I tentatively wade into this debate…
I was fortunate to grow up reading Harry Potter before any Christians considered the fact that it might not actually be such a good idea for their kids to be allowed access to that kind of literature. As such, I have the opportunity to make an informed opinion on the matter at least from some first hand experience.
Let’s start with the basics: Christian parents want to protect their kids from anything that they think might compromise their faith in God. That’s good! That’s the kind of caring parents all children need. And it’s important to start with the fact that children are not ultimately losing out on an essential life experience if they never read Harry Potter, as long as they are being encouraged to read something.
So with that out of the way, let the debate begin :)
The issue I have is that if we’re setting a standard on what kids can and can’t read, it has to be consistent and it has to be sensible. I’m not going to start on the “oh but Narnia and Lord of the Rings have magic in them too!” line. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is blatantly Christian. Harry Potter, despite quoting the bible, is not so much. And the Lord of the Rings is just a completely different piece of literature. Let’s not compare them.
But nonetheless, there seems to have been some kind of line drawn at the subject of magic. Which begs the question, why is magic so special and singled out? Don’t worry, I don’t need an education in the reality of witchcraft and the horrible things that result from it. I’m just asking why they are somehow more horrible than the other tools satan uses?
Our Christian “scary people” list seems to have witches and other occult stuff at the top, followed probably by muslims, then atheists because they like arguing a lot and Christians would rather sing a happy clappy song than engage intellectually with their faith (an exaggeration, but to make a point), and then buddhists at the bottom cause we like to think they sit around doing yoga all day not really hurting anyone :/ What is wrong with us?!
The occult is sinful, just like all the other tools satan uses to draw people away from God, I just don’t understand why we’re ok with the force in star wars and not Harry Potter. You know that Luke Skywalker dude? He’s using magic for the good side (gasp)! We can’t have our children watching that. Ok, so I’m being really facetious now.
Another argument I’ve heard about Harry Potter is how he’s rewarded for breaking the rules (and of course the one character who points this out is portrayed as a nasty person (except in the final books, but that would take the fun out of the argument wouldn’t it?)). The Famous Five were also highly rewarded for being nosy and breaking the rules, but they didn’t have wands did they, so they’re ok.
My point is that we have to be consistent, and reasonable. I wouldn’t let a ten year old read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. That’s a book written for an 18 year old.
Of course, perhaps precluding this whole argument is the question of “should we not read something simply because it’s from satan?”. Personally I don’t think Harry Potter is, but clearly for many it’s up for debate. So to help us make a more informed decision, let’s take something we know is from satan. Something we can all agree on as Christians undisputedly.
As Christians, we believe Jesus is the only way to the Father. The effect of this is that we believe all other faiths are devised by satan to draw humanity away from God. And we believe all writings of these faiths are tools of satan. So let’s take the Quran as an example. Would I let a ten year old read it? No. Would I let a 16 year old read it? Yes, probably. I would want them to read the whole bible first and get some grounding (and so many Christians don’t get that grounding unfortunately). Anyone who wants their muslim friends to know the truth about Jesus should make an effort to find out what these people actually believe. If you want to lovingly encourage someone to accept that they’re wrong, you have to actually find out what they believe.
Obviously the reasons for reading the Quran (research) and Harry Potter (entertainment) are different, but it does end the question of whether something is unreadable simply because it’s of satan (and we are yet to prove that Harry Potter is). I’m sure that sixty years ago most Christian parents thought Elvis was of satan.
I don’t want to drag this out any more. Let me know what you think. The key is to be reasonable and consistent. I read the whole bible at age 9 before any of the Harry Potter books came into my life, so I had a good base point from which to test everything I read anyway. For me that just happened to be the case, but for any parent who’s unsure, they could always make a deal with their child that if they read the bible first then they can read Harry Potter, one book per year, starting when they’re ten or something like that. That keeps it safe.
If I actually hear anything concrete about what J.K. Rowling actually believes (and I’ve heard everything from “she’s a witch” to “she’s an Anglican”) I’ll let you know. Till such information is made public though, the information we’re being given in Christians circles is little more than gossip. And that is a sin…