Midnight rushes on and with it the launch of the final installment of the Harry Potter series. But what has happened to all those howling protests from Christians that once greeted the arrival of a new Potter? A few years back one could not move for Christians denouncing Potter for using his satanic powers to beguile our young people and draw them into satanism. However whilst the objections rumble on (Potter remains the most objected to figure in the American schools library system) Potter bashing seems to have slipped off the agenda. Is he no longer to be regarded as satanically subversive? Or have those who make their money (quite literally) from Christian scaremongering moved onto some other target?
Now it seems that there is another way of making money out of Potter. That is by providing a more sanitised version of Potter- enter Christian fantasy fiction. This is now being promoted by both Christian and non-Christian publishers alike as they realise there is a lot of money to be made out there. These books are shaved of the offending elements in Potter- references to the occult, mild swearing, sexual awakening etc. The supernatural is made squeaky clean.
There are as far as I can see certain problems here. First of all this is not really a response to Potter but an attempt once again by the publishing industry to tap into the Christian market. Do these people really care if Christian kids are being corrupted by Potter? Secondly, the people who write this stuff, and who fancy themselves as the new CS Lewis, are not creating fantasy worlds, they are living in one. They are living in one if they think that our children do not live in a rough tough world where kids do swear, families are dysfunctional and even Christian kids face tough moral choices and often get it wrong. Part of Rowling’s great strength it seems to me- as a non-Potter reader- has been her ability to put real people into fantasy situations, rather than merely to create a fantasy world. Thirdly, where do kids go with all of this? Will they forever remain cut off from the great literature of the world because it does not reflect Christian values? Or will we allow them to grow and to mature and to develop a discerning faith that is rooted in Christ and confronts the world without retreating into shallow isolationism?
As I say I am not a Potter reader (its not at all my type of thing) but my daughter is. she started reading it at seven and now almost fourteen is still as enthusiastic about i- and she has introduced my wife to Potter. They both await midnight with a sense of anticipation. Does their reading of Potter mean they have been drawn to the occult? Not at all. Do either of them love God less because of Potter? No. Has it led either of them to trivialise the power of evil in our world or the work of Satan? No. What they have both enjoyed have been the strong characterisations, the message of the importance of friendship, the humour and the plot sprawled across seven volumes.
It seems to me that those who harangue the occult setting of Potter miss the point- that such things are incidental to the books rather than their core message. I have often discovered across the years that those who have shouted most loudly about the occult and seen Satan’s hand everywhere have been precisely the people who have been least aware of the subtle and powerful warfare of Satan in their own lives. Jesus it appears to me has much more to say about the dangers hypocrisy, worldliness, greed, and envy than people being drawn into the occult.