Thoughts From a New Harry Potter Fan

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Harry Potter is probably the most popular book series out there today. Everyone has read it, even non-readers. J.K Rowling is a millionaire. There are movies, a theme park, and all sorts of t-shirts, collectibles, and everything you could think of out there. If you haven’t heard of these books by now…you really are living under a rock.

They could also be classified as one of the most controversial topics among Christians, as it has witches, wizards, and a school for training in magic. Should kids be allowed to read it? Is the magic in it dangerous? Countless arguments have been made for both sides of this issue.

Recently, I finally picked up the books for the first time, feeling like I needed to read them in order to form my own opinion. Having just finished the series in the last few weeks, I wanted to share my experience and thoughts with you.

Magic and the Fantasy Genre

First of all, though, there’s a question that needs to be answered: Where should Christians draw the line when it comes to fantasy and magic in books?

I think that reading fantasy is perfectly okay for Christians. I do think we have to be cautious, though; when something starts to merge from the “fantasy” genre into the “supernatural” or “paranormal” genres, it’s probably getting too far.

What are the safest types of magic?

  • There is a power or source to draw on; for example, Star Wars. The hero draws on this magic for his strength and learns to use it over the course of his journey.
  • The magical powers may be gifted to the hero by a higher being, often the God figure of the world the story is set in.

If the magic takes either of these forms, it’s probably safe.

We have to be careful if…

  • The magic comes from a dark source that is not portrayed as evil. The book presents something that is clearly evil as a morally grey area.
  • A book involves demons, Satan, or real witchcraft that is portrayed as morally grey or acceptable. (see my previous post Satan is Real (And It’s Not a Joke)).

If the source of magic is never shown, explained, or alluded to, it can be a red flag. We have to use our best judgment and the context of the rest of the series.

The biggest red flag should be if evil is portrayed as good. (This goes for all of the media we take in.) Books written about spiritual warfare from a Christian perspective should be approached differently than a book about demons and ghosts written by a secular author.

Pay attention to your gut reaction to things. If something makes you uncomfortable, you’ve probably gone too far. For me, anything relating to the actual supernatural world or involving summoning people back from the dead, etc. gives me a really funny feeling in my stomach. It bothers me, and so I know that if something makes me feel that way, I shouldn’t read it.

A good test is to ask yourself whether you know anything new about real practice of witchcraft after you finish reading a book. If the answer is no, it’s likely okay.

Magic in Harry Potter

The thing about the magic in Harry Potter is…the source isn’t really talked about. Basically, as long as there has been a world, there have been people in it that are born with magical powers.

That is important, though: they are born with magical powers. I’ve heard arguments before about the magic being bad because they go to school to learn it, like people in Biblical times or today who actually learned real witchcraft.

But as I read these books, I soon realized that not everyone could go to the school and learn magic. They had to be gifted already. That’s why they call outsiders “Muggles”; those people could not learn magic if they tried.

So my main argument against the books went out the window.

The thing about the magical system in Harry Potter is that it’s all fictional. Yes, it uses spells and wands and potions. Yes, it technically takes place in England. But really, it’s quite a different world. The magic system was completely made up by J.K. Rowling; there are no influences of real-life witchcraft anywhere.

The books also clearly portray good and evil. There are the good characters, and there are the bad characters, and there are the ones who are wavering between sides, but there is never a time when both sides are given sympathy. It is always, always the heroes portrayed as good. We are given no reason to root for Voldemort; he is pure evil, and he is shown as such. That is what is most important to me when I read a fantasy novel.

Overall, the magic in this book never bothered me. I didn’t get any funny stomach feelings. It didn’t seem that much different from the magic in many of the other fantasy books I’ve read; a hero and a villain, battling it out in a fictional, magical world.

I realize that many people may still not want to read it. I understand that it probably goes farther than some Christians are comfortable with, and you should never read anything that makes you uncomfortable. Be consistent with your standards, but for my standards, Harry Potter was fine.

Why I’m Glad I Waited 

That said, I am glad that I wasn’t allowed to read it as a child. Because I waited until I could maturely evaluate the magical content, I also waited until I could fully appreciate the genius.

Having really gained an interest in writing and learned so much about it over the past few years, reading this series was like taking lessons from a master. Because these books are so good. They really, really deserve to be as popular as they are. Since I waited until I knew what good literature was, I could appreciate them as they really should be appreciated.

I also like that I will always be able to remember my experience reading them for the first time. Since I was older, I’ll remember the emotions I felt and the experience of having all of my friends (who had already read them) checking my progress every single day and teasingly hinting at things to come without spoiling anything…

(…except for my friend who gave me a fake spoiler that had me on edge right up until the end of book seven when I finally realized it wasn’t true. Aren’t friends great?)

The point is, I will have a lot of good memories from reading these books, and I can appreciate them so much because of what I know about the craft of writing. So for all of those eight, nine, and ten-year-olds out there who desperately want to read it, wait a few years. You will probably enjoy it more.

