The Harry Potter Dilemma

Some of you probably aren’t aware that thousands of good Christian homeschooling moms around the world forbade their children from reading J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books because they contain magic and wizards. I know this because I was one of the moms in that late 90s explosion of homeschooling popularity .

Now that I’m much older and wiser, ha!, I can look back on those early, experimental years and see how we made so many well-intentioned mistakes.

Thankfully my kids turned out pretty smart despite my failures, but they do have some holes in their education thanks to my personal weaknesses, namely my Adhd. But that’s another topic.

As for Harry Potter and magic, I just finished reading the book this morning. The full title is Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, published in 1997, and I thought it was very good. I understand now why it’s so popular! I feel pretty silly for never reading it before.

What’s the deal with forbidding it? In those days, and for some people even now, we believed that this book was about evil magic, witchcraft and the occult which THE BIBLE SAYS TO HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH.

Some of us Christian homeschool moms were trying very hard to do everything right . When “someone” decided that Harry Potter, along with Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Dungeons and Dragons and similar things, were dangerous and off limits, we believed it.

This article on Got Questions explains the dilemma well . Now that my kids are older , as in adults, I can look back and see that these stories would have been fine for them since they did have a good foundation in the Bible. They would have seen as a story, not an instructional book.

The reality is that the Harry Potter story, in the first book at least, is more about kids growing up and life and the magic that’s used is more of a practical sort than a “power” source .

The main plot is relatively simple . Harry and his friends must thwart the plans of the evil wizard Voldemort. There are other storylines such as Harry’s family difficulties, a sports theme, tests and grades, bullies, and normal kids stuff .

The Bible tells us not to consult with spirits to speak to the dead and it refers to magicians trying to figure out the future or prove their power by demonstrating signs and tricks .

The Harry Potter book is about these kids who go to a school to learn magic , potions, flying on broomsticks , etc. but they aren’t allowed to use the magic among non-wizards, who are called Muggles, and they don’t use it for evil.

In my opinion the story uses magic more as a platform for the deeper themes of friendship, doing the right thing, and growing through trials . These are good things for kids to read about. They’ll be able to relate to these characters.

I was impressed with the writing , as well. It was very engaging and interesting. I feel bad for assuming that it would not be. Read it yourself and decide.

Edit: I feel like I should clarify that none of my kids actually ever wanted to read the Harry Potter books. I didn’t mean to sound like it was a major issue in our lives. And I realized that my timing is a little off because my kids were pretty young when these books were popular and we were actually reading other books like The Boxcar Children and Animorphs among many others . But the anti-magic culture was definitely a thing that I was aware of. I agree with the comments below that most kids are perfectly fine reading most books as long as they have parental guidance and conversation about a wide range of topics , including God, good and evil, etc.

Thoughts?

14 comments

  1. I suppose there is a difference between reading about witches, sorcery, and such, to practicing it. I know kids can be influenced by such things but as long as they understand right from wrong they will turn out OK. I like to read about real life ouiga board experiences but I know not to practice it myself. I think it does educate a person to the evils in this world though. My daughter read all the Harry Potter books as they were released. She has never had any inclin to dabble in the black arts though. That’s why I know why your kids turned out OK, because they have good Christian parents teaching them right from wrong.

    • Thanks for the helpful and generous comments. I think you’re right. My son just told me he didn’t think any normal kid would get into black magic after reading a kids story. Honestly my kids never asked to read these books , but we knew of them. For all I know they did read them. I was never very strict . But I was very aware of the opinion of the Christian homeschooling community about such things. So I was surprised recently when a few friends told me they liked the books. So I decided to check them out for myself .

  2. Witches and sorcerers aren’t real. They’re fantasy. To me, parents freaking out about a book that includes them is nuts. The nice thing about fantasy tales is that, if they’re well written like Harry Potter and others, they can teach children strong moral virtues and help build character. Take the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia as examples. Both include magic, witchcraft. Both provide a sound moral basis for developing children. For my part, it is the mysticism (seeming belief in actual witches while not being able to distinguish fantasy from reality) and fear that has infected various communities of faith that does a disservice and forms a bad example for our children.

