Forgive me for being a bit jaded by this controversy, but most Harry Potter opponents belong to the same crowd that claims dressing up for Halloween is serving the devil. Me? I always did it for the candy.
With our only child now a junior in college, I’m not quite the expert on children’s literature I once was. Still, as a local church pastor, it’s impossible to escape the uproar surrounding the Harry Potter books and movie, especially since some Christians are loudly denouncing little Harry and his passel of friends.
In one local county, a small but vocal group is trying to get Harry Potter books off school library shelves. One pastor even professed a morbid fear of witches, which he claims the Potter books promote. “I’ve had witches come to my churches!” he said.
The irony is that the devil is better served by churches discrediting their witness over matters such as this, than by anything Harry Potter can do. When Christians appear frantic and frazzled before a fairy tale with immense popular appeal, it makes the Gospel sound like Bad News instead of Good.
Although not a major theme, it is certainly true that the Bible condemns sorcery and witchcraft (Lev 19:26; Gal 5:2). However, it is a far cry from reading a fairy tale on the order of Cinderella, The Wizard of Oz, or Harry Potter and joining a Wiccan coven.
Fairy tales serve the same purpose in modern cultures as myths served in ancient cultures: They allow children (and adults) to project their insecurities and fears into an imaginary world where those fears can be faced and defeated. At its core, the Harry Potter series is about the triumph of good over evil. It is not about glorifying witches or worshiping the devil.
Certainly, with the Harry Potter books and movie—as with all entertainment—parents should exercise diligence in monitoring what their children read and see. But from what I know of this series, there is “nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Feel free to read the books with your kids and enjoy the flick at their side. Then debrief what they have heard and seen and use it as an opportunity to share some really good news—the Good News Christians hold precious: “Greater is He that is in you than he than he that is in the world!” (1 Jn 4:4).
Bob Setzer Jr. is pastor at First Baptist Church in Macon, GA.