I had not read a Harry Potter book until this summer. I had not watched any of the movies either. With the arrival of the seventh and final volume of this record-breaking series, I decided it was time to find out for myself what this phenomenon was all about. I was aware that for many Christians the Potter books were problematic, so I also wanted to read with a critical eye while looking for what was drawing millions to the Harry Potter fan club.
While at the Lancaster County library on the weekend that the last book hit the bookstores, I decided to check out the first book. They were all checked out, but in the community room there was a Harry Potter celebration going on and a stack of brand new paperback editions of the first two books in the series. I took one of each and began to read.
Just finished reading my second Harry Potter book–The Chamber of Secrets. I am now beginning–Looking for God in Harry Potter, by John Granger. I am beginning to form my own views on the Harry Potter phenomenon. I don’t think I would let my kids read them by themselves at this point (Mackenzie in particular was curious and kept asking me what I thought about the books as I was reading them). I would think that reading the books together (with discretion as to what each child is like) would be advisable.
Granger’s thesis is essentially this: As images of God designed for life in Christ, all humans naturally resonate with stories that reflect the greatest story ever told–the story of God who became man.
Granger considers himself a “traditional Christian” who went from “Harry-resistant” to “Harry-embracing,” even “Harry-enthusiastic.” His education is in the classics of the Western canon. Here are some of his points:
- The Harry Potter novels, the best-selling books in publishing history, touch our hearts because they contain themes, imagery, and engaging stories that echo the Great Story we are wired to receive and respond to.
- The Harry Potter books are excellent vehicles for parents wanting to share the Christian message of love’s victory over death, of our relationship to God the Father through Christ, even of Christ’s two natures and singular essence. Based on our reading of Harry Potter, I have had conversations with my children about heaven and hell, the work of the devil in the world, and our hope in Christ.
- I am convinced that the fundamental reason for the astonishing popularity of the Harry Potter novels is their ability to meet a spiritual longing for some experience of the truths of life, love, and death taught by Christianity but denied by secular culture.
- Despite initially having forbidden my children to read the Rowling books, reading them myself has convinced me that the magic in Harry Potter is no more likely to encourage real-life witchcraft than time travel in science fiction novels encourages readers to seek passage to previous centuries. Loving families have much to celebrate in these stories and little, if anything, to fear. I say this without hesitation because the magic in Harry Potter is not “sorcery” or invocational magic. In keeping with a long tradition of English fantasy, the magic practiced in the Potter books, by hero and villain alike, is incantational magic, a magic that shows–in story form–our human thirst for reality beyond the physical world around us.
My impression of the series after having just recently read the first two books is in line with Granger’s thesis. I am working on a piece that would articulate a more measured response to the Harry Potter books from a Christian perspective.