A Christian Author’s Perspective on Harry Potter

I decided to plunge into murky waters.

When the Harry Potter series first came out, I was at the end of my high school career in a Christian school. The subject matter didn’t really appeal to me, and that was good, because in those days the Christian world recoiled at the idea of Harry Potter. Wizards tend to be accepted, but witches? N. O. Dark magic? Unthinkable. So because I was older than the target audience and fully enveloped in Christian culture, Harry Potter was off limits.

Now the series is 20 years old, and these stories are still going strong. J.K. Rowling is touted as the world’s first author billionaire, due to the success of the books, movies, and theme parks. (Holy cow. Theme parks? Could you imagine creating a storyline and characters that spawn theme parks?) Not only do I write, but I study as much about writing as I can in hopes of improving my craft. And Rowling comes up time and again as examples of what to do. As far as I can tell, she is held at the pinnacle of contemporary children’s literature right now, and as a children’s author I would be remiss not to take note.

So I decided it was time to read them. I borrowed the series from a friend and opened the first book with much trepidation. I’m not really scared of the subject matter anymore, but I’m not really into fantasy, and I was afraid the story just wouldn’t grab me.

It did. The hype is legit.

I read the first three books in one week, and I was almost halfway through the second book before I remembered that I was supposed to be analyzing these stories to find out why they are so popular. The fact is they are simply well-written, amazing stories, with likable, (or dislikable,) relatable characters. A good story should make you forget that you’re reading a story, and these stories absolutely do that.

I don’t really need to convince the rest of the world of the merits of the Harry Potter series. I am decidedly behind the times on this one. (Obviously.) But I did want to address it from a Christian perspective, especially the perspective a parent and author.

I think the biggest roadblock to Christians is the magic aspect. Yes, there are wizards and (gasp) witches and cauldrons and magic spells. But another very important part of the story is the fact that this world of magic is to be kept separate from the normal (Muggle) world. I think Christians balk at the idea of magic because they are concerned kids might try to translate that to our normal life, and the Bible is pretty clear on rejecting sorcery in our practical lives. But in the story, magic isn’t used in the practical lives of normal people. It is only used in the context of the wizard world, and they deliberately keep it there. They even have a government agency monitoring that fact. So when you a.) remember that this is a work of fiction and b.) see the lengths Rowling has gone to keep magic where it belongs, I think the question of magic is answered. And here is the most unpopular statement I’ll make today: If a Christian is going to reject Harry Potter solely on the basis of magic, then they must reject Lord of the Rings for the same reason.

Neither Harry Potter nor Lord of the Rings mention God, or even Satan for that matter. But they both constantly discuss good and evil. And both strongly oppose evil and strongly advocate for good. For this reason, as a parent, I have no hesitation in recommending either series to young readers. As with everything, parents should use the topics and story lines as springboards for discussion about right and wrong and what the Bible says. But there is no reason to reject it .

As an author, I absolutely recommend these books. The storytelling is impeccable. I have a new standard to strive for.

I know this topic is debatable. Chime in and tell me what you think of this series. Yay or nay?

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10 thoughts on “A Christian Author’s Perspective on Harry Potter

  1. I am, and have been, a Potterhead since 1998-ish. I was an original member of the Leaky Cauldron (fan message board) and even wrote an essay on Harry and the church. I even have Hufflepuff socks, the house I have been sorted into no matter what test I take or how hard I try to get into Gryffendor.
    Check out John Granger’s excellent website Hogwarts Professor. He’s a homeschooling Christian father who is also an English Lit major.
    Even though Rowling herself denies the series is allegorical, it certainly can be viewed as such.
    Welcome to the Hogwarts Express. Grab a pumpkin pastie and enjoy the ride!
    P.S. hoping this won’t get me booted from your dad’s Sunday Scool class ?

