Movie Reviews

Are We Done Picking on Potter?

This past summer my wife and I decided it was high time to visit Hogwarts and dabble in the dark arts.  That is, we decided to watch the Harry Potter movies. I’m glad to report 6 months later I’ve finally recovered my faith. Ok, enough with the sarcasm.  Alright Christian: Have you seen the films?  Did you boycott the movies?  Did you let your children see them?  Did your pastor warn you of them?

I wrote previously on the complete 180 turn around some Christians have had in their stance toward these films HERE.

What’s my opinion on the whole matter?  I found myself a kindred spirit with Mark Tesreau’s thoughts on the whole matter in his little piece: Harry Potter: Even Worse Than the Smurfs posted at Steve Brown Etc. Please check it out:

Recently, I listened to the pastor of a well known mega-church sermonize from Revelation 21:8 that we should not see the Harry Potter movies because Harry is a sorcerer and sorcerers are going to Hell. So as not to take him out of context, his comments were as follows.

“I really think you ought to think long and hard before you let your children go see Harry Potter at the movie. I really want to encourage you in that area. God has, in the Old Testament and the New, come down hard against sorcery, and that’s what Harry Potter’s about. You say, ‘Well it’s just fiction.’ Well, it’s the wrong kind of fiction, in my opinion.

Now, I’m not trying to beat up on anybody. I just…all I’ll ask is that you pray about it, study and see what the Word of God says about it, but the Bible says that those who practice sorcery are going to Hell. That’s what it says. They won’t be in that New Jerusalem.

Now, don’t get mad at me. You don’t mind if I preach what’s in the Bible, do you? You say, ‘I didn’t see Harry Potter in there.’ Well, sorcery…you saw that, and he is one. So, just stay away from him. Amen.”

First, let me say that I agree with the pontificating preacher who shall remain nameless when he says that we should pray, study the Word of God, and “think long and hard” before we let our children go see Harry Potter. For that matter, I believe a parent should think long and hard about every form of entertainment in which they allow their children to engage, not just Harry Potter. We have been charged with a sacred trust ““ the very souls of our seed ““ and to throw them unprotected, unprepared before the wolves of this world would be the greatest of evils. Nothing and no one should get a “free pass” to the hearts and minds of our children.

Secondly, the fiery friar emphasized that in the Old and New Testaments, God has “come down hard against sorcery.” Again, I completely concur with this statement, but not to the extent that it insinuates God has come down harder on sorcery than He has any of the other sins, specifically those noted in Revelation 21:8, which are “cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars.” According to that text (the text from which he preached), not only are sorcerers going to Hell, but so too are cowards, unbelievers, abominable (or detestable) persons, murderers, the sexually immoral, idolaters, and liars.

I’m not too arrogant to deny that I’m guilty of more than one of the above-listed sins, and God forbid anyone try to hold me to the standard of Romans 1:29-32. I confess that I am completely overwhelmed and crushed by the weight of God’s holy law, and whether or not you want to admit it, you are too. We are all in bad shape when we try to measure up. I can’t. You can’t. Your pastor can’t. My pastor can’t. No one can.

In addition, the pompous pulpiteer opined that Harry Potter is the “wrong kind of fiction.” He is certainly entitled to an opinion. He even has the right to be wrong. But since this statement is completely (by his own admission) his opinion, I’d really have to know upon what criteria it’s based in order to respond appropriately. What is the “wrong” kind of fiction? What is the “right” kind of fiction? Who gets to decide this stuff? Heck, if I were really mean-spirited, I might say something like it’s his sermons that are the wrong kind of fiction.

There are those out there who don’t want to bother themselves with these kinds of questions. For them, finding a strong, charismatic personality to follow blindly is good enough. But before you decide to take the easy way out and adopt someone else’s opinions as your own, just remember that these are the same kinds of folk who told us that it’s wrong to drink root beer from a bottle, that there was no such thing as “Christian rock”, that Star Wars would turn us to the New Age movement, that the Smurfs were demons, that Cabbage Patch dolls were possessed, that Tinky Winky was gay, and that Proctor & Gamble was run by Satanists. Coincidentally, four hundred years ago they told us the earth was flat and the Sun revolved around it.

