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Thursday, January 13, 2005

Is Harry Potter a bad influence? Part II

Part I presented a brief analysis of the relationship between reading/watching the Harry Potter books and the Christian life. In Part II, I present a selection of links to other sources.

Jerram Barrs of the MatthewHouse project, which is linked to the Frances Schaeffer Institute, writes about "Harry Potter and His Critics," addressing three criticisms issued against the books, namely that they encourage exploration of the occult, that they encourage rebellion against authority, and that any fantasy, not just these works, is dangerous. He goes on to explain why he likes the books, and, at least in part, deals with the criticisms. (The first page of this article has a web link to the second.)

Wizardry may be taken as a form of technology. Like technology, it can be used for good or evil, as it is shown in the Harry Potter books.

Steven Greydanus, of Decent Films, compares the uses of magic in the works of Rowling, J. R. R. Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis, at considerable length.

Douglas Leblanc, in Christianity Today, reflects on the film, and offers reasons why a continuing debate about Harry Potter among evangelicals isn't so bad.

Michael G. Mauldin, in Christianity Today Online, wonders why the positive reaction to Tolkien's Ring books, and the negative one to Rowling's Potter books, and suggests that they have a lot in common, and that if either has led people into the occult, it's Tolkien, not Potter.

Jeffrey Overstreet, in Christianity Today Online's May 6, 2002 article on Spider-Man, still upset about how some Christians accused Harry Potter, spends a paragraph comparing Spider-Man with Harry.

The Focus on the Family Organization has reviews of the first and second movies in Plugged In.

The Onion, an on-line humor magazine, published an article claiming that J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, was trying to promote Satanism, and that children, including children from Easley, SC, who had read the books, were becoming Satanists. The article also claimed that the American Family Association had condemned the books. Like all of The Onion's articles, this one was fiction. Unfortunately, this fictional article has been forwarded as the truth in e-mail many times. My guess is that the original forwarder knew that he was forwarding fiction, but I can't be sure. This is a disclaimer from the American Family Association.

The American Family Association has published an article by Berit Kjos, entitled "Twelve Reasons not to see the Harry Potter Movie."

Connie Neal has written a book (which I haven't read) entitled What's a Christian to Do with Harry Potter? which apparently says that the books are a great witnessing tool. Here's an excerpt from another book by Neal, The Gospel According to Harry Potter: Spirituality in the Stories of the World's Most Famous Seeker. which (The "World's Most Famous Seeker" part of the title strikes me as a bit too much). The second link in this paragraph is to an excerpt about Potter character Severus Snape as a stand-in for redeemed Christians. Neal agrees with me (independently--I didn't find her article until after I had written Part I) that we are probably going to learn more about Snape in books yet unpublished. I personally find Snape, Dumbledore and McGonagall at least as interesting as Harry, Hermione and Ron. (For anyone who needs reminding, Snape is the Potions Professor, a member of the house of Slytherin, who despises Harry, and is despised by him.)

Christianity Today book review "Virtue on a Broomstick," recommending Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Christianity Today movie review of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," with some parental guidance material.

Christianity Today compilation of excerpts from the reviews of "Prisoner" by several Christian movie critics, positive and negative.

An analysis of the books from, pointing out that "the HP books tend to promote rule-breaking, lying, and revenge." The author also points to holes in some of the plots.

A roundup of Christian opinion on the Harry Potter books from Christianity Today, including a positive statement from Charles Colson.

"Surrounded by Sorcery: 10 ways to protect kids in an occult-filled popular culture" from the Christian Reader, condensed from Today's Christian Woman, has some ideas on how to guide children in making choices.

Christianity Today isn't only pro-Potter. Here's an article "The Perils of Harry Potter."

An article, "Harry Potter and the Inklings: The Christian Meaning of The Chamber of Secrets," is posted on the George MacDonald web site. (George MacDonald was a Christian writer who wrote fantasy. C. S. Lewis said that MacDonald was a great positive influence on him. The article was originally presented to the New York C. S. Lewis Society.) John Granger, the author, claims that Rowling's writing is really complex and uses Christian symbols a lot, and is the modern equivalent of medieval morality plays. He has also self-published a book, The Hidden Key to Harry Potter: Understanding the Meaning, Genius, and Popularity of Joanne Rowling's Harry Potter Novels. The MacDonald site posting of the article includes chapter titles from the book. The Amazon page on this book includes a review which points out that the book is self-published, hence probably could use quite a bit of constructive criticism, and suggests that some of Granger's conclusions are real stretches. I haven't read the book, but suspect that the reviewer is correct.

Azusa Pacific University, a Christian institution, has published articles by two of its literature professors. Emily Griesinger, in "C. S. Lewis and the Potter Debate," draws on her experience using Rowling in the classroom, and concludes that, although there are dangers, the books are good influences. She also believes that Lewis would have approved of them. James Hedges, in "Family Matters in the Harry Potter Novels," writes about the portrayals of good and bad families in the books.

Here's a sermon comparing Voldemort to Judas.

