Harry Potter

The hottest film of the year -- perhaps of any year -- opened in theaters Friday. Unless you've been living on Mars, you know that the movie is about a pre-teen wizard named Harry Potter. Only the battles over church music have come close to generating the controversy we've witnessed over Harry Potter. Some Christians are concerned that the books will lead children into the occult; others, just as sincere, say the books teach their children valuable moral lessons. Some kids say they've used the books to share Christ with friends. So what is a Christian to think? Should Christian kids read the books and see the movie, or not? A Christian expert on Potter-mania says, "It depends." Connie Neal, a veteran youth pastor and mother of three, has just written a book called WHAT'S A CHRISTIAN TO DO WITH HARRY POTTER? Neal says parents must use great discernment in deciding whether to allow their kids to read Harry Potter. For example, kids with an unhealthy interest in the occult should probably not read these books. At the same time, other parents have prayerfully decided that their kids would benefit from the moral lessons the Potter books teach. Neal's belief that in some cases, it's acceptable and even beneficial for Christians to read secular novels comes from her reading of the book of Daniel. Daniel, you will remember, was a teenager when he was taken away from Jerusalem to live in Babylon. There, he was taught the language and literature of the pagan culture. He studied at a school that trained Babylon's magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers. The actual practice of sorcery and astrology was, of course, forbidden by God. But Daniel not only studied these subjects, he out-performed all his classmates. One day King Nebuchadnezzer called on his magicians and astrologers to interpret a dream; none could do it. In a rage, the king ordered that all of his wise men be put to death. Daniel asked to see the king, who then asked him, "Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?" Daniel responded: "No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery which the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days." Daniel had immersed himself in his culture's pagan literature -- but he didn't defile himself because of his deep devotion to God. As Connie Neal told BreakPoint in an interview, "God put Daniel in Babylon to be a light in the darkness -- and he was. He was not afraid to read literature that resounded in the hearts of the people with whom he lived. He used his familiarity with this pagan culture to reveal the true and living God." And Neal knows some kids who have done the same in our own post-Christian culture. Now personally, I don't recommend the Harry Potter books or the movie, but kids are going to see it and certainly hear others talk about it no matter what we say. So teach them to be discerning, to be like Daniel. And Neal's book may be one resource that will help you sort out the issues and give your kids reasons they need to be careful -- how they should avoid the pitfalls of the Potter craze. For further reading: Connie Neal, What's a Christian to Do with Harry Potter. Colorado Springs: Waterbrook/Doubleday, 2001.


Chuck Colson



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