Saturday, April 29, 2006

Three Reasons I Let My Kids Read Harry Potter

I have two teenagers. In spite my many faults as a parent, they're both intelligent, passionate, and committed believers. They get good grades, make (mostly) good decisions on their own, and they love others with a Christ-like humility that puts me to shame. One of them is heading to the other side of the world this summer for three weeks as a missionary. The other one told me, after attending an apologetics class voluntarily, that going to Africa to help the millions of AIDS victims may be God's calling.

Hm. Not bad. And to think, I let them read Harry Potter.

I really don't understand those who censor Harry Potter in the name of protecting their children. I think that it only creates a greater desire in the kids to sneak around to find out what all the hub-bub's about, and when they do, they'll wonder why their parents were so silly and freaked out.

Here are three reasons I let my children read J.K. Rowling's books:
  1. The story deal with universal themes. You have good vs. evil, man vs. man, man vs. self, man vs. society - all those great universal themes I learned back in high school English. I personally like the way Rowling develops Harry's character as a protagonist. He's the good guy, but he must deal with the fact that he has the capacity for evil. Like all teens he's figuring out that choosing right isn't always easy or without consequence. There is truth in Harry Potter, by the way - and my wife constantly reminds me that all truth is God's truth. They are the same kinds of truths you'll find in Cinderella, Beowulf, The Odyssey, or Aesop's Fables.
  2. The magic and mystical devices used by the Rowling to tell the story are imaginative, funny and harmless. A talking hat, a map that shows you where everyone is in the school at any time, owls that deliver the mail - goodness they make for a great yarn. I honestly don't know what everyone's all worked up about. The Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Shakespeare, Walt Disney, and the Brother's Grimm all have magic, spells, incantations as part of their stories, fables and allegories. My dutiful, Dobsonite, evangelical brethren always say at this point, "yes, but consider the source." Yeah, so? I think Rowling was a single mother trying to make ends meet. She had a bold imagination and the discipline to write. I've watched the interviews with her. Personally, I'd love to have coffee with her. She's a fascinating person (and I'd love to get her help with that novel of mine that's been gathering dust in my desk drawer). I also suspect that the same Christian brothers and sisters who tell me to "consider the source" would freak if they walked in on Tolkein, Lewis and the other inklings getting positively tanked at the pub each day (of course, most of them wouldn't be caught dead walking in a pub - so J.R.R. and C.S.'s reputations are safe).
  3. The book and the controversy are a source of great dinner conversation. We had a great talk the other night as a family. We explored the truths we've found in Harry Potter. We discussed why so many Christians think Harry's the anti-christ and Rowling the devil. It led to a Christ-centered discussion about literature, censorship, and creativity. I'd let my kids read Harry Potter for that conversation alone.

My teens just laugh at their friends' and relatives' parents who get so worked up about Harry Potter. They don't quite get it. They especially don't get why parents forbid their children from reading the books or seeing the movies simply because the evangelical culture and Christian media elite have dictated it. They don't know of any of these anti-potter parents who have read the books and made the decision for themselves in discussion with their kids.


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Flickr photo courtesy of curiouskiwi

2 Comments:

At 9:53 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

Wildy:

We've been having the same kind of discussions for a year or so. As new believers with a 9- and 5-year-old, we're landing squarely with you. We don't know what the hubub is all about. And it's a great chance to converse with our kids about what they're reading.

 
At 12:47 AM, Blogger the Five Far From Home said...

Even though this blog post is a few years old this issue is still hitting home with MANY of us pro-Potter Christian parents. I like your post, your comments, and your reasons. My daughter has a best friend whose parents are anti-potter and it is a constant source of frustration and tension between our two families - I wish I would articulate better to make them come around, but they're completely stuck in the Dobson minded hype.

 

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