Friday, June 15, 2012

Harry Potter

This is a post I've had sitting in my draft folder, unfinished, for months. I haven't been afraid to post this - although Harry Potter can be a controversial topic - I just haven't had the time to finish it.

I started this back in November when the Authentic People Blog Party was going on. One of the girls who participated (and now I don't remember what blog this was), linked to a post she had written on Harry Potter. This post of mine started as response to her post and arguments on her view of Harry Potter.
And then my last Logic assignment of the year (yes I take a Logic class in school), was to create an argument following Thomas Aquinas's Summa argument format. We could choose any topic. After much consideration I chose Harry Potter. And I'm so glad I did. For those of you who don't know, Aquinas's Summa argument format is the following:

Obj. 1
Obj. 2
Obj. 3
On the Contrary
My Answer
Reply to Obj. 1
Reply to Obj. 2
Reply to Obj. 3

If you know me than you know that Harry Potter is something I am quite passionate about, because not only is it my favorite series of books ever, but I believe it has a lot of depth and is not at all just a "kids book". Please don't stop reading this just because I said I love Harry Potter. For this logic assignment I spent a lot of time researching and analyzing both sides of the argument and did my best to present both sides fairly.

And so I know this is long but I hope you read it no matter what your opinion is on this matter.

Question: Is it morally wrong to read Harry Potter?

{The following objections are all variations of arguments I have heard or read against Harry Potter.}

>Obj. 1: It is morally wrong to go against the Bible. In Deuteronomy 18:10 it states “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft.”  Harry Potter is an entire series about witchcraft and sorcery.  We should not be supporting something so obviously sinful.  Therefore Harry Potter is morally wrong.

>Obj. 2: In Harry Potter magic isn’t just discussed and used, it is taught. Harry goes to a boarding school called Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There he {Harry} and all the other students have classes where they learn how to perform spells, brew potions and control magic. There is even a class introduced in the third book called “Divination” where they study tea leaves and look in crystal balls to predict events in the future. As the previously used scripture verse clearly states, you must avoid all forms of divination, sorcery and witchcraft. In other magic filled stories, the magic takes place in an alternate universe, another world. But in Harry Potter, by having a school, in our modern day world, that teaches sorcery, witchcraft and divination, the series is exciting kids about the possibilities of possessing magic, and encouraging them to look into real occults to learn magic themselves.

>Obj. 3: Watching or reading Harry Potter poses a dangerous threat to our souls. Even if we believe there is a difference between “real” witchcraft and the “fake” witchcraft in Harry Potter, even if we are strong Christians rooted in Christ who are just “reading for fun”, it is harmful and displeasing to God. Just as watching or reading an inappropriate scene in a romance movie or book, even if we would never engage in the sinful act ourselves, is sinful, so is reading about witchcraft and sorcery, even if we have no intention of trying to do witchcraft. Sin is a part of our world, and it appears in a variation of forms in every story from lying to stealing to fighting to murders to adultery and in the case of Harry Potter, sorcery. However the morally right stories are the ones where the good is celebrated and encouraged and eventually defeats the bad. Harry Potter blurs the lines between good and evil and although the “good” side eventually wins, the “bad” and “good” side were both committing the same evil in the first place, sorcery. In this way, J.K. Rowling, cunningly disguises the genuine evil of the sorcery by having the main hero use sorcery to defeat the “bad” sorcery. This confuses kids into believing that sorcery can be used for good, and is not all evil. In Harry Potter, the “good” that is celebrated and encouraged and eventually comes out victorious is itself intrinsically evil and is not, therefore, “good” in the sense of right versus wrong. So therefore, the danger of reading Harry Potter, especially if one gets emotionally invested in the characters, is the fact that it dulls ones conscience, and blurs the lines between what is truly good and what appears to be good.

>On the Contrary:  According to Chuck Colson, Harry and his friends "develop courage, loyalty, and a willingness to sacrifice for one another-even at the risk of their lives. Not bad lessons in a self-centered world." He dismisses the magic and sorcery in the books as "purely mechanical, as opposed to occultic. That is, Harry and his friends cast spells, read crystal balls, and turn themselves into animals-but they don't make contact with a supernatural world…. [It's not] the kind of real-life witchcraft the Bible condemns." (November 2 Breakpoint radio broadcast.) The magic is not the main point or moral of the series. It is a fun background noise that adds to the level of excitement, adventure and fantasy. Instead, the truths found in Harry Potter are inherently good.

>My Answer: It is not morally wrong to read Harry Potter. Harry Potter is a classic story following the time-old plot of good versus evil with the good being victorious in the end. The series is an intricate work which weaves together old folk tales, ancient Greek and Roman myths, inherent Christian truths, adventure, suspense, mystery, and the power of sacrificial love. Harry faces many choices in the seven books and in the end they all boil down to the fact that Harry must choose between what is right and what is easy. He was born to die, and by his death and then “resurrection” he saved the world. Sound familiar? It should. This is such a clear Christian allegory. Christ sacrificed himself to save us and then rose again. Harry of course is not perfect, like Christ, but he is the Christ-like figure in the series. In the end he must sacrifice himself to the point of death to defeat the evil and save the innocent. Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, says several profound lines, such as “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love.” (Deathly Hallows) and “As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.” (Sorcerer’s Stone). And in Harry Potter, the power of sacrificial love is what comes out victorious and it is more powerful than the strongest magic. These truths and themes do not contradict the Bible or go against Christian teachings. Rather they exemplify and provide Christian allegories for Christians to appreciate and ponder.

