Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Great Potter Debate

I don't know why I get so worked up about debating whether Harry Potter has Christian symbolism or not and whether the series is evil or not. I do not think that your opinion on such a thing will decide whether or not you go to heaven. In many cases we'll end up having to agree to disagree. I don't want to become obsessed over the series, or anything for that matter. God matters. The Bible matters. Christ matters; He is our Savior. It is only by faith through Him that we are saved. Still, I can't help but defend poor Harry, so here's another conversation I am in the process of having at the following site: http://www.habitationofjustice.com/2007/07/23/christianity-gone-bonkos/i-hate-harry-potter-and-the-christian-morons-who-adore-him/

My reply to the post at the above link:
I’ve never been for obsessing over worldly items or things. In fact, the last book on the Potter series warns against allowing your weakness of wanting, taking, and using wrongly to control your life.

I do strongly believe that there is Christian symbolism in all of the books, especially the last one (I have posted serveral posts on the topic on my blog). Rowling, herself, claims to be a Christian. She refused to give details away of her faith because she knew it would spoil the ending.

I’ll never put the Potter books over the Bible, but I do not think that we should shun the books because some idiots go too crazy over them. The books were merely a series well written and highly enjoyed until I started looking at the Christian symbolism in them. I’ve found that they’ve given great menaing to my faith and pushed me forward. That is, my faith has made the books mean something to me. I do see the harm in making the books into a fad and joining that fad as you described, but I see no harm at all in discussing the books and learning from them.

The site you provided actually seems a good one to me. Besides, why should you hate Harry Potter? It’s a good series. Don’t hate it just because the world loves it and tries to turn it into something evil. Just because an interpretation is evil does not mean the books are evil. By the way, I forgot to mention that I was one of those who went to get the last book at midnnight (although I never did it for any other books). However, I made a promise to God that while I would be rushing through the final book to find out what happens, I would still take equally as much time out to read my Bible and spend time with the Lord as I did with the Potter book, and I did that. So, I think that the series is good and is full of Christian themes. I think that a love of the series can be tastefully measured. That we can still enjoy the series and get a lot out of them, but get even more out of the Bible and our relationship with Christ. If you are interested, the following link will take you to a post by someone other than me that has a similar opinion to yours (I commented in reply to that post as well). http://www.sicarii.net/2007/07.....s-hogwash/

Lincoln's reply to my reply:
@Harmony: There seems to be a trend today where Christians attempt to inject Christian symbolism into just about every secular genre there is, whether in literature or in films. Not even Star Wars survives unscathed, which is apparently so rife with Christian symbolism that one one guy actually wrote a book about it.

Are you suggesting that God is only worth 50 percent of your time, while Harry Potter takes up the other 50 percent? Do you really believe that God would be well pleased with how you’re setting your priorities here?

Regarding Rowling, she stated that she was a member of the church of Scotland. That’s like saying I’m a member of the human race. What does it mean really? In addition, you write that she did not want to disclose her Christian heritage so that the series ending for Harry Potter wouldn’t be spoiled. Remember that Jesus said whosoever would deny Him before men, him would He also deny before His Father in Heaven. It strikes me as odd that Rowling would refuse to proclaim Christ as her Savior just so a book’s ending wouldn’t be spoiled. Well THAT’s certainly a healthy perspective to have in light of all of eternity.

She also started a One Parents Group that seems to devalue marriage and the need for children to have two parents, and prescribes to leftist ideology that would seem antithetical to Christian faith (unless you’re one of them liberal type Christians who take umbrage at this remark of course). On the other hand she donates 1 percent of her billion dollar estate to charity. That’s nice of her.
I wonder about the naivete of Christians today. The Bible used very strong language in condemning witchcraft, equating it with rebellion against God. You would think those who become saved and “put on the new man” would tend to shy away from all appearances of evil. Why make an exception for Harry Potter? Because it’s pure fantasy?

Truthfully, I don’t understand how a work ensconced in wizardry and witchcraft, written by a woman whose Christian beliefs could be described as nominal at best, could lead any person into a deeper understanding and relationship with Christ. Isn’t that what the Bible is for? Why this endless need to supplant Scripture for what is sure to be an inferior alternative?

If you want to read Harry Potter purely for the entertainment value, that’s one thing, and I won’t begrudge anyone having a little bit of fun. But the degree of obsession that I’ve witnessed regarding the Harry Potter phenomenon leads me to believe that there is a much more deeper spiritual issue here than meets the eye. I only wish more Christians would see that.

