Engaging with Harry Potter: Questions for Christian Parents

December 12, 2023

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In this episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast, host Elizabeth Urbanowicz tackles the controversial topic of the Harry Potter series. She explores the genre, the blurred lines between good and evil, and the importance of quality literature. Whether you're a fan or have reservations, Elizabeth offers valuable insights and guidance on how to approach this cultural phenomenon with children. Tune in for a thoughtful discussion on the Harry Potter series and its impact on young minds.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "I know you've talked vaguely about such issues on other podcasts, but specifically what do you think of the Harry Potter series?" This is an interesting question, and I'm kind of laughing as I'm reading it because it's a question that in some ways I dread answering because I know that this is such a hot topic and a charged topic in Christian circles that I just kind of cringe when I think about all of the comments that I know will come on YouTube and Facebook by people who may not have even listened to the podcast. But anyway, we're going to dive down deep into this topic and talk about what should we as Christians think about the Harry Potter series?

And while we're on the topic of books, I'm so excited to remind you that at Foundation Worldview we have our first picture book for kids called "What Is Truth?". And one thing that we want to make sure that we're doing as we're raising our kids is exposing them to quality literature. And that includes thinking of the quality of the words, the quality of the writing, the quality of the ideas, the quality of the illustrations and that's something I'm so excited about this book is that we have worked so hard to make sure that this book is top quality in every aspect. So if you'd like more information about how you can get a copy of that book or multiple copies for those in your sphere of influence, you can go to FoundationWorldview.com to check that out.

Now, as we think about the issue or the topic of the Harry Potter series, we know that Scripture is clear that we are not to take part in any form of witchcraft. We have covered this in the Scripture that talks about that in previous Foundation Worldview podcasts. Now, when we think about the Harry Potter series, what is the genre? Harry Potter is a fantasy series. It takes place in a fantasy world. It is not encouraging kids to become directly involved with witchcraft per se. That the author, JK Rowling, is not encouraging kids to start spell casting or to start writing around on brooms or to start being involved in the occult per se. But we're going to talk a little bit more about that now, because this series is not specifically directly encouraging kids to take part in a form of witchcraft. I genuinely believe that whether or not we engage with the Harry Potter series is a matter of conscience that it falls under the Romans 14 category.

For those of you not familiar, Romans 14 is a passage of Scripture where Paul is talking about Christians with different convictions that some Christians at the time were convicted that they could not eat any meat that had been sacrificed to an idol where other Christians were convicted that they could eat meat, whether or not it had been sacrificed to an idol. And Paul specifically talks about how there are going to be Christians with different convictions. What's important is that each Christian is fully convinced in his or her own mind because whatever is not of faith, is sin. So I genuinely believe that the Harry Potter series falls in this category.

Now, from my own personal experience when growing up, Harry Potter came out when I believe the first book came out when I was either in upper elementary or middle school, and then the series continued to be released. And in my home, the home I grew up in, we were not allowed to engage in the Harry Potter series that that went against my parents' convictions, and I knew that I had other friends whose parents did allow them to engage. And then even as an adult, I have many close friends who have chosen to engage with the series. So what I'm going to do as we talk through this is I'm going to talk to four different things. First, I'm going to speak to those of you whose conscience goes against this, who you are already fully convinced in your own mind that you and your children should not be engaged with any of the content in the Harry Potter series. Then I'll speak to those of you who are not sure that you're not sure yet if you and your family should engage with the Harry Potter series. Then I'll speak to those of you who are already convinced that your conscience and your conscience that it's okay for you and your children to engage in the Harry Potter series. And then at the end, I'll share with you my personal convictions, which hopefully should be a treat because there's a lot of times where I don't do that on this podcast. So hopefully that will be helpful to you.

So first, for those of you who your conscience does not allow you to engage, I would encourage you to stick with that conviction. As I mentioned at the end of Romans chapter 14, Paul says that each person needs to be convinced in their own mind for whatever does not come from faith is sin. So if you're convicted that you should not have your children engaged and that you should not engage, you need to stick with that conviction. Then as far as talking to your kids about it, you need to make sure that you're clearly articulating to your children, why. That you take them through that Romans 14 passage and say, these are the reasons why my conscience will not allow me to have our family engaged in this. And so let your children know the reasoning behind it. One thing though, that it's important not to do, it's important that we don't claim that anyone convicted otherwise cannot be a Christian because there are people who very clearly are Christians who born again, who have been regenerated, who are following God, who love him, who love his word, who also engage in this literature, and we need to make sure that we're not setting up this false dichotomy for our kids or some standard that Scripture does not set up. That we can say, maybe you're concerned about other Christians being involved in it, but you don't want to say something that is untrue. So do not say anyone who engages in this cannot be a Christian, because that simply is not true.

