A Word to the Anti-Harry Christians

by Sarah

I am a final year Religions and Theology student at the University of Manchester, the best university in the UK for my degree. I have taken modules, among other things, in The Rise of Christianity; “Magic” in the Ancient Mediterranean World; Sacred Texts; Biblical Hebrew; The World of the Ancient Israelites; and Mystical Traditions in Judaism. My dissertation is on the image of God/likeness to God passages in Genesis chapters 1-3. Therefore, I think I know what I’’m talking about.

The biblical view that magic is ‘bad’ is all to do with people who perform ‘magic’ trying to be too much like God and attempting to change the divine or natural order of things in the world. However, there are also many references to ‘good’ characters performing what we would probably call magic. An example of this is in Exodus, where Moses and Aaron are instructed by God to perform ‘curses’ in front of Pharaoh. The Egyptian magicians attempt to copycat these spells, but gradually it is shown that their form of magic is significantly weaker than that of God (acting through Moses and Aaron). So, it would seem that ‘magic’ can only be called ‘magic’ if it is done by some foreign entity who does not have faith in the power of God, although legitimate ‘magic’ in performance is essentially the same, only more powerful.

Now, the magic in JK Rowling’’s books is performed by those who have a natural ability, from birth, to do the things they do. They are not trying to change their natures, or the nature of things around them (since they do not perform in front of muggles) when performing magic. If these people were created by God (which I am assuming you, as well as the author since she is a Christian, believe), then God created them with the ability to do magic. They have not simply looked at their human condition and attempted to change it, which is how ‘bad’ magic can be defined.

To take this argument a step further, (which is not really necessary since the books do not have a religious focus anyway), the witches and wizards in Harry Potter, if they were biblical characters, would probably have been either prophets, or people whom God selected to be given these special powers. Therefore there would be nothing bad about it. Those who practise the Dark Arts would be akin to the foreign magicians in biblical narrative.

So, there is my view. If you do not find plausible reasoning in it, at least consider that reading about something is not the same as doing it. Although these books see magic in a positive light, it is possible to teach them (if you must force impressionable children to your way of thinking) as a primary source from the ‘bad’ side. Just as Gnostics viewed the Bible as a work of the evil Archons which encouraged humans not to seek knowledge, or gnosis of the ‘real’ world and God. Gnostics didn’’t ignore the Bible or condemn reading it simply because it conveyed the opposite view to their beliefs. No, they read it, questioned it and analysed it in an effort to confirm their own views. It’’s a stretch, but if you could do the same with Harry Potter, reading it through this lens could strengthen rather than weaken your beliefs.

This may not have changed your minds about Harry Potter, but I hope it made you think. Incidentally, if I have your reasons for condemning these books completely wrong, please let me know, as I am very interested in how people form their views, particularly those based in religion.