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What's a Christian to Do with Harry Potter?
Chapter Four - Page Two
 

Continued from page one           Footnotes page

Both are posited as rhetorical questions, which makes sense
because to the fully convinced mind, it is not feasible for any real Christian to answer, “Yes! 

I definitely could see Jesus recommending the Harry Potter books.” Or as CT suggested, that the Potter books would make great Christmas gifts for Christian kids. 

As confounding as this may be, it is a fact that when Christians ask themselves, What would Jesus do with Harry Potter? they come to conclusions as different as the ones found in In His Steps where one man concluded Jesus would let him sell been and wine, while another found this soundly objectionable.

            Asking What would Jesus do with Harry Potter? as a rhetorical question can bring surprising answers. Consider the possible answers below:

·        I think Jesus would read the Harry Potter stories and use them as starting points for parables. He would use their interest in the battle between good and evil to explain the ULTIMATE battle between good and evil.

·        Jesus might just ask kids who had read the books what they would see if they looked into the Mirror of Erised, and listen attentively as they struggled to put into words the deepest unfulfilled desires of their hearts.

·        They might say Jesus would look at the multitudes who love the Harry Potter stories the way he looked at the multitude who came out to him hungry for food to fill their bellies. He would tell his disciples to feed them, giving them what they were hungry for on the surface of things (a great story with supernatural aspects) then offer them what they were truly hungry for -- himself.

·        Jesus would look on the multitudes reading Harry Potter as being like sheep without a shepherd, easily led astray. He would take note of their tendency to err into pastures that don’t satisfy the deepest hunger of the human soul, and surely warn them of the serious dangers of venturing off into witchcraft and wizardry in our world just because it might look fun in Harry’s world.          

·        Just as Jesus fed the multitudes real food, he would notice and attend to the earthly needs that are revealed in the lives of those who identify with the characters in Harry Potter. He might get them talking about Harry Potter and listen to what they identify with most: neglect, poverty, feeling outcast, suffering discrimination, abuse, fears that need to be conquered, dreams of winning, the pressures to fit in, desires to accomplish something in life, or the stresses of school. Then he would show them how to deal with such real parts of their lives.

·        He might talk about how Harry deeply needed love and encouragement, because the people he was left to depend on failed him. He might listen as kids told them about the times the people they had to depend on failed them, then he would offer them the love and encouragement they deeply needed.

·        He might compare the trustworthy goodness of Albus Dumbledore, to the infinitely superior goodness of God the Father, stressing that we can find the same kind of reassurance in God, and godly mentors, that Harry finds in Headmaster Dumbledore.

·        He might start with the longings these fantasy stories awakened in kids and lead them to the One who can satisfy such longings -- God himself.

·        He might talk about how the whole world of Hogwarts was there all the time, but Harry never knew it until he accepted the invitation to go there. Then he might tell kids about his Father’s kingdom is a parallel realm, within reach in this world, but in another dimension that many people miss their entire lives. He might talk about how people who walk by the door that leads to the “magical realm” of Hogwarts without ever noticing it for what it is; and compare that to how people pass by the entrance to God’s kingdom (Jesus, who is the door) without knowing what they are missing. He might even show them how he is the Way (the “magical” transport) to God’s kingdom, and they can only get into him by walking in faith, with absolute confidence in that which is unseen, just like Harry and his friends have to walk through the barrier between platforms nine and ten without getting scared or hesitating. Oh, there’s a lot Jesus might do with Harry Potter!

·        People who would answer the ‘WWJD?’ question this way, might also conclude that the same Jesus who went to parties with “tax collectors and sinners” -- and took flak for it from the religious establishment -- would likely read a controversial book.

·        They could see him showing the kids who love Harry Potter, love and acceptance; never looking down on those who read the books, or casting a sideways glance of disapproval at a kid wearing a Harry Potter T-shirt. 

