June 21, Copyright: Apologetics Index Link to: Harry Potter is the main character in a series of childrens' books by British author, J. The secular books are considered controversial by some because Harry, who attends the "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," is learning ''witchcraft'' skills. The new Harry Potter movie heading to theaters next week has enflamed a small legion of conservative Christian critics who claim the boy wizard is a tool leading children to witchcraft and sin.
But as anticipation grows for ''Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,'' other Christians insist the stories are harmless fantasies about magic and morals. The Menace Behind the Magick. And kids like to copy. Rowling calls the accusations ''absurd,'' saying Harry Potter's world is entirely imaginary. Rowling, I'm so glad I've read these books because now I want to be a witch,''' the author has said.
Though more than 50 million copies are in print worldwide, there has been no evidence of widespread conversions to paganism or witchcraft.
Andy Norfolk of the London-based Pagan Federation , said the youth-aimed Potter books have created no serious interest in his movement because they don't appeal to older people seeking spiritual options who ''see them as rather uncool.
Rowling, I'm so glad I've read these books because now I want to be a witch. That said, it should be noted that the witchcraft used in Rowling's books has little in common with modern-day witchcraft. Many Christians not only accept the Harry Potter books for what they are - fairy tales - but also see allegorical values:. Christian conservatives have made headlines by attacking the Harry Potter adventure books as violent, death-obsessed and Satanic.
But Christian opinion on the skinny kid with glasses turns out to be far more charitable and not so monolithic. Rowling's three books about the young wizard-in-the-making have sold more than 13 million hardback copies, and many of those readers are Christians who view Potter as a near-messianic paragon of humility, courage and self-sacrifice.
John Kraps, a Methodist in Cupertino, Calif. The questing adventures of Potter and his friends at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry have inspired liberal Episcopalians as well as more than a few conservative Evangelicals.
Many clerics and theologians extract explicitly Christian themes from the books: Potter's mother is a Christ figure, hovering over the stories, who died so that her son might live; Potter has a special destiny that he is not fully aware of, much like numerous biblical prophets and perhaps even Jesus himself.
Looked at from this point of view, Rowling's books are not so much anti-Christian as they are fully Christian, drawing on the legacy of fellow British writers C.
Tolkien, whose popular children's tales about the magical lands of Narnia and Middle Earth were written as Christian allegory. When Connie Neal settled onto a sofa in her family room with a copy of ''Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'' on her lap, the Christian author and lecturer steeled herself for the plunge into a world of mysticism and magic she was certain would clash with her beliefs.
Three "Harry Potter" books later, Neal adores the bespectacled kid wizard -- and he has become one of her greatest evangelization tools. Christian fans of Harry Potter insist that the series is no different than C. Lewis ' The Chronicles of Narnia, a series that many Christian parents accept. It is true that both authors create fantasy parallel worlds involving young British children who encounter magical creatures. Both develop admirable characters and evil villains.
But this is where the comparison ends. The difference between the two hinges on the concept of authority. From a Christian perspective, authority and supernatural power are linked.
Take a look at Mark 2, where Jesus heals a paralytic. When Jesus first sees the paralytic, He says, ''Son, your sins are forgiven. Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ''Why does this fellow teach like that?
Who can forgive sins but God alone? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. When we read Rowling's series, we find that she effectively divorces power from authority. There is no sovereign person or principle governing the use of the supernatural. Magical power is gained through inheritance and learning.
The two are equal, antagonistic and unaccountable to a higher authority. Lewis' Narnia, power and authority are welded together. Good power is power that is bestowed by Aslan and exercised in accordance with his will.
This good power is at work when the children Peter, Susan and Lucy use gifts bestowed on them by an agent of Aslan. Those who resist the temptation to use such power are commended, as was Digory, in The Magician's Nephew.