>Reply to Obj. 1: Yes, witchcraft and sorcery are evil and they are very much real. And the Bible does warn against them. However, Harry Potter, while a very magic-filled book, does not contain any sorcery or witchcraft at all.  The very definition of sorcery is "the art, practices, or spells of a person who is supposed to exercise supernatural powers through the aid of evil spirits; black magic; witchery" and the definition of witchcraft is "sorcery; black magic". The magic in Harry Potter is different; the only way a person in HP can use magic is if they were born with it. Nobody who was born without magic, can later on learn how to use magic. There are no spirits, or any other supernatural power aiding in the magic, it's simply a part of their DNA, like some people are born with inherent artistic or athletic abilities and others are born without one or the other.  And while in our world, obviously anyone can learn artistic or athletic skills, again, in HP, if you are not born with magical abilities, you cannot learn them. When you come to this realization it is clear that Harry Potter does not go against the Bible, and is thus, not morally wrong. 

>Reply to Obj. 2: Hogwarts is a school of magic, and yes, the students learn how to cast spells, brew potions and “control” magic. But unlike real witchcraft, there are no supernatural powers involved. A muggle (someone who was not born with magic), would never be able to use magic, even if they attended Hogwarts, used a wand and said an incantation. Because the power of the magic is not something that can be grasped by anyone, it is either given to you at your creation, or not. And there is nothing parents can do to ensure their child has magical abilities, because there are “muggle-borns”, witches and wizards that are born to non-magical parents who had no idea that the wizarding world even existed. Students learn how to control and refine their magic, the same way that an artist learns how to control and refine their art. They do not learn how to gain more magic, or control it in the sense of evil spirits. There is a class called Divination, however it, unlike the rest of the magic in Harry Potter, is clearly implied to be mostly fraudulent. “While “true” witches may try to predict the future using tea leaves, crystal balls, palm reading, and so forth, that kind of magic, far from being endorsed, is derided by both student and teacher alike at Hogwarts and shown to be unreliable guesses at best…Even when a couple of the students claim that a prediction came true, Hermione points out that the prediction only appears to have come true, but really did not.” (Daniel Eaton). It is not until the last book that you find out the reason why Divination was allowed to be taught year after year. Harry Potter is indeed set in our modern day world; however it is in a sense its own world as well. In fact it is even referred to as the “wizarding world” versus the “muggle world”. The wizarding world is completely invisible to muggles and has its own government, education process, and lifestyle. Wizards do not have “muggle” jobs or “muggle” things. They don’t even dress like muggles for the most part, but rather wear long robes and pointed hats. This life of witches and wizards in Harry Potter is so completely different from the real witches that exist in our world.

“ Even if you were to ignore the means to getting to the school, what goes on there is obviously not “real”. Set in a 1,000 year old castle, students take their lessons via torch light using quills and parchment. A trip across a lake with a giant (who has a three-headed dog), a talking “sorting” hat, and a feast under a constantly changing ceiling first welcome the students to Hogwarts. Mail is delivered by owls and pictures and paintings will talk and move. There is no mistaking the magical nature of the environment here and the non-magical nature of the world of Muggles. Children old enough to tackle a 700 page book (the length of the latest installment) are old enough to see that this world is not real. And, according to the Wiccan Internet sites that have discussed this, the few inquiries into Wicca from folks that have read the Harry Potter books do not lead to converts as the life of a Wiccan is nothing like the life that the person is looking for. They are confused about what Wicca really is partially because of the reaction to these books. I dare say that if Christians stop characterizing the books as “witchcraft” and trying to ban them in schools as a “separation of church and state” issue because they teach the recognized religion of Wicca, most children would not think to investigate Wicca.” (Daniel Eaton).

>Reply to Obj. 3: Here again lies the fundamental difference between real witchcraft and the magic in Harry Potter. Real witchcraft goes against everything the Bible teaches and is indeed a serious and dangerous sin. However the magic in Harry Potter is not witchcraft or sorcery. It is a part of every wizard’s DNA and cannot be obtained by any means. You were either born with it or you weren’t. Since the magic in Harry Potter is not real at all, and can not be real at all, it is neither a sin nor a potential sin. The lines between good and evil could not be clearer in this series. And in this distinct magical world, there are of course, both evil and good.  But the evil wizards did not call upon spirits to gather their magic, or use sorcery, but rather they used the magic that was part of their DNA for evil purposes. Much of the thrust of what Dumbledore (the primary teacher of Harry throughout the series) is attempting to teach Harry, is that life is about what you choose to do with whatever gifts you have been given. The series does not revolve around how to get magic, as it is impossible in the series to “get magic”, but instead on how the characters choose to use their magic.In the Harry Potter books, the magic serves as a framework for the story, a technique used by writers as far back as Shakespeare, Tolkien and de Troyes” (Daniel Eaton).

What do you think? Do you agree, disagree? Feel free to honestly state your opinion and ask questions :)

~Mary Kate


  1. Oh my goodness - thank you for posting this. I never really knew the Harry Potter series was such a controversial topic until I joined the blogging world. I love love love Harry Potter and I bring it up all the time with my friends, but it's like I'm afraid to mention it online. I'm glad to have some research to back up my opinion :) This is really well thought-out and well written - go you!

  2. This is wonderful, I read every bit of this! Yes, I believe I agree with you. I love the series as a book and I do not believe in witchcraft or wizardry. It is a series of novels that have a good moral to the story. You are a really good writer, and i can clearly see your point. I didn't know the topic would be so big, but I think this is all solved. Great job!