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The Harry Potter™ books:

Positive responses by conservative Christians

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Sponsored link.

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See also a list of negative reviews and book burnings by Christians.

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Breakpoint radio program:

Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship said in 1999 that although the books contain dark themes, they show the difference between good and evil -- and good always wins. He said that the characters "develop courage, loyalty, and a willingness to sacrifice for one another. Not bad lessons in a self-centered world."  He referred to the practices described in the books as: "purely mechanical, as opposed to occultic. That is, Harry and his friends cast spells, read crystal balls, and turn themselves into animals—but they don't make contact with a supernatural world…. [It is not] the kind of real-life witchcraft the Bible condemns.1

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Editorial in Christian Century:

In a 1999 editorial, they stated: "Rowling is not the first fantasy writer to be attacked by conservative Christians. Even the explicitly Christian writer Madeleine L'Engle has taken heat for the 'magic' elements in 'A Wrinkle in Time.' Such critics are right in thinking that fantasy writing is powerful and needs to be taken seriously. But we strongly doubt that it fosters an attachment to evil powers. Harry's world, in any case, is a moral one." 2

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Christianity Today:

This is North America's most popular Evangelical Christian magazine. Its 2000-JAN editorial recommended: "We think you should read the Harry Potter books to our kids. The literary witchcraft of the series has almost no resemblance to the I-am-God mumbo jumbo of Wiccan circles. Author Rowling has created a world with real good and evil, and Harry is definitely on the side of light fighting the 'dark powers'...Among the laugh-out-loud scenes are wonderful examples of compassion, loyalty, courage, friendship and self-sacrifice." [Author's note: In the 'I-am-God mumbo jumbo' intolerant comment, the editor appears to have confused Wiccan theology with New Age beliefs]

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Comments by Alan Jacobs:

He is a professor at Wheaton College. He believes that the books promote:

"a kind of spiritual warfare…A struggle between good and evil…There is in books like this the possibility for serious moral reflection…[and] the question of what to do with magic powers is explored in an appropriate and morally serious way.3

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Review of the first Harry Potter movie by Mike Hertenstein

Mike Hertenstein is a conservative Christian who is an investigative reporter for Cornerstone Magazine. He reviewed the movie Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone:

As it happens, I'm generally pleased with the quality of the writing and I think the occult-cops have bigger problems than not knowing the difference between a film and a book, among them not knowing the difference between fact and fiction....

Ms. Rowling...seems to have no end to imaginative invention — which is why the Potter books will always have something more and different to offer than the films, and why kids will keep on reading them....

Critics make much of Harry's rule-breaking. And while I, too, am uncomfortable with the easy resort by Potter kids to fibbing as a means of covering their various shenanigans, I recognize that most of their behavior fits into that tradition of schoolboy rule-breaking of which Huck Finn is the prime exemplar. I also understand that within the grammar of myth, especially myth involving young people, the adventure lies outside the established order, and you may have to break some rules to get there. Finally, much of Harry's rule-breaking, it should be noted, involves the principle of disobeying a lower law to keep a higher one — not to say he's Rosa Parks, but who could criticize Harry's violation of the no-fly rule to broom his way over a bully and stand up for his friends?...

Harry Potter is to the "real occult" what Fred Flinstone is to real anthropology — and what the Lucky Charms leprechaun is to the ancient Celtic god Lugh. If the Potter critics were consistent, they'd give us charts connecting sugary stars and moons to ancient Babylonian symbology. But critics fix on just such surface phenomena — in the case of Harry Potter, terms like "divination" — without a clue as to what's going on below the surface. What is going on below the surface of the Harry Potter stories — to use Tolkien's phrase — "is at the furthest pole from the vulgar devices of the laborious, scientific magician." Meanwhile, the laborious and scientific efforts to divine the secret evil origins and meanings of a fairy story like that of Harry Potter is (along with End Times "prophecy") the closest contemporary equivalent of "divination" I'm aware of....