For those of you who are unsure, you're not sure should I engage in this, should I not engage with this? Just some factors for you to consider is: one, if you do choose to engage in this, are you solid enough in the biblical worldview that you can actually ask your kids good worldview questions about these books because that could be a great way to engage in this, but you want to make sure you're not just handing your kids the books without any guidance. So that's a question to ask yourselves If you are going to choose to engage or you're leaning towards that way, are you prepared to ask your kids good worldview questions as they engage with this content? Another question to ask yourself is if you are unsure is do you have any history with the occult in your background? Do you have a history with WCA or with some other form of witchcraft? Because if you have that background, this probably is not a healthy thing for you to engage in simply because of your background. Also, think through, are your children drawn towards certain things of the occult? Because children are different. So whether or not we allow our children to engage may be what our children are drawn to or what they're not drawn to, because if we have a child that is more drawn towards the things of the occult, we're probably not going to want to engage in this.

I think of a somewhat comical example from my own growing up that I was in kindergarten when the movie The Little Mermaid came out, and I went to see it in the theaters. Actually watching it nowadays, I'm like, wow, how was I not scared out of my mind watching this in the theaters, but I did go to see it in the theaters, and then when it came out on VHS way back in the day, I actually saved up my birthday money and bought the VHS. Now, my family didn't even have a VHS player at that time, but I just wanted my own copy of The Little Mermaid, and eventually we did get a VHS player, and I loved watching it. However, my brother was obsessed with the scene of Ursula's incantation when she's singing and casting the spell on Ariel, and my brother would rewind that scene over and over and over again, and he memorized it, and he would walk around the house singing that incantation, and my mom was like, okay, this has moved into a different realm that he is walking around and he's pretending to put spells on people. And my mom was like, this is not healthy. This is not of the Lord. So she threw out my VHS of the Little Mermaid, and so Mom, if you're listening, you do still owe me 7 97 for that tape. No, I'm just kidding.

But that is a running joke in my family, just that I'm still slightly bitter about my mom throwing out my little mermaid VHS, but my mom just saw that this wasn't a wise thing to have in our household because my brother, for some reason was obsessed with that part of the movie. So if you have a child who's like that or who is drawn to the things the occult, or if you have some things in the occult in your background, it may be wiser for you to stay away.

Now. Third, for those of you where your conscience is of the conviction that you can engage in this material with your children, my question for you would be how are you making sure that you're engaging these things from a biblical worldview? And I'm not just saying that because it's Harry Potter. I think anytime we are engaging our children in certain books or movies or shows, we're asking ourselves how are we helping them engage with these themes from a biblical worldview?

Now, one thing that I think is really positive about the Harry Potter series is the quality of writing. And this is something that is so important that we are making sure that we are immersing our kids in quality writing that so often one thing, this is a personal pet peeve of mine, but one thing that sometimes drives me crazy about things that are produced within the Christian community is sometimes the quality is so poor that the writing is so poor, but as long as it points to Jesus, as long as it points to the plan of salvation that Christians just applaud it. No, God is the God of the universe. God is beauty. God is the ultimate standard, and if that is the God that we worship and serve, anything that we do in His name should be done to the best of our ability. That's something that we strive for at Foundation Worldview. That every single thing that we do is done to the best of our ability.

Even if you've gone through one of our curriculums, you might not have noticed this, but we pay careful attention to even the smallest of details. Like what is the spacing of the lines on our student activity sheets? Is it developmentally appropriate? How much text is placed on one sheet? Does it align with God's design for the child mind at that age that we want everything we do at Foundation Worldview to be of the utmost quality because we're doing it in Jesus's name. And so often Christian companies or Christian writers or authors or they just write things that are subpar. That's one strength that I think the Harry Potter series really has is the quality of the writing. So if you're taking your kids through it to ask them, how do we see JK Rowling writing in a way that is drawing us in? This is a question I used to ask my students all the time when I would read them quality literature. What technique is the author using to draw us in to really get us engaged in this story? Because I wanted them to become good writers. We can also talk with our kids like how do we see the theme of good versus evil come up? How is this similar and different then what we see in the Bible? We can talk about the theme of self-sacrifice. That's a big theme woven throughout Harry Potter. Where do we see self-sacrifice? How is it portrayed? Then other themes are themes of caring for the oppressed and for the downtrodden to ask our kids, how do we see this theme woven throughout the book? Does this align with the biblical worldview? How do we know? So these are great questions we can ask our kids if we're choosing to take them through these books.

