[I’m not sure I can agree with more than about a paragraph of this post, but it’s not offensive, so I’m honoring my promise of free speech to my guest posters. – Funky]
I just happened to flip past Smallville, another remake of the Superman story, on the WB the other night. Three witches were taking the powers of the boy wonder via some powerful spells. It seems to me that Warner Brothers studios is producing more stories and programs with wicca spirituality included. Charmed is on the WB. Harry Potter is on the wide screen. Buffy the Vampire Slayer [I love that show. – Funky] had a few characters who explored witchcraft. Even the movie The Secret Garden had wicca injected into the story.
Of course, the presentation of wicca through the boob tube and the big screen is not new, but it seems like it’s more accepted now. With Joan of Arcadia being replaced with Ghost Whisperer on CBS, my own loathing of the occult (including wicca, demons, and the devil) has become more acute.
What is there to hate? It can be summed up in one statement: "They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone." ( – CCC 2116
Many people don’t have a problem with these shows. It doesn’t dismiss the fact that I do, and I believe other Christians should too. Wicca is seen by many as a warm, fuzzy, nature-loving, open-minded religion, but it’s incompatible with Christianity. To better explain why I feel this way, I present below a paper wrote for a children’s literature course.
Fairy tales throughout history have been a great medium through which children learn lessons about life. There is Russian proverb that says, "If you don’t know the tundra, you get lost hunting. If you don’t know fairy-tales, you get lost in life." Elements used for the characterization of individuals, situations, and settings are usually magical in nature. This might seem to take the reader away from reality, but in actuality, the reader comes to a greater understanding about real life beyond their normal perceptions. Fairy tales bring the seen and unseen into focus.
In this paper, a transcription of a speech on fairy tales at the Northwest Catholic Family Education Conference given by Vivian W. Dudro entitled And They Lived Happily Ever After will be discussed. Using the ideas in this speech (fairy tales are similar in magical nature to fantasy), the fantasy book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling will be analyzed in order to decide whether a Catholic Christian child should read the book. Non-Christian children and adults would be worth exploring also, but they go beyond the scope of this paper.
Before beginning the dive into the speech and Harry Potter, a few points must be made crystal clear about the perspective for the following arguments. The arguments are for those who accept the authority of the Catholic Bible and the living authority of the Catholic Church (those in communion with the Roman Pontiff). Those who do not have this perspective will not necessarily be persuaded by the conclusions made. This perspective is made manifest since the author is attempting, through this paper, to decide whether or not to read any of the Harry Potter books to his and his wife’s children (the first book was already read for this paper).
The first idea of the aforementioned speech was that fairy tales could prepare someone to accept Christianity. G. K. Chesterton, a great Christian author, credited fairy tales for letting him "see life itself as a story and to conclude that there must be a storyteller" and to prepare "him to accept the Christian faith long before he had any thoughts at all about the religion." The magical nature of fairy tales prepared him to accept two core beliefs of Christianity in that the God of Abraham and Israel (in the Old Testament) is the author of life in addition to accepting the magical reality that the Son of God was actually raised from the dead and came back to reveal it to the world. The affect of fairy tales on children including Chesterton make sense since, according to Michael O’Brian, author of the article Harry Potter and the Paganization of Children’s Culture, the "realm of human imagination is a God-given gift, a faculty of the mind that is intended for the expansion of our understanding by enabling us to visualize invisible truths."
The final observation Dudro makes about fairy tales is that Christian parents quite often have problems with their use of magic. This concern comes from the fact that parents wish their children the best. They want them to search and find truth; Jesus said [in John 8:31-32], "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." On the other hand, they do not want them to live a lie and sin, attempting to bend reality to fit their will. "The old English word for witchcraft, or wicca, literally means ‘to bend’". Jesus [said in John 8:34], "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin."
As Didro points out, evil characters use magic to "satisfy their own cravings…" by bending reality. On the other hand, good magic is not used to bend reality, but as "miraculous interventions of God" by the one with the authority to create reality.
One example of the differences between the two types of magic can be seen in the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible. Acts 13:6-12 is a small sketch between the Christian evangelist and Apostle Paul and a magician named Elymas. According to St. Paul, Elymas was the "son of the devil" and "[twisted] the straight paths of the Lord." At this pronouncement, Paul utters, "You [Elymas] will be blind, and unable to see the sun for a time." Elymas then became blind. The evil magic was used to serve one’s own purpose without regard for God (here to ultimately take the proconsul Sergius Paulus away from the faith); good magic was used by the prophet and evangelist for the glory of God, the Creator of all.