Jeremiah Films in particular is making a heroic effort to perpetuate The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind 4 in their Pythonesque connection of Harry Potter's thunderbolt scar to the Nazi SS. What makes such efforts less laughable than genuinely scary is the real connection they make with the tradition of Medieval witch-hunting, an even more scandalous tradition of religious ignorance — one accompanied by violence. 5
 

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Review of the second Harry Potter movie  by Mike Hertenstein

Mike Hertenstein is a conservative Christian who is an investigative reporter for Cornerstone Magazine. He reviewed Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets:

There is a conscious contrast in this film of those who are willing to sacrifice self and those who refuse because they are too much in love with themselves — notably Malfoy and Gilderoy Lockhart, a fraudulent and fame-hungry teacher of Defense of the Dark Arts who has no defenses to offer. Despite its slower and darker story, the film picks up at the climax as Harry's identification with classical images of Christ figures shows the moral center of this series is dead-on, faithfully offering up mythic furnishings no moral imagination can do without. The monomyth is in play, the hero of a thousand faces this time out is Harry Potter, and he continues to learn Hogwart's most important lesson: that the evil power which must first be defeated is not in the Other, but within oneself. That Mr. Lockhart can be cured of his vanity only by forgetting himself demonstrates that ignorance can be Divine, and why self-centered Muggles 6 know so little about wonder....There was a poignant moment in Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets in which beloved-actor Richard Harris as the Merlin-like headmaster, spoke in his final on-screen moments to a newborn Phoenix, just hatched from the ashes of his aged and immolated self. It's impossible not to think of the phoenix legend as a Christian symbol, which it has been since the early church fathers recognized this ancient pagan myth of death and resurrection as an image of Christ. Likewise, the not-so-ancient myth of Harry Potter reminds us that innocence is preserved only by self-sacrifice and rebirth. Harry's lessons at Hogwarts continue to fulfill the ancient and worthy task of mythic education; the stakes will only rise as adolescence continues to unfold its dangers and temptations. One hopes the Harry, his stories and films, are up to the task of preserving wonder and goodness as they face even greater dangers ahead, along with greater possibilities for choosing the right. 7

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Sponsored link:

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Recommendations by the UK Evangelical Alliance:

On 2002-NOV-21, the Evangelical Alliance, a British conservative Christian group, published an article on the Harry Potter phenomenon. They suggest that "Christians to view the Harry Potter phenomenom as a significant opportunity to engage with society and present the enduring Christian world view as a positive alternative to the fantasy realm of Harry’s world." Director, John Smith, said that the books and movies contain expression of Christian values, such as love, loyalty, trust and sacrifice. He said: "As Christians we should avoid the knee jerk rejection of this piece of fantasy literature outright without thinking through the implications. Rejection on the basis of using magic as a literary device must also call into question 'Lord of the Rings' and the 'Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' – not to mention much that our children watch unsupervised on TV. Neither is it consistent to reject Potter whilst retaining Gandalf and the White Witch, simply because their creators were professing Christians. In doing so we run the risk of reinforcing the stereotype of the Church as negative and completely disengaged from modern living." The Alliance recommends that parents and teachers read at least one of the books and then "exercise careful, indeed prayerful, judgement." The also recommend that Christians should not "ignore the potential dangers of the stories as an unintended apologetic for the occult." 8

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Review by Russ Breimeier:

Russ Breimeier reported in a 2005-NOV commentary on Christianity Today's web site that he has observed a softening of opinion among conservative Protestants concerning Harry Potter by the end of 2005. Some are even writing in support of the books and movies. He notes that:

bulletAuthor J.K. Rowling does not believe in magic.
bulletHe notes that C.S. Lewis contrasted:
bulletInvocational magic: This involves rituals calling on demons and is forbidden in the Bible.
bulletIncantational magic: This involves spells to help one harmonize with the will of our creator.
bulletOther than references to Christmas and Easter, there is no religious rituals or celebrations in Harry Potter.
bulletThere are many animal symbols in the books:
bulletUnicorns which were symbolic of Jesus Christ
bulletGriffins -- a combination of eagle and lion -- were another symbol of Jesus.
bulletLoving sacrifice is a theme that runs throughout the books. Harry Potter's mother invoked a protection spell for Harry in her last minutes of life. Harry risked his life repeatedly to save his friends.

