Yeah, it seems a little late to be discussing this, but a new podcast that I’ve been listening to, "The Sci-Fi Christian", which covers all sorts of topics, decided to tackle this one this past episode. I highly recommend this to sci-fi fans, Christian or otherwise.

My family didn’t do Harry Potter, at least in its heyday, and I explained why to Matt Anderson and Ben DeBono in an audio feedback I sent to them for this episode. It turned out that this feedback and their responses to it became a large part of the show. So I thought I’d toss it on the blog for your consideration as well.

The show is long, about 92 minutes, and the first third of it is news from the sci-fi and comics worlds. If you play it on the site, you can skip to 31 in and the main topic starts up. I wrote up what I was going to say before I recorded it, so below is the text of my audio feedback.


Matt, Ben; Doug in Atlanta. This bit of feedback is in anticipation of your upcoming Harry Potter episode, and especially with regards to your thoughts about conservative Christians who reacted negatively to the Harry Potter series. I have a book idea to toss your way. Instead of a school of wizardry, what if Harriet Potter experienced good friendships, personal sacrifice, standing up for the little guy, and all those wonderful Christian-like ideas, but instead of being in Hogwarts, she was in the Playboy Mansion? And we see all the different classes and games they play as they learn to become better vixens for Hefner’s orgies? Both have the same values in between lessons, and yet both have behavior warned against by the Bible. Would you let your kids read that?

Because, after all, while adults enjoyed it too, Harry Potter was aimed at kids. So the question would be; which sin is worse to have exposed to immature Christians like our kids? The folks who reacted to HP would say both. Indeed, however, even Christian books, even Sunday School lessons, will expose kids to various sins. So what’s the difference?

Part of it would be how it is portrayed. Witchcraft or extra-marital sexual activity presented in a completely positive light is certainly not something I think we’d want to toss at impressionable children. Some of these things can be properly dealt with later, but some should be completely avoided if we don’t want to expose ourselves to excessive temptation, especially if said temptation is expressly depicted as a good thing.

But that’s just part of it. Another part of it would be how much the witchcraft or sexual content is integral to the entire story. In HP, the story revolves entirely around a school of magic (or at least around students or faculty of the school) and includes the frequent use if magic during their adventures. It is fully woven into the plot. Contrast this with Lord of the Rings, where magic, where it is referenced, is used sparingly and is more of a way-in-the-background sort of thing. Compare this to the nudity in “Game of Thrones” with, say, if that show was instead a porno flick set in the same universe. If we were able to quantify it, I think you’d agree with the idea that there’s a lot more magic, and it’s more integral to the characters and plot in HP than in LotR. And in LotR, there is no real desire to learn magic or gain power by it other than from the rather unsavory characters.

With regards to Christianity, some who suggest that Christians who didn’t like HP were hypocritical with regard to The Chronicles of Narnia, where magic also makes an appearance. But I would point out that the magic in Narnia is generally an allegory for spiritual truths. In the same way spiritual beings in this world can do things that may seem magical to us, so too can the Narnian stand-ins for spiritual beings perform it. This includes the redemption, which none of us can do, and could be considered “magic” in the colloquial sense.

All this stands in stark contrast to Harry Potter. Whether or not you agree that there were kids who started to look seriously into witchcraft because of what they read in HP, it seems clear to me that the treatment of magic is significantly different in both amount and kind when compared to other popular fantasy books. It’s for this reason that families like mine decided to skip the HP thing in its heyday.

I will say that we did watch the first two movies at home along with our kids. Also, one of my kids, now in college, and who is very much into sci-fi and fantasy, has expressed a desire to read HP, once she gets through some other books she’s reading. I’m fine with that. I think she has the maturity at this point, and is well-grounded in her beliefs. But those books were aimed at, and were hugely popular with, kids far younger than her. I have a feeling you wouldn’t let your kids read Harriet Potter. Well, that’s why my kids didn’t.

Filed under: BooksChristianityReligion

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