Warning: This blog will require you to think and therefore may be hazardous to narrow-minded moguls; side effects may include, agitation, temporary turrets, religious rashes, false indignation OR a breakthrough in common-sense thinking. The sacrifice was squirming on the altar, heaving under the stress of her restraints and the fear of the unknown. The cold, night air was bitter and so dark that she could barely make out the figure that stood over her. As candles were lit around her she realized that she was shackled in the midst of a pentagram. Slowly satanic chants filled the atmosphere around her and just as she was about to scream, she heard a voice that caused fear to grip her heart and take her breath away. “You will serve me.” The voice whispered in a hideous yet hypnotic tone. She had dabbled in witchcraft for some time eager for an encounter with Lord Satan but now she hoped it was all just a dream. As she felt the cold steel of a knife placed to her throat she was told to submit or die. The decision was easy but the prospect of what awaited her became far more torturous than even the most monstrous death. That night in 1990 she was possessed with a spirit that compelled her to write for nearly three years. In 1993 J. K. Rowling penned the last page of the first installment of the most insidious literary work of the past century. Its purpose? To ensnare the minds and souls of innocent children and to cause them to open their spirits up to demonic possession via witchcraft! What followed was nearly a decade of debauchery as millions of innocents where wooed into witchcraft through the Harry Potter series. This would be absolutely terrible, and every Christian should speak out until this insidious plot is exposed… IF it were true. I suppose that if you listened to most Christians, what I described would pretty much sum up the Harry Potter (HP) series but what’s the truth?
I Believe In That, “Old Time Religion”
Should HP be shunned? Does it really promote witchcraft? Does exposure to HP in some way diminish your holiness as a believer or bring into question your salvation? I’ll try to, at least, skim the surface and give you some food for thought. Allow me to first tell you a little about myself so that you can see where I’m coming from. I’m not a progressive in theology. I believe in that, “Old Time Religion”! I’m a strong proponent of real holiness and believe in clean living. I understand the Biblical teaching on sin and its deadly effects. I also believe in a real spiritual enemy who is not to be toyed with but rather is to be taken seriously. It’s important for you to know this, so that you can see that my answers to these questions do not come from some liberal theologian who doesn’t believe in holy living or the deceptive tactics of Satan. I believe that it’s very important to guard what we watch and especially what we expose our children to. That being said, I also believe that the Body of Christ in America has a pretty good track record of shunning anything that may not, on the surface, fit into our nice little Christian mold. We often alienate ourselves from those we’re trying to reach with our all-to-familiar, judgmental behavior. The Bible says that we have to be “in” the world, not “of” it.
The church today is OF the world but not IN it
This is important because many claim that, HP is “worldly” and possibly demonic. Legalistically, in the Church, we’ve focused on coming out of the world even though it’s in direct contradiction to what Jesus taught. We say, “Eww the world! Get away!!! Stay away from HP!” We think that if we won’t listen to the wrong music, hang out with the wrong crowd, wear makeup, dance, or watch Harry Potter movies we’ll be safe from the world! Sadly, we’re conveniently confused about what’s really “worldly”. What is it that the God tells us to shun? Would you like to know what the Bible calls worldly? Gluttony, for starters! … I’ll let that one sink in for a minute! How about; Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Gossip, Slander, Anger, Malice, Bitterness, Injustice, Racism, and unforgiveness… These are the things God calls “worldly” and evil. Yet, somehow we’ve managed to take out the brunt of our angst on HP while living lives full of worldliness. We’ve managed to pervert the scripture that says we are to be, “IN the world but not OF it” and we think it says that we should be, “OF the world but not IN it”. We run “OUT OF” what we perceive to be the world but we take Gossip with us. We run out of the world, point our fingers at those heathen, Harry Potter fans but we take slander, sloth, and bitterness with us. Now instead of being IN the world and not OF it; we’re over here, and we’re OF the world but not IN it! As a result we’re starting to learn that it’s hard to change a world we’re not IN. It’s even harder to change a world when you’re made of the same stuff they are. Just a few days ago, I was sitting in a jammed packed movie theater to preview one of those “evil” HP movies. I watch every movie before my children do to make sure there isn’t any socially or spiritually harmful material in it. I believe that, as parents, we need to be cautious about what we allow our children to watch. As I sat there a young woman and her fiancé sat next to me and we started talking about the HP movies and the books… they were HUGE fans! The conversation eventually came around to, “what do you do for a living?” I told them that I was a pastor and they seemed surprised to say the least. I expressed my admiration for the story line and how it relates to the gospel message. It turns out that she was a preacher’s kid but had been away from church for years! Why? Judgementalism and hypocrisy. I expressed to them that not all Christians were like that and they stated that my presence at the movie, by itself, testified to that fact. There I was sharing the Gospel in a theater, using Harry Potter as the basis for my message!
