I’m reading “What’s a Christian to do with Harry Potter”. Overall, considering the subject matter, Connie Neal is great. She argues that Christians can read Harry Potter and use it as a platform from which to reach out to and convert non-Christians. Not something I agree with, but she’s fair, relatively impartial, and well-informed. Except for one irksome passage, which I’d like to discuss below.
First of all, the basic Christian debate concerning Harry Potter comes from the following passage in Deuteronomy:
“There shall not be found in you one who passes his son or his daughter through the fire, one that uses divination, an observer of clouds, or one divining, or a whisperer of spells, or a magic charmer, or one consulting mediums, or a spirit-knower, or one inquiring of the dead. For all doing these things are an abomination to Jehovah. And because of these filthy acts Jehovah your God is dispossessing these nations before you.” (Deu 18:10-12)
Therefore, divination, magic, talking to the dead, spells – all stuff that takes place at Hogwarts – is out. Christians are upset mostly because Harry Potter is so damn popular, and everybody, even good little Christian kids, would love to be a witch and have magical powers. Although the magic in Harry Potter is little different from the magic in Narnia or the Lord of the Rings, or for that matter Miss Poppins, the brilliant reality of the Harry Potter world is just a little too realistic, not fairtytale enough, and therefore scathingly abused by many, but not all, Christians.
To get back on track – it is in breaking down the passage above that Connie Neal fails so miserably. She says, “Deuteronomy 18:9-14 is God’s list of things we must NEVER try or dabble in… Parents, NEVER offer your Children as Human Sacrifice. I’m sure glad God put that one in there! Some people actually have given their children as sacrifices to demons or idols. They would kills their children or put them in the arms of an idol called Baal and burn them to death!”
She makes it sound is if, without God’s biblical warning, we’d all be killing our children all the time… but more importantly, she completely misconstrues the biblical quote through her lack of familiarity with Pagan customs. “Passing a son or daughter through fire” does not mean sacrificing them, to Baal or any other diety. It is a practice recorded in many Greek and Roman myths as a magical way of making an infant strong, almost divine. As many pagan heroes secretly received this treatment at the hands of gods in myths, it was probably a widespread practice for parents, hoping to strengthen and protect their children, to pass them through the fire. “Child sacrifice” is not nearly so common or frequent among pagans as Christians love to think it was.
At the same time – she completely ignores one of the most frustrating episodes in the Bible for non-Christians to deal with: the sacrifice of Isaac. If God really wanted to forbid us from sacrificing our children in Deuteronomy, what was he doing commanding Abraham to take his only son Isaac out in the woods and slit his throat? (Although Isaac would probably have been burned up – such was the treatment of offered sacrifices – all of the classic artwork shows Abraham bearing over his son violently with a sword). Was child-sacrifice OK in this instance because God commanded it? Are we supposed to obey all of God’s laws, until he comes and tells us differently? (It would seem so – for there are hundreds, if not thousands of accounts of murder in the old testament… a few of which were not even commanded by God but still applauded by Jews and Christians; most have to do with a Jewish warrior dispatching hordes of rival clans competing for their territory.)
What about Job’s seven sons and seven daughters that God killed (or allowed Satan to kill) in order to give Job a chance to prove his faith? What about Jesus not allowing a loving son to go and bury his father before following him – implying that all family ties are worthless and that only Jesus matters? Maybe I’m branching out too much at this point, but the assumption that there was no love in the world at all, and that parents gladly threw away their children any chance they got, is a dangerous Christian delusion that cannot be tolerated.
As a further note – The problem with Harry Potter in Christians’ eyes is that they believe in magic. They don’t think it’s fantasy; they think it is real, and also forbidden. There is nothing wrong with this belief – as long as it is consistent. If no Harry Potter, then no Narnia or other fantasy tales that include magic.