Friday, 24 June 2011

Harry Potter and the Deadly Paranoia

First of all a confession… I’ve read all seven Harry Potter books.  I quite liked the first two as children’s books and probably read them to/with my youngest kids.  I enjoyed the third book as a novel in its own right.  I disliked the fourth book, the first of the huge ‘bricks’ she then produced, and considered it self-indulgent, over-long, unfocused and lacking in plot, in fact I disliked it so much I didn’t read the fifth book until after the sixth one came out.  Eventually my daughter persuaded me to give it a go and I enjoyed it so I then quickly read number six and on its eventual release the seventh and, so far, last book.

I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan.  I can remember only bits of them, the films stick in my mind much more, and I can’t remember what bits happen in which book terribly well.  They’re reasonably well written, or they would never have been published in the first place, but they’re not in the same class as Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ series and they’re certainly not ‘literary’ novels.  They’re kids’ books that appeal to some adults who enjoy fantasy, adventure, escapism and taken in the broad sweep an epic struggle between good and evil.

So why do so many Christians hate them, loath Joanna Rowling and in extreme cases not just stop their kids from enjoying them but actually go so far as to preach against them and publically burn them?  There’s a one word answer: “witchcraft”.   This is just a word, a simple two syllable word – so what is it that people are really reacting against? I think it’s the kingdom of satan and the way that is most overtly expressed; that is ‘the occult’.  Now I’m no expert on the occult, I was brought up in a Christian home and never strayed down that road, but surely the key thing about it is that there is a personality at the centre of it all, the devil or satan, and the occult operates as a religion.  This religion, as all religions do, provides a system of practices, laws and rules that enable its practitioners to access knowledge and understanding which is derived from and leads to the personality at the centre plus the faithful gain some perceived benefit from that system.  Obviously a Christian believes people involved in the occult are in fact gaining merely fleeting benefits, if any, and ultimately it will enslave and destroy them, and I would heartily agree with such a statement. (This is why true Christianity isn’t a religion – there are no rules to keep that produce knowledge or understanding or access to the personality – Jesus did away with the law and gave us union with God through grace by his perfect sacrifice).

And this is why I think the Harry Potter novels do NOT deserve the hated that has been reserved for them in some quarters.  In these books, and similarly in C. S. Lewis’ ‘Narnia’ novels, J. R. R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord Of The Rings’ saga, Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ series and countless others, the ‘magic’ that is featured so prominently and practiced by witches, wizards, elfs, etc has NO such personality at the centre of it.  The ‘magic’ is a naturally occurring phenomenon within the reality described in the books in much the same way as magnetism, electricity, gravity or radio waves are in the real world.  The witches, wizards, elfs etc are simply the people who have the ability to manipulate that natural phenomenon via the tools of their trade, staff’s, wands, crystal balls and spells in much the same way that a radio engineer in our world could manipulate radio waves to send voices ‘magically’ across the world using circuits, a battery and an aerial!  There is virtually NO correlation between the real world occult practices of a modern medium, psychic or spiritualist and the magical practices of Harry Potter, Gandalf the Grey, Aslan or even The White Witch or Voldemort!

The magic in these books is NOT a religion.  It’s simply part of the physics of the world.  If the actual substance behind the ‘magic’ is nothing to do with the real occult, if there isn’t a person (satan) behind it, then what’s the problem?  It can’t be the words surely?  They’re just words!  It’s the meanings that are important. 

If our objection really is to the words ‘wizard’, ‘witch’ and ‘magic’ and we think the meaning inextricably linked to them then how come we can change the word ‘magic’ to ‘the force’ and have no problem with that?  What else is a Jedi but a space-age wizard?   Why is Luke Skywalker’s use of ‘the force’, which is surely just another way of describing magic but without the literary baggage associated with the fantasy genre, allowed by the Harry Potter haters?  There is NO substantive difference between Dumbledore in Harry Potter and Obi-Wan Kenobi!

If it’s the super-natural abilities that we object to then we have a problem not just with Harry Potter’s wizarding world, but with Aslan’s magic in Narnia, Gandalf’s in Lord Of The Rings and with Superman and his ability to ‘magically’ fly, to see though solid objects and be super-strong; we would end up comparing the man-of-steel with the demoniac from the Gospels who could tear his chains off and couldn’t be restrained even by many men!  Is Superman possessed?  I don’t think so!

I think the reason some Christians hate Harry Potter so much is they have a warped view of both satan and God.  They see them as almost equal and opposite, like the Greek gods Zeus and Hades, who were brothers, playing chess with the lives of mortal men.  When in fact satan's attempts to defeat God would be better compared to an amoeba attacking a supernova – it’s never going to go well for the amoeba.  We have no reason to fear satan – if we are in Christ nothing can separate us from him!

Saying that reading Harry Potter would interest children in magic and therefore the real occult is as sensible as saying that letting children watch Tom & Jerry cartoons would interest them in animal cruelty and cause them to grow up to abuse animals, or that reading The Beano makes them grow up to be teenage delinquents. It’s nonsense.

Finally in the Harry Potter books good always wins.  Evil is vanquished and what is it vanquished by?  Better magic?  Greater power?  Superior spells or witchcraft?  Military might? Nope.  Evil is vanquished by a combination of love and self-sacrifice…. now where have I read that before?