Breimeier, referring to the Lord of the Rings and The Wizard of Oz, etc. concludes:

"To borrow a phrase from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, none of these classics are perfectly "safe," but they're all very good. We just need to learn how to respond to books and movies, distinguishing between fantasy and reality—and I daresay that some adults seem to have a harder time with that than their kids."

"Harry Potter admittedly blurs the line between fiction and reality because its heroes are denoted as "wizards" and "witches." But an understanding of fictional magic as opposed to real occult practices helps clarify the context of the series, and can thus lead to some rewarding interpretations and discussions for readers and filmgoers of any age." 9

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James Dobson misquoted:

Reporter Jacqueline Salmon incorrectly described the position of James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, a fundamentalist Christian advocacy group in Colorado Springs, CO. She wrote in the Washington Post for 2007-JUL-18 that: "Christian parenting guru James Dobson has praised the Potter books."

Focus on the Family Action posted a CitizenLink daily update on the next day. It states:

"This is the exact opposite of Dr. Dobson's opinion -- in fact, he said a few years ago on his daily radio broadcast that 'We have spoken out strongly against all of the Harry Potter products.' His rationale for that statement: Magical characters – witches, wizards, ghosts, goblins, werewolves, poltergeists, and so on – fill the Harry Potter stories, and given the trend toward witchcraft and New Age ideology in the larger culture, it’s difficult to ignore the effects such stories (albeit imaginary) might have on young, impressionable minds."

"Ms. Salmon has not only acknowledged, but apologized for, the mistake and has promised the Post will correct it Friday. It seems she simply repeated misinformation that appeared in a less high-profile publication; she acknowledged she should have contacted us directly to make sure the assertion was true -- and we appreciate her humility and professionalism in saying so."

"The correction will also be offered to papers that subscribe to the Post's wire service and which may have also published the piece." 10

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Footnotes:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Chuck Colson, Breakpoint program for 1999-NOV-2. He was quoted in ReligionToday for 1999-DEC-1
  2. "Wizards and Muggles," editorial, Christian Century, 1999-DEC-1
  3. Alan Jacobs, cited in Berit Kjos, "Harry Potter lures kids to Witchcraft - with praise from Christian leaders," at: http://www.crossroad.to/text/articles/
  4. Mark Noll, "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind," Eerdmans, (1995). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. The author attempts to prove that Evangelical Christianity currently has a strong anti-intellectual bias.
  5. Mike Hertenstein, "Innocence and Experience: Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets," Cornerstone Magazine, at: http://www.cornerstonemag.com/imaginarium/
  6. A muggle is a non-witch in the Harry Potter™ series of books.
  7. Mike Hertenstein, "Innocence and Experience: Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets," Cornerstone Magazine, at: http://www.cornerstonemag.com/imaginarium/
  8. "Think twice before engaging in Potter witchhunt says Evangelical Alliance," 2002-NOV-21, at: http://www.eauk.org/
  9. Russ Breimeier, "Redeeming Harry Potter. The initial Christian outcry against the boy wizard seems to be dying down. Maybe that's because more and more of us are discovering multiple redemptive themes in the series." Christianity Today, 2005-NOV-15, at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/
  10. "Editor's Note," CitizenLink daily update, Focus on the Family Action, 2007-JUL-19.

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Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" religious topics > Harry Potter > here

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Copyright © 2002 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-JUL-3
Latest update: 2007-JUL-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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