Here's a comparison of Lily Potter (Harry's mother) to Christ, which is part of a site on Christianity in the Potter series.

I cannot possibly link to every web site examining Christian symbolism in the Potter books, or warning against witchcraft in them. Try Google if you have more interest. My most recent productive Google search was using both "Voldemort" and "Christianity."

Most any book or movie can harm me, if I read or watch it when I should be doing something else, for example. Conversely, people have, and do, find Christ in all sorts of strange places. The Harry Potter books, and, I guess, the movies, can be one such place. I haven't seen Christ there--maybe I wasn't looking closely enough. I have seen goodness, and Christian symbolism.

Some source I read, but can't locate, pointed out that a phoenix, a bird that dies and is re-born, is a Christian symbol. Dumbledore has a phoenix as a pet, and the fifth book is named Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

I plan to see the second Harry Potter movie, and will probably add to this page at that time. I have added to the web page that this blog posting was based on as I have read the books, and expect to add more when I read the sixth book.

All links checked on January 12, 2005. Christianity Today seems to be going to fee-based use of its archives, but all the articles referenced from that organization were free as of the date I checked them.

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This post was edited slightly on January 8, 2015. Thanks for reading. I re-analyzed the Harry Potter series, in a post in early 2015, here.


Richard Kulisz said...

Magic as technology happens in Eberron, which makes it obvious by contrast that it isn't happening in most fantasy. Notwithstanding the many wizard characters who are technologists, or the fact the technologist Tesla was regarded as a terrifying wizard by Lovecraft, there is a sharp divide between the two. Magic is secret technology that is used to dominate others whereas technology is open magic used to benefit mankind.

As an abstract concept, magic is the violation of physical and natural law. Wizardry and witchery is the rape of those laws. But there are distinctions to be made between those concepts. The occult is most associated with psychopaths, magic is most associated with feudalists, wizardry most with technologists, and witchery with people like Zerzan who openly seek to exterminate civilization and/or mankind.

Elucidating the nature of these associations has not been a priority for me, but I know enough to know that they are both strong and highly deceptive. That in circumstances different than we find ourselves in, they would totally unravel, but so long as circumstances do not change then they are strong.

The nature of fantasy and imagination is different from all of the above. It is both contrary to reality and a means for people to express their dissatisfaction with a world created by people of different personality types than their own. A world created by psychopaths who are callous, narcissists who want war, right-wing authoritarians who want fatalities, materialists who worship wealth and insignificance, and freaks who want to end the world or liquidate it.

Les Miserables and Peter Pan were both created by authors of the exact same personality type and the exact same level of aspiration and either identical or very close levels of cultural maturity. The only difference between them is that Peter Pan's author possessed the emotional capacity to imagine positive things whereas Les Miserables' author had no such emotional capacity and was stuck seeing a bleak and harsh world which crucified angels.

Peter Pan's author checked out of a harsh and unjust world, refusing to participate in it. He could vividly imagine what Heaven looked like, a world where all evil beings were easily defeated, so simply refused to sully himself with mortality. A mortality where angels were crucified. And this is exactly what Peter Pan's author believed since he was the exact same personality type as Les Miserables' author but with strictly superior emotional capacity. Anything Les Miserables' author saw or believed, Peter Pan's author also saw and believed.

Peter Pan's author had the emotional capacity to create for himself a perfect world and so in writing checked out of the real world. But he SAW the real world the exact same way as Les Miserables' author did, as a cruel and callous place filled with injustice. He just never wrote about the real world he saw because, who the fuck would if they had an alternative? Someone who either glories in or gets excited by injustice, or has a real drive to eradicate it. In other words, Evil people or messiahs.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you for your comments.

Richard Kulisz said...

I just ran into something pertinent regarding fantasy. In the computer game Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you play a knight-errant on a prophesied holy cause to save the world using the Voice of God to destroy evil dragons. This is not a hackneyed biblical game either, it is an extremely popular and one of THE defining games of its genre. Two of the other defining games in its genre are by the same studio and in the same series. And in all of them, you play Jean Valjean who saves the world despite the world stabbing at him. Singlehandedly and without help, because you're an objectively Good person.

Harry Potter is not a savior of humanity, he is the savior of omega men. The very last men you'd confer any responsibility to! Men who'll do nothing to save themselves. Men facing weaker threats than they themselves are yet won't lift a finger but will instead pray out loud for God to save them. Harry Potter is himself an omega man who won't lift a single finger to save himself in the entirety of the first book. He can't be bothered. So the notion of defending Harry Potter is of dubious merit. He deserves scorn and ridicule and not saving.

Consider that innately Good people get stabbed at by random bystanders and still they save humanity. Harry Potter gets celebrated and praised by the entire world and still he can't save himself from death. He survives entirely on luck. He is not an instrument of divine will but the recipient of divine benevolence. I loathe him. Jesus did not die for Harry Potter anymore than he died for fat merchants, because Harry Potter is the "savior" of fat merchants. It is not a coincidence that Hogwarts is obsessed with eating, wealth and legacies.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, Richard Kulisz.