Why some Christian leaders say the HP books are OK
Announcer: Today on The John Ankerberg Show—“What Should Parents Know About Harry Potter?” Over 100 million books have been sold in over 200 countries, and Harry Potter has been translated into more than 40 languages. Now the first Harry Potter movie is opening in theaters all around the world.
[From Film Trailer for Warner Bros. Movie, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (excerpted from “Witchcraft Repackaged” (Jeremiah Films).]
“There’s no such thing as magic!”
“Dear Mr. Potter: You have been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
Announcer: One survey reports that over half of all children in America between the ages of six and 17 have read at least one of the Harry Potter books. Are these books harmless fantasy stories or, through fantasy, introducing real principles of witchcraft and sorcery to our children? Today John’s guests are filmmaker, author and occult expert Caryl Matrisciana; author and founder of Rapha Counseling Centers Robert McGee; and author and columnist Berit Kjos. We invite you to join us.
Ankerberg: Welcome. During this series, I’ve tried to share with you the reasons that have persuaded me that the Harry Potter books, although definitely “adventure fairy-tales,” are still subtly teaching the principles and worldview of contemporary witchcraft, the occult, and sorcery to our children. Now, a few respected Christian leaders and writers disagree, and today I would like to examine the reasons why they say they are in favor of the Harry Potter books.
First, you have heard us say that God does condemn the practice of witchcraft, casting spells, divination, contacting spirits and more in Deuteronomy 18. Other Christian leaders agree that God condemns these practices, but they go on to add: We do not assume that the fictitious behavior of some make-believe kids in some obviously unrealistic setting is sorcery. It is only a fantasy-type of stereotypical magic that is used in the books and not some serious real-life sorcery or occult. Real sorcery and the occult rely on powers from the beyond or from spirits. The Harry Potter books rely on developing the powers that a person is born with. Therefore, these books do not teach children witchcraft or sorcery.
Now, in response, I believe the logic behind this reasoning is very flawed. It shows an ignorance of what contemporary witches believe and practice. Many witches today use magical powers that they believe are natural forces of nature, or powers inside of themselves, while others utilize powers they believe are given by spirits or gods. The Encyclopedia of Witches & Witchcraft says: “In its simplest form sorcery is magic by the manipulation of natural forces and powers to achieve a desired object.” As already stated, other witches also believe in the development of psychic powers they have within. According to the same Encyclopedia, “Psychic development is a very useful tool. It helps one to discern things of a non-physical nature. This is important because if a person practices magic, he or she is eventually going to encounter non-physical entities.” It goes on to say, “A knowledge of various herbs, enchantments, charms, and spells helps to fine-tune one’s ability to direct energy.”
So what I’m saying is this: Witches today don’t have to believe in gods or goddesses or spirits. Some do, but to participate in contemporary witchcraft, a person only needs to try to develop their own psychic powers, or to manipulate energies they believe are in nature. Now, if this is true, then Harry Potter and his friends constantly imitate what witches today believe and practice. Caryl Matrisciana, who has filmed witches all over the world performing their rituals and ceremonies, compares what she has seen with what she has found in the Harry Potter books:
Matrisciana: The theme of Harry Potter’s books is that you can plug into an energy that, yes, the Harry Potter books say innately belong to children—the children that are chosen to come to Hogwarts. It’s a psychic ability that they discover or that they want to develop. But that is also what a witch does. Now, the form, the idea of where the force comes from, biblically we’re told that it doesn’t come from God, the Creator God of the Bible. We’re told that wherever that source comes from, whether it comes from the stars, the moon, the spirits, superstition, herb mixing, voodoo magic, whatever it is, it is not a source that we should get involved in.
Now, this is very dangerous, especially when it’s presented—as the Harry Potter books are presented—in a child’s world, in a school atmosphere, in the classroom with teachers teaching Harry Potter; therefore, through Harry Potter to the reader—how you can do magic. Inch by inch, book by book the teachers get into a trance state. They become demon possessed, or others aren’t, but they show how tea leaves work—putting it into a cup; how to read palms, how to mix potions, how to get a cauldron, how to get the chalice, how to get the wand out and twist your hand; how to say the words. In fact, Hermione talks them through putting emphasis on this syllable, not on that one. These are all parts of the Craft, as Wicca is called. So Christian leaders that are saying it’s no big deal don’t understand what they’re saying, why they’re saying it, and most offensive is that they’re saying that it is acceptable, whereas God says it’s not.
Ankerberg: One Christian leader has stated that the Harry Potter books are okay to read because the magic that is portrayed in them is purely a “mechanical magic.” By “mechanical magic” I assume that he means like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat or someone doing card tricks. He goes on to say, “Harry and his friends don’t make any contact with the supernatural world” —therefore it’s okay for the kids to read these books. When I heard this statement, I wondered if my friend had actually read the books. It certainly seems to me that contact is made with the supernatural world. One example is the divination teacher, Madam Trelawney, in Book 4. Divination is a subject that is taught at Hogwarts School to Harry and all of the students. In class they learn about reading tea leaves and looking into magic mirrors and crystal balls to try and discover the future. By the way, these are practices which a lot of contemporary witches practice today. But at one point in the Harry Potter story, these divination practices lead the teacher to contact the spirit realm. Caryl Matrisciana talks about that first, and then relates how J. K. Rowling also writes about the magic practices by witches who may not believe in the spirits or gods and only try to manipulate the forces of nature.
