Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Experiment

This summer Jim and I decided to conduct a little experiment. We, along with Evan, are reading through the Harry Potter series. School let out on May 20. Evan would be done except that we placed a rule on him that he could not be more than one book ahead of us.

We know the controversy about the books in the Christian circles where we run. I myself had an editorial published in a parenting magazine spouting off about the dangers of witches and wizards becoming commonplace and filling young minds with the idea that magic can solve your problems. And yet I myself wanted to read the books! So, we decided to read them together as a family. And we're discussing what we find and comparing it to Scripture. (And it's also a good lesson in self-control because we're learning things about the characters that we cannot share with others who aren't as far along as we are!)

So here we sit on July second. Jim is somewhere back in book five (something about not being able to sit around and read all day because he's working, excuses, excuses). Evan and I are each a couple hundred pages from finished with seven. And I still don't really know what to think. The books aren't as much about witchcraft (which I hereby acknowledge is a real thing very much alive in the world today) as they are about friendship and fighting for the greater good. It does seem that to get to the greater good requires much rule bending and breaking and sneaking around. The setting seems to be just that, the setting for a good story.

What do you think? Have you read the series? Would you let your children read them? Why or why not? (Have full license to discuss in the comments, but please let's play nicely and understand that different people may make different choices.)


Sarah said...

I spent about a year flirting with Wicca. All the while thinking about how it wasn't the truth. I'm a little more sensitive to "witchcraft" books/movies/etc for myself. Still I think the best thing we can do with our kids is discuss. Think of all the pluses here: open lines for discussion, showing your kids you are interested in things that interest them, not keeping your child from it but helping them through it, encouraging reading, etc. I think it's a great plan!

Monica said...

I applaud you for opening up this topic. You're so right- there are tons of opinions on these books.

We have made it clear to our kids that witchcraft/sorcery is not of God and should be avoided. It may be interesting, but it is not to be a place of discovery. Therefore, we have never introduced our kids to these books. Certainly there will be a time for them to interact with this part of our culture and see it through a Biblical lens. It would be even better if we (like you) would go through it with them.
With the range of ages of our kids and ability to process it all, now is not the time.

I'm not even sure at this point what the series is actually about, so I figure there are millions of other books for them to read. Perhaps they will find one day that they are "out of touch" with their peers or have missed some part of the American culture, but I know they'll be okay:)

Blessings to you.

Mrs. Allroro said...

I took a library science class as an elementary ed major, taught by a former missionary to Kenya. She required we read the first book of the series. At the time, I was pretty sure I didn't want to read them, but hadn't made up my mind. I decided to do it, because of the situation. Not because I would not have passed the class (I would have dropped it if I had felt strongly enough), but because I trusted the teacher and respected her opinion. So I read that book and enjoyed it.

As a child, I believed that all other religions were false--by that I mean, that the people who worshiped other gods, etc, were simply ignorant and that their gods had no power. In college, I learned (through missionary experiences and through conversations with other students) that there were other "powers" in the world, but that the difference was that they weren't good--not that they didn't exist. So I knew that witches were real and that they had power, and some maybe "good" intentions, but I also knew that they were not the God to be worshiped or trusted. I knew it was very dangerous to dabble in them. (I'm sure there is some sin in my life regarding this, but I am careful to avoid it--I don't even read my horoscope for this reason.) (I met a student in college once, when I was trying to engage in spiritual conversations, who told me she was a former witch and that had learned that, even though there was power in witchcraft, it just wasn't the right power, and she became a Christian. Pretty cool, huh?)

Now, as one who has almost daily interactions with Hindus, I have to be very careful with this whole idea of idolatry, witchcraft, necromancy, and astrology. I heard an amazing testimony from a former Hindu whose father was a trained astrologer. That family was saved when they saw firsthand (and could even see the evidence in their astrology) that the power of Jesus was the only power stronger than that of the gods they were seeking in protecting them against evil spirits. My point is, I try to be very careful to avoid the "appearance of evil", especially because of my social circle. I don't know that I wouldn't watch one of these movies again or read one of the books (probably not read the books, because like another reader said there are millions of other books to read, and I don't have so much free time for reading, so I try to be careful about what I choose to read--make the most of it), I just think they should be taken seriously. I just think people should be careful with such topics.

Thanks for the post. You're such a cool mom.

Sarah Eliza @ devastateboredom said...

I've read them, and I think that they're pretty harmless. I don't have children yet, but I think as a Christian I would definitely use most books as a jump-off point for conversation with my kids... I think that an issue can arise when Christians object to some books and then don't even glance twice at the rest of the books their child brings home from the library... as a voracious child reader, I was a good bit more affected by things I stumbled across in books that appeared harmless but had references to abuse or similar things. So I guess I would say, I understand parents wanting to limit their children's exposure to some books, but would hope that they don't just limit the most publicized ones when others might be slipping in under the radar... there can be fads in disapproval as well as popularity. ;)

Also, there's a certain point of too much sheltering... I was homeschooled all the way to graduation and was very sheltered, to the point where I had trouble relating to other kids my age because I had such an "other" mentality. I couldn't relate to their jokes or the tv shows they watched (even very harmless ones) and so I ended up very lonely through high school.

Anyway, that's kind of a tangent, but I think you're doing great to read the books together and discuss! I really respect that you set out to draw your own conclusions, and use it as a learning opportunity. :) Very cool!

Anonymous said...

The technology used by the 'good guys' in the HP series, which they call magic, has nothing to do with Wicca or any forms of animism or shamanism. They do not summon demons or call upon gods.

The bad guys -do- use pagan magic some.

The series is Christian, as it was intended to be, even the number of books is in homage to the Narnia Chronicles.

There are a couple of factors which are significant differences; Rowling is not nearly as well formed in the Christian faith as C.S. Lewis was, and today one has to sneak even more stealthfully past watchful dragons.

You will notice that after book 7 came out, the NEA wasn't -nearly- as enthusiastic about pushing the books as it had been previously. There's a reason for that, methinks.

Mrs. Allroro said...

So what movie did I go see just days after writing this? You guessed it. Some friends were visiting and wanted to see it, and I didn't think twice. I sounded so goody-goody. I didn't mean to, but when I read it back, I thought, "I'm setting myself up to look like a hypocrite."

I still think that all magic is pagan. Matthew 12:30 NIV, "He who is not with me is against me" Like we can call it whatever we want, but what is it really? What is really the power behind it?