With the above analysis in mind, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone will be analyzed. This fun-to-read fantasy book [Have you actually read it, Gerry? – Funky] is about a boy named Harry Potter that comes from a past where his parents are killed and his guardian extended family abuses him. This lovable character is magically called and transported to Hogwarts, the school for wizards and wizardry in a parallel universe. A story of he and his friends saving the world from an evil wizard by using magic, know-how, and commradery ensues. As innocent as it seems, Harry Potter should not be read to young children for reasons outlined below. Young adults should only read it with supervision of their parents (if at all).
First, Divination and witchcraft are mentioned as opponents of God in the Bible and Catechism. In Deuteronomy 18:9-12, 2 Kings 21:6, and 2 Chronicles 33:6, it speaks of witchcraft as an abomination and where it takes place, idols are always found. It makes sense that there would be idols where witchcraft occurs since they would "contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone," according to paragraph 2117 of the Catechism. In addition, as G. K. Chesterton points out, "when men cease to believe in God they do not then believe in nothing. They then become capable of believing anything."
Second, Harry Potter can be seen as the archetype of C. S. Lewis’ "Materialist Magician" from his The Screwtape Letters. "By disassociating magic and supernatural evil, it becomes possible [through the materialist Magician] to portray occult practices as ‘good’ and ‘healthy,’ contrary to the scriptural declaration that such practices are ‘detestable to the Lord.’" It’s like having, although very extreme and blatantly detectable, children fornicating in order to save the day. Most parents would not let their children read about the child fornicators portrayed in a positive light, but have we become so desensitized as to not recognize the evil of approving of witchcraft?
The fun and lovable materialist Magician could be the stepping stone for a child or even adult to form an unhealthy curiosity about Wicca (in order to become wiccan). Potter could also give children a positive or neutral view of Wiccans or have a propaeduetic effect on them, a preparation for later development in a similar way that Chesterton was able to become a Christian by reading fairy tales. As Phyllis Curott, a practicing wiccan reported on an abcNEWS.com interview, "Sure, you are seeing witches in Harry Potter do things they don’t do in real life. But it is positive. They are friendly. They are good. The book might change the way people feel about us. " The last dialogue of The Sorcerer?s Stone gives a good example of the attitude of Harry.
"You must be Harry’s family!" said Mrs. Weasley. "In a matter of speaking," said Uncle Vernon [Harry’s guardian uncle]. "Hurry up, boy, we haven’t got all day." He walked away…"Hope you have…er…a good holiday," said Hermoine, looking uncertain after Uncle Vernon, shocked that anyone could be so unpleasant. "Oh, I will," said Harry, and they were surprised at the grin that was spreading over his face. "They don’t know we’re not allowed to use magic at home. I’m going to have a lot of fun with Dudley [Uncle Vernon’s son] this summer…"
Of course Harry’s lovable to children since they can relate to Harry being treated unfairly. This quote alone couldn’t give children a good or neutral view of magic, but they could be lead throughout the entire series toward an unhealthy curiosity with multiple doses of the above. It seems that already millions of children in the real world, just like Harry’s guardians, don’t know that none of us are "allowed to use magic at home". (Can’t we "have a lot of fun" in other ways?)
A comparison can be made between Brittany Spears and Harry Potter. Both are now household names throughout the world. Brittany Spears has sold millions of records in addition to distributing millions, if not more, of her images: she is a sex symbol. She has been reported to say that she is a Christian and that she wants to save herself for marriage. What does this say to children, especially young girls? You can dress and act like she does (rubbing on men on national TV) and still be good. However, one may say that most girls are smart enough not to be influenced by such a personality. Nonetheless, most Christian parents know from experience and the Bible that the devil uses small vices to work his influence into larger ones. A boy would most likely satisfy lust with Spears long before he would make it to Playboy or even rape a woman.
This can be compared to a room of children with a bowl filled to the brim with rat poison. It would not be touched since it is totally repulsive by sight, smell, and taste. Conversely, if a bowl filled to the brim with brightly colored candy filled with trace amounts of (hidden) rat-poison was placed in a room of children, they would first start with one piece to detect the identity of the substance. In a few minutes the rest of the bowl would be emptied into their bodies to achieve their ultimate harm.
In response to O’Brians article Harry Potter and the Paganization of Children’s Culture Sandra Miesel asked if "we [must] keep Catholic children away from trees lest they become Druids?" This question made sense as most avid opponents of Harry Potter are Christians and seem to be scared stiff by him. Instead of acting as though Christianity is easily knocked down when exposed to contrary ideas, we should reaffirm to the world that faith in Jesus Christ is true and relevant to all areas of life and that Christianity always offers a better and more true answer.
However, we should protect our malleable, young children by removing Potter from them. On the other hand, older children, or young adults can read Harry Potter if supervised. When they become curious about wicca, if guided by Christian parents, they can be directed to what the Bible has to say about it and use the Harry Potter books as examples and mind-latching devices for the evil of witchcraft.