Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Recently, a very good friend and evangelical Christian expressed her shock and dismay to me when she learned that I was allowing my 9-year old son to read the Harry Potter series of books. Indeed, we own the three DVD movies as well. I had read both sides of the argument as to the health of allowing our children to be exposed to HP, and took offense at some of the websites to which she referred me. Most I recognized as hysterical fundamentalists who often bash the Catholic Church, and so I brushed them aside. But then I did a little digging myself…

I read only last week that Pope Benedict himself has issued warnings about the HP series.
And that in and of itself should have been enough to cause me to have second thoughts, but then I also read an essay by Catholic novelist Michael O’Brien in which he went into great detail about the books and why we should be wary of them. I have read many of O’Brien’s novels myself, as well as social commentary he has written and I have the utmost respect for him, as well as sharing a kindred spirit. Indeed, he has written several articles on the books that are available on his website.

One of the arguments I have heard others who defend HP make is that it’s no different that Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or Lewis’s Narnia series. I have never subscribed to that argument, having read LOTR and having some exposure and knowledge of Narnia. Indeed, watching Fellowship of the Ring AFTER having seen the first HP movie, I told my wife that FOTR was the movie that HP wishes it could have been. Even in the watered-down movie version, one could see Divine Providence and Christian themes apparent in FOTR; none of this was evident in HP. On this O'Brien writes:

In the Harry Potter series, for example, Harry resists and eventually overcomes Voldemort with the very powers the Dark Lord himself uses. Harry is the reverse image of Frodo. Rowling portrays his victory over evil as the fruit of esoteric knowledge and power. This is Gnosticism. Tolkien portrays Frodo's victory over evil as the fruit of humility, obedience and courage in a state of radical suffering. This is Christianity. Harry's world is about pride, Frodo's about sacrificial love. There is, of course, plenty of courage and love in the Harry Potter series, but it is this very mixing of truth and untruth which makes it so deceptive. Courage and love can be found in all peoples, even those involved in the worst forms of paganism.

What does this all mean? It means I owe my friend an apology and a thank you. It also means I have to do some careful thinking about how I will approach this with my son. How do I explain to him my thoughts on why I might want him to stop reading them? Indeed, our former pastor at St. John’s himself recommended the books to the kids and parents. My son is awaiting the summer release of the next book although it won’t be available in softcover for several more months (which are what we have been purchasing). I purchased several children’s versions of classics for him in the meantime, such as Doyle’s The Lost World and London’s White Fang. I also plan on having him begin the Narnia series in anticipation of the movie’s release on December 9th. I have until the softcover release to figure out what to do. Any suggestions are more than welcome.


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