"Harry Potter or his Accusers: Which is the Real Enemy?"
by Steven Schäufele (firstname.lastname@example.org)
All that this people call conspiracy
Do not fear what they fear;
Do not be afraid of them.
It is YHWH Sabaoth
Whom you must hold in veneration,
Whom you must fear,
Whom you must dread.
Isaiah viii 12-13
For over a quarter century, I have been a devout, committed Christian (of the Anglo-Catholic or High-Anglican variety, FWIW).
For approximately the same length of time, I have been, off and on, a student of those areas of life known variously as Magick, Esoteric Wisdom, and the Occult.
And for far longer for virtually my entire life (at least since I learned to read) I have been an aficionado of fantastic literature, science fiction, mythology, folklore, etc.
It is as a combination of all these things that I write in defense of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books and the publishing phenomenon associated with them against those accusers who call themselves Christians and who, in the Name of the Liberating Gospel of Christ, condemn them.
What is Magic?
Later in this essay I will present a survey of what I regard as the highly inappropriate character of the attacks and protests brought against the Harry Potter books by various evangelicals. There is, however, a much more basic issue that must in my judgment be addressed first. Whether the Harry Potter books are wholesome literature or their evangelical accusers are justified in attacking them, the fact remains that these books, while acknowledging that not all wizards are good and presenting a few examples of evil wizards, focus overwhelmingly on a number of sorcerers who are presented as attractive, admirable, and even heroic figures, and magic as a wholesome and attractive activity. And there is no question that on the other hand many Christians regard Magic as something that is totally antithetical to God's revealed Will and therefore totally inappropriate for Christians to get involved in. I must therefore address the questions: Is Magic inherently evil? Or can Magic be properly used to support the Work of God in the World? Does God disapprove of all Magic, or are there some kinds of Magic that God does not disapprove of, perhaps even actually approves of? Is Magic forbidden to Christians by definition, or are there some Christians who are permitted or even required by their Vocation from God to engage in it? All of these questions turn on a much more basic and much more challenging question, which is, What is Magic?
There are a lot of answers to this question. There are popular answers such as, Magic is a kind of stage-act in which, e.g., a magician pulls rabbits out of hats for the entertainment of a paying audience. Magic is what you get when a person (generally elderly) wearing a pointy hat and a cloak jumps around waving a stick and muttering words no one can understand. These popular stereotypes are on the level of the notion that God is a bearded old man sitting on a cloud (seriously, I've run into people who figure I'm an atheist because I don't believe in a bearded old man sitting on a cloud) or that Satan is a guy in a red suit, horns, and hooves carrying a pitchfork. I believe we can safely set all such popular definitions aside.
If we turn to the occultists, the people who claim to actually practice magic and to have some direct experience of it, we find that often they aren't really much more helpful. Some occultists have a very broad definition of Magic as any intentional act, that is, anything you do in order to make something else happen. Walk into a dark room and hit the light switch and the light comes on; Magic! Mix flour, salt, sugar, warm water, and yeast, put it in the oven a while later, and out comes bread; Magic! Throw a few chunks of plutonium together and destroy a city; Magic! Give a sick person a certain kind of pill and that person gets well; Magic! It is quite true that our ability to light a room by pressing a button, to destroy a whole city with a bomb, to cure illness by means of little pills, would have been regarded by our ancestors as magical, and indeed Arthur C. Clarke has asserted that Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. But this approach to the question doesn't really help us to understand what God may forbid, allow, or require.
On the face of it, the Bible isn't much help either. There are many passages in both the Old and New Testaments that are often quoted by evangelicals as condemning Magic: Exod. xxii 17; Lev. xix 26, 31; xx 6, 27; Deut. xviii 10-11; I Sam. xxviii 7-19; Acts xiii 6-12; xix 18-19. But most of these merely say things like You must not use magic, You must not tolerate sorcerers, Witchcraft must be banished from among you, without ever defining the words magic, sorcerer, or witchcraft. Presumably, the Hebrew or Greek words used by the original writers would have been readily and clearly understood by the original hearers and readers 2000-3000 years ago, but that doesn't help us, separated from them as we are by vast cultural and linguistic differences. We are still left with the question, When the Biblical writers condemn Magic, what is it they're actually condemning?
It is possible, I believe, to get an answer to this question, using the usual methods of honourable Biblical scholars to recover the original cultural and linguistic context of the words in question and to relate these passages with more general moral and theological principles that the Bible gives us as general guidelines for recognizing the Will of God. In this case, the relevant principles seem to boil down to two:
I. Avoid Anything that Might Interfere with Your Loyalty to the One True God
Speaking through Moses (Exod. xx 3-5; cf. Deut. vi 13-15), YHWH describes Himself as a jealous God, not tolerating competition from any rival. To say the same thing in a more positive way, YHWH is the One True God, the only God in Whose service is Perfect Freedom; service to any lesser god constitutes slavery. We, the People of YHWH, are therefore enjoined to avoid anything that interferes with our service and loyalty to YHWH. We are to test all spirits (I John iv 1-3), and avoid dealings with any spirits who don't acknowledge YHWH as Sovereign. We are to avoid any cultural practices that have not yet been properly assimilated into the Culture of the Servants of YHWH (as is done, e.g., in Num. xix 1-10). The Law of Moses, for instance, prohibits boiling a lamb in its mother's milk (Exod. xxiii 19), this being a common practice in the surrounding pagan societies (and it is on this basis that modern observant Jews refuse to combine meat and dairy products in a single meal). The concern was that, by adopting cultural practices too closely associated with pagan cultures, people might be tempted to adopt those cultures' religious orientation as well, and be enslaved spiritually (cf. Deut. xii 30). The cultural practices about which one must be sensitive vary from time to time and place to place; nowadays, eating a cheeseburger isn't likely to undermine your faith, and St. Paul (Romans xiv-xv, I Cor. vi 12) claims that, in Christ's Grace, he can get away with anything but he nevertheless enjoins charity and consideration toward those who might be led astray by our exercise of the Freedom we enjoy in Christ. Whoever (and whatever) comes between any soul and that soul's proper devotion to YHWH were better to be cast into the Sea tied to a millstone. And that certainly includes calling upon Devils as opposed to YHWH for aide and support, and this is a big part of what Scripture condemns under the label Magic.
