Monday, July 1, 2013

Why I read Harry Potter

Many Christians argue that Christians should not read the Harry Potter books because of the magical content (obviously I'm not one of them, but two good arguments against reading it can be found here and here). God clearly condemns those who use magic: 
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. (Deuteronomy 18:9-11)

And I am not advocating the use of magic. On the contrary, I condemn it along with all other immoral behaviors. I am, however, advocating reading books that contain magic IF the magic and the story are uplifting and godly. It is closed-minded to refuse to read books only because they contain magic. Anyone who did that would miss such wonderful books as Grimm's fairy tales, various incarnations of the King Arthur legend, the Narnia books, Lord of the Rings... The list goes on. Should Christians stop reading these as well? That seems ridiculous; the Narnia books, along with the Harry Potter books, are some of the most Christian books I've ever read.

The Harry Potter books are, ultimately, tales of good versus evil, of the power of love and friendship and loyalty even against the most impossible odds. Yes, Harry and his friends make mistakes and act immorally, but ultimately they always make the right choices. This is a series and a world that encourages readers to stand up for what is right and to stand against injustice--whether that be bullying of children in school or murderous dictators taking over the country--in any and every way they can, even if it leads to death. This is a series that never questions what is good and what is evil, a true rarity in modern literature. I find it refreshing. While Rowling--rightly--does not gloss over the costs that these decisions can have, her characters make those decisions anyway. They may not always make the right decisions, and Rowling does not hesitate to show the human brokenness of each and every character, but almost every character ultimately tries to do what is right simply because it is right. This is unbelievably refreshing in a literary world full of characters who do only what is easy, convenient, or expected of them.

These books were not meant to lead children into witchcraft or occult practices; Rowling herself said in 1999, "I absolutely did not start writing these books to encourage any child into witchcraft. I'm laughing slightly because to me, the idea is absurd." If anything, the magic of the Harry Potter world helps the characters and the readers come to know God and His nature better.

I will expand on these themes for the rest of the month; I hope this has helped clarify things for you readers. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Please know also that I whole-heartedly respect the choice of anyone who chooses to not read the Harry Potter books if she/he is concerned about how the use of magic will affect her/him. I freely admit that there are plenty of books that I don't read because of my Christianity and relationship with God! All Christians should prayerfully consider their reading choices, and ultimately God is the judge of those choices.

Note: Much of my thinking about this topic was influenced by John Granger's book Looking for God in Harry Potter. I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone who is curious about the Christian symbolism and themes in the Harry Potter books. While researching the topic, I saw that Granger has also released a second book, How Harry Cast His Spell: The Meaning Behind the Mania for J. K. Rowling's Bestselling Books, which I have not read but would imagine was just as good as the first book with the added bonus of actually including all seven books in the analysis (Looking for God... only goes up to the fifth book).

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