Homeschooling mother and literature expert Nancy Brown once banned all “Harry Potter” books from her home, having heard witness after witness to the book’s “evil” content. But when a trusted friend recommended she give the boy wizard a second chance, she did – with great trepidation. The results of her tests were a surprise to both the Catholic community, and to Brown herself, and are detailed in Brown’s “The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide.”
“I began reading the first book, and immediately, I started absorbing the plotline, the characters. The fact that they were witches immediately fell to the background. First and foremost, they were people,” Brown told WND.
After she encountered the humanity of the characters, Brown found that the themes became infinitely relatable, and even spiritual.
“This was a story about good and evil,” she said. “The choices that Harry Potter had to make were important. His momentary despairs, his aching feelings for his parents – these things resonated with me.”
“I thought, ‘Gee, these books really do have good themes, although they were couched a story about witches and wizards,'” she said.
Brown’s conclusions are in opposition to the positions adopted by others regarding the books.
Caryl Matrisciana, a well-known expert on contemporary cults, paganism and the occult, agrees with Brown that parents should serve as a filter for their children, but she feels they should start by banning “Harry Potter” from the home.
“There is no doubt children are being seduced into believing the dark-arts are ‘fun,’ benign and a positive power for personal enablement,” she said. “But responsible parents must be aware that …the supernatural world is a reality and dabbling with its dark-side is not harmless.”
“Our children are immersed in its cruelty and depravity in a daily battle vying for their spirits and they want the power to tackle it,” she continued.
Her acclaimed DVD program, “Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged,” dramatically documents Potter references to evolution, reincarnation, sorcery, divination, spells, curses and other occult influences.
Matriciana does see spiritual themes in the “Potter” books but believes they stem from the books entanglement with Wicca, not Christianity.
For instance, she said, “we learn that Harry misuses his power for evil and selfish ambition, a power which interestingly is linked with the same source as his nemesis, the Evil Lord Voldemort represented as a serpent.”
Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission and publisher of MOVIEGUIDE, is choosing to focus on the sociological implications.
“These books and movies teach rebellion against authority,” he said, and “when they add to this rebellious attitude the stupid aphorism that ‘You’re really a good person,’ then one must seriously ask, ‘What are these narcissistic children supposed to think?'”
Quite simply, they will think that “their rebellion is part of their goodness, and then they become part of the growing crowd of rebellious young people who are incapable of constructing and perpetuating a viable civilization,” he concluded.
Brown noted in Christian circles, “It’s not really okay to be pro-Potter.”
But she said that when Harry makes moral mistakes, there are consequences, and as for all the magic: “It’s pretend. It’s like a child doing a pretend magic act and saying ‘hocus pocus.’ The magical element is a very small aspect of the story.”
Brown said the “Harry Potter” books are great for families and especially Christian parents, “who for centuries have used literature to illustrate the struggle between good and evil when teaching their children.” If parents participate in the “Potter” experience, their children won’t be pulled into practicing magic, but into learning what makes Harry and his compatriots fight for the good and what makes them fight evil, she said.
She had flown through the first four books with little mind for anything but the plot, but when she came to the fifth book, “The Order of the Phoenix,” which was just released in theatres, she says she suddenly noticed that the books contained deeper spiritual themes.
“At the beginning of the book, the children enrolled in a class called ‘Defense Against the Dark Arts,'” she said, “in which they were practicing defending themselves against evil. In a way, I realized, the author was showing how each one of us has to battle sin and temptation. It doesn’t happen by magic; it happens by force of will. We have to practice.”
Brown does not believe “Harry’s” abundance of Christian themes is accidental and contends author J.K. Rowling is a Christian.
“I know that she was raised a Christian in the Anglican Church. She attends the Church of Scotland. To me, the indications are that she is a Christian. If she was a member of any atheist/Wiccan organization, they would be claiming her as a member,” she said.
Brown cites evidence there are Christian intentions behind Rowling’s books, the most convincing of which comes from an article in American Prospect:
Rowling initially was afraid that if people were aware of her Christian faith, she would give away too much of what’s coming in the series. “If I talk too freely about that,” she told a Canadian reporter, “I think the intelligent reader ? whether 10 (years old) or 60 ? will be able to guess what is coming in the books.”
In Brown’s estimation, if more knowledge about Rowling’s Christian beliefs would lead an intelligent reader to accurately guess where the books are going, then the plot of the entire Harry Potter series must somehow be inspired by Christianity.
But while Brown sees “Harry Potter’s” positives, she suggests parents exercise caution when they give their children “Potter” as a playmate, primarily by “serving as a filter” for their children. Her book is filled with discussion questions and points to ponder for family discussion.
“We’re supposed to watch what goes into our children’s hearts and into their minds,” said Brown. “When we do that, I don’t feel there is danger in the Harry Potter books.”
Jennifer Carden is an editorial assistant for WorldNetDaily.