II. Avoid Any Attempt to Fix the Future.
The past is the province of historians and the present is the responsibility of all of us, but the future belongs to YHWH and no one may infringe upon it. We cannot know what the future holds. We cannot presume to know what the future holds; St. James (James iv 13-16) warns against making firm plans based on future contingencies. We are forbidden to try to know what the future holds. If YHWH condescends to tell us something about it, we can only receive that revelation humbly and avoid the presumption of trying to know more. The most a human being can know about the future is that, if things go on the way they are now (if these shadows remain unaltered by the future, in Dickens' words), they will lead to such-and-such a conclusion. This is the most the Biblical prophets presumed to be able to say: That if human beings continued to behave in such-and-such a way, YHWH would respond in such-and-such a way. (The Book of Jonah is an excellent little case study of this principle: Jonah warns the people of Nineveh that, if they don't repent, YHWH will destroy them. They repent. YHWH has mercy on them.) Likewise, we may pray, entreat, negotiate with YHWH to have things turn out in a certain way, but we may not try to compel the future to turn out the way we want; the future belongs to YHWH, and YHWH is not compelled. Some of the Biblical denunciations of Magic refer specifically to unhallowed, illegitimate attempts to know, or to compel, the future.
Who You Gonna Call?
A moment ago, I said that part of what Scripture condemns under the label Magic is any activity that establishes a relationship between us and the evil, demonic spirits that rebel against God and corrupt and destroy the creatures of God, including calling on such spirits for help or support. Such activity I would unhesitatingly identify as Black Magic.
But can we thereby conclude that all spiritual power is necessarily evil and rebellious? That any attempt on the part of a human being to seek and to exercise spiritual power must inevitably bring that person into contact with devils and only with devils? Is there no wholesome, no holy spiritual power that humans can tap into?
Black Magic involves, among other things, the invocation of devils and of Satan Itself the making of covenants with Hell, etc. So, at least, I am told, for I have no first-hand knowledge of such matters. But I do know, from first-hand experience, that White Magic involves the opposite. Serious White occultists do not call upon Satan; they do not resort to evil spirits or turn to false gods (Psalm xl 4b); indeed, serious White occultists vigorously repudiate Satan and all diabolical forces. Serious White occultists call instead upon the Lord YHWH, the One True God, Maker of Heaven and Earth.
This is done under many Names and Titles. If you look in the Bible, you will find that the One True God is referred to there by dozens of different Names and Titles (cf. e.g. Psalm xci, which uses six in the first two verses alone), not all of which are likely to be familiar to the average Christian. And not all White occultists are Christians; some are rather Jews or Moslems or devout followers of other religions, who worship God according to the traditions they have found meaningful and who draw on those traditions for appropriate ways of addressing God. And some, more inventive or poetic perhaps in temperament, develop their own Names and Titles for God that are especially meaningful to them, based on their own personal experience of and relationship with God.
But none of this diversity of nomenclature matters. What matters is that all White occultists acknowledge they serve, and are calling on, the One True God, the Only God, the Lord of Light, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Those who are Christians explicitly identify the God they serve and the Source of all their magical powers with Jesus Christ, and call upon Him at all times and in all things to supply the strength, the power, the wisdom they need to perform the work He has called them to do, to bless the work they do for the furtherance of His Kingdom, and to protect them as they strive along the Way, to reign within their hearts, minds, and wills, that by His Power and through their hands this World may be remade to be the Garden and the City of His Glory. And all who call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts ii 21).
Many Christians categorically deny that there is any such thing as White Magic distinct from Black Magic. The most they may be willing to grant is that Black Magicians know they are serving and calling upon Satan, while those who call themselves White Magicians are actually doing the same thing, but are deluded; the spiritual aides they are invoking are no more than devils disguised as Angels of Light. I have found that this opinion is very common in some Christian circles, but I am very certain that it is mistaken at about the same level as the common 19thcentury American notion that the only good Injun is a dead Injun. Like that one, it is said almost entirely in ignorance. Jesus' own answer to those who deny that there is White Magic that is opposed to Black Magic is contained in Matt. xii 25-28: If I by the Power of Satan cast out demons, by what power do your own exorcists cast them out? But if it's by the Power of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God is come upon you!
The belief that all Magic, all traffic with supernatural spirits, is inherently evil is also fundamentally heretical, and gives Satan too much credit; it essentially defines a certain area of Life, of Reality, as being necessarily outside the Dominion of God. And such a definition is itself Satanic. There is nothing evil that is not a perversion, a corruption of something good. It is truthfully said that Satan cannot make but can only mar; true creative power, even such limited creative power as we humans have, It lacks. As Satan cannot create anything new, so there can be nothing evil that is not basically good. All things ALL THINGS are created by God, and everything that God created is under the judgment expressed in Gen. i 31: It was very good.
Now, there is no question that Black Magic exists. Given this premise, and the more general one just stated that every evil thing is merely the corruption of some good thing the question arises, What is that good thing of which Black magic is the corruption?
Let me address this whole issue from another angle, one that is at least potentially more meaningful personally to at least some of us. Black Magic exists. Who is going to protect us from it?
God, you say. Very well. But how? and through whom?
Who protects us from disease? God, or doctors?
Who protects us from invasion? God, or soldiers?
Who protects us from arson? God, or firefighters?
Who protects us from crime? God, or the police?
The answer is, of course, that we are protected from these threats by God working through doctors, soldiers, firefighters, police, etc. Under normal circumstances, it is through human hands that God performs miracles of healing and defense, and God routinely calls certain people, certain individuals to be the hands through which such miracles are performed, and endows them with the gifts of strength, wisdom, courage, patience, etc. to perform these ministries.
And, just as God has called and endowed certain specialized individuals to protect us from physical dangers, so God has called and endowed certain specialized individuals to protect us from spiritual dangers.
Perhaps there are those who would deny that God, the One True God, would ever elect and call any of His servants to a ministry involving the manipulation of supernatural, spiritual powers. Such a denial reminds me of a conversation I had about a quarter-century ago, when a friend demanded to know why I was joining the Episcopal Church. When I said that I believed Christ was calling me to do so, he protested, Why would He do that?? When I turned the question around, asking Why wouldn't He?, his response was, Well, isn't that the Synagogue of Satan?
It was clear that my friend knew nothing at all about the Episcopal Church. Likewise, it is clear to me that any Christian who denies that Christ would call any of His servants to a ministry involving the manipulation of supernatural, spiritual powers and endow those servants with the necessary gifts and skills in carrying out such a ministry, and guide and train them in the use of such skills have no understanding of what they are talking about. The Ministry of Miracles is explicitly mentioned in I Cor. xii 10. And I, frankly, see no distinction between what are commonly called miracles and what I call White Magic. Both involve Power delivered by God into the hands of His servants, often in response to their explicit petition (e.g., I Kings xvii 19-24, xviii 36-39; II Kings ii 19-24, vi 1-20), but sometimes on His own initiative (Exod. vii 8-13, xiv 15-22) or out of the pure exuberance of His overflowing Grace (I Kings xviii 45-46; Acts iii 4-8, xiii 8-11, xiv 8-10). If it makes you more comfortable to call what I'm calling White Magic Miracles, that's fine; from my point of view, both are the result of Divine Power working in response to human need and to human prayer motivated by that need. But so far, every attempt to explain to me how Magic differs from the miracles performed by such Biblical heroes as Moses, Elijah, Elisha, St. Peter, or St. Paul has gotten bogged down on a confusion between Magic in general and Black Magic in particular the assumption that, if it's called Magic, it must by definition be evil, which is precisely the assumption I am unwilling to accept. Such thinking is, I believe, too heavily based on stereotypes in the manner of those who imagine that all Jews are rich, or all Christians are teetotalers, or all Moslems are terrorists (to allude to some unfortunately common stereotypes) or, worse, who reject all Christianity on the basis of their own limited experience of a peculiar and perverse form of Christianity which is the only kind they've ever been exposed to and not enough on solid Truth.
