To Harry Potter or Not

Who knew a make-believe story of wizards and witches could be so controversial?  One call to Catholic radio and I found out.  As I was listening to the host and his guest, a priest, discuss the Harry Potter series, I was intrigued as to why the controversy and thought it would be interesting to hear them dissect the series.  Instead, I was horrified at what they were saying. And I quote…

“The Harry Potter series is an invitation to sin.”

“After reading Harry Potter, droves of young people are delving into the Occult, researching real witchcraft and wizadry and turning to Wicca.”

“Parents would be ill-advised and irresponsible to let their children not just read the series, but watch the movies.”

One listener, after agreeing with the priest that the series was evil was told he was a good father.  So, because I read the series and watched the movies does that make me a bad mother, less Catholic even?  His comment really bothered me.  The mere fact that a parent’s Catholic stock could be questioned based on her openness to the series was, quite honestly, disgusting and very offensive.  To be called a “sheep in wolves clothing” for recommending the series did not set well with me.  I figured why not?  I dialed and after hearing my counter-argument, they patched me right through. I’m guessing I was 1) good for ratings, 2) a poor soul they could beat up on, or 3) both.

“So, Kathryn from Austin, tell us your thoughts on the Harry Potter series.”

And I did, hopefully eloquently. I mentioned that the series uses magic as a conduit, but that the real issue at hand is the point of the book: good vs. evil and love vs. hate. End of story. How my husband and I have seen it as an invitation to talk with our son about evil in the world and how to confront it, battle it and ultimately be a disciple of Christ. And, how we look forward to reading the books and watching the movies with our four other children.

That’s when the priest started throwing out things like, “to encourage our children to read the series is sinful” and it’s quite likely that five years down the road my children would be on a path to Occult.

For the love of my soul. I wanted to respond, but they cut me off.

Let’s shoot straight, shall we?  Our job as parents is to provide experiences for our children to learn. To catch them when they make bad choices (and they will) and lead them to make good choices. We should show them how to constantly ask themselves, “Is what I’m doing glorifying God or glorifying the Devil.”  For every parent, that is a constant struggle. No one choice is the right choice for every family, for every child, for every situation.  We believe strongly in “casting the fishing line,” so to speak, and reeling our children back in when they venture too far.  Eventually, though, we have to cast the line again.  Sheltering our children and letting them live in the bubble is not healthy, for either one of us.  Now, I certainly don’t think we should be rolling our kids’ first joint, carting them down to the local bar or buying them a subscription to Playboy magazine.  Let’s be rational.  This is a children’s book series.  It is fantasy.  It. Is. Not. Real.  It’s highly entertaining reading and beautifully written literature.  Interestingly, many of our friends (wonderful Christians themselves), neighbors, priests and seminarians in our diocese are all big fans of the Harry Potter series.

My biggest beef is hearing counter-arguments about how evil Harry Potter is…from people who have never read the series or watched the movies. Their opinions are formed by what they’ve heard on the radio, Googled or perceived the series to be.

That sure sounds a lot like what non-Christians say about Christianity.

If you’ve read the series you’ve seen the beauty in Harry’s final sacrifice. You’ve learned to fall in love with his friendship – true and pure – with Ron and Hermoine. You’ve seen how Voldemort’s way (complete with his pesky SERPENT) rarely works no matter how hard he tries. You read about the magic, but it is the relationships that keep you hooked. It is the love that makes you believe good can win.  I say, don’t be so quick to judge until you’ve read it for yourself.

We set firm boundaries for our children and set our standards high – really high. How blessed is our family that we get to have these discussions with our children while they’re still living in our house. We get to help form the conscience, shape the character.  In just a few years, those lessons will be cemented. Our day-to-day job as parents will have ceased. What kind of a young adult will we have created? One who shies away from everything that doesn’t conform to his thinking? Or, one who meets people where they are and shines as a Christ-like example? I hope the latter. I’m praying for it.

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