"Not every Christian horrified by Harry Potter"
by David Waters (Scripps Howard News Service, July 05, 2000)
|- Professor McGonagall was right.
"He'll be famous, a legend," the professor said of wee Harry Potter in the first chapter of the first book of children's stories that have charmed the world.
"Every child in our world will know his name."
Well, not every child. Not yet, anyway.
J.K. Rowling's first three books about the young wizard have sold more than 8 million copies and been published in 115 countries and 28 languages.
The fourth installment, already a bestseller, arrives Saturday. Lines are forming and security is tight.
But not everyone is wild about Harry.
Parents - Muggles, we suspect - in South Carolina, California, Nebraska, Georgia and Minnesota have complained to public school administrators about the books.
What's the problem?
"The book's main characters engage in occultic and Wiccan-style exercises. Harry and his colleagues routinely practice sorcery, cast spells, fly on broomsticks and talk with spirits of the dead," John Andrew Murray reports in Focus on the Family's Citizen magazine.
"Rowling's work invites children into a world where witchcraft is 'neutral' and where authority is determined solely by one's cleverness."
Obviously, this guy has never seen a Nimbus Two Thousand.
Linda Beam, Focus on the Family's contributing culture analyst, also rails against Rowling.
"Parents may breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Rowling isn't trying to lure their children into occult activity.
"But what the author does in her disbelief may be more harmful than she realizes, since children who become fascinated by her charms and spells could eventually stumble into the very real world of witchcraft and the occult," Beam writes.
"These stories are not fueled by witchcraft, but by secularism."
Sounds like a Squib.
Focus on the Family isn't the only conservative Christian group pelting Harry with Bludgers.
"J.K. Rowling is fast becoming a virtual Pied Piper for the modern version of neopagan religion," states an organization called Family Friendly Libraries.
Slytherin, no doubt.
"Though Harry's adventures are obviously not religious instruction books, they employ heavy use of Wicca symbolism, language and themes."
Rowling's publisher likens the Potter series to other fantasy/allegories such as C.S. Lewis's tales of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth trilogy.
Not so fast, Anne McCain writes in a Howler published by World magazine.
In Narnia and Middle Earth, "the difference between good and evil is clear. In comparison, Harry Potter's topsy-turvy moral universe is confusing."
Nothing like our own, you see.
Professor McGonagall saw all of this coming.
"These people will never understand him," she said of Harry in the first chapter of "Sorcerer's Stone."
She was wrong about that. Not all Harry Potter readers check their Sorting Hats at the door.
Charles Colson, evangelical author and activist, says the magic and sorcery in the Potter books are "purely mechanical, as opposed to occultic."
"Harry and friends develop courage, loyalty, and a willingness to sacrifice for one another - even at risk of their lives," says Colson, a Keeper who became a Seeker.
"Not bad lessons in a self-centered world."
Alan Jacobs, a professor of literature at evangelical Wheaton College, gives Rowling a thumbs-up.
The Potter books promote "a kind of spiritual warfare, a struggle between good and evil," he says.
"There is in books like this the possibility for moral reflection (and) the question of what to do with magic powers is explored in an appropriate and morally serious way.''
Hey, Professor Dumbledore, hire that guy.
Perhaps Harry's greatest endorsement comes from Christianity Today, a magazine founded by Billy Graham.
"We think you should read the Harry Potter books to your kids," the magazine declared in a January editorial.
"Rowling's series is a Book of Virtues with a preadolescent funny bone. Amid the laugh-out-loud scenes are wonderful examples of compassion, loyalty, courage, friendship, and even self-sacrifice."
Hope the Daily Prophet printed that.
So, what's the cause of these wide differences of opinion about Harry? Professor Lupin knows.
"Nobody knows what a boggart looks like when he is alone," Lupin said in the third book, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."
"But when I let him out, he will immediately become whatever each of us most fears."
Harry Potter readers know what repels a boggart.
The same thing you hear when you read one of Rowling's books to a child.