My reply to Lincoln's reply to my reply to Lincoln's post:
I try not to put other things above God, but it’s human nature to do so. I don’t think God expects us to read our Bibles and pray 24/7. I know he expects us to live Godly lives and confess our sins, etc. I know he expects us to spend daily time with Him and to put Him above other things, to not let the world go to our heads, to live in the world but not of the world. And I don’t think spending time reading books that aren’t the Bible will offend God. I certainly do not believe that God is worth only 50% of my time. But to spend 100% with Him would be to read your Bible in your sleep. I still try to live 100% for Him, but I believe there is a difference between living 100% for Him and spending 100% of my time with Him one on one (although He is always there, He’s everywhere).

Regarding Rowling, even if she faults in that she does not proclaim her faith before everyone (don’t we all have faults. I’ve been scared out of witnessing more than once), and I’ll give you that (I agree that she should proclaim Christ despite spoilers), but just because she refuses to proclaim Christ does not mean we cannot proclaim Christ. And I think that one of the wonderful and amazing facts about God is that He places Himself and the greatest story of all time in so many places. Nature declares His glory. Christ’s story appears in literature. It appears that we cannot get away from Him, so why not use it to proclaim His glory. I’ll not put the Potter series over the Bible, but use it as a tool to introduce children and nonbelievers to the ultimate truth.

By the way, I am not a liberal. I confess I don’t know much about politics, and I wish I did, but it’s not my forte. However, I do consider myself a republican and conservative. I do believe that children should have two parents: one father and one mother. Some people, however, get themselves in a pickle and do divorce or their spouses die, should that mean they should not have support as single parents? I do not know much about the group you listed, so I won’t go any further on that. But it’s beside the point. To attack Rowling is to attack the person instead of the books. I used her in my argument and you have shown me another side of that and some of my views on Rowling have changed as a result, but that does not stop me from enjoying the books and learning from them. Separate the books from the author and you still have a great series full of Christian symbolism. Maybe some of that symbolism was intentional, maybe some it was not, but the fact remains that it is there, available to be used to promote the one true faith in Jesus Christ.

The Potter series is inferior to the Bible, I admit I believe that much, but that does not mean it cannot be used. There are children and nonbelievers out there who would never come to Christ if we focused on just the Bible and made everything else in the world evil. Do you hate the Wizard of Oz? Do you hate the Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings? You say that the Bible tells us to stay away from witch craft and wizardry. It does say that. You then say you can still get a little fun out of reading the series if you want. If you define the series as containing real wizardry and such and say that the Bible thus tells us to stay away from it, then you should not be reading the series at all, not even for fun. Even in reading what others belive to get an understanding of nonbelievers so we can witness better to them is warned against in the Bible. The Bible does not say not to do this, but it does caution that it should not be taken lightly and that it is easy to get involved in those things if you are not careful. I won’t get involved in witch craft because I choose to see the Christian themes in the Potter series.

And the wizardry in the books is not real witch craft. I’ve not heard of anyone going into real witchcraft because of it. I know real witch craft members try to promote their ways using the series, but that does not make the series evil, that makes the interpretation evil. Wby not fight back against that evil interpretation? It really is a fantasy series. It is not meant to be taken as real life events. I doubt that those who started reading the books at a young age still believe there’s a real Hogwarts. Will you begrudge a child for pretending there’s a real Santa Clause or Easter Bunny? You seem to not mind reading the books for fun. I certainly don’t approve of the high obsession of the books. You’re not going to die if you don’t get the next book right when it comes out. I see the same kind of obsession for movie stars and video games. I don’t approve of that. But that does not mean there cannot be a tasteful way to handle things and to read these series and get something out it.

The way you put it it seems like reading the Bible is the only way to learn morals, etc. I don’t take Harry Potter books as truth. I see the allegories within them and they add meaning to the books for me. But I’d never put the books up against the Bible. The Bible is the only source I draw truth from. However, I can take the Potter books and look at the evident themes and symbols and compare them to the Bible, put them against the Bible and say this is fact and this is fiction. The Harry Potter series implies this, but the Bible says this, and I follow what the Bible says. Sometimes people need something to get them excited about the Bible. It’s human nature. The Potter series does that for me. Once I look at the parallels, I go to the Bible and dig deep into God’s word.

Lincoln's Reply:
@Harmony: I wouldn’t expect anyone to live up to impossible standards, my point was to consider whether Christians give things like Harry Potter more time than it deserves.

I think Rowling’s actions are more of a devious nature rather than simply shortcomings in character, but that’s just me. If her charity group for single parents were simply to support single parents struggling with poverty, that’s one thing, but I get the distinct impression that it’s more about promoting single parenthood over that of the two parent family.

Truth be told, there’s Christian symbolism in even the world’s most anti-Christian religions, but that doesn’t mean we should be promoting these religions or use them as a tool to bring others to Christ. God specifically tells us to come out and be separate from the world’s many cultures, and touch not what is unclean. We have to apply that in our own lives, and if we continue to color our Christianity with secular fads and worldly cultures, the true meaning of the gospel would be polluted and even made of none effect if we’re not careful.

