2016-06-30
This article originally appeared on Beliefnet in 2001.

This weekend, whether you believe in the Harry Potter's magic or not, you're bound to run up against the fictional preteen's all-consuming power. Televisions, billboards, even your local fast-food joint are already teeming with Potter come-ons. By Saturday, reporters will be accosting blinking Potter fans outside movie theaters to record their judgments. Monday we count the box-office.

This is all the standard hype. Peculiar to Harry, however, is the smattering of stories about Christian fears about Potter and Paganism. "I will not allow my daughter to see this film because I feel it has pagan teachings," writes theblessed7 (See post #275). But rarely are we told how Wiccans and other Pagans feel about being identified with the staff at Hogwarts.

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A tour of the Harry Potter discussions-on which Earth-Based believers are well-represented-shows that Pagans mostly disavow Harry, pointing out, as SilverWinterMoon writes (post #14) "the magic portrayed in Harry Potter...has very little to do with real Witchcraft." Beliefnet member sypress puts it more technically: "The ethics are non-Wiccan: no three-fold law, and certainly no Wiccan Rede! (I love the books, but cringe every time the professors use an animal to demonstrate a nasty spell.)"

Not all Pagans take the guilt-by-association so sedately. "I don't know which is stupider and more offensive," writes Mirror Eyes, "the idea that Wicca is ANYTHING like fantasy, make-believe magic in those books, or the idea that my religion is something that children need to be protected against." If Christians fear the specter of Satanism, say others, they should look to their own religion, not Paganism. "Wiccans don't believe in Satan. Satan is strictly a Christian boogyman," writes anniecat

The Pagans' sensitivity is perhaps understandable, given the amount of Christian

influence they encounter in American culture. Several members on a Pagan board sympathized when callalily picked up a plush duck in a store, only to find it belting out "Amazing Grace." "Toys R Us is NOT a church!" cried Dawnmyshel (post #28) Surrounded by a largely Christian society, Aevren implies, half in jest, shouldn't Pagans be more worried that their children will be converted to Christianity? "Amazon.com has 1,981 different titles about witchcraft, as opposed to the 32,000 titles about Christianity. We shouldn't like those odds at all."

Many evangelicals, however, see themselves as as a minority equally subjected to a larger society. "There is spiritual warfare going on," wrote mumsy5 (post #126). "Those of us who are not lukewarm recognize that kids getting obsessively involved with the whole Harry Potter thing, are subjecting themselves to views and situations that fly in the face of what is good and pure. Harry's supposedly good, but he lies, cheats and steals to get what he wants. Great example."

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While Pagans celebrate TV shows like "Buffy," "Sabrina," "Xena," and "Charmed," as hopeful signs, evangelicals are even more adamant that their values be respected--"just like Pagans wouldn't want their children to see Christian-based films," notes theblessed7 (post #275). Devout Christian parents feel they are losing control over what their children are exposed to. "Society at large is being desensitized and conditioned to the acceptance, embracing, and glorification of witchcraft and occult philosophies and ideas," says j473 (post #21) "Witchcraft is exploding among teenage girls presently. This is NO coincidence. There is a subtle conditioning going on."

Not all Christians, of course, are raising alarms about Harry. "Harry doesn't need a bible," writes GodIsLove. "He already knows the main principle of God's on-going message, which says that God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him."

A Catholic Buddhist named mocastel sees Potter as a test of one's faith: "To say that it corrupts one's faith is to say one's faith is weak. To villify secular traditions is to doubt the strength of spiritual traditions." Agrees redkim, "I'm afraid that by avoiding it, you are giving it the power it's not really seeking." (post #310)

The most common cry on the boards, no matter what the member's faith, was: "It's just a book!" But the controversy is an important one to many readers because it concerns not just their beliefs, but their children's well-being. "Though there may be nothing harmful in the general themes of Harry Potter, it is that I see no profit in it," says one Christian (post #24). "I would much rather a Christian child read something that would at least edify their Christian spirit as entertain them solely for the purpose of entertainment's sake."

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At bottom, the Potter controversy is about a bigger question about the culture around us. Should we protect our children from what the culture pumps out? Can we, and if so, how? One sensible-sounding recommendation came from RDAD: "My children are curious to see the movie and i will go with them. We may get up and leave before the end or watch it and fully discuss its effect on us at home."

Others put their trust in the magic of the movies, or fiction itself. "I believe that, just like you and me, [children] go to a movie for sheer entertainment (and of course the hot tamales and big popcorn), not to figure out the meaning of life," says Boyimbleu (post #321). "I know my six year old knows the difference between fact and fiction, real life and movies." "'Harry Potter' is terrific-at least for kids," amenset chimed in (post #25), "but I think there are certain adults who definitely should be prevented from reading the books."

But what will they talk about this weekend? Maybe they can get together with TristanFlame, who admits, "I have a true confession about the Harry Potter books though - LOL - and I KNOW that people will hate me for this - but, well, um, uh, er, ah, well, I found them boring. Now THAT'S evil."

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