Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Stuff Christian Culture Likes

#100 Not Harry Potter

Christian culture feels that the use of magic and sorcery in the Harry Potter series interests kids in witchcraft. Lots of churches have banned Harry Potter costumes, should you be attending their Halloween alternative that is the fall festival. In the grand tradition of Christian culture they’ve even made their own version of the books that is supposed to be an edifying rendition of the original.

Almost, but not quite.

These Harry-phobes happen to approve heartily of The Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings trilogy although these also use magic and mysticism. Many of the churches who are anti-Harry have taken groups of kids to see “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” (hi, it has the word witch in the title). The White Witch uses, guess what, white magic. Aslan’s deep magic eventually wins out, but all of this magical mayhem is okay because Lewis was a lauded Christian apologist. Even though Tolkien was Catholic, Christian culture embraces LOTR and sees allegory in it.

Harry Potter objectors say the fundamental difference between Hogwarts and Narnia/Hobbiton is that the authors of the latter were professing Christians. J.K. Rowling has made statements of faith as well but Christian culture doesn’t really buy it. They seem to feel that if she is not forthcoming with a specific mission statement then her use of allegory isn’t valid. They seem to think her books actually can’t contain any spiritual allegory, only sneaky promotion of the occult.

Christian culture isn’t able to reconcile violence and beauty very well when it comes to stories and allegories outside of the Bible. But judging from the use of symbols and sacraments in the Bible it would seem that God loves symbolism. Christian culture is hesitant to find beauty in places that aren’t sanctioned as overtly Christian. But if the Christ story is as momentous and all-encompassing as his followers claim to believe, then might they also believe that all stories echo the redemption story?

**This post originally aired October 31, 2009, and warrented reposting per seasonal relevancy.

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posted October 28, 2010 at 4:08 pm

I haaaaate the Christian anti-Potter stuff. That’s probably because the parts of the books that I find most touching are when Harry is completely and utterly alone. I read it as if it’s the valley of the shadow of Death–total despair, definite ruin, no one to turn to kind of stuff. And he always makes it through based on his trust in good (but not in a chirpy, everything-is-whole-again kind of way: these books don’t shy away from exploring loss and doubt). It KILLS me that there are children out there who aren’t allowed to read these books. They’re so hopeful and strengthening.

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posted October 28, 2010 at 4:13 pm

*Were* there ouija boards and tarot cards in any of the Harry Potter books? There were crystal balls, but they were generally portrayed as being malarky, anyway.
It’s fine to criticize something, just, you know, know the facts about what you’re criticizing before you criticize it, maybe…
Captcha: socketic included

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The Bishop of Aquila

posted October 28, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Seriously, I wish those people who find allegory in Lord of the Rings would do some research – Tolkien did not write allegory and trying to define LOTR as allegory in spite of the author’s intent is an insult to one of the great writers of last centry. Refer to Professor Tom Shippey’s wonderful book Tolkien: Author of the Century
Even C.S. Lewis refused to define the Narnia stories as allegory – he once wrote that Aslan was not Jesus in the allegorical sense but that if God had appeared in the form of His Son on another world then it was imaginatively possible that it would be as Aslan.
Tolkien was a committed Christian of the Catholic variety and there is no doubt that within his writing there is a deep spirituality. Probably one of the reasons why it appeals to audiences of all ages and faiths.
It bemuses me to see Christians get all strung out about Harry Potter – why do we make ourselves such easy targets for ridicule. Thanks for a good post on this issue.

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Charles Cosimano

posted October 28, 2010 at 10:19 pm

In January of 2003 I was recovering from a major illness and my physical therapist said that she would not let her children read the Harry Potter books. I could not resist it. I told her that her sister needed serious therapy of a different kind.

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posted October 28, 2010 at 11:05 pm

This is a classic example of Christians just following a trend of extreme disagreement/agreement based solely on the fact that other Christians agree/disagree. Most Christians would probably have no problem with the books if they simply read them. This is done time and time again and I’m sure Stephanie has addressed examples of it in the past. Don’t hold it against the Christian Culture, though. They are just sheep who want to be herded into a place of safety that protects them from witchcraft, Muslims, and not having all the answers

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posted October 29, 2010 at 10:12 am

O Boy, Chick booklets! Stephie should do a piece on these some time. I’m somewhat ashamed to say I used to like these. They are fascinating in a weird, perhaps grisly way.
And I agree about allegorizing LOTR. I wish people could just read it as a good story without trying to impose theological meanings on it. I remember when the last LOTR movie came out; I went to see it with some co-workers. Down in front at the theater were some IVers. They were wearing IV t-shirts so that everyone would know who they were. I presume after the movie they discussed the deeper meanings of the movie and the book.