What do you think? Have you read Harry Potter? If so, do you like it? If not, why not? What are your opinions on magic in books? This is a big topic (I’m sorry the post got so long…), so share your opinions with me in the comments! 

love, grace

 

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21 thoughts on “Thoughts From a New Harry Potter Fan

  1. Ashley says:

    I “just” wrote two posts about this, and we totally came to the same conclusions. YAY! 😛 One thing I’d add is that I think there’s a slight discrepancy with the magic thing, because the same parents who don’t let their kids read Harry Potter totally let them read Narnia and Lord of the Rings and watch Frozen. Elsa’s magic doesn’t have a source (as far as we know), so why is it so different from Harry’s? The only instance in HP where there’s Biblically evil magic portrayed as good is the Divination class – but even Hermione thinks it’s stupid.

    I think Harry is more of an age thing. Kids need a strong Biblical foundation before their parents let differing worldviews into their homes, but I’m all for eventually allowing those differing worldviews in. Otherwise, where would the kids learn how to test what they believe and make their convictions their own?

    (Oh and I wrote the “sweet short story” you linked to recently and found this post through that post. Love your blog!!!)

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    • graceevalyn says:

      The discrepancy is definitely one of the major issues I see with the whole Harry Potter thing! I tried to stress having consistent standards for your fantasy because of that. And oh yes- I should have mentioned Divination. That was the one part I was a little iffy about. Because everyone hated it and she made it sound ridiculous, but then “redeemed” it a little later on? And so I wasn’t really sure what exactly she was trying to say about that branch of magic.
      And I TOTALLY agree with everything you said about differing worldviews and stuff! Definitely true!

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      • Ashley says:

        Definitely! That was the only part that weirded me out a little, too. Yeah, she ended up being right, but it wasn’t specific (because Neville could’ve been the Chosen One since he was born at the end of July, too). I do know that Jo is a Seventh Day Adventist (mayyyyybe even a Christian?) and that she just used the magic as a plot device, so I wouldn’t put much stock in the legitimacy of the “magic” she used in the books.

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        • graceevalyn says:

          Yeah, the biggest thing that made me okay with the magic was how unreal it all was (it is fantasy, after all). Like my dad asked me after I finished, “Do you feel like you know anymore about real witchcraft than you did before you read the books?” And the answer is definitely a resounding NO. It’s all fantasy and completely made-up.

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        • Ashley says:

          YES. Personally, it’s so ridiculous (or should I say riddikulus ehhhhh XD) whenever people tell me that Harry Potter has real occult witchcraft in it. I’m just like, “Excuse me, have you read the books? Have you studied or even looked into the magic that’s in them? Well, okay then. Go do that, THEN we’ll talk.” 😛 (I don’t say that, btw. I’m a nice, nonconflict-loving person. XD)

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        • graceevalyn says:

          Haha same with the nonconflictness 🙂
          But yes! I think it’s absolutely okay for people to opt not to read them just to err on the side of caution, but those people shouldn’t attempt to argue against them from the same standpoint as someone who’s read them. That is “riddikulus”!

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  2. hannah rodriguez says:

    I haven’t read them for the reason of the magic. I mean yeah LOTR had magic and wizards but in my opinion LOTR had more opportunity for biblical parallel whereas Harry Potter seems to be wizards and whatnot. Yes, you could say that both are essentially bad but yeah. Maybe I would read them eventually but maybe not. I do agree with the fact that kids reading can get confused.
    This was a good post!!!!

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    • graceevalyn says:

      I definitely think that knowing Tolkien was a Christian makes a huge difference in how we approach LOTR vs. Harry Potter and other secular books. The worldview of Harry Potter isn’t bad per se, but it is missing that extra sense of something that LOTR and Narnia have. Which is why we love them so much! Secular books can never come close to the masterful allegory of the classic Christian writers.
      Glad you liked the post!

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  3. Amanda Beguerie says:

    This is really cool, Grace! Thanks for sharing!
    I’m sixteen now. My parents never let me read the HP books as a child, but I’m kind of glad they didn’t. I think that a lot of Christian kids can get confused about what magic (witchcraft) is bad, and what other magic (fantasy) is fine.
    So as much as I haven’t read the books yet, I might in the future. I think the most important thing is discernment, as you said. “Is anything bad here portrayed as a good thing?” I always ask myself that question as I’m reading. And if bad is portrayed as good in any way, can I seperate in my head what’s right and what’s wrong, or am I lowering my standards?

    I waited until I was fifteen to read The Hunger Games, and I fell in love with that series. Becuase while the whole “killing children” thing is obviously bad, it was NEVER good in the way that the books were written. The characters fought against the evil government, and death like that was totally, absolutely WRONG. But I’m not sure if I would have totaly understood that when I was, say, eleven, and all my friends were reading them.

    Thanks for this post! ❤

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    • graceevalyn says:

      I’m so glad you liked it! I definitely think it’s important to wait until we can read these secular books with discernment and maturity, and usually they are just as enjoyable for a teen as they are for younger kids, if not more. Sometimes we forget that these books (not sure about Harry Potter, but definitely Hunger Games) are marketed as young adult books, not children’s books, and were really written more for a teenage reader than an eleven-year-old reader. Waiting until you’re truly ready to read something certainly doesn’t hurt anything, and is far better than being forced into adulthood too soon by a book too mature for your age.

      Liked by 1 person

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