Many Christians, I suspect, are more comfortable with the notion of miracles occurring within an established, obvious, and recognizable Church context, especially at the hands of someone whose Christian devotion and piety has already been established publicly, than they are with the notion of the same Divine Power working through someone whose spiritual state and allegiance they are not ready to trust, in some unorthodox context. I understand that anxiety; I sympathize with it. But only because I, too, am human. For if we consider the matter rationally, we must I think acknowledge that this discrepancy is merely an expression of our human, creaturely preference for familiar contexts as opposed to novel, strange, or challenging ones. And we know that God does not respect that preference (cf. e.g. Numb. xi 26-29). Those who, on the basis of this creaturely preference, accept miracles at the hands of properly-certified Saints but not White Magic at the hands of others whom God has chosen for this ministry (cf. Acts x 15) are like those who say We know that God spoke through Moses; but as for this Man, no one knows where He gets His stuff (John ix 29).
Some would warn that delving into these occult areas is dangerous. That is true. But the same is true of police work and firefighting and medicine; these are at least in some cases very dangerous occupations. Let us be grateful that God has endowed certain individuals with special means and skills that enable them to confront these occupational hazards and to overcome them for the welfare of the rest of us. And likewise, there are certain individuals who are effectively much less at risk from spiritual dangers than the average human being. I admit I do not really know how this works; whether God has appointed whole squadrons of angels to surround such persons or what (cf. Psalm xci 5-13). But I do know it's true; there really are individuals who are able to boldly go where most would fear to tread, and to confront spiritual dangers with relative impunity. The wise and experienced among them are very much aware to Whom they owe their singular protection, and make a point of constantly thanking God for it and relying upon Him for it. But there is no question that, just as some people are brave enough to run into a burning building rather than out of it, so there are some people who have what it takes to confront Satan and all the Hosts of Hell and scatter them with the full Power of God. Not all of us can do this, but let us be grateful for those who can, instead of suspecting them of really being stooges of the Enemy.
Tolkien wrote, It is perilous to study too deeply the arts of the Enemy, for good or for ill (LOTR II.2). This is very true. But it is very important to note that he is not referring to Magic in general here; Elrond, the character into whose mouth he puts this judgment, is quite comfortable with Magic per se and has been practicing Magic, in various forms, off and on for thousands of years. What Elrond and, through him, Tolkien is warning against is the study of Black Magic. Even if one is motivated by the creditable military goal of knowing one's enemy the better to fight against that enemy, the study of Black Magic should be kept to a minimum even for those for whom it is necessary. And so it is at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; the Hogwarts curriculum includes one course in Defense Against the Dark Arts, and that at least officially is all the exposure Harry and his classmates are supposed to get to Black Magic.
A Black Magician such as Lord Voldemort, the arch-villain in Harry Potter's world, claims that there is no difference between Good and Evil. This is typical Satanic mumbo-jumbo, to paper over important moral distinctions and to colour White what is Black and Black what is White, and those who insist that all Magic is Black are doing the same thing. But nobody could be clearer about the difference between White and Black Magic than the White magicians who routinely do battle against the Legions of Hell. One of the greatest White occultists of the early 20th century, A. E. Waite, speaks scathingly of the folly, the stupidity of Black Magic, often with a sarcasm rivalling that of Isaiah xliv 9-20. Waite's prose style tends to be rather obscure, so I take the liberty of slightly editing the following excerpt from his treatise Occult Sciences (p. 55):
The most noticeable feature of Black Magic is its utter futility, the immense expenditure of elaborate liturgic and ritualistic energy for the smallest possible result. Black Magic offers to its possessor absolutely no Power with which White Magic is unable to endow him, and it is for the most part little more than an ignorant, stupid, and grossly superstitious perversion of the latter. Why should it be necessary to call up the Devils of Hell, to invoke every Intelligence of the Abyss, merely to obtain possession of a hidden treasure? Why should the wizard barter both body and soul, and bind himself with bloody covenants to the Infernal Hierarchy, simply to acquire the material riches which White Magic dispenses generously?
Part of Waite's point is that the typical Black Magician's goals and ambitions are trivial and materialistic, involving the acquisition of sordid material wealth of various sorts, while the White Magician is typically more interested in acquiring knowledge and the ability to make the World a better place. But another part of Waite's point and of his sarcasm is that the Black Magician is required to pay a heavy price up to and including his own immortal soul for goods which God gives freely and copiously to His servants. A lot of what Waite is saying in the above-quoted passage is merely a corollary of Isaiah lv 1-2.
Many of the practices denounced by modern-day religious leaders and spokespersons as magical are essentially divinatory: attempts to know the future in ways that are not sanctioned by YHWH. Such pursuits as astrology, cartomancy (divination by means of cards), and palmistry, to name but a few of the hundreds of methods benighted humans have tried, fall under this category.
And yet (of course) there is another side to this issue. All properly-trained occultists know very well that it is impossible to know the future, that the most one can do is read the tendencies lurking in the present and extrapolate them into a hypothetical future which may or may not be realized, depending on how accurately one has evalutated all the relevant tendencies, carried out the extrapolation, and whether any of the relevant variables change. To the properly-trained occultist, such occult practices as astrology, cartomancy, palmistry, etc., to the extent they are relevant here at all (such things as Tarot cards, to oversimplify somewhat, are useful primarily not for the purposes of divination but as aids to meditation and avenues to self-knowledge), are merely means of getting extra information about current tendencies, information about circumstances already in existence in the present but which may be difficult or impossible to acquire in more mundane or empirical ways. The Urim and the Thummim mentioned in e.g. Exod. xxviii 30 and Lev. viii 8 (cf. also Josh. vii 13-18, I Sam. x 20-21, xiv 40-42) were no different in function.
It should be noted here that the unreliability of all attempts to predict the future, magical or otherwise, is openly acknowledged even in the Harry Potter books, at least by Prof. McGonagall, who says to her students, Divination is one of the most imprecise branches of magic. I shall not conceal from you that I have very little patience with it. (Prisoner of Azkaban p. 109) And Rowling gives us a fairly good example of the dangers involved in taking divination too seriously, in the form of Prof. Trelawney, the rather hokey Divination Instructor, whose wild prognostications prove distressing to a number of students who give rather too much credence to them.
