How to Handle Harry

Millions of Harry Potter books are dog-eared. Video games and fan Web sites abound. Kids are wearing the clothing and carrying around the merchandise. So how do we handle Harry Potter with our kids and their friends?

The movie opens this month. Millions of Harry Potter books are dog-eared. Video games and fan Web sites abound. Kids are wearing the clothing and carrying around the merchandise. So how do we handle Harry Potter with our kids and their friends? What if you've decided Harry isn't for your kids? What if your family allows, even enjoys, Harry, but you're receiving flak from people who assert it's evil? These six biblically based points can help you determine how to handle the Harry Potter phenomenon:

We can have differing perspectives.

Christians see Harry Potter from differing angles, and thus arrive at differing convictions. Some see the stories as classic fantasy literature, while others equate the witchcraft with real-world occult practices. Your spiritual sensitivities to what Scripture says should determine whether you allow your children's involvement. Remember the apostle Paul's guidelines to early Christians debating about meat sacrificed to idols: "Whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin" (Romans 14:22-23).

We can overcome evil with good.

We're not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Some do this by disallowing Harry Potter. If you hold convictions that God's Word prohibits Harry Potter, overcome it with good by directing kids to alternatives such as Frank Peretti's Cooper Kids Adventure Series, Bill Myers' Forbidden Doors series, or C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. If you deem Harry okay for your kids, be sure to read, watch, and discuss it with them, practicing moral and spiritual discernment, and distinguishing between fantasy literature "magic" and real-world occult.

We should treat others tactfully.

God commands Christians to "keep the unity of the Spirit through the bonds of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). This requires a diligent commitment to be kind, gentle, patient, and forbearing to each other in love (Ephesians 4:2)—especially when we differ in opinions. Teach kids to respect those who hold different convictions. Demonstrate tactful conversations. We need to be careful not to allow anger over opposing views to overtake our attitude. The apostle James said, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (James 1:19-20).

We need to teach righteousness.

We are responsible to train our children in righteousness. This includes teaching kids to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6) and not to practice anything God forbids in Deuteronomy 18, such as casting spells, practicing divination, or consulting the dead. If you disallow Harry, explain your desire to stay away from that which you associate with evil. If you allow Harry, use the stories as a springboard into the Bible. Discuss moral choices and characters in a biblical light.

We're most effective when we listen and share.

As of last summer, a third of American households had a child under 18 who'd already read a Harry Potter book. With the movie out, most of your kids' friends will know the story. Is it effective simply to condemn it? In 1 Corinthians 9:22, the apostle Paul says: "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." Since we can't un-tell the story, ask kids what the story means to them and really listen to their responses. Don't accuse them of being into witchcraft. If their appetite is whetted for "the mysterious," or supernatural power, lovingly point them to the Almighty. Share your concerns that they not try witchcraft in our world and open themselves up to dangerous spiritual powers (which would be like those on Voldemort's side in Harry's world).

We've been given freedom by God to engage our culture.

We are to look to God as our only source of power. Looking to any other source in our world, whether through spells, incantations, white magic, etc., is occultic and forbidden (see Deuteronomy 18). When we have a personal relationship with God, we find freedom to engage the culture (Mark 16:15). Some do this by knowing popular literature, even that which has pagan elements or magic (consider Daniel in the Old Testament and the apostle Paul's trip to Athens, Greece, in the New Testament. See Acts 17).

God's guidelines

Once you've considered the above points, here are God's guidelines, from Romans 14, for making cultural and spiritual decisions:

  • Let each one be fully convinced in her own mind.
  • Refrain from passing judgment on those Christians who have differing convictions.
  • Teach kids not to look down on Christians who have a different opinion.
  • If a Christian assaults your position, be willing to discuss, but refuse to argue. With differing perspectives, these quarrels go nowhere and become hurtful.
  • Agree to disagree, knowing each of us is accountable to God.
  • If you're free to enjoy it, don't flaunt your freedom or announce it to those with stricter limitations of conscience. Keep it between you and God.
  • Don't urge conscientious objectors to "try" Harry Potter. You could lead them to violate their conscience, and sin by doing so.
  • If it's okay for you (just as it was okay for some of the early Christians to eat the meat sacrificed to idols), make it profitable for God's kingdom.
  • Whether or not you allow Harry Potter, share the gospel as a parallel to Harry's story. Kids who enjoy Harry will probably be open to Jesus' story. Share it with them. It's even more exciting—and it's true!

Connie Neal, author of several books, including What's a Christian to Do with Harry Potter? (WaterBrook), lives with her family in California. For more information about Harry Potter, check out Connie's Web site at www.connieneal.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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