The fact is, if you find Christian symbolism in Potter, and you believe that’s a personal witness to you, fine then, but not in a million years would I support using things like Harry Potter as a witnessing tool to bring others to Christ.
BTW, I understand those involved in real witchcraft have confirmed that some elements of Rowling’s references to the craft were quite accurate. Make of that what you will.

Also, I don’t say that the Bible is the only way to learn important truths, rather that it’s the superior way. This is about getting our priorities right, not shunning alternative sources that could being us into a deeper understanding of God’s Word. But it’s my belief that the Harry Potter series should not be one of them.

My Reply:
I think I have to agree with a lot of what you’ve said, Lincoln. There are a lot of books out there that are better for witnessing than Harry Potter. If I had children I’d certainly rather they read the Bible or children’s books with Biblical stories and specifically referenced themes in them than Harry Potter. As they’d get older, though, they’d probably become more interested in more adult or young adult oriented reading, which there isn’t much of out there for Christian teens.

I liken the Potter books to Chonicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings in that they all have Christian themes, but were not specifically written to be Christian. They are all classics and well known books. They all have had movies made of them. I would not mind my children reading books such as these as they grew older, but I would still take the time to discuss the books. I think there are many Christian children we won’t be able to keep from reading these books and as long as they are reading them we should remind them of the true story of Jesus and other elements of the Bible that inspire certain parts of these books.

I, myself, did not like the Harry Potter books at all at first. Not because of my Christian beliefs but because I thought them confusing. But as I grew older I started to read them again and gain appreciation for the literary talent Rowling has. It was not until I read John Granger’s book that I started to appreciate the Christian symbolism within them. Such books can be read for enjoyment, as you’ve said, and can add meaning to a person’s faith. Actually, it was my faith that added meaning to the books. I wouldn’t be very interested in rereading the books if it weren’t for that.

I don’t suggest we go around preaching at nonbelievers that the Potter books are Christian and that readers should repent and turn to Christ because of it. You’ve convinced me on that much. After all, the Bible does say that certain things may be harmless to a believer (in the Bible it was things such as sacrificial meat) but if they are a hindrance to new believers or nonbelievers we should avoid them around those people.

Still, I do think it’s ok and a good thing to talk about the Christian themes in varous sources among believers and on the internet, etc. If a nonbeliever comes upon it, so be it. Maybe they will come to Christ from it or a seed will be planted. After all, I’m sure there are many nonbelievers who think Christians are close minded because they refuse to give any approval to books such as Harry Potter.

I do agree with you that we as Christians should stand out among all other religions because we have the one true religion. We should live in the world but not of the world. However, if we are to disassociate ourselves with all things we’ll end up being in our own little corner hidden away. I believe we need to stand up for what is right and stand up against what is wrong. You’re right. There are elements of Christianity in anti-Christian religions and in worldly things. I don’t believe in promoting these things and using them as witnessing tools, but I do believe in comparing them, learning about them, and knowing what they believe so you can show them to those around you and say, “see, this is what the world would have you believe, but I have the one real truth that is in Jesus Christ and let me tell you why.” It is also good to have a background in other religions so you can understand and relate to others you wish to witness to who are unbelievers.

I know you must be careful in this, though, because the Devil can easily snare you into a trap when you explore such things. I would never want to color my Christianity with secular fads or worldly cultures. Yes, the Bible is the superior truth. It should be our number one priority in everything: in life and in witnessing. I think the Potter series still has something to offer, though. I won’t go around using it as a witnessing tool. As you say, there are far better books and sources that can bring us to a deeper understanding of God. But if someone I know who is not a Christian starts talking about the Potter series, I won’t negelect sharing the reason why I enjoy the series so much. I won’t start right off with the Christian symbolism in the books. The conversation would most likely be mainly about the plot elements of the book and Rowling’s writing style. The first thing I wrote about the last book on my blog was a plain book review. But I’ll still bring up my faith in the conversation. I’ll still talk about it on my blog a little. No one really reads my blog anyway.

I know there are real witchcraft elements in the Potter books. I have read a little about that and addressed it in my comments to another post at: http://www.sicarii.net/2007/07…..s-hogwash/

As far as Rowling as a person goes, I agree with all the comments you’ve made about her and the groups she supports. I do not think the person defines the books, however. One of my favorite authors is George Macdonald, whose stories are full of Christian symbolism. But I disagree with most of the doctrine he preached. So I think that on much of this we’ll have to agree to disagree, but we have already found much that we do agree on.

1 comment:

Casey said...

I don't have anything to add to the debate, I just thought I'd share something funny I read on a forum today. The guy said that Harry Potter is the "literary equivalent of MacDonald's." I thought that was hilarious. You could, of course, substitute Harry Potter with the name of some other book you didn't like. :)