Salt, Light, & Mashed Potatoes
Matthew 5 says that we are Salt and Light! As salt we actually change the constitution of the world we’re IN. We must try to follow Jesus’ example and “be IN the World”! Be IN the World but don’t lie. Be IN the world but don’t Envy! We’d be amazed at how quickly we could change the world if we quit running from it. Be salt and light. In my opinion salt makes everything better but what would happen if you spilled the whole shaker on to your mashed potatoes? It would be unbearable. This is what most legalistic Christians are like. Just mention a certain artist, song, or movie like HP and you’ll see what I mean as they spew their judgment and vitriol all over your mashed potatoes. I don’t know about you but I don’t like it when someone ruins my mashed potatoes! Here’s the worst part! I’ve heard one Christian after another, prattle on about how bad HP is and not one of them, which I’ve encountered, has ever read the books much less, seen the movies! “How can we make such pronounced judgments based in undeniable ignorance?” you might ask. Practice! Lots and lots of practice! It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. To add insult to injury, the Christian community hailed the arrival of movies like, “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” and even, “The Lord of the Rings” while scorning movies like Harry Potter. Once again the Church missed an opportunity to utilize a cultural phenomenon to share the Gospel while displaying an apparent double standard.
Let the Witch-Hunts Begin… Again!
In 1645 America had its first Witch Trials in Springfield, Massachusetts. The accused where Hugh and Mary Parsons. They were both husband and wife until their child died of natural causes and they accused each other of witchcraft. The court found that Hugh was innocent but Mary was sentenced to death. All throughout the Massachusetts Bay Colony men and mostly women were convicted of witchcraft and executed. The witch-hunts ensued. In the late 1600s we had the now famous Salem Witch Trials. Nearly 200 innocent people were arrested and imprisoned for being accused of witchcraft. One researcher said that, “The courts convicted 29 people of the capital felony of witchcraft. Nineteen of the accused, 14 women and 5 men, were hanged. One man who refused to enter a plea was crushed to death under heavy stones in an attempt to force him to do so.” Here’s a question: As we look back on the Church’s actions at this point in history; who was really doing, “the devil’s handy work”? Those accused of witchcraft, or those bringing judgment upon innocent men, women, and children?Where do you fit into this historical comparison? How do you feel when you hear that someone has read the entire Harry Potter series? Oh, you may not call for them to be burned at the stake or torn to pieces by wild horses but do you immediately begin to judge their level of spirituality? If so, is it based on your personal knowledge about the series or hearsay?
Harry Potter Vs Monty Python
Does HP promote witchcraft? “Harry Potter” is as much a teacher of witchcraft as, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is a teacher of Christianity. And you can “Facebook-quote” me on that! In preparation for ministry I have studied witchcraft. On more than one occasion I have had to pray for deliverance for those possessed by a spirit that entered into their lives through their involvement with witchcraft. This is not something I take lightly. Strangely enough, none of them were HP fans! Based on my experience, I can say that HP has no more basis in actual witchcraft than “Nuns on the Run” has in actual Christianity (Somebody tell me why that was an awesome reference). I would go so far as to say that HP has much more Christian teaching in it than anything else, as admitted by the author herself. About her books Rowling says that, “It starts with the premise that love can save you from death and ends with a proclamation that a sacrifice in the name of love can bring you back from it.” When asked by reporters concerning the insertion of a Christian theme Rowling said,
“That was the plan from the start.” She went on to say that she didn’t make it apparent in the beginning, not because she was afraid of inserting religion into a children’s story. Rather, she was afraid that introducing religion (specifically Christianity) would give too much away to fans who might then see the parallels and then know what was going to happen in the end.” “To me [the religious parallels have] always been obvious,” she said. “But I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going… Indeed, at its most simplistic, Harry’s final tale can in some respects be boiled down to a resurrection story.”
