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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What's so bad about Harry Potter?

Goodness the final book (if Rowling doesn't change her mind) has been out for months and the suspense is over yet the controversy continues over "the boy who lived". As a parent, I feel it's my responsibility to pre-read any books that may be questionable before allowing my children to read them. When Harry Potter first came on the scene my children were too young to read so Mr. Potter wasn't an issue I had to deal with for a few years. During that time I have read reports of the Potter series book burnings, banning from schools and all sorts of declarations that reading such books will harm children and turn them to the occult. There have been statements by clergy from all different churches about the Harry Potter books, most against it. Does anyone truly fear children will reject the Gospel Message in favor of wands and flying broomsticks? I can't help but wonder if anyone felt this way when "The Wizard of Oz" or "Alice in Wonderland" were first released? I mean, there are all sorts of magical events in Wonderland and Oz, not to mention drinking mysterious magic potions to alter Alice's body, asking a Wizard for help, evil witches verses good witches. What's so alarmingly different about Harry Potter? I needed to find out.
When my oldest child neared the third grade and I knew around that age kids began to read the books for themselves, I figured it was high time I learned what all the hoopla over Harry was about. I just hoped I wouldn't be bored to tears while having to read the entire series before giving it my stamp of approval or banning it from our acceptable books reading list (not that I have such a list written down anywhere). So off I go and purchase the first four books in the series and sit down with a cup of hot tea to read. It didn't take long for my tea to grow cold as I became very engrossed in the world of Harry Potter. Rowling is a talented story teller and the character of Harry Potter is a delight. He brings forth assorted emotions; you feel sorry for any child growing up as he did, so horribly treated, yet you admire him because he's a good kid and kindhearted even though all he's known is misery and poor treatment. You laugh with him and cry for him. You cheer him on and stand by him in his defeats. You can't help but like Harry Potter.
The occult? No more occult in Harry Potter than the Wizard of Oz in my opinion. My only concern with the story was that it was a murder plot. A who-would-kill-who first storyline. Would Harry Potter kill the evil Voldemort or would Voldemort kill Harry Potter (and numerous others along the way). Some kids might find this upsetting and I knew my kids weren't ready yet for the murder plot. It's a scary thing for a child to read a book that's storyline is someone is out to kill the main character who happens to be a little boy and will stop at nothing to do it! That's the stuff nightmares are made of.
So while I enjoyed the series as I do like mystery books, I held off on letting my kids read it till the summer before my oldest entered the 5th grade. That summer she devoured the books and couldn't wait till the last book was released this past summer. We even went to our local library for their midnight Harry Potter Party and we were the first people to purchase the final Harry Potter book in our town. I couldn't wait to begin reading, but I didn't want it to end either as I have enjoyed getting to know Mr. Potter and his loyal friends over the years.
Looking back at the entire series what stands out is a little boy who has a tragic start to life, yet triumphed over evil and made some remarkable caring, loving and steadfast friends along the way. He made his mistakes but they never caused him to turn from his path of defeating evil and protecting those he loved. He willingly gave his life to save the life of his friends. Now this part is a bit mysterious as Harry seemed to 'die' and talk to the already dead Dumbledore, then Harry "came back". The point is, he had a choice to lay down his life for his friends and he decided to do just that because he loved his friends so much. Out of love for others he made the choice to sacrifice his own life so that they could live. What greater love is there?
The book wasn't about magic or the occult, the book was about love and friendship and over coming hardships and tragedy. Just like the Wizard of Oz wasn't about magic or the occult, but love, family and appreciating our gifts that we have. I think what most kids will be able to take away from these books is how important it is to do "good" and not be tempted by evil, the value of friendships and to appreciate their family, friends and other blessings God has given them. Harry didn't start off with much, but his blessings grew along the way. And what does the bible say about the willingness to put your life on the line for another? John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

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