Despite superficial similarities, Rowling's and Lewis' worlds are as far apart as east is from west. Rowling's work invites children to a world where witchcraft is ''neutral'' and where authority is determined solely by one's cleverness. It's a difference no Christian should ignore. The author, Lindy Beam, writes:. One father I've spoken with has decided to read and discuss Harry Potter with his daughter because, ''She's a bit more mature than most year-olds, powerfully grounded in the Christian perspective for her age, a careful and thoughtful child who loves both to read and write for the glory of God, and whose motivation, beyond being entertained, is to be 'salt and light' to the many friends, both Christian and non-Christian, who are reading the series.
Incidentally, it is clear that the success of the Harry Potter series is leading many children to explore classics such as the Chronicles of Narnia:. Addicted fans who have gobbled up J. Rowling's three bestsellers about the young wizard have been appalled to learn that the next instalment, Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament, will not be out until September.
As a substitute, booksellers are cashing in on America's new-found obsession for children's fantasy by recommending ''Potteresque'' alternatives - spurring a mini-boom in works such as The Hobbit and the Narnia series. The American Booksellers' Association's Book Sense marketing campaign recently polled its 1, affiliates for suggested alternatives. Christians can and do disagree on disputable issues. According to the Bible, that's OK.
See ''Are Christians Allowed To? Rather, they should be well-informed so that they can provide their kids with balanced information. Make sure they know they difference between fantasy and reality. Christian parents may want to encourage their kids to discover the possible allegories in the Potter stories. See also this Bible Study that uses one of the Harry Potter books. Focus on the Family's reviews of the four Potter books, linked to at the end of this editorial , provide invaluable help.
In addition, it is a good idea to teach older kids about the reality of the occult, the religion of Wicca Witchcraft , and the Bible's teachings regarding these topics. For this, see Witchcraft: Regardless of what side of the Harry Potter debate you're on, it pays to check your sources. The writer of this hoax clearly did not do so Currently, an email is doing the rounds in which a Christian is trying to warn readers against the alleged evils of the Harry Potter Series.
Within the email is the URL of a story on which this person based his or her research:. I will leave you with something to let you make up your own mind. First the URL to read some background of what I have given you: If the author of that email would had ''researched'' just a bit more carefully, he or she may have observed that the current edition of The Onion, which bills itself as ''America's Finest News Source,'' includes the following news reports: Anyone who wishes to use the material published in The Onion as ''background'' should apply as a writer for Late Night with David Letterman or join some of the ''pop-apologists'' who have inside information about poisoned water wells, government cover-ups, and the current member list of the Illuminati.
The Onion itself says:. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental. The story is meant as satire only. British newspaper The Times , allegedly cited in The Onion story, answers email inquiries by writing:.
Thank you for your email about the alleged quote from The London Times which appeared in an article in The Onion. The research group, led by professor Loris Vezzali of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy, conducted three related studies. In the first, 34 elementary school children were given a questionnaire assessing their attitudes towards immigrants, a group frequently stigmatized in Italy.
The children were then divided into two groups that met once a week for six weeks to read Harry Potter passages and discuss it with a research assistant. Vezzali and colleagues conducted two follow-up studies with similar results.
One found that reading Harry Potter improved attitudes towards homosexuals in Italian high school students. The other linked the books with more compassion towards refugees among English university students. As the authors write, this is in line with reigning social cognitive theory: Of course there are many factors that shape our attitudes toward others: A study published last year in Science found that reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or nonfiction, results in keener social perception and increased empathy — empathy being defined more or less as the ability to alternate between different perspectives on a particular person or situation.
For the moment, universal acceptance and international peace seem unlikely. But perhaps a trip to the bookstore — or a few clicks on the Internet — might be a good place to start. Are you a scientist who specializes in neuroscience, cognitive science, or psychology?
Why Everyone Should Read Harry Potter. Tales of the young wizard instill empathy, a study finds while it might sound far-fetched, new research suggests that Rowling’s world of house-elves.
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