Thursday, September 6, 2007


Mark Shea's blog has an insightful take on Harry Potter which, according to the blogosphere, is still stirring up significant controversy. Here's an excerpt from Shea:

One of the most common complaints about the books is that they seriously teach children a belief in magic and, in particular, introduce them to traffic with the demonic. A quick Google shows that plenty of ignorant Christians make fools of themselves leveling this charge (an activity that does much to persuade millions of normal people that the Church is, yet again, an island of irrelevance in an ocean of pain, bent on crushing one of the few joys that most people can agree on out of some perverse loathing of pleasure). As somebody who is involved in Catholic evangelization, I think this matters, not for the sake of the Harry books, but for the sake of the faith. When Christians run around shouting "Wolf!" and there is no wolf, it matters because sooner or later there will be a wolf and when he comes nobody will listen to us because we were the nutters who saw the hand of Satan in a Procter and Gamble logo and the killjoys who accused people of being dupes of the devil for the crime of enjoying a few diverting novels.

The simple fact is this: the books are not occultic. Magic is not real. The Latin doggerel spells don't work. There are no Blast-Ended Skrewts or giant spiders named Aragog. Ford Anglias don't fly and Whomping Willows do not exist. The book does not teach children to invoke demons. The magic of Harry is, as John Granger points out, "incantational", not "invocational", *exactly*, like the magic of Gandalf. You say the magic words and the door opens, whether it is the door to Moria or the door to the Gryffindor common room. No principalities or powers are invoked in Harry. Indeed, if any words are "invocational" they are the words occassionally uttered by characters in Middle Earth in which the Valar are called upon for strength and aid. Yet nobody accuses Tolkien of promoting the worship of false gods. That's because we understand Tolkien's fictional cosmos and it's rootedness in Catholic thought. I'm suggesting we trying to understand the same about Rowling's little cosmos too.

The reality is this: the use of magic in Harry Potter has exactly as much to do with the occult as it does in The Lord of the Rings or Narnia. As my friend Greg Krehbiel point out long ago, if your kid becomes involved in the occult because of HP, that's a comment, not on HP, but on the quality of catechesis in your home. That's not to deny that some people do use HP as an excuse for involvement in the occult. It is however to deny the next unjust charge: guilt by association.

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