By Elizabeth Prata
A reader asked about the Harry Potter books, and if I’d do a critique. I have only read two of books in that series, so I can’t do a deep critique, but I can offer a few thoughts.
With having read just two Harry Potter books, so I don’t have a lot to go on. I haven’t read the Narnia series either, and those books contain witchcraft and other magical elements, too. And JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, which I have read all of, many times, also contains the same.
Christians go bananas over Narnia (I never saw the draw, myself) but also go to the extreme negative over Harry Potter. All three authors claimed to be Christian and all 3 books have overt Christian symbolism and references and allusions.
The occult is a dangerous element to play with, in movies or books or TikToks or anywhere. It represents satan trying to get into the minds of the unwary, to pollute it. It is good to be careful. In Harry Potter the magic does seem to be devoid of a moral compass, while for example in Tolkien’s books the difference between good and evil was stark. Gandalf the Wizard refused to use the ring for ‘good’ because he knew he should not even touch the ring and taught Frodo why, because its inherent evil will gradually overtake a person who wears it.
I think we can be overly-sensitive on the other side. LOTS and LOTS of books and movies contain the exact same elements of occult as Harry Potter but people don’t bat an eye. How about Disney’s 1937 movie Snow White? There’s a witch, there’s casting spells, Magic Mirror, evil, etc. Aladdin? Magic carpet, genie, spells, etc. The Marvel Universe? Loki and Thor are based on false gods of Norse Mythology.
What one parent deems unsuitable, another many deem perfectly fine. Some parents decide not to allow their kids to read the Potter books while other parents do. It is in Christian liberty that one parent decides on thing while another parent decides another. And we’re not privy to ALL their decisions and why, so if they allow their kids to read Harry Potter, or see Snow White, or watch Thor, we might not have the full picture of the internal family discussions that went on, or the devotionals that happen and discussions around it. Parents’ knowledge of their child’s maturity level plays a big role, too. Part of Christian liberty is restraining the impulse to judge another family for their decisions, especially if they differ from ours.
The Bible shows in Revelation that spells, sorceries, false signs and wonders existed and even exist today, since 2 Thessalonians 2:9, Matthew 24:24, Revelation 13:13, and other verses state the fact that ‘witchcraft’ AKA false signs and wonders do happen. I think it’s important to let Christian kids and youths know this, and teach them to be discerning about the holy vs unholy activity. Unholy, demonic activity exists in real life, and in my opinion we don’t need to seek it out in our entertainment. We don’t need to delve into occult, but the Bible is replete with the fact that magicians can and do perform (Moses’ opposition in front of Pharaoh, the sorcerers could match Moses staff for staff, for a while). Watching a movie or reading a book that happen to contain such elements can be instructive and used as a caution.
On the other hand, reactions can be too UNDERstated, as in the newest addition to Disney’s stable of films aimed at kids, Cruella. From what I’ve read, the movie is dark, dark all the way through, and it is sympathetic toward its central evil character, who chose to be evil with no repercussions throughout the film. It even softens evil itself. This is a trend begun openly with the film Maleficent.
Disney is sly in introducing ungodliness and even humanistic worldviews in its movies. The corporation’s slyness makes it hard to pick out exactly what’s wrong and why kids should not watch, as opposed to Harry Potter type material where one can point to “witchcraft” and say ‘NO!” Disney is the bigger danger, IMO. For example, have you noticed that most Disney animated movies lack a mother? Cumulatively, a child on a steady diet of Disney movies will subtly absorb that fact. The insidiousness is what is dangerous. I’d rather have a Harry Potter or a Thor movie to point to the obvious.
"The heroes and heroines of most Disney movies come from unstable family backgrounds; most are either orphaned or have no mothers. Few, if any, have only single-parent mothers. In other instances, mothers are presented as "bad surrogates" eventually "punished for their misdeeds." There is much debate about the reasoning behind this phenomenon." (Source).
I think Disney’s insidious softening toward evil, the lack of mothers, and the “follow your heart” mantra in almost all their movies is cumulatively worse than an overt display of spells or magic. Kids understand magic is fairy tale, but won’t realize Disney’s subsurface agenda and will acceptingly absorb it.
As with anything involving discernment and especially with children, I believe it’s up to the individual or parent in Christian liberty to watch or read according to the level of maturity the person or child has, and to guard and converse copiously with kids as to the meaning and intent of the movie’s moral compass then to compare to the Bible. For some, Harry Potter is a no go, for others, it’s perfectly fine while anything by Madeleine L’Engle is not!
Last, I personally believe that opposition when it’s this pitched has more than opposition behind it. It’s a fad. Harry Potter was spoken against by the head of the ministry Focus on the Family, and that fanned the flames and embedded against the minds of many people, who unreasoningly oppose Potter without explicitly knowing why. That opposition has hardened into the general Christian consciousness like cement.
I see the same thing happening with The Chosen TV series. Opposition is pitched and almost manic, but after I watched season 1, I found only a very few things of concern and far more to applaud, yet any opposition against the awful and heretical Roma Downey “Bible” tv series of ten years ago from these same people was minimal or silent! It was even taught in churches! Gah!
The conclusion is, sisters, go with your own discernment and your husband’s, not the general population’s, some of whom may be individually discerning but also many of whom just jump on a bandwagon unreasoningly.
Decide for yourself what is best for yourself and family based on thoughtful and prayerful Bible beliefs where the Bible is clear and common sense where it is not.