Home > Family > Harry Potter is not Evil

Harry Potter is not Evil

So… I have now missed my first self-imposed deadline… Oh well… I had intended for this to go up on Friday, but my band had a gig and I got involved with my church’s web site and well, it didn’t. We can live with it just this once right?

I was speaking to a fellow parishioner at my church a couple of years ago, when one of the Harry Potter movies (I think it was Order of the Phoenix) was being released, about whether they were going to take their children to go see it.  Their children at the time were pre-teen and perhaps unsurprisingly, they said “no” because they felt it was inappropriate. Well, the movie is rated PG-13, and has some violence and can been pretty intense, so I didn’t think a lot about it until I spoke about it to someone else, also a pretty close friend. Their response: “Harry Potter performs sorcery and you know where that kind of power comes from.”  Their concern was not about the things that made the film PG-13, it was because the main character, the good-guy used magic.

So, here we are on the brink of a new Harry Potter movie, Deathly Hallows which comes out this fall. So I suppose the question still remains: As a Christian is it wrong to see the movie, or let my children see it? Well, I am not much for suspense, so I will say right away: “No, I don’t think so”. By saying so, I am sure that it will trouble those who feel like my friend above, but keep reading, because you might learn something.

I must make one disclaimer right up front. My oldest child is five, so no; my children will not be watching Harry Potter for a little while at least. We’ll stick to Pixar and Veggietales for now.  Not because of any perceived evil or stain to their Christian beliefs, but because I just don’t think it is appropriate for children that age. But, this question is not just about Harry Potter, right? If you take the argument to its logical extent, any main character that uses magic of some sort would not be appropriate for a Christian child. The list of banned TV shows and movies would include, but not be limited to: Witches of Waverly Place, Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Lord of the Rings, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Pokemon, Fantasia and even The Smurfs (Papa Smurf was a wizard). So, we can certainly find from that list age-appropriate material to discuss.  And no, I do not feel like Mickey Mouse or Papa Smurf are inappropriate for my five-year old. In fact, I cannot remember ever speaking to someone who did. So why the inconsistency?

I get questions from my oldest son all the time such as “Are there bad guys in real life?” or “Are there really such things as aliens?” and I always do my best to answer him in a way that is truthful and makes sense to a 5-year-old without being too frightening. I don’t lie (Except maybe about Santa and the Easter Bunny) and I don’t say I don’t know when I do. So I am very prepared to discuss things like Papa Smurf or Harry Potter with my son and help him to understand the differences between truth and fiction and what is acceptable behavior verses what he sees on TV. I have no problem with him seeing a TV show with someone who performs magic, but I don’t want him to go and try it himself. (I feel the same way about high-explosives) I’m not talking about card tricks and disappearing hankies; he loves that kind of stuff. I just don’t want him thinking he is “casting spells” and the like. I know that he can distinguish TV from reality. How do I know? Because we talk about it and I do my job as a father to help him understand.

It seems that many people are not willing to have these types of discussions with their children. It is certainly much easier for them to block out an entire section of popular TV and film and then they don’t have to talk about it. Except… their kids will see it eventually anyway, and since the parents banned it, it will not be under their supervision. It will have been made into a forbidden fruit, and the kids will bite. The parents will not be there to discuss it with them, and since they didn’t take the opportunity to discuss it before, the children will not have the foundational beliefs that could have been provided.

It’s not the easy way, but communication and honest discussion with your children is the best way to instill in them your belief system. Sheltering them from things like magic in a movie will not help them make good decisions when confronted with decisions in real life. But if you can discuss and help them understand what they see, they will be much better prepared when they have to make choices on their own.

I think somewhere along the way , someone decided that Harry Potter was a good example to make and said to their friend “I won’t take my kids to see Harry Potter because he does magic… and that’s bad.”  And their friend had kids and suddenly felt guilty because they had planned to see it, so they said “Oh yeah, of course not.” and cancelled their plans. Before you knew it families in churches everywhere were saying “No” to Harry Potter and instead taking their kids to see movies with talking animals and vegetables and… wait, now where does that power come from?

  1. tadwyoming
    July 13, 2010 at 1:55 AM

    By coincidence, yesterday I posted a blog stating, “Why is Harry Potter a problem? Well, yes, it might encourage children to pursue the occult and witchcraft, etc. But the real issue is it presents a substitute for a life in Christ.” I went on from there, ”
    Why is THE TWILIGHT SAGA a problem? Well, yes, it’s about mythic, supernatural and evil characters who are made to seem benign when they are really not. Worse, it has a subversive effect on young people, especially girls, teaching them to idolatrously worship romance, willing to sacrifice all for same, etc. But the real issue is it presents a substitute for a life in Christ.”

    So, what is this placebo effect of such shows? Well, a placebo is “a usually pharmacologically inert preparation prescribed more for the mental relief of the patient than for its actual effect on a disorder.” A placebo is ” an inert or innocuous substance used especially in controlled experiments testing the efficacy of another substance (as a drug.”

    In other words, the placebo effect is the creation of a sense that the imposter has as good or better an effect as the real deal, and can easily be substituted for it.

    We’re fighting a culture war in our own homes. What are we doing to ensure the life in Christ is being learned, pursued and chosen by the next generation?

    The answer to that question should govern our choice of the constellation of media materials we expose our kids to.

    E.g., we have Harry Potter living a life apart from God, embracing occult powers. The Bible clearly teaches against embracing occult powers, and living apart from God. So far as singing vegetables, the question is what these personified characters are doing: Are they modeling a life apart from God or a life seeking God and finding Him?

