I was one of those teenagers who vehemently opposed Harry Potter a little more than two decades ago. “Witchcraft!,” I cried. Back then, I was uninitiated and untrained in fiction and fantasy. So I quite understand how the Harry Potter phenomenon can be misconstrued in some Christian circles. Jerram Barrs, professor of Christian Studies and Contemporary Culture at Covenant Theological Seminary in St Louis, Missouri shares three reasons why people attack the boy wizard created by J. K. Rowling:
1. Because the books bring readers into an imaginary world of magic and wizards, many Christians say they teach occult practice.
2. The second criticism leveled is that the books teach a rebellious attitude against authority. Critics cite the way Harry sometimes responds to his uncle and aunt who are raising him as proof of this — though it has to be said that the uncle and aunt treat him very poorly (to say the least, for they are abominably cruel guardians).
3. Thirdly, there are many Christians who simply say that fantasy is dangerous, and that to present this kind of fantasy world to children is automatically hazardous to them.
At the same time, he offers positive remarks:
1. These books are great fun (just consider a game like Quidditch!).
2. J.K. Rowling has created a delightful world of the imagination. She has constructed an alternative universe, another dimension (rather like C.S. Lewis’s Narnia or J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth), but, right within our world. For those who have a problem with the idea of fantasy and alternative universes – we need to recognize that almost all children play imaginative games in their minds starting at a very young age and have no difficulty whatsoever in distinguishing between fantasy and reality.
3. The books are well written. Try reading them aloud – this is the simplest test of good writing.
4. The multitude of characters in the books. J.K. Rowling has brought into being an entire portrait gallery of people, adults and also children who are growing up book by book.
5. Additionally, the Harry Potter books send a strong message about moral behavior.
There are beautiful and enjoyable human relationships among the characters, and there is a depth of commitment and service among them.
The characteristics celebrated in the relationships are friendship, loyalty, integrity, kindness, and self-sacrifice. Harry Potter himself is prepared to set aside his own success, in order to serve his friends. These are qualities in which we can all delight.
There is also a very clear portrayal of the distinction between good and evil —
Both the appalling destructiveness of evil to human life
And the beneficial fruit of treating people with justice, kindness, mercy, faithfulness, and integrity.
It is particularly significant that the books recognize that goodness and faithfulness in relationships have a cost.
Virtue is rewarded primarily in terms of character development and the increasing depths of relationships among the characters, rather than through the attainment of popularity or success.
J.K. Rowling also has a very deep understanding of the folly of those who turn their eyes blindly towards evil and of evil’s destructive consequences.
6. Finally, I see the books as valuable because they consistently include the three fundamental themes that can be found as a subtext in almost all good literature:
– The beauty of creation
– The appalling reality of evil
– The universal human longing for redemption — for a better world
– These themes touch the way the world truly is, the way God has made it
You can read more in this whole article, or listen to what Professor Barrs has to say about the redemptive themes found in the novels:
You may have different opinions regarding Harry Potter. But Professor Barrs offers helpful thoughts, if you are still on the fence.
I regard Harry Potter as a work of fiction. In my opinion, it should not be regarded as a guide for the occult/witchcraft/sorcery. These days, I qualify these discussions under the umbrella of Christian liberty—the same way I would approach a Christian who chooses to be vegetarian, for some reason.
However, if you wish to delve deeper, here are other articles who say otherwise:
- “Is Harry Potter Really Necessary?” by C. Matthew McMahon
- “Why Harry Potter Isn’t A Christian Allegory” by John McWilliams
- “Harry Potter and the Allure of the Magical World” by R. Scott Clark