    1. I haven’t yet sorted myself, but I was waiting to finish the series. I’m in the middle of book 4. I have a distinct feeling I’ll probably be Ravenclaw, though.
      P.S. Hoping this won’t get me booted from my dad’s good favor. 🙂

  2. I have read and enjoyed the series (I have a Marauder’s Map iPad cover), after several years of avoiding them merely because “Christian culture” said we were supposed to. I see many of the positives you do. As a pastor, and as a parent I have generally urged cautious acceptance of the books. Each parent should know their children’s ability to separate fiction from reality, and act accordingly. My oldest son is a voracious reader. When I felt he was old enough I began reading the 1st H.P. book with him out loud. It took a while, but we were able to talk about any issues that came up. After we finished the book he could watch the movie. Last week we finished the 6th book. Because he is older and we have 4 kids now I let him read that one on his own, but we still discuss after each chapter. I think that along with Lewis, Tolkien, and modern day writers such as Andrew Peterson, stories open our minds to creative thoughts that allow us to experience or understand the gospel in ways that we otherwise would miss. For me, I’m secure in believing that no matter how many great stories come along, the GOSPEL is always going to be the greatest story ever told.

    1. You’re absolutely right. As with everything, parents should weigh this against the maturity level/understanding of each child individually. I think I would definitely tell any parent who is still skeptical or nervous to either do what you did and read it with their child, or read for themselves first. Parents get the ultimate call on this one.

  3. If Christians are going to reject the books on the basis of Magic they have a lot more than Lord of the Rings to reject!! They also have to reject that bastion of “Christian Children’s Literature” The Chronicles of Narnia!!! Tons of magic in that book, the animals talk for crying out loud!! Harry Potter was one of those that I wrestled with too. The only plus was that it got my kids reading when they thought they were getting away with something!! Then as you know they were hooked!! We had a near riot over who would get to read the last book first!! (Ended up buying 2 copies!)

  4. Thank you SO much for this post! I’ve been pondering this for a while now…having totally missed out on a cultural phenomenon because I was a good Christian girl who only read CS Lewis, Tolken, L’Engle, and Tim LaHaye’s nightmare inducing “kids” series. But not that wicked Harry Potter nonsense. With kids in late elementary now I’ve been wondering if perhaps I missed something. Well, can’t thank you enough for your perspective and am now looking forward to reading them! Great post!

  5. I’ve been a Potter fan for nearly 20 years, which seems not only impossible but clearly very sobering about how quickly I am aging, but that’s a whole other story! Having read other fantasy stories as a child, and Narnia and similar company, I didn’t flinch and was always confused by the Christian backlash. Two years ago at a homeschooling conference I heard a professor speak on the subject of wonder in children and their need for keeping wonder alive in childhood. Harry Potter came up and I braced myself for what I knew was coming. Sure enough, someone raised their hand and began with “my pastor says we shouldn’t read Harry Potter!” This man answered in one of the most intelligent responses that I have heard on the topic and if I could get the transcript I would! He said that the kind of “magic” we see in these stories is not the kind of magic that we will see playing out if you joined the local Wiccan circle or even a satanic group. No one is actually flying on a broomstick, quidditch (despite our deepest desires) is not actually happening, magic is not actually transporting through the waving of a wand. These things live in the realm of fantasy, of make believe and therefore not being real it isn’t ungodly to enjoy these stories. Even though the world of Harry Potter is so beautifully crafted we know that it doesn’t exist, other than in our imagination. And just as we can imagine stories about Peter Rabbit sneaking around Mr. McGregor’s garden and having grand adventures, we know that his mother is not actually seeing him a new coat somewhere in the trunk of a tree and serving chamomile tea to the other children. Just as we knew that the way through the wardrobe and into Narnia didn’t exist though how wonderful to imagine that it could. Imagination and wonder need to have their place in our lives and in the lives of our children.

    This conversation always brings to mind one of my favourite G.K. Chesterton quote : ” Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” Sometimes stories removed from what we face daily are the best way to show us how to fight the dragons in our lives, without naming them perhaps but acknowledging that we all want some way of facing them.

    I’m so thrilled that you are enjoying the series! We consider them a treasure in our home!

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