Human beings, at least in my experience, are naturally superstitious, and all too ready to read significance into omens, many of which exist only in their imaginations, and to take all too seriously the words of anyone presuming to be able to see into the future. This is made very clear in the Harry Potter books, especially the third one, The Prisoner of Azkaban from which I have just quoted. This is also why many occultists avoid the subject entirely, and those who for whatever reason cannot avoid it, if they are honourable struggle to buttress all their statements as much as possible with warnings about the inherent and unavoidable unreliability and imprecision of all such speculation for in the end, speculation is all it is or can be.
I've just spent several pages arguing that there really is such a thing as White Magic, and that the distinction between White and Black Magic is real and meaningful. I've done so partly because so many of Harry Potter's accusers believe otherwise and base their arguments to some extent on this belief and partly because I strongly suspect that if I don't address this issue right off the bat it's liable to obscure further discussion in this essay. But, having presented at least some of my reasons for believing that there is a serious, fundamental difference between White and Black Magic that while Black Magic is unquestionably evil White Magic is not and may in fact be wholesome in the right hands I must now explain that this whole question is really tangential to the central issue of this essay, because contrary to what many of Harry Potter's evangelical accusers claim there is in fact little or nothing recognizably Occult in the Harry Potter books.
It is claimed that Rowling knows a lot about the Occult, and has provided a lot of information about it in her books. I don't know where people are getting this idea; I suspect those who make this claim are engaging in the following very simplistic reasoning:
She's writing about something called "Magic".
"Magic" = "Occult"
\ She's writing about the Occult.
She writes a lot about "Magic".
\ She must know a lot about the Occult.
She's talking a lot about young people learning about "Magic".
\ She's providing her readers with a lot of information about the Occult.
(This argument makes about as much sense as looking at a biography of the great 19th-century Russian chemist Dmitri I. Mendeleev, figuring vaguely that chemistry has something to do with explosives, and concluding that the book is actually a how-to manual for terrorists.) I think those who make this claim know very little themselves about the Occult. Now, I know of at least one of Harry Potter's evangelical accusers who claims to have a fair amount of firsthand knowledge of the Occult, based on having for a while in the past been a Witch (i.e., a follower of the Wiccan religion). But this person hasn't demonstrated to me any real knowledge of the Occult, and more to the point (since I have never been a Wiccan myself) his specific statements are at variance with those of active Wiccans, who do seem to know what they're talking about. It is noteworthy that these authentic Wiccans, although they may find the Harry Potter books very enjoyable as stories, have complained about the glaring inaccuracies in Rowling's portrayal of witchcraft.
Speaking for myself, as stated at the beginning of this essay I've been a student of the Occult for a long time, off and on, and in particular a serious student for several years now, and I see very little evidence of Occult knowledge in Rowling's work no more than might be picked up from general culture by a highly intelligent person who isn't particularly interested in it.
To give just one example, very little attention is given in the Hogwarts curriculum to mental/ psychological discipline. Apart from Prof. Lupin's advice in Prisoner of Azkaban on how to handle a boggart, I have found very little being said about the importance of a wizard's mental state. Some of Prof. Trelawney's mumbo-jumbo touches on this area, but it seems to me that much of what Rowling has done in delineating this character is intended as a parody of New Age jargon; so far from encouraging her readers to indulge in such an attitude, Rowling shows a noticeable tendency to make fun of it. Several times during the stories, Harry has trouble with insomnia for all the reasons typical for a schoolboy: anxiety about classes, exams, tomorrow's Big Game, etc. But psychological discipline, including the ability to regulate one's mental state and overcome such obstacles as insomnia, is one of the first thing the aspiring occultist is supposed to learn; without such discipline, any effective Magic is almost impossible. I have no idea whether Ms. Rowling is aware of this. I suspect she is not, but if she is she has (i think wisely) for the sake of a more entertaining story chosen to ignore the issue.
Please note that in making these points I am not seeking to criticize (except in the most purely academic sense) Rowling's work. It is my contention that she is not trying to provide information about the Occult, but rather an entertaining fantasy, and this she has obviously succeeded in doing, and succeeded spectacularly. That in the process she has provided almost no information about the Occult means simply that the Occult has no place in the fantasy-world she is depicting. It's her right as a creative artist to make a decision like that.
Magic, as depicted in Rowling's books, is really a sort of alternative technology: You wave your wand in the right way, you say the appropriate pseudo-Latin expression, and voilà! You get whatever effect you wanted automatically. Like throwing a switch to turn on a light. The only recognizable diference is that, in the Harry Potter books, only certain people can do magic. (In these respects, the Harry Potter books are very similar to the Lord Darcy stories by Randall Garrett, who depicts a world in which what we call magic is a rigorously established science and what we call science is rank superstition.) Harry, his classmates, and his teachers have no notions about establishing a Working Site, drawing upon Magickal Power from some mysterious source or other, negotiating with spirits (good or evil) for the appropriate use of that Power, or cleaning up the Site afterwards, all of which are, in my experience at least, essentials of Occult practice. In short, for Harry etc., levitating a feather, flying a broomstick, transforming a teapot into a tortoise, or mixing a Forgetfulness potion involves no more in the way of prayer than turning on a light or mixing lye and hydrochloric acid and getting saltwater. Throw the light switch, and the light will come on no matter what your mental condition is; you may be happy or sad; you may even be rude or malicious; your hitting the switch may even be totally inadvertent. Doesn't matter; if you hit the switch, the light comes on. Whereas true Magic depends very much on the magician's mental and spiritual state; it is impossible to do true Magic inadvertently. Even the Defense Against the Dark Arts course at Hogwarts isn't really about using White Magic to overcome Black Magic; it's about how to deal with monsters and other unpleasant mythical (but not necessarily diabolical) creatures one might encounter. The Hogwarts curriculum has about as much in common with the Occult as what goes on in the typical high-school chemistry lab has with what goes on in church.
So what besides the technical details of his craft is Harry learning at Hogwarts? One very important lesson is how to discriminate between the kind of rules that are set up to make ordinary day-to-day life in a civilized society smoother and more convenient (e.g., rules restricting certain privileges to certain classes of people), and which can (and sometimes need to be) set aside or broken for the sake of the Greater Good, and those more basic moral principles that undergird civilized society and in terms of which the Greater Good can be defined and recognized; this is the basic Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath issue. Harry quickly develops a reputation as a rule-breaker, and is frequently accused by e.g. Prof. Snape of imagining that rules are for ordinary mortals but that he, the great Harry Potter, is exempt from them. But it is in fact noted that the only rules Harry breaks are the lesser ones, and only when he judges the Greater Good to be imperilled. Like Huck Finn, he is unflinchingly faithful to the basic precepts that define the Greater Good.
