Contending For The Faith

September 17, 2009

Why Christians Should Not Read (or Watch) Harry Potter

Filed under: Christian lifestyle — Lynda O @ 3:45 pm
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This post comes after my recent discovery that a seemingly upright Christian family at church (homeschool with 8 children, the father a church deacon) seems more interested in the world’s entertainment than in pursuing a more godly Christian life and walk.  Now to the particulars:  the father has taken off three weeks of vacation in one block, and just staying around the house–not to complete any “honey-do” list, or any other perhaps worthwhile endeavors, but with this as his stated top goal: to read all 7 of the Harry Potter books.  Another couple at church, friends of theirs who I also had thought more highly of, are also really into the Harry Potter books and movies.  They point out that the author is really gifted, and the books are entertaining; I was rather physically tired at the time, waiting to go home, and so did not pursue the matter further as to why they think such books are okay reading–though they would probably give the common excuse:  it’s just entertainment.

To me such choices clearly reflect an attitude and worldview of indifference, a lifestyle of a believer caught up in the trappings of this world.  So here are a few questions and thoughts concerning this interest in Harry Potter.

Is it wise to read something which advocates witchcraft and the occult?  Or to read stories that lack traditional morality, stories which ridicule traditional Christian adults, stories that portray and promote the idea of children who actively rebel against adult authority figures?  Is that the way to treat God, to openly break His clear commandments concerning idolatry and occultism?

I can hear the objections now.  “It’s just entertainment.”  Or, it’s a matter of conscience, one of those areas related to the stronger and weaker brothers, like alcohol, or eating meat sacrificed to idols.  If it doesn’t bother you and you don’t see anything wrong, enjoy it.  At a very basic level, such responses remind me of the “Dad’s Brownies” story, in which a dad responds to his three teenagers who really want to see a popular PG-13 rated movie.  They can go to the movie if they’ll eat his brownies, which have a “special ingredient” of a little dog poop added to them.

Another reference on this overall topic is my recent post about Genesis 19 and Lot, the worldly believer.

From a scriptural perspective, God’s word is clear about staying away from anti-Christian worldviews and philosophies.  Our God is a jealous God and will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 48:11).  But if that’s not enough for you, consider Paul’s exhortations to believers in his many New Testament letters.
Romans 12:2 — “Do not be conformed to this world,  but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

1 Corinthians 6:12 — “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

1 Corinthians 10: 14 — Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.
1 Corinthians 10:21-23 — You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.  Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive.

Consider especially that last part:  not everything is beneficial, or constructive.  Not everything is edifying or profitable, to you individually as well as to the church body, which is those you influence.  Consider the race to run, to win the prize. Paul speaks of the Bema Seat judgement at which our works will be evaluated, and those of wood, hay and stubble will be burned up.  So much of our time is spent on meaningless pursuits.  Should we value as so little what we do here, in light of eternity, that we should devote time to reading the Harry Potter books?  How about spending that time reading and studying the Bible instead?  Sadly, too many Americans, and I suspect it’s also true of most Christians, know more about the Harry Potter stories than God’s word.  What do we really value?  It shows in such things as what we spend our idle time on.  This same issue applies to reading “The Shack” or anything else offensive to God’s word and the Christian worldview.

Consider verses such as these:
1 Corinthians 9:24-26 — Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.
Hebrews 12:1 — let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

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2 Comments »

  1. I don’t think Harry Potter can be so easilly branded as anti-christian and I utterly disagree with you labelling a christian who reads Harry Potter as ‘caught up in the trappings of this world’. If you are going to do this for Harry Potter, then what secular books will you permit a christian to read? Your post makes it sound like any book that is not specifically ‘a christian book’ is not allowed. This concerns me because it effectively blinkers a christian to such an extent that they are incapable of interfacing with the secular world in which they live and this makes them utterly useless at identifying with and evangelising to non-christians. Which seems rather pointless to me.

    I have heard two pastors preach sermons that referenced Harry Potter. Most recently, it was a sermon that lambasted Harry Potter as evil, with no reasoning attatched, other than ‘it just is’. I find this kind of absolute thinking disturbing as it allows no room for individuals to make a choice that suits them and instead forces a view on them. I was left with the overwhelming worry that the pastor concerned was obsessed with this ‘evil’ to a degree far greater than any that I have seen in anyone who has read the books. I don’t see anything healthy or even christian in this level of obsession.

    The first sermon, which was a few years ago now, was a very well balanced critique and left room for people to choose if they wanted to read them or not and pointed out that the accusations of promoting the occult are actually false. Yes there is magic and evil, but its not unique to Harry Potter and nor is it unique to the world. If we are able to avoid it in the world then why should it be assumed that in the context of a story the reader is automatically consumed with or possesed by the evil in the story? It is a story after all, not real life, how can a narative about evil translate into real evil in a persons life? It preposterous.

    Harry Potter has good vs evil, like a lot of films and books. The books have a good morality in them, at the center of which is self sacrifice for someone you love.

    One of the books is so full of emotion and the desire to do whats good that it actually brought me to tears reading it.

    I implore you, if you have not already changed you mind, seriously consider your stand point. Just because Harry Potter is not written by a christian does not mean it can’t be read by a christian. Like anything, balance is required and a blanket statement saying its unsuitable for christians is not balanced.

    Comment by limey — March 26, 2010 @ 8:10 am

  2. Well, everyone is allowed their opinion on this, and obviously my blog post isn’t going to prevent anyone from reading the Harry Potter books. But I still maintain that the books are not only not biblical, but anti-biblical.

    I don’t have a problem generally with books written by non-Christians — such things should be decided on a case by case basis, as to the actual content of a particular book, and certainly many great works of fiction have been authored by unbelievers. Actually, the author of Harry Potter comes from a Christian church background — Episcopalian, as I understand.

    I don’t have a problem with fantasy generally, if it’s done right — the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings are excellent literature. But many books (such as the Harry Potter ones) condone witchcraft and sorcery, things explicitly condemned throughout the Bible. The HP books also promote a negative attitude toward parental authority figures, and adult figures generally, and also positively portray a rebellious attitude among the children — attitudes not rebuked within Harry Potter.

    Good fantasy books can convey the natural independent thought of children — such devices as taking them away from the adults as in the Narnia books — and even then, proper discipline and rebuke of misbehavior are also demonstrated in the stories. Good children’s literature, such as the Little House books, can portray the child’s rebellion and misbehavior, but then show a moral lesson and the consequences / punishment.

    I still maintain, though, that the Harry Potter books fail as good literature, both in the direct issue of wizardry and sorcery, as well as the moral lessons conveyed. And as I said in the blog post, why should believers waste their time on things that do not glorify God, that do not build and encourage believers, and things that actually teach against the truths in God’s word?

    Comment by Lynda O — March 26, 2010 @ 10:45 am


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