Let me begin first by saying I chose to read these books. I shouldn’t have to defend this decision, and yet over the last several months, I have been confronted with this a number of times. We need to know that there is great value in reading fiction and all readers need to understand that. Furthermore, there is value in reading fiction that the culture is devouring (within reasonable biblical convictions of course) because it provides an opportunity to understand the culture, including what engages them and how they think. There is also great value in reading books that you don’t agree with because it challenges you to think about your own convictions. With that said, I was curious what was so provoking about this series to both Christians and non-Christians. Furthermore, the series is so popular now that their influence may remain by the time my children are of age to get into them and so if they are faced with reading them, I wanted to be a discerning parent. As with most books, the result was illuminating and I walked away with some areas I was thankful for and some areas that I could have done without.
A Christian Reading
- Deterioration of Literature: I first talked about her writing as literature and my appreciation for it. This is true. However, there is a clear difference in quality between the first book, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, and the last book, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. Generally speaking, the quality of writing seems to deteriorate the further you progress throughout the series. The exception to that is book four (Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire) which seems to be the worst of them all. It’s almost as though the later books were under approaching deadlines and so she had to rush through them with less attention to detail and more need for filler material.
- Deterioration of Language: This has a direct impact upon the deterioration of literature. Rowling digresses and suddenly as her literary style changes, she begins to insert more foul language (or perhaps her literary style changes because she begins to insert more foul language). In the midst of her artistry in the usage of words, this detracted from the work.
- Deterioration of Lifestyle: Finally, the series is your typical good versus evil in which good triumphs. Certainly evil sometimes has some victories, but the outcome is good wins the war. However, the characters’ convictions for good have no source. It’s just assumed that they know what good is and act accordingly. It fails to capture the depth of the soul in this regard.
Unfortunately, these areas took away from the storyline. What makes it even more unfortunate is that it clearly didn’t have to be that way. It’s clear that language and literary aspects that took away from the series overall were not present in the first three books. Instead, if the level of quality had been maintained from start to finish, those first two points would have never been included.
A Christian Response
- Age: While geared towards young adult, the books should not be for every child at any age. They need to develop some maturity and understanding first.
- Attitude: Second is what your child’s overall attitude is. Do they lean towards the secular mindset? Perhaps it is necessary to wait until he or she has a greater conviction about the things of God.
- Acceptance: Simply put, is your child more likely to accept all things he or she is presented with? There needs to be a level of discernment before engaging with these books.
- Accountability: Finally, does your child have some sort of accountability with you or someone else that may help keep them guided when reading this particular series?
The reality is that any of these four factors could be meant for any of us as much as our children. Furthermore, they could be legitimate guidelines for any book our children want to read, not necessarily just this series. Perhaps a good suggestion is to read the books with your children. Some of the things mentioned above, such as needing to be firm in biblical concepts and be discerning are learned. So why not use this as an opportunity to teach your children these aspects yourself?
To be quite truthful, the books were not what I expected at all from a Christian standpoint. I remember the talk, the chastisement, and even excommunication from Christians that came about when the series gained popularity. They denounced their evil and the evil of anyone who dared read them and yet, I later learned that most of those same people who condemned the books knew very little about the books themselves. Their main point was it was contrary to being a Christian because they contained ‘dark magic.’ However, author James Hamilton made a good, specific, and noted, point in July when he said this on his own blog:
The Harry Potter books are like any book, whether fiction or nonfiction. They must be read in the same way that Christians should read all books: through the lens of Scripture with discernment and conviction for the Lord’s truth. Whether you chose to read them yourself is a matter of your own conviction and not for me to say. However, I would urge you not to rule them out based on what you have ‘heard’ and I would urge you not to condemn others’ choice about the books. Finally, if you choose to read them, do so in such a way that causes you think more about God’s activities and attributes in light of our fallen nature.
(1) To read the article, “J.K. Rowling Tells the Truth . . . In Her Fiction,” by James Hamilton click here.