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posted October 29, 2010 at 10:41 am

And I love the picture of the preacher standing in front of his church billboard while wearing a baseball cap with an American flag on it. That just speaks volumes.

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posted October 30, 2010 at 1:23 am

Wow! I read your blog all the time, but I’ve never posted before. I definitely have to for this though. I think its especially frustrating that Christian Culture doesn’t like the books because of the clear Christian Themes throughout the book – including Harry’s Gethsemane moment walking through the Forest. The sacrificial love of his mother – she had a choice, and she chose to give up her life for her child. Harry conquering death by not fighting back. Harry finally understanding the quote “the last enemy to be defeated is death”. What I find in the books though is also somewhat a critique of society, and Christian Culture is a part of it.
J.K. Rowling said that she couldn’t share too much of her religious beliefs before Deathly Hallows came out because it would spoil the book. I am Absolutely certain if Lewis and Tolkien were alive today, Christian Culture wouldn’t accept it. Or if you repackaged Lewis’s Space Trilogy, which I enjoy almost as much as Narnia, that Christians wouldn’t accept their stories.
I find it astounding that Christian Culture accepts and loves the Twilight Series just because the characters don’t have sex, but ignore the Mormon aspects and the creepy emotionally abusive relationship. I just don’t understand. I guess its the deeper meaning – the “Deep Magic” that they don’t get. One is a story about the power of sacrificial love, the other is a story about abstinence and a woman’s reward for being a dutiful wife. I also find it amazing that Christians were holding a big stink about Harry Potter while ignoring Phillip Pulman’s series which he has admitted takes deliberate barbs at the church and faith in general. (and *gasp* I also like those books, though not as much as Harry Potter).
I remember when I was younger, I used to read those alternative Christian books, but they didn’t hold a candle to the real thing. Stories should not be made with a message in mind, like those Christians did. Your belief comes out in your stories naturally, and it makes the stories all the more profound. Lewis said he came up with Narnia after picturing the faun at the lamppost. Tolkien first thought of the hole and a hobbit, and Rowling pictured Harry as a character at King’s Cross. They spoke of wanting to tell the story of these characters or explain what they saw.
I wish Christians would actually read things before they criticize them. I also wish they would realize that it is ok to doubt and question and seek… but that’s not something ok with Christian Culture. I LOVE this blog – thanks so much – it really is a catharsis to me Stephy!
Would you ever post on the Christian Culture’s idea that anti-bullying legislation furthers the “Gay Agenda”? I think this is especially relevant with all of the young suicides. I’ve been watching some of the videos from the “It Gets Better” project and its been shocking how many people mention the Church or Church People in their messages about being teased or hurt or called awful names. I’ve also enjoyed the videos of gay Christians that the Christian Culture would not accept, or maybe would tacitly accept them but actually be praying for them behind their backs or trying to sent them to reform camp. Ugh.

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Meg Ady

posted October 30, 2010 at 9:01 am

Stephy, I love this post, especially your words in the last paragraph.
Renee, I love your words, which are very pertinent to me as this evening I read the chapter in ‘The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe’ in which Lucy meets Mr Tumnus to Eowyn and Cosette, and on Tuesday attended a seminar about what it is like to be gay in Australian schools, and was introduced to and
JK Rowlings’ writing about death in the final book was profoundly hopeful and reminiscent of Jesus’ death, Jesus’ conquering of death…

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posted October 31, 2010 at 1:20 am


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posted October 31, 2010 at 3:51 pm

D’dore drinkin the poison cup – like jesus but no wait. D’dore is gay! so he cnt be like jesus, right

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posted November 3, 2010 at 4:42 pm

well funny story about harry potter… my parents are pastors… and they are totally against harry potter my mom even went in when my brother was little and took him out of class and read to him chronicles of Narnia while his class was getting read the harry potter series… anyway so like… 4 summers ago i was in my moms car listening to the harry potter books on tape with my boyfriend while driving to go camping with my family…and then possibly 3 weeks later my mom sister and i got into a car accident in that car…and you know what my mom said? that it was my fault because i was listening to harry potter in her car… nice right? lol

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posted November 5, 2010 at 9:25 pm

@Renee – there was a big stink about the Phillip Pulman book around the time when the movies came out. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t see the movie in the theater, buy the movie first-hand on DVD or purchase the books first-hand. It’s the same reason I don’t buy Metallica music or merchandise first hand (although the deeper reasoning is totally different); I don’t want to knowingly support someone or something that is so radically different from what I believe and feels like they must radically oppose me.
Plus, both The Chronicles of Narnia and LOTR WERE decryed as non-Christian in their day because of the use of magic.

