Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The True Message of Harry Potter

There are several random things that I am passionate about. Raising awareness on the tragic effects of cigarette smoke would definitely be one. Ensuring that people know the identity of certain famous classic movie actors is another. And a third is defending the reputation of one Harry Potter.
It seems like you can’t go anywhere or read anything today without still stumbling upon something in attack of or in support of the Harry Potter series. Almost everyone has a side, and every side has been presented numerous times. But at the same time, I feel like I really need to say something on the subject, and let you read what I have found regarding the battle of Harry Potter.

Far too many well-meaning individuals have taken it upon themselves to make it their personal crusade to eradicate the works of J.K. Rowling from the bookshelves of the world. The problem with this is that too many are acting out of ignorance. They have read that James Dobson of Focus on the Family tells them not to read the books, so they keep them from their children. They hear their friends talking about them and they assume that the books are evil. The strength in the Harry Potter smear campaign comes from the fact that too many of James Dobson’s followers take his word as law, or their church’s views as their own, with no personal investigation. If these fearful “crusaders” would take the time to read the books themselves and spend some actual time in prayer, they might come to a very different conclusion.

Laura Mallory, an American mother and ordained minister, has made it her cause to take down J.K. Rowling and see the removal of the Harry Potter books from school libraries. She has made it her personal quest to the extent that she has been to court numerous times over the novels and is, perhaps, the most famous Potter detractor. The home page of her web site has a quote from John Hagee that states, “The whole purpose of the Potter books is to desensitize readers and introduce them to the occult.”

This quote is absolutely mind-blowing to me, and surely to many other educated readers. Steven C. Scheer, Harry Potter-defender and author of Hollywood Values, states on his web site that he believes the issue of protecting the books is “well worth a bit of our time and energy.” He goes on to address the unfounded claims of Harry Potter critics regarding the immorality of the books, asserting that, “To see evil where there is none is a terrible thing, a kind of evil in itself.”

Scheer makes a valid point, and not only addresses the unsubstantiated assertions of the Potter attackers, but also tackles the issue at hand, which is the fact that their attempts to find iniquity where there is none is wasteful, baseless, and harmful. Scheer continues, “We can't make words mean whatever we want them to mean. We need to cooperate with the author, for example, to see what he or she is up to, and not jump to conclusions prematurely.”

This is exactly what is being done by the ignorant critics of the books as they seize passages from the books out of context and make assumptions about the content and meaning of the stories. Harry Potter-opposer William J. Schnoebelen believes that “[The Potter books] tickle the desire to become 'little gods' and fill the child's head with violence, blood sacrifice and a world view which is decidedly anti-Christian.” I personally don't know of any children whose brains have been tickled by Harry Potter "blood sacrifices," but if I come across them I will be sure to let Mr. Schnoebelen know.

Obscure connections to the occult can be made to almost anything, apparently including even the dates on which the Potter books have been released. For instance, Pastor David J. Meyer believes there is meaning in the fact that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released on a certain day in July. To you and I it is just another summer day, but to Meyer it is an evil date. Meyers says, "July 8th was also the 18th day (three sixes in numerology) from the witches’ sabat of midsummer. July 8th was also the 13th day from the signing of the United Religions Charter in San Francisco." It takes a lot of searching, research, and energy to make a connection like that. Does he honestly believe that J.K. Rowling would be able to orchestrate a release like that, even if she really was evil and had wanted to do that? Furthermore, he must be one of the only people to have made such a connection, and I certainly know that there isn't a third-grader out there who has noticed the book release dates and been converted to the occult because of it.

Someone wishing to find evil in a story may very well find it. A well-researched individual could possibly make connections between the most innocent of stories with the most wicked beliefs. Take the Wizard of Oz for instance. In the same way that people have misconstrued and destroyed the uplifting message of Harry Potter, one could twist around and shamefully damage the message of this other wonderful children’s story. The Wizard of Oz contains (obviously) a wizard, and not only that, but also three witches, numerous spells and incantations, talking animals, and strange occurrences. But that’s not what the stories are about, are they? Diane L. Durante agrees, stating, “The Wizard of Oz… is set in a land inhabited by witches, Munchkins and talking trees--but it really is about Dorothy's, and her friends', determination to attain difficult goals.” In the same way, the story of Harry Potter may take place in a school of wizardry, but is about the students and their struggles, laughter, hopes, and fears.

Indeed, there are a number of popular books, shows, and movies that also have magical elements to them, but Harry Potter remains the sticking point. Harry Potter detractor John Andrew Murray believes that these influences are corrupting the youth of America. He says, "With the growing popularity of youth-oriented TV shows on witchcraft -- 'Sabrina, the Teenage Witch;' 'Charmed;' ' Buffy the Vampire Slayer' -- a generation of children is becoming desensitized to the occult. But with Hollywood's help, Harry Potter will likely surpass all these influences, potentially reaping some grave spiritual consequences."

In his genius book Looking For God in Harry Potter, John Granger goes to work logically and biblically taking apart the claims and beliefs of the Harry Potter attackers. He addresses this fear of the aforementioned media and the occult, saying, “People who track the occult for a living explain that despite Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter, membership in these groups in Europe and the United States is minuscule and has been in decline over the last decade.” He goes on to state that “Concern that the books might “lay the foundation” for occult practice is misplaced, however well intentioned and understandable, because it fails to recognize that Potter magic is not demonic.”

Indeed, a common misconception about Harry Potter is that anyone who reads them (particularly young, impressionable children) will surely rush off to join an occult or find a book to teach them exactly what Harry, Ron, and Hermione are doing at Hogwarts. But that’s just not the way it is in these novels. Granger gently maintains that “the magic in Harry Potter is no more likely to encourage real-life witchcraft than time-travel in science fiction novels encourages readers to seek passage to previous centuries.”

An alternative to the belief that Harry Potter is destroying the Christian faith is that the books are actually affirming it. John Granger asserts, “Because of all the sound and fury in the popular media and coming from many pulpits, it may seem incredible to you that Harry Potter is not contrary to Christian faith but a series of books nurturing faith.”

Surely this would come as a blow to the many detractors of the works of J.K. Rowling, and a disgraceful idea to those who have fought so hard to keep Harry away from their children. But consider Granger’s words: “The Harry Potter novels, the best-selling books in publishing history, touch our hearts because they contain themes, imagery, and engaging stories that echo the Great Story we are wired to receive and respond to.”

Maybe the reason the books are so amazingly popular is that they touch on an unfilled hole in the hearts of the readers that don’t know the Lord, and because they warm the hearts of believers and connect us to our God.

Granger certainly believes this. He unabashedly asserts this faith in what can draw us closer to the Father. “I am convinced that the fundamental reason for the astonishing popularity of the Harry Potter novels is their ability to meet a spiritual longing for some experience of the truths of life, love, and death taught by Christianity but denied by secular culture. Human beings are designed for Christ, whether they know it or not.”

Rowling certainly wove her beautiful novels with the amazing tapestry of the Great Story in mind. And if we would allow her to explain the imagery and meaning behind it, we might find that the stories do indeed fit in with a Christian worldview. Consider her explanation in her interview with Time Magazine. “In the last book Harry discovers on his parents' graves a Bible verse that, Rowling says, is the theme for the entire series. It's a passage from I Corinthians in which Paul discusses Jesus' Resurrection: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”


D-Pok said...

Amen. Very good points and very well written. You should publish that. HP6 at the IMAX in Dallas?

Anonymous said...

i am a fan of harry potter. be afraid, attackers, be very afraid. i can point out the goods in harry potter books.