Why Christians should avoid Harry Potter (2 of 2)
Did you know that, back in the days of the pioneers, digging a well for water could be fatal? Written in the 1800s, an old guide written for homesteaders outlines one of the dangers:
Very great caution should be used in the making of wells, as poisonous gases sometimes collect in them, even in a night, making it fatal to life to venture into them.
It would be a good precaution to lower a lighted candle into the new-made well each morning, before a man ventures down into it. If the light is extinguished in its descent, then the well is dangerous, and before work is proceeded with, it would be a good practice to throw into it a bushel or two of quicklime. This will absorb all the dangerous gases in the well without fail, and render it safe to work in after an hour or so. However, it would be advisable to use the lighted-candle test once more, to ensure safety to those who risk the descent.1
The pioneers checked for poisonous gasses with a lighted candle. As Christians, we should check for spiritual hazards before venturing into entertainment, and we should use the light of Jesus Christ. Does it shine where we intend to go? Satan's heavy and poisonous gasses, which prefer the damp and dark places, may have settled there. We should instead prefer the bright places where God's breath of life is.
I believe the Harry Potter books and movies are an example of this sort of danger. In the first post in this two-part series, we looked at four reasons I believe Christians should avoid Harry Potter:
- It fills our minds with witchcraft
- Kids will role play as Harry and his friends
- It can lead others into sin
- It portrays witchcraft as "cool" and good
Today, I would like to answer common objections and counter-arguments to this position.
Here are a few reasons people give for justifying Harry Potter:
"The magic isn't real."
The first objection is that the magic isn't "true" witchcraft, and so it must be okay. But this is not a good argument. Many things in Hollywood are "fake" or not real. Would you want your child watching a horribly violent movie or a zombie movie, even though those are "fake" or fantasy? Why dabble in witchcraft at all, "authentic" or otherwise? Such dabbling can only develop a child's appetite to learn more about more "authentic" witchcraft.
But in any case, is the magic in Harry Potter so fake as is claimed? According to one online article:
Unashamed, a spokesman for Warner Brothers stated: "The film is an accurate portrayal of things that happen in Witchcraft."2
I once read the post of a professing Christian online who said something like, "Don't worry--the magic in Harry Potter isn't real. I've tried it, and it doesn't work." That is extremely dangerous and foolish. We should have nothing to do with wickedness. If you play with fire, you will get burned sooner or later.
"It's just child fantasy."
Zombie movies are fantasy, as are some bizarre horror movies. Just because it is fiction does not make it safe. "But it's geared for children," you say; "It can't be that bad." Just because something targets children does not make it safe either. We are often extra cautious when giving children medicine, ensuring that the label says it is "child safe." If we use such caution with what we give children physically, we should use even more caution spiritually. Harry Potter comes with a label that says "Child Safe," but it is a lie. Look at the back in the ingredients section and you will find the dangerous poisons of wizardry and sorcery at the top of the list. The child-friendly packaging only makes it all the more dangerous.
"But my child finally loves to read!"
It is good for children to read and learn, but not at the price of their souls. We cannot sacrifice the eternal for the temporal, nor "[sell] the poor for a pair of shoes" (Amos 2:6). If there is even a chance that they will lose their souls over reading these books, then even if they become the greatest academics or the richest business men or women in the world, it will be to their detriment (Matthew 16:26). As much as you care about your child's education, make sure you care about his or her soul infinitely more.
"But the author is a professing Christian."
Matthew 7:21 tells us that many professing Christians are not real. Judas was in Jesus' inner circle of disciples for years and still betrayed Him. More importantly, though, the concerns I have mentioned and which others share is based on the content itself, no matter who the author is. Paul warned the Galatians:
Galatians 1:8 - But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
We need to be careful about accepting something which goes contrary to the Bible just because the author claims to be a Christian. Even if an angel came down from heaven and penned the Harry Potter books before our eyes, based on the general principle of this verse, we should still reject it. If the well is full of poisonous gasses, it will kill whoever descends into it, no matter who dug it.