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posted November 6, 2010 at 2:47 am

Yes there was opposition to the “His Dark Materials” series (and the first book was good, the second book not as much, the third book just wasn’t as good) but not as much from the Christian Culture as for Harry Potter which I find ridiculous. Maybe I’m biased because I’m a big Harry fan, but I do think that the protests were louder – maybe because Harry has more pervasive in society. Yet again, they are again looking at the surface while ignoring the deeper meaning (just like they did first with Tolkien and Lewis)

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posted November 8, 2010 at 2:15 am

As Heather mentions, the Narnia books caused a big stink in their day because they combined Christianity with pagan ideas like magic and fauns and such. I got the details a long time ago from CHUCK COLSON, of all people, who actually came down on the side of HP (more or less) and asked why Christians were being so complacent about Philip Pullman.
At any rate, he said that Lewis’s reply to these critics was that sin is pretty clearly shown in the Bible to be a violation of the _spirit_ of the Law, and in most cases that spirit has to do with power, and not seeking it but only accepting whatever of it God grants you, as a steward. He argued that his Narnia books reflected this fundamental. And I think the same can be said for Harry Potter. HP and Co. are all, it’s made pretty clear, not seeking power, but developing innate (and therefore presumably God-given) talents and abilities, and attempting to use these talents in a wise, stewardly fashion. There ARE power-seekers in the wizarding world, but they’re all the bad guys. (The last book even makes a clear condemnation of seeking power even to use it “for the greater good,” one of the main themes of LOTR.)

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posted November 8, 2010 at 2:21 am

Oh, and on the “Christian” copycat stuff…it’s gotten to where I just instinctively avoid anything I’ve seen in the church library, or any fiction published by Christian companies. Period. Which is too bad because I _know_ there’s bound to be some Lewis-like gems in there getting lost in all the rubbish. I just don’t feel like sorting through all that rubbish. Wait, isn’t that supposed to be the publisher’s job?
Christian music has the same problem…I stopped listening to it years ago, except for one or two select artists. Then sometimes if I’m in the car with my mom or a friend, and they have the local Christian music radio station on, all of a sudden I’ll be startled hear something GOOD and I’ll be like, “Wow, hey, these guys must be new–they’re awesome!” And usually the band turns out to have been around a while, I’ve just never heard of them because I won’t sit through twenty minutes of repetitive warm-n-fuzzies before they come on.
Okay, rant done. I know I talk a lot.

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posted November 8, 2010 at 10:48 am

I have watched the Harry Potter movies and enjoyed watching him search his heart every time before he acted. Isn’t that what we do as Christians? I have noticed that he would consider thinking on if his parents were alive to show him what to do. What he would have done. I understand you want to safe guard your children but shouldn’t you see first what you are trying to safe guard them against first. I know some kids found out that there is not such thing as magic because they tried to make a broom fly so that ended believing in magic. Yes you might say see this is what I mean but in the long run they found out it wasn’t real and moved on. Or would you have to wanting to see wish they saw a movie of magic to keep that thought alive so it would be something they would be a deception still in their heads and not on the truth?

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mom of 4

posted November 13, 2010 at 1:06 am

Well, there is always good and bad in everything. I always found it oxymoron for this issues and yet we don’t go farther like disney. Doesn’t it all derive from magic. And depending on your age level some of that stuff is scary..The beast, the witch, shadows chasing you. Why do we view that as ok and make bigger deals of others. Maybe too much time and not enough in the bible.

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ben b

posted November 15, 2010 at 1:37 am

there should certainly be no issue amongst christians when it comes to magic… why i grew up in the church and was read and taught all sorts of stories directly from the bible that would not be possible without believing in magic.
to believe in the bible is to believe in magic.

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posted December 15, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Or maybe it’s because J.K. Rowling is a woman, who are sinful temptresses at best and evil witches at worst.

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Your Name

posted April 29, 2011 at 12:54 am

Oh my gosh, I remember being a Christian kid and everyone around me but me thought it was “the devil” and said JK Rowling was like a witch or an atheist or something. All the adults even thought she was a man, had no idea the author was a woman. Usually their speeches went something like this:

“Now, we don’t read that. As Christians we need to stay away from those books because the devil works through them. It’s satanic it is! Even the author said so! What’s his name, JK Rowling? I heard he was a witch and he just wants to send all the little kids to hell! You’re not reading that! No sir, not in my house. Under this roof, we serve the lord!”

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Your Name

posted April 29, 2011 at 12:56 am

Of course nowadays Harry Potter is the “cool” thing for Christian teens to read. They all adore it! Well, the hardcore Baptist guys are usually discussing Lost and C.S. Lewis, but Harry Potter is now the “in” thing. Hm, that’s weird… ten years ago everyone thought it was the devil’s handbook…

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