  3. LOL! I could never really get into the Harry Potter books and neither did my kids. I do however remember the 90’s homeschool culture! I was often tearing my hair out because we were afraid of Harry Potter and yet completely ignoring the threat of technology and pharmakeia. The concerns about the occult and wizardry in the Bible come mostly from the word pharmakeia, the same word we get for pharmaceuticals. So here we are in 2022 with covid statistics and projections aka, “magicians trying to figure out the future,” and an unholy alliance between Big tech and the pharmaceutical industry.

    It all makes one just want to kick back and read some Harry Potter 🙂

  4. I was also a homeschool mom in the nineties. I read the first HP book and didn’t consider it to be of that much value either way. I had some issues with it, re occult themes like talking to spirits. I dabbled in the occult when I was younger and know that it’s very real and very seductive. Witches are also quite real, and they serve the dark side. I do not think the occult is benign in the least, not even in HP. I did not regulate my kids’ reading material much, though. I was and am way too lazy to read the stacks of books they brought/bring home. I knew parents who would read every book first to make sure it was okay. I also knew parents who banned the CS Lewis books because he uses the word “magic,” despite its having a completely different meaning in Narnia, not even close to dabbling in the occult like HP. Ultimately, my children never got into HP. They preferred other series, like Ranger’s Apprentice. So it became a non-issue.

    • We were more into the Animorphs when they were young. I mostly read to them. Only one has turned out to enjoy reading for pleasure so far , but they’re young and very busy . I agree that the occult is real and dangerous to those who are involved in it . I’m more worried now about the effect of Reddit and other online forums .

  5. Our daughter never managed to enjoy Harry Potter beyond its first iteration. The plot is super repetitive after that, and she just became bored with it. As a family, we absolutely love playing Dungeons and Dragons and some occult-themed board games. We watch some horror movies and read stories like HP Lovecraft. Our daughter loves reading about vampires and werewolves (and, really, mythology in general). And then of course, there is Tolkien and CS Lewis, who were deeply religious personalities, but told stories about realms governed by magic. (And if you really wanted to cut off anything that discusses the use of magic, you’d basically rule out the Old Testament. King Solomon was the origin of the Grand Grimoire, for example.) I have zero sense that she’s ever going to take these things in the wrong direction in a personal way and fancy herself to be a witch or whatever. But I think there is something useful (and beautiful) in giving children an enchanted world. All of these stories are parables about good and evil, in much the same way fairy tales are. A hero is someone who is courageous and willing to engage in battle with or subvert evil forces. If the stories involved role-playing as someone with a psychopathic worldview, I’d probably think twice about it, but that’s not how any of these work. Honestly, I think the more adults try to prevent children from having a sense of enchantment, the worse our society has become. I’d much rather my kid read traditional hero narratives whatever the context than worship Jojo Siwa or a Kardashian.

    I have never understood parents outright banning the consumption of certain books, movies, etc. I’d prefer to reason with my child as to why things are bad and lead by example. If you have a child who has even a remotely rebellious or curious disposition, all a ban is going to do is make something more attractive. Look at school districts and governments that have banned novels. You think people did not rush out to buy those novels as soon as possible? Look at what’s happening with covid in society now. Public health officials try to shut down Joe Rogan and tens of millions of people hit his podcast to see what the fury was about. No one likes to be infantilized by some authoritarian force, and that’s true for kids too. Not saying every kid would turn out that way, but for ones with strong personalities… look out.

    • Very true! We always want the forbidden fruit. Not sure if you read the previous comments , but we did read fantasy stories and I was just happy , once they got older , if they’d read ANY book. I never did really fit in with the homeschool crowd I described in my post, I’m a bit too non-conformist , but I was very aware of their culture . It’s just recently that I decided I wanted to read HP to see what the fuss was about. I didn’t even know anything about the story! After I read it I was chatting with my 16 year old about how it has been forbidden back in the day ( he had no interest in reading it) and he was surprised and thought that was dumb. As far as being infantilized , our country is in a bad way. Btw, what do you think of Canada banning unvaccinated U.S. truckers ?