"The Bible does not condemn watching witchcraft, just practicing it."
What about adultery? Is it okay to watch adultery just because the Bible only condemns practicing it? No, certainly not. Witchcraft is spiritual adultery, replacing God with the devil. (In a future series on magic, I would like to address this objection in more detail, since it is used quite often.)
"But the magic is just a story telling device."
Lots of story telling devices are evil. Other authors use gruesome, descriptive violence and sexual immorality as story telling devices.
"Are you saying we shouldn't watch anything portraying any evil?"
No, for a few reasons. First, the "simple concerning evil" (Romans 16:19) argument does not apply the same to all sins. Everyone is well acquainted with children telling lies, and so when a movie shows a child telling a lie (portrayed as a bad thing), we are not made any "wiser" or "smarter" concerning evil. This is not the case with witchcraft. Kids are born telling lies (Psalm 58:3), but they are not born practicing witchcraft.
Second, witchcraft is spiritual adultery. Just as we wouldn't want to watch a movie that portrayed the sin of physical adultery in detail, neither should we want to watch a movie that portrays spiritual adultery, such as witchcraft, in detail.
Third, Harry Potter portrays witchcraft as good (as we discussed in the previous post). A movie portraying a child telling a lie in a negative light would not match the same criteria.
Fourth, common sense confirms a distinct difference. That may not be very precise, but if you are honest, I think you know that there is a world of difference between an innocent child's movie where a child tells a lie (in a negative light) versus a movie portraying witchcraft. The darkness is so great in these movies about sorcery.
In a sense, all entertainment, and everything on this earth which has been created by man, has been tainted by sin to some extent, even if only in trace amounts. I believe this is why God said in Exodus 20:25: "And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it."
But this in no way justifies watching something so sinful as Harry Potter. By analogy, the relatively clean air all around us may have trace amounts of poison, and we may be able and required to bear it. But we would be concerned for a person who chose to descend down into a pit full of deadly gasses for no other reason than to enjoy their smell! Harry Potter is such a dark form of entertainment that we must ask God to forgive us for desiring to be entertained by it.
"But it teaches some good moral lessons."
Eating an abundance of poison to get to the few bits of cheese would be foolish, and so it is with Harry Potter. From the author of the article we cited previously, "A story about Adolf Hitler and his cronies could also exhibit courage, bravery and friendship."2 The stories of courage and loyalty are just the bits of cheese in the poison, and even these seemingly "good" parts have been mixed with evil. If you want to teach good moral lessons, there is plenty of godly entertainment which does that.
In the last post, we saw four reasons I believe Christians should avoid Harry Potter. This time we addressed some of the common responses justifying the books and movies. The bottom line is this: Harry Potter is a dark and dangerous series which fills our minds with thoughts and ideas contrary to the Word of God; and worse, it causes us to dabble in witchcraft, placing us only a few conceptual steps from Satan himself. Christians should avoid it as they would avoid a well full of poisonous gasses, which progressively takes away a person's clarity of thought until he collapses and faints.
Laura Ingalls Wilder tells the story of how when she was a little girl, the family's neighbor, Mr. Scott, neglected Pa Ingalls's advice to send a candle into the well before going down to continue digging. He did not send the candle on the day when the gasses had collected, and so he fainted in the well. Pa had to risk his own life to save him. After the whole ordeal, Mr. Scott said:
"You were right about that candle business, Ingalls. I thought it was all foolishness and I would not bother with it, but I've found out my mistake."
"Well," said Pa, "where a light can't live, I know I can't."3
And neither can we live in a place where the light of Jesus Christ does not shine. Let's resolve to dwell only where the light of Jesus shines brightly, and in so doing, we will keep our hearts.
Dwyer, C. P., The Homestead Builder: Practical Hints for Handy-men, tenth edition; The Lyons Press; originally published 1872; pp. 19-20 ↩
Wilder, Laura Ingalls, Little House on the Prairie; HopperCollins Publishers, Inc., c1935; ISBN 0-06-026445-4; p. 157 ↩