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Harry Potter is not Evil

July 12, 2010 4 comments

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?