Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why Harry Potter Is Not Satan

If you were alive a couple weeks ago you know that the last installment of the popular Harry Potter series came out, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. We all are aware of people who object to these books with magic, who have even burned copies of these books. I'm going to argue that this should not be the case. Harry Potter is not satanic. I must warn you there is a major spoiler for the last book in here. But, if you haven't read the last book yet I have to wonder if you even care.

First of, the inclusion of magic by itself doesn't make a book evil. Perhaps you may remember another popular children's book series, the Chronicles of Narnia. These books have plenty of magic in them. Perhaps you will also remember they were written by a famous Christian, C.S. Lewis. The most famous of these books, "The Lion, the witch, and the wardrobe," is actually a allegory for the gospel. We don't hear an outcry against C.S. Lewis's books. So, to be fair, one cannot condemn one book because it has magic and encourage your kids to read another. These books are written in the genre of fantasy. They aren't suppose to be reality. J.K. Rowling is not trying to convince kids to become witches and wizards. No one thinks that the magic in these books are possible. The witches in Harry Potter are not Wiccans.

Indeed, if you read the last Harry Potter book, you will find that Harry Potter is a Christ figure like Aslan is in the Chronicles of Narnia. And I don't just mean in the fact that the whole fate of the wizarding world rests upon him and that he is some saviour. No, that alone doesn't make one a Christ figure. He actually willingly, without resistance, without so much as raising his wand, turns himself over to Voldemort to be killed so to defeat Voldemort. This would be comparable to Christ letting himself be arrested, tried, and crucified. Harry Potter doesn't end up actually dying, but he goes into this kind of in between state before coming back, and he fakes death before rising up, comparable to the resurrection. (I'm not saying Christ didn't die. But you have to allow creative license for a work of fiction.) This is about as close as one can get in a work of fiction to having a Christ figure. This presents great opportunity when one's kid is reading these books to explain the Gospel to them in terms they will understand, just like "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" allows people to do. No, Harry Potter is not sinless like Christ. But it is hard to write a good work of fiction with sinless characters. If you want something that exactly follows the gospel then read the gospel, which I encourage you to do.

Besides the fact that the Chronicles of Narnia have magic as well, and that Harry Potter is a Christ figure, there are other reasons to have kids read this book. There are many positive values in these books. Such as the value of friendship. In a day and age when we are increasingly drifting further apart, when we are having less and less personal interaction and more and more interaction with machines, surely the value of friendship is worth instilling in children. And of course there's courage. There are things worth fighting for, standing up against, making sacrifices for, and even dying for. Harry Potter and his friends know this. We can all use heroes as role models.

These books also send the message that you have a choice over your actions, that you can't use whats happen to you or your DNA code as excuses for why you are the way you choose to be. Take Voldemort and Harry Potter. They both have similar backgrounds. Both of them were orphans, both of them were of less than pure blood, and neither of them had a sugar-coated childhood. And yet one of them choose to be evil and to seek domination, while another chose to do the right thing and stand up to such evil. Of course Harry Potter is not perfect, and does the wrong things at times, and this only reinforces the Christian view that there is evil in all of us, that we are all sinners. Was that the point of the books, I doubt it, but it was a good byproduct.

The books also send the message that we can't depend upon either technology nor the government to fix all problems. Just like in the wizarding world with all its magic there is still as much evil as without, so in our world there still is and still will be evil no matter how technologically advance we might get. And just like the magic is used for good and evil, so to is technology. And then the government in Harry Potter is quite inept and incompetent. Yes we need the government, but no it will not fix all our problems and may even cause them.

Some have argued that Harry Potter presents a magical, secular world, without a God for Harry to pray to if he had that desire, with ghosts but no afterlife. First of all, as I have said before this is fantasy, and must be read as that. Second of all, I would have reservations with letting children read the books if there was religion in this magical world. Why? Either that religion would be a distorted version of Christianity, that had to ignore parts of the Bible, or it would have to be another false religion, either from this world or invented for the story. I would not want my children reading a book indoctrinating them into the way of Islam or Hinduism or any other religion. I would certainly be opposed to them reading these books if Harry and his friends were Wiccan. Religion in the books would take away from the books. And as far as a secular government, I must again point to the government in Harry Potter as hardly being an institution that one feels like they could rely on.

All that said, which I could say more, Harry Potter is a book I as a Christian would feel quite comfortable letting my children read. They would have to hold off on reading the later books until they were old enough, but I have no problem with them reading a fantasy book with magic. No book can or should take the role of parents in teaching their children values, but I believe there are many positive values found in these books.

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