Matrisciana: So when we have Christian leaders saying, “Well, it’s just purely mechanical magic,” that is, using the forces of nature as opposed to spirit beings coming and possessing, these leaders haven’t read the book. Because, first of all, we have Madam Trelawney, who is the divination teacher, who gets possessed. She actually has an encounter where she goes into a trance state; her eyes fly open; her mouth gapes open; her neck falls down. This thing comes into her. A voice speaks out of her that the children don’t recognize. She is in full mediumship. She is channeling; she is possessed. She is speaking out a fortune-telling divination—prophesying something that does take place. So here is a contact with spirit demons.
Now, the other side of magic which is mentioned in Harry Potter’s books is what they say drawing on the forces of nature, your inner potential. “Think, Harry, relax, meditate.” Again, Madame Trelawney says, just relax, calm your third eye, breathe deeply and you can be involved in your inner potential. Well, however, human beings explain these terms, from a biblical concept God says this is sorcery, this is divination. Stay away from it. God knows the source. The source is out to kill, destroy, steal our children’s souls. Our society’s souls.
Ankerberg: Some Christian writers have said we shouldn’t object to the Harry Potter books because they are merely pretend stories, fairy-tales that are harmless. Again, there’s a flaw in their logic. Ask yourself, “Are all fairy-tales innocent just because they are fairy-tales?” No. We judge the content of those stories before we say they’re innocent or not. Robert McGee is a best-selling author and founder of the Rapha Counseling and Psychiatric Clinics across the country.
McGee: First of all, that it’s just fantasy is a mindless answer. We need to think about that because obviously we judge fantasy. We wouldn’t give our children some Playboy magazines that have some kind of story in it that has a very sexual nature that was fanciful. Obviously we wouldn’t do that. We wouldn’t give them a book that had to do with tremendous violence. We wouldn’t do that either. So what we really are saying is we do not believe there’s anything to witchcraft.
Now this is really news to God. Because God, in His word, says it’s an abomination. And I’m not sure what part of that word abomination we haven’t got yet, alright? I mean what’s happened to witchcraft? Has witchcraft changed so much that now God accepts it?
Matrisciana: There’s tremendous smokescreens being put up in the public relations machinery of moving J. K. Rowling’s books—which she clearly says are about witchcraft because Harry’s a witch and he goes to a witchcraft school. So here we have a book labeled “fantasy” saying that it’s a literary device to use occult information which is true to fact; that is, that a lot of the information in these books are actually religious ritual and ceremony that is taking place today in covens and occult practices. So being packaged as fantasy somehow makes us say that we are not allowed to question the content. So then I would ask, then, inside fantasy is there allowed to be a “school of pornography” where young children 11 years, younger and older, are involved in horrendous acts of sexual perversion with animals, humans, adults, same sex, and because it’s called fantasy with—even though the teachers may be pedophiles, homosexuals, lesbians, etc., —are we not to question the content because it’s being packaged as fantasy? No, I don’t think so.
Ankerberg: Some Christian writers say children who read about Harry Potter will probably discover very little about the world of the occult or real witchcraft. Even if they do, reading about it won’t hurt them. It’s only if they go beyond what they read and try to practice what Harry does., then that could be a problem. But this kind of reasoning is flawed and not true to how God has instructed us to live in the Scriptures.
Matrisciana: I think the Christian critics who say that children who are going to read these books will not discover the occult don’t understand the nature of the occult. This is probably not a very good explanation, but it is relative. If you’re teaching your child about extramarital sex, premarital sex, sex, the birds and the bees, whatever, because that framework is something that an adult knows and can understand, they explain it to their child in terminology that is understandable. If a parent was to say to the child—a Christian parent was to say to the child—“Now, you know, it’s understood that you’re going to be involved in this before you get married so it’s acceptable to use a condom; it’s for your protection,” what’s happening is that the worldview that the parent is explaining this to the child is a worldview that is outside the biblical context. The child should not even contemplate premarital or extramarital sex. And yes, the condom is there for their protection but it’s not within a biblical worldview.
The point of introducing children to the books of Harry Potter is that the Lord tells us not to be involved in even tempting ourselves, putting ourselves into a position of being fascinated by the occult. Now, children don’t understand what it is. You can ask so many children that have read about Hogwarts and say, “Do you want to go to Hogwarts?” and the answer is, “Yes,” they do. Why? They’ll say it’s fun. What is fun about it? It’s in a world of occultism. Hogwarts is a School of Witchcraft and Wizardry whose intention is to teach occultism, to teach that magic works, to teach to be excited by the lusts of power, to be excited by the concept that by changing your thinking, you can be draw into magic.