  1. I think the biggest concern folk have is that it will make children more interested in magic and lead them to the occult bookshelf where spells can be done. Not sure this happened with the Tolkien books or CS Lewis, I may have checked the back of the odd wardrobe in my time, believed in Father Christmas, the Tooth fairy, Fairies and Goblins and Elves. A belief in a magical world that even Shakespeare delved into. We long for the supernatural, maybe because we've been created by a supernatural God and if our kids want to know more about it maybe it's time for us to start demonstrating the power of heaven like Jesus, walking on water, changing water into wine, feeding the five thousand, healing the sick rather than worrying and demonising a childrens author.

  2. Very well put totally agree.

  3. Have to disagree here, though probably not for the reasons you would think! I read the books - the first three were well written but from the fourth onwards, they were badly edited and horribly self indulgent. One suspects JKR became so famous at that point that no-one dared edit her properly anymore. Reminded me of Braveheard - could have been a great film but was way too self indulgent in the scripting and editing.

    My objection with the HP books is the darkness in them. They just get more and more vicious and dark as the books progress. I found them unpleasant and ultimately unsettling and I have told my 10 year old why I don't like them but left him to see what he wanted to do. He's perfectly capable of forming his own opinions and enjoys the reasoning process and coming to his own conclusions, whether they agree with my perspective or not.

    He is a bookaholic, huge Star Wars fan, loved The Hobbit, the Percy Jackson series, reads anything up to 6 books a day. He has decided he doesn't want to read Harry Potter. His view is that from all he has heard from other kids too is that they just get too plain nasty. He isn't at all sure that Jesus would be a fan of them either, which is an interesting perspective.

    So we don't have them in the house. I don't demonize JKR but I don't find her books to be a positive influence on a growing imagination personally. There's just something about them that, for me, doesn't sit right in my heart when I read them.

  4. Carol,
    I agree to some degree that book 4 onwards her editors were running scared because she was too famous to hem in (and earning too much money for them to risk killing the goose that was laying the golden eggs!). They certainly get darker as they go and they're certainly NOT suitable for a ten year old. However I'm not defending them from a literary point of view nor from a fan's point of view. I'm just saying that the broo-ha-ha in some Christian circles is nonsense and like them or loathe them there's certainly nothing demonic about them, in fact quite the opposite. Thanks for reading.

  5. I think you are right that the aggression and vehemence expressed against JKR from some Christian circles is not at all a positive thing. Reminds me of the so called Christians in the US who have violent demonstrations against abortion. Not appropriate to express it in those terms I don't think.

    But I have to say the disquiet I find in my spirit when reading these books I do feel is because there is demonic influence in there. While good does win and self sacrifice is a key theme also, the level of darkness and manipulation/control of other people (the crucio spell for example) I do find deeply disturbing.

    Having lived with a witch at one point when I was renting in Chester, I am well aware of quite how subtle yet amazingly strong these things can be. Personally I steer clear.

    But maybe it falls into the same category as meat offered to idols. If it causes you a problem, don't do it. If it causes someone else to stumble around you, don't choose it. If your conscience is clear, carry on. Wisdom is to know what is right for you before God and in some things that won't be the same for everyone.

  6. I just happened across this blog while I was making my mother's cancer blog. I have often found that a "christians" dislike of anything that mentions witchcraft (which is SO not real) and wizards and such - blatantly fear mongering and silly. I never understood the fear of such a silly thing but I did not know how to express how silly I thought it was - I did not know which words to choose and how to share my thoughts. You did an amazing job explaining this and making it quite clear. I wish I could copy it and paste it onto my facebook page.

    I have met several women over the years who "said" they practiced witchcraft...some of them seemed very sure of themselves and of them was a best friend from school. I did not let silly fears make me afraid to "pay attention" to them and watch what they were doing and how they were living....they don't eat people or sacrifice them...teehee...I can tell you that none of them have better results in their silly spells asking for "stuff" than my mother does praying in church asking for "stuff"...and none of them either believed in satan or prayed to him. I think we need to be more realistic in what we "think" is going on in the's not always what people say it is....

    Best of luck to all, good health and great blog :) thanks for the insight :)

  7. Hi Phil,
    I know some Christians who preach against HP as much as they do against Star Wars Superman and the Marvel films. Its anything which aggrandises human capability supernaturally and therefore takes away from the Lord's omipotence! One could argue that anything that does this must come from the devil as this is his raison d'etre. Even if the source of the movie is not directly attributed to the devil, these Christians would argue he is still the main supernatural influence on the source and therefore greater the deception as he is most effective when he hides his tracks. Most people being God's creation, whether saved or not, have a natural tendency I think to stay away from anything overtly evil and be attracted by anything overtly good. The problem seems to be when we come across something where at first we cannot discern whether the source is good or evil. ( There are only 2 supernatural powers at work on Earth and we all have spirits and are therefore influenced by one or the other or both if we're not in submission to Jesus). People tend to use there own flawed judgement to discern and jump in. Thats when there's a danger of being caught up in something that seems ok and fun but actually comes from a source which isn't influenced by God. The danger is then people can get sucked into a fantasy world and with HP where it takes over their life and we've all seen that with HP. As Christians we should be seeking the Holy Spirit to help us discern. If its something that we feel is diverting us away from time with God or our families then we can ditch it with the Lord's assistance.
    Hope this makes sense. The blog is a great read. Please keep it up. Conrad