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|What's a Christian To Do With Harry Potter?|
by Connie Neal
WaterBrook Press, 2001
Recommended by: Bill Bader
What's a Christian To Do With Harry Potter is a handbook, not a detailed, in-depth analysis. This makes it more accessible to the average reader who simply wants to know whether it's safe to let his or her children read the books.
Neal shows that there are no significant contradictions between the values taught by Jesus and those in the Harry Potter books. She cites Old Testament and New Testament references making it clear that Harry Potter is sound, not suspect. For example, many of Harry Potter's critics complain that Harry and his friends lie to gain their ends. However, she describes the story in Joshua 2, showing Rahab the prostitute lying to guard the lives of two of Joshua's spies. She even mentions that Rahab is one of only four women listed in Jesus' genealogy. Neal points out that this shows that morality can trump strict obedience to the law. The key is in having the wisdom to know when to break the law.
Remember that these books are about children. They are not always going to behave. They will lie, cheat, steal, and sin in other ways. However, Harry shows a deep desire to do right. Dumbledore reminds Harry of this when they recall that the Sorting Hat could have put Harry into Slytherin House, but instead went with Harry's desire to be in Gryffindor. This shows the true nature of Harry's heart. And it's the heart that guides us: "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Proverbs 23:7, KJV) This shows the difference between Harry and company and Draco and his company. Harry's gang desire to do right, Draco's followers actively seek evil.
The strongest complaint among Christians is that the books promote witchcraft, satanism, and the like. However, Neal says that nowhere are there any signs of Biblically-forbidden behavior: occult activity, summoning demons (or Satan), divination, and so on. The magic in the Harry Potter books is closer to the telekinesis that's a staple in science fiction and fantasy. In fact, the one teacher who instructs students in divination makes predictions that are so vague as to be useless, and is generally seen as a buffoon.
Neal also reveals that Rowling made up the magic words using terms derived (mostly) from Latin. They have no real-world equivalents. When children tell her they're casting her spells, she tells them, "Don't bother. They don't work."
The last two chapters are the most significant, IMHO. Both discuss using the books as teaching tools and as beginnings of discussions with children and with adults. There are even tables (on pp. 92-3 and 99) clarifying the disagreements between the pro and the con factions. And since the HP books don't enter the areas of doctine, they remain what Paul calls disputable matters.
My only real criticism is that Neal takes a lukewarm approach: one can read the HP books as if they're written from a Christian perspective. But since Rowling hasn't ever stated anything about this, Neal avoids speculation. Considering the amount of Christian symbolism, references and values that permeate the books, I think Neal could have come out more strongly regarding this aspect of the books. And this is a small quibble. (September, 2003)
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