J.K. Rowling has said on several occasions that as a child her favorite novels were “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and other books in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series. Although HP isn’t as overt in its Christian symbolism as The Chronicles of Narnia, I think Lewis himself would give it a thumbs up.
The Question of Holiness
The question of Holiness is an important one. The Bible does say, “Be ye therefore holy, for I am holy” and “come out from among them and be ye separate”. The “guilt by association” version of holiness was an issue in the early church when they questioned the gentiles place in the Gospel. It was also seen in the debate over whether or not a Christian could eat food that had been offered to idols. This was a far more serious issue than a children’s movie with no direct, intentional connection to false religion. These were items that had been intentionally prepared for the purpose of giving praise and honor to Athena, Zeus, and other false gods. Paul gave us two separate answers to this particular problem in First Corinthians chapter eight, that I think may help us in this discussion. The first question is, “Should a Christian eat food that has been offered to idols?” According to Paul there is one reason why we should not eat food offered to idols and it has nothing to do with personal holiness. Many were being saved out of these satanic religions and had previously lived their lives in dedication to these false gods. As a result, if they saw a “Christian” sitting in their idol’s temple and partaking in the food it would, understandably, send a mixed message and cause the new convert to stumble. The second question is, “Can a Christian partake in food directly associated with, and dedicated to a false god, without it affecting their own spirituality or corrupting the purity of their own spirit?” The answer from Paul, the great Apostle, is a surprising, “YES”! Paul makes it clear that, “we know that these false gods are no gods at all” and therefore there’s nothing personally corrupting about partaking in it. Motives matter. The point is that when there’s a conflict between our personal liberty and our brother’s weak conscience (in the case of alcohol for example) our concern for our brother should win out every time. These are serious doctrinal issues that have no application to HP whatsoever. If your concern is toward personal holiness you’d better serve your cause by attacking movies with pervasive language and rampant sensuality. These are real issues that deserve our time. Surprisingly, even in today’s culture, HP has neither! Holiness is not about what you watch, listen to, or wear. It’s about obedience to the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit has told you not to watch a particular movie… don’t watch it! If the Holy Spirit has told you not to listen to a certain kind of music… don’t listen to it! He knows your heart and He knows what’s best for YOU but be careful not to confuse ridged dogma and engrained religious teaching with the Holy Spirit. Another good rule of thumb is, don’t try to be someone else’s Holy Spirit. Those who claim Holiness, yet walk in judgment toward others, are guilty of the greater damnation. Instead, like Paul, let’s use cultural phenomena as a spring-board to share the love of God with a dying world. Let’s purpose together to redeem the arts for the sake of the Gospel. There are those, in the Church, sincerely concerned about the purity of the human spirit but then there are those, religious temple guards, whose hypocrisy knows no bounds. The latter are the same people who, cast the first stone, rationalized the Inquisitions, started the Salem Witch Trials, and refused to allow Ren McCormack to dance! These are the same hypocrites who sneer at Harry Potter for its “association” with paganism while celebrating Easter with painted eggs and purple grass. If we’re going to limit true Holiness to a mere game of, guilt by association then, “I think we’re going to need a bigger boat”! In order to be intellectually consistent with this narrow-minded view of holiness, we’d have to eliminate some Christmas and Easter celebrations, remove drums and electric guitars from our churches, closely monitor the brand of cloths we wear, ban certain songs by the Steve Miller Band, and throw out that one-eyed demon we call a T.V. all together. While we’re at it we might as well heat the fire up to 451 degrees Fahrenheit and let the book-burning begin! This is really a call for civility. I know that we like to feel superior to others. For those spiritually immature, any opportunity to play “Holy” like they used to play “House” doesn’t come around very often but if we’ll take a deep breath, a step back, and gain some perspective we may find an opportunity to be just the right amount of salt in a bland and judgemental world. Watching Harry Potter won’t turn anyone off to the Gospel but attacking it certainly will. If we stop living in fear and ignorance we’ll find that Harry Potter has much to teach us about the power of love and sacrifice. Instead of refusing it, let’s use it to reach every HP fan out there with the truth of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us.