"Some fear road to hell paved with 'Harry Potter'"
by David Yonke ("Bradenton Herald," November 24, 2001)
|Some Christian leaders believe the film is not innocent entertainment.
Depending on one's point of view, the movie "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is a harmless 2 1/2-hour flight of fancy, or it will open the gates to eternal damnation.
Judging by the phenomenal success of the books by J.K. Rowling, most people consider Harry Potter and the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to be whimsical amusements. So far, 116 million Potter books have been sold in 200 countries, translated into 47 languages.
Some Christian leaders warn that the movie is not just innocent entertainment.
"The concern is that these books are placed in a culture that glorifies and markets witchcraft, sorcery, and Wicca things that from a biblical perspective are harmful," said Lindy Beam, youth culture analyst for Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Robert McGee, a psychologist and author based in Merritt Island, was even more alarmed. "I think we're going to lose tens of thousands of our kids to witchcraft. And they don't understand that there is a spiritual world out there and it will suck them in. Once they start using spiritual powers, the spiritual powers will start using them."
The books tell the story of young Harry, an orphaned son of powerful wizards, and his adventures at Hogwarts, a prep school for wizards. In the stories, characters learn to cast spells, mix potions, fly on brooms and pursue various other magical acts.
McGee said the Old Testament book of Leviticus states: "Do not practice divination or sorcery," and the 18th chapter of Deuteronomy describes witchcraft, casting spells, interpreting omens, consulting the dead and being a spiritist as "an abomination to the Lord."
McGee and author Caryl Matrisciana collaborated on "Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged," a video that churches are being urged to show to their congregations and youth groups.
"An adult reads these books differently than a child would," said McGee, known for his best-selling book "The Search for Significance." "A child gets more involved. The younger the children, the worse it's going to be for them. They're going to get hacked off at somebody and they're going to want the same power as Harry the wizard."
Wren Walker, a practicing witch in Clearwater and co-founder of the Witches Voice, an umbrella group for witches and Wiccans worldwide, said the Potter books offer a lighthearted view of witchcraft and wizardry.
"They really don't have anything to do with a 'capital w' witchcraft as practiced by a large number of people," Walker said. "It's something more to do with a 'small w' witchcraft, which can be done by any other religion. The 'main bone of contention' among critics of the books is that they portray witches and sorcery in a positive light.
"We have had the full, gory witch in fairy tales for centuries," Walker said. "They never wanted to take the witch out of those, because the witch was the bad guy. Now there are witches and wizards who are heroes of the stories, and it's a little hard for some people to make that mind shift," she said.
McGee agrees that Harry's heroic image is one of his major complaints. He said that the books are clearly not a "how-to" guide to witchcraft, but they portray witchcraft as beneficial and desirable.
"Harry Potter has become what is known as a rune, a symbol that stands for something," McGee said. "You see that, one, Harry Potter is a child like you or someone like you; two, he's a child that accesses and utilizes witchcraft, and three, he's a child that's held in high regard. By extension, the child concludes that utilizing witchcraft is not a negative."
Dismissing Potter's spiritual activities as "harmless fantasy" is "an intellectually vacant argument," he said, because parents take great care in shielding their children from exposure to all things harmful, whether it's violence on television or pornography on the Internet.
"If you say it's harmless because it's fantasy, then you click off any judgment you would be making about the books," McGee said.
McGee is troubled that religious leaders are failing to teach their congregations well enough to recognize witchcraft when it is right in front of their faces. "Pastors are more of an irritant to me than Rowling is," McGee said. "God is not shy at all about His view of witchcraft. It's crazy that we're even having a discussion about it."
Walker said even if the Harry Potter movie leads to children "play acting" as witches, it doesn't mean they will become involved in witchcraft.