Now, one thing, if you are choosing to let your kids engage, one thing that I think is really important to have in mind is making sure that you're engaging in a way that's developmentally appropriate. When the Harry Potter books were released, they were released one at a time. So children who were nine years old when the first book was released, they were, I think there's seven, please me if I'm wrong, but I think there's seven. So those children who were nine, nine years old when the first book was released, they were 16 years old when the seventh book was released, and as the children were growing who were reading these books, so were the characters in the Harry Potter series. So the first book in Harry Potter is written for that 9, 10-year-old range. Where the seventh book, the final book, is written more for a teenage audience. And so nowadays we could just have all of the books in our homes and our children could gobble them up in one year, but we want to make sure, is this developmentally appropriate? We really don't want any 9-year-old reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. That's just not appropriate. So if we are choosing to engage, making sure that we're doing so in a way that's developmentally appropriate, and we're not just going through all of the books at once.

Okay, so that was my advice for you. If your conscience steers you against Harry Potter, if you're unsure or if your conscience is convicted, that you can engage in this material. So now I'll share with you my personal conviction.

So as I shared with you growing up, I was not allowed to read the Harry Potter books, nor was I allowed to go to any of the movies. So obviously I'm an adult now, and so I get to make those decisions for myself with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And during Covid. So during 2020 when things were pretty locked down, I used to live just outside of Chicago and things were very locked down there. And during that time, one of my roommates at the time, actually both of my roommates at the time, really loved Harry Potter, and one of them asked me if I wanted to watch through the series with her, and I said, okay. So she and I, over the course of 2020 watched through all, I think it's eight of the Harry Potter movies because the last book is broken up into two different movies. So we watched our way through the movies and there was things that I really appreciated about the movies. There was things I thought were really well done. There was things that I thought were very engaging personally for myself watching the movies was my decision of whether or not I was going to read the books. Personally, I think that in the Harry Potter series, there's too blurry of a line between good and evil for me to invest time reading the series. That during my reading time, especially my fiction reading time, that's my downtime, that's my free time. And so I have chosen not to invest my time reading those books because from the movies, I just thought that the line between good and evil, while there was certain lines, you always know that Voldemort is evil. With some of the other characters, there was just too blurry of a line for me to really invest time reading.

Now, those of you who have listened or watched this podcast for a while, you knew that I am not married. I'm single, I don't have any children, so I am not currently having to figure out am I going to engage my kids in this series. Now, if I had children, now, this would have to be my husband and I would have to agree on this if we were going to do this, but if I was just making the decision myself, if I had kids, I think that I would choose to read the books to them and with them and talk through them. And there's a few reasons why I would choose to do this. First, because it's a cultural phenomena and it's just really hard to avoid. And so if most people in the culture are engaging in this, and I don't believe that it's inherently wrong to engage my children in this, I think it would be a good idea to read through it with them because it's going to be all around them, and it would provide some really great discussion opportunities. I think that it would be a great opportunity to even talk through where do we see the lines of good and evil in Scripture and talk about that. And then in Harry Potter series, where do we see these lines of good and evil? Are these lines sometimes blurred? And there's so many other really good conversations, like the conversations I mentioned before about the themes of good versus evil, self-sacrifice, caring for the oppressed and the downtrodden. So I think it would provide a lot of great discussion opportunities.

Also, I think that it is, as I mentioned before, from what I know of it, it is quality literature. And I think asking kids, how did JK Rowling really draw us into the story? How did she develop these characters? How did she really get us into understanding who these characters were, but also pulling us into the storyline? We want our kids to be good writers. That's actually, I have a former student of mine who she actually, she is the brains behind the Foundation Worldview Book Club. She reads the books and reviews them and writes the worldview questions. I noticed in her in third grade that she was a phenomenal writer, and so I have encouraged her as we've continued our relationship, now it's more of a friendship. She's in college. I have really encouraged her to continue reading quality literature and to continue writing because what we need in the Christian community is not more cheesy surface level literature that just ends with a gospel presentation and a conversion, but we need more deeply, deeply rooted, quality rich literature that really dives down deep into the writing skills that God has given us and has enabled us to develop and really draw people into truth and goodness and beauty through quality writing. And so I think that if I were a parent, that would be, if I engaged my kids in this series and had good questions, I would also be exposing them to quality writing.

Well, I hope that this podcast has been helpful for you no matter where you fall on the spectrum of conviction about this. And I hope that just kind of this paradigm that I laid out for how we can think about different pieces of literature that you can then take that and apply that to other books or other series of movies.

If you found the content of this podcast beneficial, please be sure to like and subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes. Also, please make sure you write a review and take time to give us a five stars. This really helps us get the content out to more people. And if you have a question that you would like for me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview Podcast, you can submit that by going to FoundationWorldview.com/podcast.

As we leave this time together, my prayer for you is the same as always, that no matter the situation in which you and the children, God is placed in your care, find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using all things to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.

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