Harry Potter finding more fans among
By Jennifer Garza -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Saturday, July 16, 2005
Four years ago, Connie Neal attended a Christian booksellers
convention and was widely criticized for her book about Harry Potter.
This year, at the same conference held this week in Denver, the reaction was
"People approached me and thanked me," says Neal, who has now written two
books about Christians and Potter. "They said they finally read the books
or saw the movie and they weren't what they thought."
Neal with her first book about the Christian perspective on the "Harry
Sacramento Bee file, 2001/Chris Crewell
While some religious leaders still criticize the "Harry Potter"
books - the pope has reportedly expressed concern about them, and a Texas
pastor plans a book-burning - Neal believes the books have gained a greater
acceptance among Christians who may have been reluctant to have their children
read them a few years ago.
"I think they saw that none of the dire predictions about kids turning to
the occult came true," says Neal, who lives in Antelope. "The kids saw it
for what it was - a fairy tale."
The debate over the use of magic and wizardry in the books is sure to be renewed
with the release of the sixth book in the series, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood
Prince." The fourth movie, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," is scheduled
to open Nov. 18.
The story of an orphan with magical powers and his friends at a school for
would-be wizards has captivated millions. But the theme has also caused a
stir among some Christians who believe the books promote witchcraft. Pastors
have preached parental caution regarding the books, and most Christian bookstores
refuse to carry the "Potter" series.
Berean Christian Store in Sacramento does not carry the books. "It doesn't
meet our criteria. I know it would make some of our customers unhappy," says
Leslie Garcia, store manager.
Garcia's store did, however, carry another fantasy series - "The Lord of the
"Those were different because they had a Christian frame of reference," says
Garcia. But even then, she says, some customers complained.
Garcia does agree with Neal that more Christians are accepting the "Potter"
books: "I know a lot of people have read them. My grandchildren have read
Neal, who has written "What's a Christian To Do With Harry Potter?" (WaterBrook
Press, $2.99, 224 pages) and "The Gospel According to Harry Potter" (Westminster
John Knox Press, $14.95, 166 pages), says many of the most vocal opponents
of the "Potter" books have never read them.
She adds that there are many biblical themes running through the series.
"Harry's mother dies so Harry could live. That's pretty obvious, don't you
think?" says Neal. "That's only one of more than 50 parallels."
Neal says kids see the good vs. evil theme and apply it to their own lives.
At this week's book conference, several children mentioned the location of
one of the bombings in London last week, Neal says. One hit King's Cross Station,
which in the "Potter" books is where Harry and his friends catch the train
to Hogwarts, the wizard school.
"Because Harry faces evil, they feel they can, too," says Neal.