough* God I didn't.

Still, it makes me incredibly sad (personally) knowing people out there that spend a commendable amount of self-volunteered service hours in church youth groups, church mission trips, church door-to-door evangelisms... and also self-volunteer themselves to heckle, obliterate, or what I consider the worst--completely ignore--the existence of a unique, inspiring (in more ways than one), and even if unintentionally, a Christ-inspired book. There are atheists out there that just love Harry and his quest for 'a world without Voldemort'. Aka evil, Satan, Beezlebub, the Devil. So many agnostics enchanted by the thought of selfless, soul-saving, powerful Love. Could it, or could it not be the Holy Spirit? Yet the Schutzstaffel simply sticks up their noses and cremates the kid with glasses in massive burnings and bannings.

“He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." -Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Technically Matthew 12:30.

No doubt we Christians are with Him, and no doubt we are not against Christ. So, who do we gather with again?

And because it simply seems unchristian not to do so, let there be a challenge for anyone who believes Christ as The Hope of Man (or perhaps even 'The Chosen One') to read Matthew 12:31-32.
Note that I am not stating an explicit challenge for a debate... I'm afraid wise, lengthy theoretical cyberspace discussions are not my cup of tea. I'm the type that spontaneously donates my moldy cent (or wisecrack) once, and leaves. Kind of like an unnoticed party-crasher that slips in and then out.

Anyway, God bless those who gather, and good night.

At November 11, 2009 4:45 pm , Anonymous Believer of The Chosen One. said...

Oh, and I think I might've bookmarked your zimbio post ;).


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