    Tad Wyoming

  2. tadwyoming
    July 13, 2010 at 2:30 AM

    P.S., I think your approach withyour kids sounds good in general. I also think that attempting to shield kids from every representationin media that does not model life in Christ is impossible and misses the point. However, I think parents, probably not you, tend to be very niaeve about the subversive effects of the media their kids encounter. Actually worse than exposing them to TV is the subversive effects of exposing our kids to today’s mainstream kid culture. Add the public school influence to that and you have a three pronged cocktail of subversion of what matters to the life in Christ.

    (a) We must avoid being polluted by the World, which means to develop a love for worldliness (1 Jn 2:15-16) but prerequisite to that avoidance is (b) the development of a heart for Christ. The world wants the hearts of our children, but we must win and keep their hearts, and we must model and teach a life of receiving all things from the Lord. If we don’t win and keep their hearts, they will all go the way of the world. It’s all a matter of degree.

    Finally, we’ve raised our three kids with close control over the tv set, who the friends were and what they did together, and what was going on at school. The shield was not seamless, but it made a huge impact. Now two are married to Christians and living as Christians, and the third is in HS and living as a Christian. Clearly, the vigilant attitude toward evil prepared them to protect their own minds and hearts from corrupting influences. Anything that holds itself up against God is indeed evil, and it should not be allowed to be glorified in the mind of a child. E.g., I talked to one kid’s pub school teacher about not watching a movie about the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, quoting Phil 4:8, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I said my kid could read Washington Irving when she was older, please give her a suitable substitute. The teacher respected our wishes, which were consistent with what we did at home: No Horror, gore, torture, occult, sexual inuendo, nudity, or gratuitous violence. (We also closely censored subtlely subversive anti-christian or anti-family, etc. programs). TW

  3. Tasha
    July 15, 2010 at 2:57 PM

    I think the main point of this post is that refusing to allow children (using the term loosely for anyone who is a minor and you have relative control over) to see things like Harry Potter or Twilight or Lord of the Rings or Pokemon (etc, etc) is that it designates too much importance to them. Being honest with your children and not allowing them to live in a fantasy world where they get their acceptance letters to Hogwarts when they turn 11 is more important than refusing to let them see something that tells the story of this happening, which almost without exception makes the story that much more appealing and attractive to them (following the wanting what you can’t have mindset that we all have, to an extent). Why should it matter if Harry Potter uses magic if he’s not real? By someone saying it’s wrong to support something like Harry Potter, he or she also says that he’s so important that he threatens his or her fundamental beliefs. However, he’s merely a fictional creation of a mortal mind designed to provide temporary entertainment. So long as we can hold on to the knowledge that he ISN’T real and hence DOESN’T threaten Christianity, then he shouldn’t pose such a huge problem (and if our love of God is so weak that stories like this shove Him from our minds, I think we have a bigger problem than the popularity of these stories).

    And, partially in defense of Washington Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” isn’t just some ghost story; it’s about the tendency of Americans at the time of its composition to disregard the importance of tradition and family values, represented by Crane’s desire to destroy the Van Tassel farmland and use the land for building, which would destroy the environment and tradition of the town. The “ghost” (or spirit of the people of Sleepy Hollow) is merely a way for the town to protect itself from this threat, hence retaining its traditions and values. However, at a public school level(assuming middle to early high school, here), I doubt this would be the primary focus of the class, so I understand your concern in this case. My point in defending Irving is that almost all subjects taught in school are completely and totally complementary to a wholesome Christian life; you just have to make sure they are age-appropriate and properly taught.

    The main concern with all of these stories is that people are becoming so involved and obsessed with things like Harry Potter and Twilight that they live their lives as if they are real. If people are worried that these things are distracting people from following a life filled with Christ, then maybe the true problem isn’t what these stories are saying but is in fact a question of what we can do to make our wonderful story of eternal life and salvation more appealing. Because, let’s face it, is there anything more intense or exciting than that? And yet THAT story is nowhere near as popular. It stands to reason that if God can bestow a talent for writing so great in those who write these secular stories, He also bestows talents of at least equal greatness in those who would write for Him. So what are we doing wrong?

  4. tadwyoming©2010
    July 15, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    Hi, Tasha. You make several good points I agree with here. I want to point out that I agree that adults can largely avoid undue influence if they take in immoral or ideologically opposing influences in careful moderation. But why do so?

    Second, as you point out, children are quite subject to suggestion, as well as the development of subversive thought patterns. The underlying meta-narrative (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metanarrative) of a story, as expressed in movies, novels, etc., creates a schema or thought pattern that can actually significantly contribute to the process of developing our structures of understanding and thought. Such movies and books are able to develop metanarratives in the mind of a person by subtely creating justifications and even fetishes after certain objects of desire, breaking down existing metanarratives associed with morals or mores or ideologies, including one’s Christian faith. They can create pre-conscious forms of interpreting new information, so that as a child learns more about Christ, they have certain built-in prejudices or attitudes about it. E.g., the metanarrative I recieved from years of tv watching as a youngster was that Chrsitians and christianity were dumb, simple-minded and unintellectual. When I was coming to Christ at age 29, I met many Christians who were not dumb and unintellectual, and that was a surprise to me. That FALSE metanarrative had prejudiced me from seeking the Lord for many years.

    Thus, in my view, to say that we can avoid the pernicious effects of certain media objects if we are aware that they are not depicting real life is to identify only one layer, albeit an important layer, of the influences in which we allow ourselves and our kids to partake. TW

    p.s., my daughter was in third grade, and the movie was presented in a horror format, not including the more subtle social conflicts you mention. Great point about the value of literature, however! Sounds like you have a background in literary studeis.

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