Parents, Get to Know Harry Potter
All bookstore owners in the United States agree that our young people are wild about Harry Potter. Harry Potter? Many adults are asking, just who is Harry Potter? Harry is a recent phenomenon. He is getting a lot of media attention. In fact, Harry has been the focus of discussion on all the major U.S. talk shows. His picture appeared on the September 20 cover of Time. Teachers praise him. Preteens see him as their hero. Yet, not everyone is so wild about Harry. In fact some parents consider him to be a threat and a danger to their children.
Why so much controversy over Harry? He is only a fictional character in a new series of children’s books written by J. K. Rowling of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Rowling has woven a fascinating and exciting story about Harry that has struck a resonant chord with British and American children. Children normally addicted to computers or video games are gobbling up Rowling’s books. Many adults are excited to see children taking the time to read. This fact has made teachers very happy. So far there are three books to the series. The first two have sold over 7.5 million copies. The books have been translated into 28 languages. The third in the series was released on September 8 and sold over 50,000 copies the first day. Publishers agree that the books’ popularity is both surreal and bizarre. I must admit that I had considerable difficulty locating the first book of the series. I had to visit three separate stores. Each store sales person stated emphatically that they have never seen any books as popular. Rowling’s three books are number 1, 2 and 3 on the New York Times best-seller list. But why so much trouble with Harry?
Harry is an eleven-year-old wizard. He and several pals attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His adventures include vivid and sometimes graphically dark descriptions of overcoming evil with magic. Time reports Rowling plans seven books for the series and admits that the novels will become darker as Harry’s story progresses. In brief, the books glorify witchcraft and wizardry as a way of life.
Because of the subject matter of the books, parents have become alarmed that middle schools across this nation have added the books to required reading lists. Many teachers are making it a practice to read the books out loud to their classrooms. Many parents do not want their children to be forced to read about Harry Potter. Unfortunately, parents are being met with considerable opposition from teachers, the news media and children. I watched some of this debate on nbc’s Today Show and msnbc. One leader of a parents group in North Carolina was made to look drab, dull, out-of-date and foolish for objecting to the contents of the books. Yet, teachers and bookstore owners were put in a favorable light for promoting them. One teacher explained that the books were good because they were fun and exciting, and stimulated an interest in reading. TV viewers were assured that children could easily distinguish fact from fantasy.
But are stories about witchcraft and wizardry, magic and spells really just fantasy? For some, it is not. The Trumpet reported last month that modern witchcraft, known as Wicca, is now accepted as an established religion in this country. Witch covens are able to obtain irs tax-free status. J. K. Rowling, through the auspices of children’s stories, is popularizing and publicizing the “Craft.” As one parent stated, “She is making the art of witchcraft very acceptable with the very young.” When confronted on this issue, Rowling replied, “I have not had one child write to me and tell me that they wished to join a cult.” How naïve.
The human imagination is not something to be fooled with. It is a powerful force that should be guided carefully. Children’s fantasies enter children’s play. Children’s play often becomes reality. Many children who play firemen, nurses and teachers often become the same. The Harry Potter books provide vivid pictures for young imaginations. Add this to the reality of today’s Wiccan movement, and it is safe to deduce that playing a witch could easily lead to becoming one.
One newsperson actually warned parents, tongue-in-cheek, that Harry Potter might “get them” if they fight too hard against the reading of the books. The message behind this statement was that children have the right to choose their own reading material. This reminded me of Isaiah’s prophecy for our time: “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths” (Isa. 3:12). Just who is the authority in the family; the parent or the child? Today, children are gaining the upper hand. That spells disaster. And Harry Potter won’t be able to work his magic to save the day.