So when Christian celebrities say, Christian ministries, writers, editors, whatever, that children are not being introduced to the occult, they don’t understand. They don’t understand that, of course, children are being introduced to the occult. They’re being fascinated. They’re seeing that magic works. They’re seeing that Harry Potter’s magic, written for children, in a children’s context, is what it’s all about. It’s appealing; it’s enticing. The teachers are teaching occultism. The teachers are teaching magic. And remember, the magic that is being taught is magick with a “k” at the end of it, which is occult magick. The point of it is an art and a science to change reality into what you want it to be. Well, every witch wants to have more power, wants to be able to plug into the forces of the universe and wants to be able to take control of their life and be changed.
Ankerberg: Now, some Christian writers say it must be okay to read the Harry Potter books, otherwise, Christians long ago should have taken a stand against Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, C. L. Lewis, Tolkien, and other fairy-tales that have witches and ghosts in them. But in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs the witch was called “the wicked witch,” she wasn’t seen in a good light, and children weren’t told how she did her spells and got her power. We are to apply the standards of both right and wrong that God gives us as well as what He tells us about witchcraft and sorcery, even to our imagination and to the fairy-tales that we read. Robert McGee comments.
McGee: Well, God did not leave us up to wonder how we were supposed to use our imagination. In Philippians 4, he sets out a way for us to judge what our thoughts are supposed to look like. Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t have imagination. But it says, “that which is true, that which is lovely, that which is pure.” [Phil. 4:8] In other words, God sets forth in his word a standard by which we ought to judge what our thought life looks like.
Now, does that mean that we don’t think about something that is very imaginative such as a fable that teaches a correct moral standard? No. Because, see that meets his standard. He didn’t say that we could not think about things which were whimsical or imaginative. But we have to come back and say, now, let me get this right, alright? Harry Potter teaches relativism; that there really is no right or wrong; that Harry actually is rewarded for doing that which is against authority, for lying. Okay? And that violates Philippians 4.
We talk about Harry communicating with the dead. Now where does that fit in with what God has given as standard? I mean, God didn’t leave us without the ability to judge these things. Well, I don’t think that’s something that God would find all that lovely. He said He didn’t. He found it an abomination. I mean, how about the fact that Harry is involved in all these sorcery and divination and all these things that God says is an abomination?
Well, just purely from that one specific point, you have to say that God is not for our children contemplating that. Now, there have been books where there are witches, and the witches have done certain things. But, the child is not being taught how to do those things, and typically, the witches are held up as being bad and wicked. I will tell you that I don’t care what book it is, and what “historical value” it is; if you find a book you think that is wonderful that portrays a witch in a positive light, that is not something God finds acceptable. I mean, it’s not difficult.
For some reason, we have to do back flips in our theology, and we have to ignore whole realms of Scripture. Why? Because somehow we’ve gotten this strange notion that we have to get along with this culture; that we don’t want anybody thinking badly of us. I mean, we’ve gone through years of watching politicians do all these things just to make people feel good about it. And it’s almost having people feel good about you. So if you’re a church, you say, well, I can’t do anything that would make people not feel good about me. Well, what value are you?
Ankerberg: Now, one last thing that has to do with our schools. In 1980 the Supreme Court of the United States in “Stone vs. Graham” struck down a ruling that required the posting of the Ten Commandments on the wall of each public school classroom in the state of Kentucky. Even though many people were in favor of putting the Ten Commandments on the schoolroom walls, the Supreme Court said there were two reasons why this could not be done. First, if the Ten Commandments were posted, the Supreme Court thought some of the children might be tempted to read the Ten Commandments. Second, if they read the Ten Commandments, some of them might want to obey and follow them. The Supreme Court went on to say that however desirable this might be as a matter of private devotion, it was not permissible in school because it violates the separation of church and state. So, kids in classrooms in America are not allowed to see a copy of the Ten Commandments because they might read them and some might follow them. If this happened, the school and the state would be teaching religion, which would be a violation of church and state.
Well, then how come Scholastic Publishers has been allowed to bring the Harry Potter books right into public school classrooms? Teachers right across the United States are reading portions of Harry Potter books to the students in class and others are recommending that students read one or more of the Harry Potter books as additional reading. Remember, the Supreme Court has ruled that Wicca is officially recognized as a religion. So why are we allowing the Harry Potter books to be read to children in school classrooms? Some might say, “Well, full-fledged Wicca religion is not being taught through the Harry Potter books.” But the Ten Commandments aren’t full-fledged Christianity or Judaism either—it’s just a little part. Harry Potter conveys more than a little bit of Wiccan thinking. As we have seen, there are many different views of how you practice Wicca as a religion. Many of those beliefs are touched on in the Harry Potter books. Even if there is a bit of Wiccan religious beliefs in these books, parents should find it objectionable to have them read to their children in school. I wonder why there hasn’t been more of an uproar about this. Are the laws regarding the separation of church and state only applicable to banning the expression of Christian beliefs?
Now, next week we’re going to look at: What should you do if you children or teenagers have read one or more of the Harry Potter books? We’ve developed a list of questions based on examples in the books that you can talk to your kids about, the likely answers they will give you, and how you can bring in the biblical point of view. You will hear what kids say to these questions next week. I hope that you’ll join me.