At the end of his comments on Harry Potter, the pastor asked, “You don’t mind if I preach what’s in the Bible, do you?” No, I don’t mind at all. My favorite preaching is the kind from the Bible. My least favorite is the kind that espouses man’s precepts as though they were God’s doctrines (Matthew 15:1-14).

Believe it or not, I do have a moral compass. I’m sure that if you’ve read this far, some of you are actually questioning that. I believe in testing the spirits. I believe in guarding one’s heart. I believe in the process of sanctification. I love the Law of the Lord. It is perfect, and it is my meditation all the day. But when issues like this become the source of division and derision in the church, and I’m not sure who’s overreacting and who’s underreacting, I try to remember two things.

First, I remember the words of Thomas a Kempis, “In things essential, unity; in doubtful, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Second, I remember the words of the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

And so I ask myself, has J.K. Rowling exalted her fictitious Harry Potter against the knowledge of God? After viewing the first four movies (I have yet to see the fifth film) and reading the first six books, I can honestly say that I don’t believe she has. Harry isn’t (or doesn’t yet appear to be) a sorcerer even remotely in the vein of those warned against in Scripture. He’s a wizard not unlike Gandalf or Merlin or the Great and Powerful Oz.

But make no mistake about it. If Rowling should ever decide to cross that line with her beloved hero, I won’t hesitate to cast him down and bring him into captivity to the obedience of Christ, or as Harry would say ““ Expelliarmus!

Remember, nothing should get a “free pass” into our minds and hearts. Take everythought captive ““ be they from a novelist, a preacher…or even a blogger.

Mark Tesreau is a husband of one, father of three, and an all-around nice guy. Mark has no handyman skills, but he’s a technology guru and a pinball wizard. He loves The Andy Griffith Show, admires GK Chesterton, misses Rich Mullins, and is discovering the hard way just how amazing grace is. Mark is a displaced Memphian who wants to be a writer/pastor/troubadour when he grows up. You can eavesdrop on his life

5 replies »

  1. Good post. I totally agree with Mark Tesreau.

    I read all the Harry Potter books when they came out in order to check them out before my son read them – and enjoyed every one of them :)

    They are fiction – not evil and demonic! There is no comparison between the fictional ‘cartoon’ magic in the books and real life sorcery. Just because the words ‘witch’ and ‘warlock’ are used doesn’t mean that they describe actual real life events and actions.

    Hello! It’s fiction.

    Having said that there has been an increase in interest in Wicca and Paganism in the UK that has been attributed to young people reading Harry Potter books, but this is why we as parent should take our responsibility seriously and read controversial books before our kids to decide if they are appropriate and then explain the issues to them.

    This raises the whole subject of censorship really – where do we draw the line to protect our kids? By prohibiting things that are in reality harmless, are we as parents actually doing more damage than good?

    • Yes. I think part of the problem is that the post-enlightenment brand of Christian faith has stripped away the narrative-shaped, adventure-filled nature of the Christian journey and turned it into a dry, rationalistic enterprise offering moral principles and abstract theological doctrines. When young minds have the option to read Harry Potter or sit through a dull sermon, I wonder which they’ll choose?! I wonder which will pull on their heart strings more?

      Point: We need to invite young people into the greatest epic ever told; one that began long ago and is still moving toward it’s splendid climax, and we have a pivotal role to play in God’s ongoing story of redemption. We need to tell a story more exciting than Potter… Our story blows them all out of the water…we just need better storytellers…

  2. Jeremy,
    I am of the opinion that in order to communicate truth effectively to my children, I have to know what “truths” they have been exposed to. My daughters are of the age to make their own decisions about movies and literature. Knowing that they were invited to see the Harry Potter movies with friends, I have now seen all the HP movies to date. I refer to scenes from the movies I have seen with my daughters to convey truth to them. A quote I have captured from this series is Dumbledore’s line: “a time is coming in which will have to decide between what is right and what is easy.” (I have doubts on my word-for-word recollection ability, but this is how I recall it to them — they get the idea). Can you think of a better line to quote as they enter their teenage years? college years? marriage? raising their own children? Though they wince each time they hear it from me, my hope is that it will stick with them as “Be sure your sin will find you out” stuck with me. For those not raised in an Independent Baptist home in the Midwest, this verse is from the King James Version; my mom ALWAYS quoted it — and still does.

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