Harry Potter

and the Philosopher’s Stone

By Len DenBraber 

Book Review

This month I thought I would do something different—and put myself squarely in the path of controversy—by reviewing a popular, controversial and secular book. Harry Potter has been debated on Christian radio, in Christian magazines and by Christians on the Internet via chat rooms and email. In fact, I seem to recall seeing an entire book with a title something like, “What’s Wrong with Harry Potter?” written about the Harry Potter series. Now that the movie is scheduled to release this month, the controversy has heated up again. Rather than go by what others have said, I thought I would read the book for myself.

To be honest, I was surprised. Even though I love this genre of literature (Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings), I didn’t think I would enjoy Harry Potter. The fact of the matter is, Harry Potter is a fun story of adventure and action reminiscent of books like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis). Although not in the same league as these classics, it is well written, entertaining (even for adults) and uses some clever literary devices. The use of magic in the story—a concern for most believers—is really an accessory to the plot, rather than the focus of the book. Values like friendship, loyalty and forgiveness are encouraged. All in all, a good read!

So, what is wrong with Harry Potter? My concern is that there were a number of subtle, negative messages in this book. First, most of the adults in Harry’s life are portrayed as cruel (i.e. his Aunt and Uncle) or foolish (i.e. his professors at school). Second, to save the school from destruction by the evil Lord Voldemort, Harry must break all the rules. In the end, he is rewarded for this! Third, non-magical people are regarded as second-class beings and commonly called “Muggles” (not a very flattering term!).

Based on my reading of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (I haven’t read any of the other books) I would suggest that you treat this book like you do anything else that your kids view, read or listen to (videos, CD’s, movies, video games, etc.): preview it yourself and judge whether or not your child is mature enough to understand and critically evaluate the messages contained in the book. If you allow your child to read Harry Potter, talk about what he or she is reading and teach your child to read critically, evaluating the messages in light of scripture.

Want more Christian views on Harry Potter? Visit Focus on the Family’s website: www.family.org, click on the “Plugged In” link and then on “Harry Potter.”

Pastor Len DenBraber is the Ministry Pastor at Abbotsford Pentecostal Assembly

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