February 04, 2003
The pope approves of Harry Potter

From the news wires:

The Vatican is giving two thumbs up to the Harry Potter series.

The good vs. evil plot lines of the best-selling books are imbued with Christian morals, the Rev. Don Peter Fleetwood told a Vatican news conference Monday.

"I don't see any, any problems in the Harry Potter series," Fleetwood said.

He was responding to questions following the release of a new Vatican document on the New Age phenomenon, which he helped draft as a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Fleetwood was asked whether the magic embraced by Harry Potter and his pals at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was problematic for the Roman Catholic Church. Some evangelical groups have condemned the series for glamorizing magic and the occult.

"I don't think there's anyone in this room who grew up without fairies, magic and angels in their imaginary world," said Fleetwood, who is British. "They aren't bad. They aren't serving as a banner for an anti-Christian ideology.

"If I have understood well the intentions of Harry Potter's author, they help children to see the difference between good and evil," said Fleetwood. "And she is very clear on this."

He said British author J.K. Rowling was "Christian by conviction, is Christian in her mode of living, even in her way of writing."

Not that anyone is likely to change their mind by any of this, but here's a useful overview of the pro- and anti-Harry Potter arguments anyway. If you'll excuse me, I need to pre-order a copy of the new book.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 04, 2003 to Books | TrackBack

Well, that's a relief.

Posted by: B. K. Oxley (binkley) on February 4, 2003 11:51 AM

The Lord of the Rings VS Harry Potter

For those of you whoíre not familiar with my literary preferences, Iím a huge fan of Tolkien & Lewis, and especially of Tolkienís epic, The Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings is NOTHING like the Harry Potter series. While I would have serious reservations about allowing my children to read Harry Potter, I have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings out loud to them several times.

I know that many Christian parents have quite legitimate concerns about anything which might engender an interest in the occult among their children. I share their concerns. I am VERY uneasy with many of the elements of the Harry Potter series. Harry is in many ways an admirable figure. Heís a nice kid. He values friendship and loyalty. And he struggles to defeat/thwart enemies who are clearly evil. BUT, I am very uncomfortable with the presentation of Harryís magic powers as neutral and the school he attends to master magic skills as just another school for gifted and talented kids.

The most troubling aspect of Harry Potter is the confused way in which the author plays with traditional western symbolism of good and evil. It is very dangerous to present witches (with brooms & familiar spirits) as not necessarily evil just misunderstood. The unspoken (but powerful) message is a sort of literary moral relativism. The idea that nothing is inherently evil is morally pernicious. And very confusing and potentially dangerous for children.

By contrast, Tolkienís epic has an entirely different approach to magic - especially the central symbol of magical power, the ring. The ring is very powerful and dangerous. Over and over again we are reminded (and shown) that it is perilous to attempt to use the ring and that anyone who did attempt to do so would inevitably be corrupted by it. Frodo wins, not by mastering the ring, but by resisting the temptation to use it. He must struggle using his natural abilities.

Gandalf is a much less troubling figure for me than ANY of the figures in the Potter series. Gandalf is much different from the wizards in Potterís world. The most important difference is that Gandalf NEVER attempts to recruit or train anyone in how to use magic or spells. There is no possibility for any of the hobbits (or any of the men) to become wizards. In Tolkienís world, Wizards are a small, chosen, race - set apart - more akin to guardian angels than to mortal men, though they do have bodies, and they can die.

Gandalf is the chief advisor who cautions against the use of the ring or of ANY of the tools of the enemy. Gandalf actually reminds me of the Prophet Samuel - or of Moses.

These are important distinctions. And it is important that we talk about these things with our children. Our kids have not read the Potter books, not because weíve had to forbid them, but because there are so many other, better books available to them. I WOULD forbid any of my younger kids from reading Potter if they asked. One or more of our older kids (16 & up) may read some of the Potter books in order to be able to intelligently critique them (as have I). I wish there were a simple rule for selecting books for our children. Its not simple. One canít simply say that all books with witches in them are bad , Theres a witch who figures prominently in the book of Samuel. So there must be other, more subtle criteria. Anything which awakes a fascination with magical powers is dangerous. I think Harry Potter potentially does. I think Tolkienís tales warn against the inherent, inevitable danger in dealing with magic. There are many other virtues taught and portrayed in Tolkienís Lord of the Rings as well. Courage, perseverance, self-sacrifice, loyalty, etc. Plus its a marvelous story with an incredibly rich and delightful level of detail.

- Rob Shearer, Publisher
Greenleaf Press

Posted by: Steph on May 10, 2003 6:14 PM