There is a related moral quality which Harry does not really learn at Hogwarts because it is already inherent in his character, but which we, the readers, can learn by observing him as he exhibits it. This is his indomitable moral courage, his steadfast refusal to compromise with what he judges to be wrong, even when Evil confronts him with what appears to be overwhelming force. The coupling of this fundamental courage with his recurring adolescent anxieties over the ethical decisions he has to make contribute greatly to making him a particularly human, and appealing, character.
All this is true, and important, but not outstandingly remarkable. For there are many other works of fiction, some overtly Christian and some otherwise, that provide examples of young heroes confronting moral challenges bravely, and in the process learning to discriminate between moral principles that must be followed under all circumstances and rules which must be set aside when they conflict therewith. But there is something else, even more important, that Harry and his friends are learning about at Hogwarts that I have never seen so well depicted in any other work of fiction, Christian or otherwise.
That is the awesome power of Forgiving Grace to redeem a flawed, fallen sinner, often at great expense at least in time. In many adventure stories, heroes are heroes and villains are villains and that's all there is to it. (This is obviously true of a lot of children's literature, but it's also true of a lot of more sophisticated literature as well.) Especially in more overtly Christian adventure stories such as the Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings, one occasionally finds characters with wicked character traits who nevertheless get forgiven and become decent people. But the Harry Potter books are the only body of literature I can think of in which we see people who, having already been offered forgiveness and Grace, are actually struggling to be worthy of it. Whereas in Narnia, Aslan's forgiveness somehow magically transforms Edmund Pevensey from a traitor into a hero and Eustace Scrubb from an ass into a helpful, decent person, at Hogwarts we see something a lot more realistic people living daily with the awareness that they've been forgiven, that they are living in and breathing an atmosphere of Forgiving Grace, and yet are very obviously undeserving of it; in a few cases though not all we see them struggling valiantly, painfully, to be worthy of that Grace, to become what it insists they really are.
Forgiveness is a recurrent theme in the Harry Potter books. One minor example is the Hufflepuff Friar's repeated attempts to provide Peeves the Poltergeist with opportunity to repent of his antisocial behaviour and to promote among the other ghosts a spirit of toleration toward Peeves' misdemeanours. Much more importantly, at the very center of the story are a trio of adolescents Harry, Ron, and Hermione who learn to love each other dearly in spite of the great differences in their backgrounds and characters, and of course an important part of that process is their learning to forgive the offenses some of them trivial, some of them grievous they inflict on each other as a result of those differences in background and character.
But the ultimate exemplar of Forgiving Grace in the Harry Potter books is Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts. If as the context and background for much the greater part of the story, and in the ancient tradition of autonomy that characterizes the typical British public school, Hogwarts can be thought of as a small universe, then to a great extent within that universe Dumbledore represents God. And frankly, Dumbledore does about as good a job of representing God as one can reasonably expect from a human being who, unlike Jesus, is not, in fact, God. (Nor does Dumbledore pretend to be. In many respects, he resembles most the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.) All other wizards, both inside and outside Hogwarts, acknowledge that Dumbledore is a genius; but his eccentricity is also frequently commented upon.
But in what way is Dumbledore eccentric? What does eccentricity mean, in a culture dominated by magic, in which such mythical beasts as dragons and unicorns are taken for granted? Dumbledore's eccentricity lies precisely in his propensity to forgive, his habit of giving second chances to people whom others, more worldly-sensible, would write off as losses or even criminals.
Dumbledore is unable to prevent the expulsion from Hogwarts and subsequent conviction on felony charges of Rubeus Hagrid (Harry eventually establishes that Hagrid was, in fact, framed, and is innocent as the sky is blue in more ways than one), but he does manage to secure Hagrid a job that allows him to remain at Hogwarts, awaiting his eventual exoneration. Hagrid's is a case of a person unjustly accused of a crime he didn't commit, and therefore Dumbledore's patience with him could be construed not so much as forgiveness as a Providential interference with a fallible justice that might otherwise condemn him too hastily. Hagrid is very much aware that he owes all his good fortune to Dumbledore, and responds with almost pathetic loyalty. Indeed, pathos is a very important element in Hagrid's character; he's a lovable, clumsy giant with a heart of 24-carat gold who makes a lot of mistakes, and it's hardly surprising that Harry and his friends love Hagrid dearly. Dumbledore's Godlike quality is manifest most particularly in his ability to forgive, and be patient with, not only someone like Hagrid but the inherently unlovable.
A relatively minor example is Mr. Filch, the Hogwarts caretaker. Filch is a Squib a person born into a wizarding family but who has no magic powers. Such a person would presumably not be able to benefit from the Hogwarts curriculum, and indeed would probably, under normal circumstances, face exile exile from the wizarding world, forced to live in ours, where he would be at a gross disadvantage because of the serious cultural differences involved, never mind our innate prejudices against those who are different from us. But because Dumbledore is Head of Hogwarts, Filch is instead provided with a job that enables him to stay on in the world in which he was born and to do something useful that lies well within his limited abilities.
The power of Forgiving Grace extends only so far, however. Filch is aware that he is the beneficiary of Dumbledore's magnanimity, but he has so far been unable to come to terms with his handicap or, more importantly, with the festering resentment that it breeds in him. Because Dumbledore is Head of Hogwarts and beyond the school he has enormous prestige but little real power, his magnanimity and patience necessarily translate into Filch being tied to an institution in which he is constantly surrounded by snot-nosed youngsters flourishing in the craft that is closed to him. His resentment makes him rude, choleric, and unlovable. All the students hate and fear him; when they learn of his handicap, even the most kind-hearted of them are unable to completely resist the temptation to gloat.
But the most interesting case indeed, perhaps the most intriguing of all Ms. Rowling's creations is Severus Snape, the Potions-Master. Hagrid is a victim of a villainous frameup and a miscarriage of justice; Filch, of a birth defect. But Snape, as far as we know, is a victim of nothing but his own sinful choice. He was at one time almost the worst thing a wizard can be in the Harry Potter books a Death-Eater, an acolyte of Lord Voldemort himself. At some point, he is supposed to have repented and essentially turned Queen's Evidence (read: stool pigeon), providing the government with valuable information leading to the arrest of many of his former companions. And Dumbledore forgives him and gives him a job on the Hogwarts faculty, a job for which Snape is apparently very well suited (it's implied that he is indeed one of the most expert potion-brewers known).