           

You see, WWJD? never works as a salvo launched against another Christian who holds a different opinion on a matter of conscience. It only works when an individual uses it to become fully convinced in their own mind. It only works when we are following Jesus. Moral life in Old Testament times was governed by one rule of guidance: Follow the law of Moses. The Law of Moses regulated every detail of community and personal life: family, diet, personal hygiene, worship, and religious ritual. Since no one could keep the law, much of their religious ritual had to do with blood sacrifices to pay for the times they fell short of keeping the law perfectly.

            New Testament believers have a New Covenant, where the blood of Jesus replaces the need for animal sacrifices. Our lives are not primarily governed by seeking to follow

 

the Law of Moses. The call Jesus gave throughout the New Testament is, “Come, follow me.” After Jesus rose from the dead, he was telling Peter what life held in store for him, and how his life would end in martyrdom and glory to God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!" Peter turned and saw John following them. When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."[3]

            But how do we follow Jesus after he has ascended back to the Father? Jesus didn’t leave us alone, he gave us the Holy Spirit who will be with us in daily life and lead us. Jesus promised, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”[4] Later he said, But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.[5] Therefore, when dealing with disputable matters, we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, in keeping with the Word of God, and according to our own conscience.

            This does not mean that we ever disregard or disobey God’s direct commands, such as the clear dictates that we are not to practice witchcraft, divination, sorcery, and the like (referred to in the Harry Potter books). It does means that in subjective matters, including whether it’s okay to read a story that includes such references, we must employ personal discernment. As much as people on all sides of this debate banter about verses of Scripture, there is no specific passage that says reading about these things in a fantasy story is wrong. It remains a matter of personal discretion.

 

Where to look in Scripture to learn to deal with disputable matters:

            The Scripture passages we should be studying to deal with the Harry Potter debate are probably not the ones you’ve heard bantered about; but others that haven’t been given much attention in our culture lately. These are found in Romans chapters fourteen and fifteen, and 1 Corinthians chapters eight through ten. These two passages apply to the kind of culturally relevant and spiritually potent debate where Christians take opposing position about personal conduct. I suggest that every Christian who has to deal with the Harry Potter controversy would benefit from an in-depth study of these passages.

            For our purposes, I will lay out the principles which can guide us regarding decisions about Harry Potter:

Note: I have sometimes paraphrased the verse as applied to the Harry Potter issue. For sake of personal reference, I’ve listed the specific verse the point was drawn from at the start of each point. Those taken from Romans 14 only list the verse number; those taken from Romans 15 give chapter and verse:

·        V:1      It is simply stated that some Christian’s faith allows them more freedom than others who have a conscientious objection on disputable matters. Paul describes those with stricter limitations as having “weaker faith” but he does not use this term in a derogatory way.

·        V:3      The one with greater freedom (in this case, the one who feels comfortable reading Harry Potter) must not look down on those whose conscience restricts them.

·        V:3      The one who does not (in our case, read Harry Potter) must not condemn the Christians who do.

·        V:1, 4 & 13 We are not to judge another Christian (implies judging them as deficient in Christ). We will all stand before the Lord to be judged and be held accountable before God for our conduct. Paul asks us a rhetorical question here and answers it, “Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”[6]     

·        v:5        Each person should be fully convinced in his own mind.

·        V:13      Stop passing judgment on one another. (Notice that this is not directed to one side or the other as some of the directives in this passage. He’s saying, Both sides, STOP IT!)

·        V:13      Instead, make up your mind not to stumble a fellow Christian (by leading or provoking him to do something contrary to that which his conscience allows).

·        V:14      The same behavior can be right for one Christian and wrong for another.

V: 15-16      Those who have freedom in disputable matters should be sensitive not to distress those who are conscientious objectors.

·        V:17      The kingdom of God is not a matter of what we conclude -- either way -- on disputable matters. It is about righteousness (each of us being right with God, in Christ’s righteousness and in keeping our consciences clean as led by the Holy Spirit); it is about peace (with God and others in the body of Christ), and joy in the Holy Spirit.  The context of this verse makes it clear that they were dealing with disputable matters that some Christians considered right and others considered it wrong. Therefore, the joy of the Holy Spirit is the joy of a clean conscience and also the joy of Christian fellowship -- which was lost when Christians were caught up in judging and condemning each other openly.  

 

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