Harry Potter And The Christians
http://www.sydney.catholic.org.au/Archb ... 1585.shtml
By + Cardinal George PellArchbishop of Sydney
When my first and favourable article on Harry Potter appeared in December, 2001, this provoked more responses than all my previous Sunday Telegraph articles together.
However from early days Harry Potter has also provoked a small stream of Christian criticism. Therefore it won’t hurt to rehearse some of the religious arguments for and against the series.
Michael D. O’Brien is a contemporary Canadian writer and, in my view, the finest living Catholic novelist. He is also an expert on children’s literature and on the fantasy world of fairy stories.
He alleges the Potter books present a kind of anti-gospel, where traditional symbols of good and evil are inverted and abused, where there is no God, and where witchcraft and sorcery, activities forbidden to Christians, are practised and glamorized. He claims there is no original sin and no need for repentance of wrong-doing in the stories. This is strong stuff.
In response some preliminary points should be made. Young Christian Potter enthusiasts are irritated by these attacks and many older Christian readers simply bewildered. As a partial response they point to all the awful literature now available and ask why decent Harry should be criticised, even if he has defects.
Most readers of children’s literature do not probe beneath the narrative to the underlying ideological framework and are little touched by it. Christians also are not restricted to reading Christian literature.
When we examine the books themselves, we do not find any God-figure and the thought world of the series is not Christian, although Harry burns a sign of the cross into a tree to commemorate Mad Eye Moody, and the Muggles do celebrate Christmas. But we don’t criticize Superman because he is silent or God.
The whole series portrays a dramatic struggle between good and evil, where goodness ultimately prevails. Evil is ugly and frightening, the traditional symbolism is not extinguished. Harry and his friends are courageous and persistent, loyal to one another and self-sacrificing. He has an old fashioned sense of duty and is prepared to sacrifice himself, while many volunteer to risk death for the cause. The good enjoy a happy after-life and Harry calls Voldemort to show remorse for his evil deeds.
All these values are good, deeply compatible with Christianity, even if Harry does not know too much about forgiveness and humility.
Christians are forbidden to attempt “white” magic as well as sorcery, but the magic of the good wizards belongs to a fantasy world, far removed from reality, which does not tempt young people to become wizards!
Violence and vengeance do abound, as in many adventure stories, but personal decision making is regularly required and if young people are reminded that great causes are worth a struggle, so much the better.
On balance, Potter easily continues to win my vote and “The Deathly Hallows” finishes up as a great read.
marie in oz