As presented in the Harry Potter books at least, in the four that have so far appeared Snape is not a lovable person. He is mean, irascible, quasi-paranoid, given to displays of unprofessional and unethical favouritism and to insulting and handing out punishments to students he doesn't care for on a whimsical basis. Unlike Filch, he is not universally disliked; he seems to get on well with the members of Slytherin House, of which he is Head, and some of the Slytherin students seem to think very highly of him perhaps it wouldn't be wrong to say that some of them are even fond of him. But in a way that's actually part of the problem, for although not all Slytherin graduates turn into evil sorcerors, it is true that all evil sorcerors in the British Isles are graduates of Slytherin House. On the other hand, the hero of the series, Harry Potter himself, and his two closest friends are all members of Gryffindor House, and there seems to be a long-standing rivalry almost emnity between Gryffindor and Slytherin that runs deeper than the gentle rivalry that is supposed to exist between the four Houses of Hogwarts. At a personal level, Snape has a deep grudge against James Potter, Harry's deceased father, going back to the days they were both themselves students at Hogwarts, and Harry has essentially inherited the brunt of that grudge. Harry himself has no compunction about using the word frame in describing Snape's repeated attempts to get him expelled and ruin his career.
And yet, in spite of all his flaws, Snape is basically honest. While frequently blinded by his prejudices, which prompt him to almost automatically assume the worst of Harry and his Gryffindor friends while ignoring the flaws of his own favourite students such as Draco Malfoy, when cornered Snape will not actually lie, in the sense of making a statement he consciously knows to be false. Rowling has provided us with several examples of the sort of person he turned away from Tom Riddle, Bartemius Crouch Jr., Lucius Malfoy (father of Draco), Peter Pettigrew. When Snape is compared with such as these, it is possible to recognize that he has, over the past decade since the fall of Voldemort, gradually become a better person. There is no doubt that Snape still has a long way to go, but it is clear that he has already come quite a ways in the past decade. And he owes that improvement to a great extent to the opportunity provided him by Dumbledore's eccentric habit of seeing below the surface and offering forgiveness a second chance wherever he sees that it might do some good.
So far, of the projected seven volumes telling of Harry Potter's years at Hogwarts only four have been published; the most recent one, Goblet of Fire, is the fourth of a series of seven and therefore represents in a sense the keystone of a seven-volume arch, and it is possible to see here a fundamental turning-point in the ongoing narrative. At the climax of Goblet of Fire, Harry's nemesis, Lord Voldemort, the most evil sorceror in at least a century, manages to return to active life and summons his Death-Eaters those who are still alive and still free to him. One conspicuous absence is Severus Snape. As the lines appear to be being drawn for a grand face-off between the Powers of Good and Evil, Dumbledore apparently trusts Snape to remain on the side of Light, Truth, and Justice. And the readers (well, this reader, anyway) are inclined to share Dumbledore's faith in Snape's fundamental decency underneath his mean, paranoid, grudgeful crust and to hope that he will continue to struggle towards the much better person he could be.
I, for one, look forward very much to what Rowling will do with Snape, perhaps one of the most intriguing characters in modern literature. For so rarely do we get to see, in literature, a character struggling really struggling, over several years against the limitations of a fundamentally very nasty nature to become a decent human being. I am writing these words on Jan. 25, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The priest at my former parish has said repeatedly that he particularly likes St. Paul, that one figure in the history of the Christian Church who perhaps more than any other demonstrates that it is possible to have been saved by the Grace of God and still be a schnook. In Severus Snape, J. K. Rowling has offered us a similar example, and I for one thank God for that. I hope that Snape may become an encouragement to all those readers who find the path to Righteousness singularly rough, thorny, and otherwise hard to travel.
The Satanic Endeavours of Harry Potter's Accusers
Throughout this essay, when I refer to Harry Potter's accusers, I am putting the word evangelical in quotes. This is to acknowledge that there are plenty of intelligent, informed Chistians of an evangelical orientation who do not disapprove of Harry Potter, or are at least willing and able to consider the relevant issues more open-mindedly. Indeed, it is a large part of my goal in this essay to demonstrate that Harry Potter's accusers, so far from being true evangelicals, are in fact traitors to the Gospel they claim to serve.
Disguise and Distortion of Truth
Harry Potter's evangelical accusers fixate on the superficial fact that the formation of Harry's character is under the auspices of a School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and pay little or no attention to the quality of the character being formed or of the professors responsible for forming it, of which I spoke in the previous section. This is equivalent to old-fashioned Protestant rumours about the devil-worship being taught in Catholic schools (and similar stories told in preVatican II Catholic schools about Protestants), rumours based on very little in the way of facts and very much in the way of speculation based on fear and hatred. These critics show themselves guilty of the limitations of unredeemed human nature as expressed in I Sam. xvi 7: Humans are misled by outward appearances, but YHWH looks at the heart.
Jesus said, You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free (John viii 32). In venting their criticisms of the Harry Potter books, these evangelicals show their disdain for this liberating Truth by routinely hiding or distorting facts. A Minnesota clergyman accuses the Harry Potter books of includ[ing] things like human sacrifice, the possession of demon spirits and the sucking of human blood. Note how this is put. The explicit claim is essentially that, in the Harry Potter books, human sacrifice, demon-possession, and blood-sucking are mentioned. If this were enough to put them on the Index of Forbidden Books, lots of other things we take for granted would have to go there as well. Any anthropological or ethnographic or historical or religious-studies textbook that mentions human sacrifice would be forbidden. The Bible itself would be forbidden, since it mentions human sacrifice (Gen. xxii; Lev. xviii 21; Mark x 45; John xi 50; I Cor. xiii 3; I John iii 16). The Bible also mentions demon-possession (Mark v 1-20, ix 17-27; Luke xi 24-26; Acts xix 13-16). As for blood-sucking, we would have to put on the Index not only anything discussing mythical vampires such as Dracula but any biological texts that mention vampire bats.
Come on, people, surely mentioning human sacrifice, demon-possession, and blood-sucking is not inherently evil! No, what's implied is that, in mentioning these things, the Harry Potter books are endorsing them. Note, however, how carefully the accusers avoid saying explicitly that these evils are endorsed; this is, of course, because they aren't! In general, Harry, his classmates, and his professors are as revolted by them as are you or I. There may be a few exceptions, but those are specifically the villains of the story. Since when has a villain's endorsement been regarded as commercially or socially viable? But to read the attacks of Harry Potter's accusers, you would imagine that there are no villains in the stories; that all the characters are happily allied in a blasphemous conspiracy to undermine our moral character, rather than engaged in serious moral conflicts amongst themselves.
Another accuser notes that at Hogwarts Harry also learns a new vocabulary, including words such as "Azkaban", "Circe", "Draco", "Erised", "Hermes", and "Slytherin"; all of which are names of real devils or demons. There are at least two things that can be, and I feel need to be, said about this statement.