  6. I’m really sorry for those children, being educated by parents who believe in witchcraft like we were in the 17th century.
    I grew up reading ancient Greek mythology stories and the Odyssey for children, doesn’t mean that I ended up worshipping Zeus or believing that horses can fly.
    Just because something is written on a book, it doesn’t mean that one has to believe it straight away. Education should also be about telling reality from fiction.

  7. As long as there’s intelligent discussion, literature of all kinds can be beneficial. I read the first Harry Potter book when my granddaughter was obsessed with it and frankly, I was turned off at the beginning by the two-dimensional characters (especially the aunt and uncle). C.S. Lewis did a much better job with the Narnia books, with characters that are more complex and grow as they learn from their experiences. And of course, I loved that Aslan was the awesome, heroic, loving, majestic picture of Jesus, the “Lion of Judah.”
    When my son was into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, he wanted to go see the movie, and I was unwilling to take him. (For one thing, he saw enough of it on TV.) But when he came running to me the next day, saying “Daddy’s going to take me to see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie!” I didn’t object, I just told him I wanted him to tell me about it when he got back – what was good, what wasn’t? He did, and I was pleasantly impressed with his insight at the age of 8. (He’s a strong Christian still, and he and his wife are raising two sons in the faith. 😉 )

  8. Thank you! As someone who went to a church where Pokemon was considered the work of the Devil, I was often made to feel bad about the things I liked, none of which I considered harmful or evil as a child. Harry Potter was never mentioned in that church and I left there right around the time I got into Harry Potter (the two events had nothing to do with another, it was just coincidental timing). But I have no doubt if I had ever mentioned Harry Potter once I started liking it, the pastor would have gone on a rant about how I was being tempted by Satan and I should throw the books out and pray to Jesus for forgiveness… well if only he could see the Wiccan I’ve become today!

    The witchcraft aspect of Harry Potter was fun for me, and still is. Do you know how happy it makes me when my three-year-old nephew picks up a stick, then hands me it and said it’s my wand? The kid has never seen a Harry Potter film, but he knows “having a wand” is something that makes me smile and that’s his only intention. The witchcraft aspect aside, Harry Potter taught me so much about what real friendship looks like and what kind of person I wanted to be when I grew up. Harry taught me about standing up to bullies and protecting those who were targets for bullies. When the character Luna was later introduced, she taught me that it is OK to be my weird self and I have embraced that weirdness more and more as I’ve grown older.

    I learned more from reading Harry Potter than I ever did from the Bible. I turned from the Christian path at the age of 11-12 because none of it made sense to me. I’ve never felt swayed to go back on that path, especially once I discovered Wicca. Through Wicca, I have learned to love myself, embrace change, and find inner peace. I have learned to be closer to nature and how to be nurturing to those around me. There is nothing evil or black to what I believe because what I believe doesn’t take away anyone’s free will or cause them harm. With a light, there is a dark. With a white, there is a black. That’s just how the world is. I may have chosen a different path, but I fully believe I am on a path of goodness.

    Sorry for the rant. This is a topic that always seems to open my opinionated floodgates!

  9. I grew up at that time. My mom forbade me from reading because everyone else was, but my dad and I watched the movies and I bought the boos with my own money. I loved it! It was so strange to me because we were allowed to read Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings but not Harry Potter.
    My uncle (a pastor) even did a little study on the last book of Harry Potter and cross referenced all the biblical symbols and whatnot.
    Anyways, interesting time. Now I’m homeschooling my own kids and it’s very different.

    • I understand why some parents are concerned, but I think it’s something that should be discussed anyway, magic and all that, not be kept away like tantalizing forbidden fruit. Thanks for the comment.

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