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Should We Ban Harry Potter?


There is a news story from Tennessee, in the U.S., about a Roman Catholic priest who removed all Harry Potter books from the school library. The priest, Rev. Dan Reehil, made a statement that Harry Potter books contain actual “actual spells and curses” that might summon demons.

The parents, who complained and asked for the priest to be fired are quoted; “Reehil is a toxic narcissist who hates Pope Francis and views himself as ‘a soldier of God.’ … Our school, however, consists of children, not soldiers” The parent’s statement contained 50 bullet points.

So, the battle lines are obvious, in that confrontation, and I’m glad I don’t have to be a referee.

The answer, from the priest’s employers, the Diocese, was that the priest’s views and some other opinions “have homes in the church.” The Diocese backed the priest by saying that his ideas were acceptable in the Roman Catholic Church. The parents talked about their children’s education, and the Diocese talked about their religion.

If I was a referee, I would probably say, the two sides are talking about very different things; education for children, and religion for adults. The unspoken question to the parents is, “Why do you send your children to a Catholic school, if you don’t believe in the Roman Catholic religion?” On the other side, many people probably want to ask the priest, “Are you crazy?” The priest’s ideas will definitely appear medieval in our modern world.

There is no middle way in this argument.

So, should we ban Harry Potter?

I have never read a Harry Potter book, and I’m sure I never will, but children everywhere love those stories. I was once in Edinburgh, Scotland, and I saw a tiny cafe “The Elephant House” where a struggling single mother named J. K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter novel.

Apparently, she was depressed and thinking about suicide at the time. J. K. Rowling’s success, from that point, was astounding. She has since written many books, and she would be a billionaire, except that she keeps making huge donations to charities. From all accounts, she is good and likable person, and she has a success story that we can all admire; she climbed from poverty and depression to amazing success, by her own effort. And she identifies herself as a Christian. She is a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which is the Anglican Church in Scotland.

She is English, and Scotland is her adopted home. Also, she has written books on other topics besides Harry Potter and magic spells.

I would never ban the person of J. K. Rowling, and I don’t think she meant any harm when she wrote about Harry Potter. If you don’t know, Harry Potter is a boy in an English boarding school for student wizards. It’s all made up, pure fiction, and the stories are filled with magic and incantations; and they are one of the biggest financial successes in the history of literature.  

I have personally banned Harry Potter from my life; I’m an adult and those books are for children, but I respect and admire the author. Also, I’m a Christian, and I’m not comfortable with stories about magic, and I would not buy those books for my grandchildren. Possibly the biggest problem with the Harry Potter stories, is their setting. Harry Potter lives in our modern world, and practices his magic among us.

Other English writers have written similar stories, but they are safe from criticism because they set their stories, including magic things, in fantasy worlds. J. R. R. Tolkien was a Roman Catholic, and he wrote “The Lord of the Rings” and other related stories. He was also a huge success, but he doesn’t get criticized much because his make-believe stories are set in a make-believe world “Middle Earth.” One of the most important characters in Tolkien’s stories is a magician named Gandalf, who practices magic as much as Harry Potter; but Gandalf keeps his magic in Middle Earth, away of our world.

And then we have C. S. Lewis, one of the most popular writers among evangelical Christians. C. S. Lewis was an evangelical Anglican, and a friend of Tolkien. He kept all the magic and the witches in his stories in a fictional place called Narnia. When the English children in the stories travel to our world, sometimes through a wardrobe, they leave all the magic and witches behind.

Also, Christians believe C. S. Lewis wrote allegories about Christian things. Aslan the Lion, for example, is a picture of Jesus, and Aslan is the savior of Narnia. So C. S. Lewis is acceptable to most Christians that I know.

Real choices are not simple. So, was Rev. Dan Reehil wrong to remove Harry Potter books from his school library? No.

The issue is not what he did, but where he did it. He removed the books from the library of a Roman Catholic school. The books and the movies are still available in bookstores, and the public library, and the Internet. Rev. Reehil is guilty of believing something. He then took his beliefs one step further, and acted on them, and he put boundaries around his school. My advice to the parents, is to send their children to a different school. If the Catholic school is good for their children, they should understand the source of that academic success.

The problem is not the author of the stories, she hardly owns her own work, now. Her books have been promoted and sold by publishers, and movie producers, and they have been read by millions of fans; and the priest is standing up to all of them. He believes, and he speaks.

I respect the priest because he knows who he is, and he speaks honestly. The choices are not simple, but he made a clear decision; he chose to be honest instead of popular.

We should all do that. Each one of us is called to make choices, at any cost. We can’t pretend to believe, only for some benefits.

Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 24: 14 and 15
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