One is that Circe, Draco, and Hermes may or may not be names of real demons; they are also fairly common words in our Western culture. Circe and Hermes are the names of characters in Greek mythology. Now, some may believe that pagan Greek religion is indistinguishable from Satanism and that the gods of Olympus are simply devils dressed up as angels of light. Such people are entitled to their opinion, but the majority of us don't share that opinion, and would certainly object to being deprived of the great body of Classical literature merely because it's founded on a pagan culture. Furthermore, once again, what is being overtly claimed is merely that these words occur in the Harry Potter books. If those books are to be avoided by good, God-fearing Christian folk merely because these words are mentioned in them, then presumably we should also avoid all other books in which they are mentioned, including not only the Bible (cf. Acts xiv 11-18, xix 24-40) but also the works of Milton, Bunyan, and C. S. Lewis, writers whom a great many Christians regard with deep affection and respect.
It is a fact that Percy Weasley names his pet owl Hermes. What of it? Has none of us ever named a child or a pet after some mythological figure? What about all those dogs named things like Jupiter or Apollo? What about people named Dennis or Dmitry? These are blatantly pagan names in their origin; they mean respectively servant of Dionysus and servant of Demeter. Never mind that they are also good Christian names, having been borne by exemplary Christians in ages past. One of my teachers in college was a beautiful-souled and deeply wise Christian gentleman named `Denis'; is there anything wrong with that??
As for Draco, this is merely the Latin word for dragon; are we going to claim that the Latin language is inherently Satanic, merely because certain evangelicals apparently disapprove of this particular word in it? Because Draco is the Latin word for dragon, it is also the name of a rather large constellation in the northern sky; are all astronomy texts to be banned, lest we or our children learn to use this wicked word?
The other thing I want to say about the above-quoted statement is that, once again, it ignores context. We are told that Harry learns these words, but not what these words mean in the context in which he learns them; the (again, carefully unstated because untrue) implication is that they all constitute some kind of technical vocabulary, as use-oriented and devoid of any emotional or moral content as the names of a doctor's tools or a golfer's clubs. But in fact this is hardly the case. So far from being a level lexical field in which each term is morally equivalent to all the others, they in fact represent a very wide range of contexts and usages, from the relatively neutral to the explicitly villainous.
In the Harry Potter books, Draco refers to an extremely unpleasant person a classmate of Harry's, who at one level represents the stereotypical schoolboy bully and at another level could be considered a sort of junior villain.
Slytherin is the name of one of the four founders of Hogwarts, and by extension, the name of one of the four Houses amongst which the students are divided in the manner typical of many such boarding schools, both in Britain and in America. Each of these four Houses has its own peculiar character, and Slytherin's character, while not explicitly evil, is more compatible with evil than that of the other three. All the truly evil magicians associated with Hogwarts are affiliated specifically with Slytherin, and in large part for this very reason Harry struggles, from his very first day at Hogwarts, to avoid that House and the people associated with it.
As for Azkaban, this is presented in the 3rd Harry Potter book, The Prisoner of Azkaban, as the name of a place that constitutes almost the ultimate horror in the wizarding world; it is about as much a part of the ordinary day-to-day working vocabulary of a young wizard like Harry as Gehenna is for the typical Christian.
Indeed, if the Harry Potter books are to be interdicted merely because of the vocabulary they use, then the Bible must also be kept from our eyes and our childrens'. For the Bible mentions such vile things as Satan, Beelzebub, Gehenna, adultery, licentiousness, blasphemy, etc. If Harry Potter's accusers are to be consistent, they must protest not only Rowling's current best-seller but the Best-Seller of all time.
Some of Harry Potter's accusers have also latched onto the title of the first Harry Potter book, The Sorceror's Stone, as indicative of its evil, occult agenda. They fail (deliberately?) to note that this is not the original title. The original title, the title under which the first volume was actually published & marketed in England, is Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It was changed for the American market on the basis of the publisher's judgment (unfortunate, in my opinion) that Americans would never go for any book with the word philosopher in the title. And what these evangelical accusers have carefully hidden from us (assuming they are aware of it themselves) is that the concept of the Philosopher's Stone is, so far from being Satanic, in fact a metaphor for Jesus.
(While I'm on the topic of misquotation, miscitation, and misuse of vocabulary, it bemuses me disturbs is a stronger, but perhaps also more accurate word to find some evangelicals, in discussing this whole issue, using the word mysticism as though it, too, represented something unor anti-Christian. To me, mysticism refers to a rigorous, arduous discipline of prayer and meditation whose purpose is to deepen and enrich one's relationship with God. Granted, not all of us are called to such a discipline or given the relevant Spiritual gifts, but how can such a programme be incompatible with Christianity? I suspect those who assume it is are coming out of a narrow Protestant tradition that views all such advanced prayer-discipline with suspicion, as something associated with monasteries.)
In short, all these evangelical accusations are filled with half-truths and distortions, carefully hiding from us the relevant contextual information that would reveal to us that the Harry Potter books are not, in fact, the cesspools of Satanic evil they want us to believe they are. Why do they do this? Why can't they just tell us the truth? Are they afraid that the Truth might set us free?
When I read the criticisms brought against the Harry Potter books by his evangelical accusers, I am almost overwhelmed, at times, by the Spirit that seems to drive their writing. It is a Spirit of Fear. These are the writings of people who look to their religion principally to find the answers to question like, What should I fear? Whom can I hate? Whom am I allowed to beat up as an outlet for my anti-social tendencies? These are people who want to make sure that our lives, and our children's lives, have an adequate amount of Fear in them. Such a Spirit has no place in Christianity (I John iv 18; II Tim. i 7). It is a Spirit that itself fears the Freedom that Christ has won for us, and would see us enslaved again to the Powers of this World.
I say I am almost overwhelmed; I thank God that this Spirit of Fear, in fact, has no power over me. Instead, sometimes when I have found myself reading another puddle of anti-Harry Potter vitriol I can almost hear the Lord chuckling over my shoulder, saying, Ooooh! Watch out! Harry Potter! Oooooh! Scary! Angels and ministers of Grace defend us! Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! At one level, I feel confident, Jesus finds all this anti-Harry Potter claptrap very silly. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that at another level He is very sorry that so-called Christians are wasting their time with this garbage when they could be out dealing with the world's real problems.
Jesus advises us to fear the One Who is able to cast us into Hell (Luke xii 5). It is important to remember always that that is not Satan. Satan has power to tempt us, to try to induce us to sin, but that is all; Satan has no power to compel us to sin, much less to condemn us to Hell. Only God (and, in a sense, ourselves) can condemn us. Many Biblical writers, in many passages over many centuries, exhort us to fear God. But, especially in the New Testament, we are not advised to fear anything else, for if God is on our side, who can be against us? What enemy need we fear? Certainly not Satan. Yes, it is wise to be on guard against Satan, and all Its devious tricks (some of which I am describing in this essay). But Satan ultimately has no power over us except what we, through misdirection and deceit (of the sort that Harry Potter's accusers practice), grant to It. And since Satan has no power over us, we have no need to fear It.
