I reproduce the comments below by Eleanor Brindle as a guest post, that I firmly agree with, to encourage people to read things that they might disagree with. I remember racing both parents to finish the latest Harry Potter book as a child/young teenager, and am always puzzled when people say Christians shouldn’t read these stories. Enjoy!
I am thoroughly pro Christian children reading Harry Potter. As magic is part of the natural law of the Harry Potter universe, it’s no more advocating witchcraft than the Chronicles of Narnia. If you’re worried about that, then worry about the Bartimaous Trilogy or Artemis Fowl, where the presentation of magic and witchcraft is much more consistent with that found in the Bible. And I would still recommend these as excellent stories for teenagers. (But ban His Dark Materials for all ages!)
I would think of Harry Potter as classic boasting school fiction (like Malory Towers) with Christian themes permeating throughout. The magic is incidental to the fictional universe. It’s not about magical achievement.
Just some examples of Christian themes in Harry Potter:
1. The greatest magic is the power of Love that lays down life for another. Harry’s mother gives her life in the protection of her infant son, which means when her murderer tries to kill him, the killing curse has no power over him and rebounds on the murderer, not exactly killing him but taking all his power. That particular evil wizard comes back to attack Harry throughout the series, but he struggles to even touch Harry, let alone have any power over him. At the end of the series, Harry gives his life to save his friends from the Evil Wizard and his army. When he returns from death (that resurrection is satisfactorily explained) the evil wizard has no power over Harry or any of his friends: his blood sacrifice made from love covers many. Harry then defeats the evil wizard in one final duel where the wizard’s particular tool of death recognises Harry as it’s true Master. If that isn’t a picture of penal substitutionary atonement and Jesus’ defeat of death and the devil at the cross and on judgment day then I don’t know what is.
2. The evil wizard is very much the living epitmome of original sin. His biggest fear is death, and he spends the entire series chasing immortality and ultimate power, and is happy to sacrifice innocence and the lives of others to get them. However, murder magically rips the soul apart -something he does so much that by the end he is barely recognisable as human. (this is what sin does, no?)
3. Idolatry is exposed in the The Mirror of Erised: A mirror that Harry encounters in his first year that shows the deepest most desperate desire of your hearts. Harry becomes obsessed with it (It shows his dead family) and has to learn that it provides neither knowledge nor truth, and cannot satisfy his desires, even though the desires are not necessarily bad of themselves. One of the most powerful illustrations of the dangers of idolatry that I have encountered. In fact, I have a quote from this section at the top of my pinterest page, to remind me that material things will never satisfy.
4. The Deathly Hallows: the Genesis 3 of the Harry Potter series. A supposed ‘legend’ where three brothers try to cheat death through magical means, and make the rules themselves. They create three powerful and dangerous objects that litter history with terrible tales of people committing horrendous acts to attain them. They all exist, but none of them really conquer death or give immortality, or ultimate power. They are the lure of sin, and Harry and another main protagonist have to deal with the very real temptation of them, and the way this impacts their lives for the worse. Harry also finds that he is descended from one of the three brothers (Just as Jesus is descended from Adam) and at the moment of his sacrificial death, possesses all of the Hallows, but discards them all so no one can suffer from them again. Beautiful picture of the fall and the curse, and how Jesus as the second Adam reverses the effects of the fall, and takes the wages of sin and death.
5. The Horcruxes: the need to put to death your own sinful heart. When the evil wizard divides bits of his soul through murder, he puts bits of the inside protected objects (Horcruxes) to ensure his continued immortality. Harry destroys them all before he faces the evil wizard in battle at the end. However, just before he learns that he himself is the last Horcrux and that a bit of the evil wizard lives in him that must also die, and that he must put himself to death. Great picture of how sin and temptation comes not just from the world ad the devil, but also the flesh, and that we must put to death our own sinful nature.
6. True friendship means standing against each others sin. In the first book, a cowardly (but endearing) member of Harry’s class stands up to Harry and his friends as they leave their dorms at night to go and thwart the evil wizard. He has no idea why they are doing it, but sees that they are breaking rules and wants to stop them doing the wrong thing. Although this attempt is fortunately ineffective, his bravery is formally recognised at the end in front of the whole school. The house points he gains (though little) are what means their house wins the house cup. It’s the first big instance the series gives of standing up to those you love when they sin, and celebrates that courage as being greater than standing up to your enemies. Throughout the series, it becomes clear that Harry cannot defeat the evil wizard (or sin) on his own, and needs the help of his friends. This ‘cowardly’ friend grows and at the end becomes a bit of a hero -still a quiet, and largely unapplauded hero, who stands up for what’s right in the face of torture, evil, and against massive societal pressure. This to me, is quite clearly about the Christian life lived in the context of church, and particularly in the last book shows what it looks like to fight for the truth and the kingdom in the face of apathy, hostility and persecution at every level.
As a Christian child I found Harry Potter as encouraging and formative as Narnia and Lord of the Rings. However I literally grew up with it as they were published, basically keeping pace with Harry. The book’s pitch does get older as they go on, so I’d recommend staggering them over birthdays/Christmas. For younger kids I’d recommend the Wingfeather Saga.