Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
In this classic CC2K article, Games Editor Big Ross ponders the relationship between faith and Harry Potter.
In the next few weeks we will all be treated to a spectacle of children dressed up as witches and wizards carrying books and wands. You won’t have to look at your calendar to know it’s far too early to be Halloween.
Unless you live under a rock you’ll most likely be aware that this is simply another sign that it’s time for Harry Potter mania to strike again. It should be especially fervent this time around, as this month sees the release of the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and the final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Millions upon millions of people will line up to see the former and pick up a copy of the latter. In this country and around the world there will be midnight release parties, theaters packed full of people, and joyous celebrations in the name of Harry Potter. Good times will be had by all. Well, not quite everyone.
In fact, there will be a large number of people who will see nothing to celebrate, and something to vehemently condemn. Who are these people? And why are they getting so worked up about a series of children’s books? The opposition is made up of various groups within the Judeo-Christian umbrella, but mostly includes Christian fundamentalists, the Catholic Church, and the Greek Orthodox Church, among other denominations. And while these various groups can’t seem to agree on much of anything when it comes to God, they all agree that Harry Potter is bad for children. Their disapproval runs so deep that these groups have repeatedly challenged the Harry Potter books so often that between the years of 1990 and 2000 these books were the seventh most frequently challenged and took the number one spot for the years from 2000-2005, according to the American Library Association. There’s even been at least one recorded instance of these books getting burned by a congregation in New Mexico in 2001, according to the BBC. What could be so bad about these books?
If it isn’t obvious, I’ll spell it out for you W-I-T-C-H-C-R-A-F-T. These people not only believe that witchcraft, wizardry, the occult, and magic exist, but that they are all inherently the work of the Devil, and hence are all evil. To practice them, or even attempt to practice them, and in some cases to even simply read about them is to risk one’s immortal soul to damnation and Hellfire for all eternity. So for these people, it isn’t just their kids’ well-being, but their very souls that are at stake. To them, these books are at the worst evil incarnate; at the very best they are viewed as incredibly dangerous. Their fear? That children will read these books, become so enamored with Harry Potter and his friends that they want to be witches and wizards too! Dressing up in robes and pointy hats, waving around sticks and shouting “Expecto Patronus!” will not be enough. Instead of just pretending to be practicing magic, they’ll actually try it. These people are terrified that children will be led from Harry Potter to the occult and Satan worship. That may sound ridiculous to you, but make no mistake; they are incredibly serious about it.
It’s hard to argue with such belief. And I don’t mean the nature of their beliefs, but the ardency with which they believe these things. Nothing I can say would change their minds. No argument would sway them. To even try would be an exercise in futility. But damn it, I’ll give it a try anyway.
My first rebuttal is that the “magic” of Harry Potter isn’t witchcraft in the Christian sense at all. It doesn’t deal with the occult or devil worship or any alleged Wiccan beliefs or practices that they think it does. If anything, the “magic” of Harry Potter is a lot like the Force from Star Wars. In and of itself it is neither good nor bad. It is amoral. Just like the Force, the magic of Rowling’s world only gains character when it is wielded by someone, and then it depends entirely on the person using it. Dumbledore and Yoda both use their power for good, while Voldemort and Darth Vader use theirs for evil. This doesn’t make the power itself inherently good or bad. People make it so.
Secondly, these people have completely missed the point that Rowling has created an epic struggle of Good vs. Evil in the tradition of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and the Bible. Yeah, I said it. The Bible. Consider: Voldemort is presented as a devilish character. He has apparently put a part of his soul in a snake, and he has a reptilian appearance, while Satan took the form of a snake in Genesis. Harry Potter is a child of prophecy, like Christ. Both were prophesized to be saviors and vanquishers of evil. Both were tempted, Christ by the Devil himself and Harry by the Sorting Hat. Christ saves the world by sacrificing himself (the ultimate sign of his love) and supposedly Harry’s greatest power is his ability to love, and if my own prediction is correct than his fate (in Deathly Hallows) is similar to Christ’s. Am I trying to say that Rowling filled her books with Christian undertones and themes? Not exactly, but think how much more exciting Sunday school could be. There is a TON of morality in these books. To have your kids miss out on it is a shame, and to think Rowling is intentionally trying to corrupt your children (some of these people actually believe this!) is so ridiculous as to boggle the mind.
Lastly, in defense of the Harry Potter books I’ll say that in this digital day and age when kids are continuously barraged by television, movies, music, video games, and the internet, how rare is it to find kids excited to read? These books have got kids EXCITED about reading. I can’t say how remarkable I think that is, and I can’t stress how important I know it to be. I don’t believe the Harry Potter books will lead kids to witchcraft or the occult. I DO believe that these books may very well lead kids to Barnes & Noble or to their local library. I don’t think they will instill in them a desire to worship the devil. I DO think that they may inspire them to pick up and read other books, bigger books, better books. And I KNOW that only good come can from that.