But it is not even Satan that Harry Potter's evangelical accusers are trying to frighten us with. It is human beings. The Bible warns us, Fear of humans lays a snare (Prov. xxix 25), but it is precisely that snare that these evangelicals seek to lay before our feet. It is true that the human beings they would frighten us with are different from us they are wizards, witches, sorcerers and it is always so easy to fear and distrust those who are different from us. The history of our civilization is full of the horrors that have resulted from people's fears of other people who are different. Many of these horrors have been perpetrated by Christians. And yet Harry Potter's evangelical accusers have so far failed to learn this most important lesson of the Church's history that they would happily induce us to add to those horrors. They are under the Curse of Santayana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
But that is not the end of their destructiveness. As I attempted to demonstrate earlier, there are witches, wizards, sorcerers, occultists of various kinds and labels who are on our side, or who at least would like to be on our side, helping to build a better world in conformity with the Light and Wisdom it has pleased God to give them and to overcome Satan's attempts to undermine this Work. It is true that many Wiccans and other occultists do not see the Cosmic Conflict between Good and Evil as a matter of such importance as Christian evangelicals (true evangelicals as well as the fake evangelicals I seek to confute here) tend to, and many of them, if asked, would deny being involved in a conflict at all, on either side. After all, in any war there are always neutrals and noncombatants of various kinds, and some of them may nevertheless be friendly to one side or the other. But by tarring all witches, wizards, sorcerers, etc. with the same brush and denying the difference between White and Black Magic, Harry Potter's accusers would turn even our potential friends and allies into enemies. In this connection, it is very worth remembering Jesus' rebuke to His over-zealous disciples: Whoever is not against us is on our side (Mark ix 39-40) Of these fear-mongering evangelicals it is well said, The wicked flee even when no one pursues (Prov. xxviii 1). By insisting on treating our would-be friends and allies as enemy spies, they are guilty not only of monumental rudeness and bad military strategy but of violating the Fundamental Law of Charity (I Cor. xiii 7). In this way, too, they betray the Gospel of Christ.
The Harry Potter books are by no means the first outrageously popular books to deal with magic, wizards, sorcery, etc. One could mention J. R. R. Tolkien's epic Lord of the Rings or C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, the latter, like Rowling's books, specifically aimed at children. I have yet to hear any evangelicals complaining about these, although there is an awful lot of magic in both of them, and Tolkien includes an actual wizard among his heroes, with the clear implication that there are good wizards as well as evil ones, White Magic as well as Black.
I wonder whether the reason the evangelicals allow these fantasy classics to pass while regarding Rowling's books as fair game is because Tolkien's and Lewis' Christian credentials are above reproach they were Inklings, for cryin' out loud while Rowling has made it clear in various public statements that she is not particularly religious. There seems to be an assumption, among many evangelicals, that anything written by C. S. Lewis or any other Inkling must be wholesome and OK, no matter how much explicit magic there may be in it, but that anything written by someone outside the pale of the evangelical-approved list of authors, someone whose religious affiliation is at best dubious or nonexistent, is regarded as legitimate fodder for the kind of truthdistortion and fear-mongering already described.
In this connection, I can't help wondering how these evangelicals react to the novels of e.g. Charles Williams or Katherine Kurtz. Those novels are just chock full of magic & occultism; both authors insist on distinguishing between White and Black Magic, in spite of the evangelicals repeated assertion that there is no such distinction. Williams, in particular, was a practicing White Occultist during his whole life; what Kurtz' background in this area is I don't know, but (unlike Rowling) she obviously knows a lot about it. Williams' and Kurtz' novels do far more than anything Rowling has written to provide their readers with information about occult practices, and to indoctrinate them with the notion that there is a clear & real distinction between White and Black Magic. Why aren't the evangelicals ranting and raving about these books the way they're attacking Harry Potter? Is it merely because Williams' and Kurtz' novels have never enjoyed the outrageous popularity that Rowling's are? Maybe. Perhaps it is that the works of Williams and Kurtz, unlike the Harry Potter books, have never made headlines in the popular press, and therefore these evangelicals have never heard of them having no source of information about what's going on in the Real World except the popular press. If so, then their staff-work (unlike that of the Deity Whom Williams often referred to as the Omnipotence) is very flawed. For if their agenda is at all justified Kurtz' work in particular is, in the long run, far more dangerous than Harry Potter.
Or is it because, White Occultist that he undoubtedly was, Charles Williams was nevertheless also an Inkling, and therefore protected by the same double standard that applies to Lewis and Tolkien? Is it because Kurtz' devout, informed Christianity is obvious to anyone reading her books?
Is it perhaps because anybody who has read the novels of Williams and Kurtz cannot help but be impressed by the clear distinction being drawn therein between White and Black Magic, with White Magicians clearly and firmly on the side of God and the angels, actively contributing to the building of the Kingdom of God and overcoming the Satanic forces that resist it, and would have a very hard time accepting the evangelicals' claim that White Magic is merely an illusion, no less Satanic in nature than Black Magic? Are Harry Potter's evangelical accusers, in their continuing programme of distorting, obscuring, and obfuscating the truth, carefully ignoring the existence of these much more powerful works because against them their case would be so much harder to present?
As I consider all the ruckus, all the heat-without-light being generated by the evangelical community in opposition to Harry Potter, it occurs to me repeatedly that Satan couldn't possibly have hit on a more clever plan to turn intelligent, thoughtful people away from Christianity then to have a bunch of Satanists infiltrate Christian circles and start spouting off this crap. The carefully disguised distortions of the truth are a hallmark of the Father of Lies, and fear-mongering is a major part of Satan's stock-in-trade.
It must also be noted that these evangelical attacks on Harry Potter are damaging to our obedience to the Great Commission. The hypocrisy inherent in the above-mentioned double standard, the wanton distortions of the truth, and the fear-mongering in violation of the Holy Spirit's gift of Fear-banishing Love serve principally to confirm Christianity's cultured scoffers in their belief that such hypocrisy, dishonesty, and paranoia are an essential feature of the so-called Gospel, and reinforce their conclusion that the Good News we proclaim is very bad news indeed, with which they, understandably, want nothing to do.
I am not claiming that Harry Potter's evangelical accusers actually are Satanists; merely that they are doing Satan's work, and apparently doing it very diligently. I'm saying that, however pious their conscious motivation may be, their methods are essentially Satanic, and that therefore I suspect their real motivation is as well, no matter how much they have deceived themselves, or been deceived, into thinking otherwise.
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