Harry Potter is evil!!!
I grew up in a home that listened almost exclusively to Christian radio. Mostly the local CCM (Contemporary Christian Music, aka Christian pop music) station but also some preaching, and almost always Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson, as well as their show, Adventures in Odyssey.
Dr. Dobson and his organization, Focus on the Family, are one of the largest promoters and popularizers of moral outcry that I know of. He strongly opposes homosexuality and same-sex marriage, sex education, and abortion (among other things). He promotes religious schools and home schooling (as well as tax money going towards religious education), corporal punishment, and the idea that homosexuality can be “cured”.
He also loves to attack whatever item in current popular culture can be labeled as “evil”. When I was a child in the 80s the big things were Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games (RPGs), Ouija boards, and cartoons like the Smurfs (because they promoted a Socialist philosophy). As the years have gone by he has opposed other popular fiction including Harry Potter and Spongebob Squarepants. If Dr. Dobson said it was evil then my parents would promptly forbid us from watching, reading, or partaking in it. They have since let up on that a little bit and my mother, in particular, loves the Harry Potter films.
In general, conservative Christianity fears the fantasy genre (with the exception of Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and often Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, though there are extreme conservative Christians who fear these, as well) and fiction in general. I have long wondered about this. Why would the use of magic in a fictional world cause me to attempt using magic (explicitly prohibited in the Old Testament) in the real world? Are there really ideas in these games and books and cartoons that are dangerous to Christianity? In fact, often they portray a struggle between good and evil, just as much of Christianity does, so why are these stories not embraced? (In fact, this is often the reason that Tolkien’s books are embraced by some Christians, they see them as an allegorical story like Lewis’ Narnia books are, even though Tolkien hated the idea of allegory and specifically said that his books were not allegorical.)
I was listening to the most recent episode of The Thinking Atheist as I was driving around town today and one caller mentioned the way Christians view their own fiction, from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress to the aforementioned Lewis books, to Frank Peretti, as being real. He called them “Dungeons & Dragons for Christians”. Peretti, especially, is interesting to look at. Most of his books deal with the idea of spiritual warfare between invisible angels and demons, effecting the human world.
His books also support the idea that all it takes is for someone to read a book about magic, or being interested in transcendental meditation or some other new age idea to open their mind and spirit to demon possession. He also works in the evils of abortion, secular education, and evolution. He does this all in a captivating world of mystery, darkness, and the supernatural. Certainly not the best of literature, but it can be a fun read.
In fact, his books have many similarities to the world in the World of Darkness role playing games that I’ve gotten involved with recently. The struggle between good and evil, the idea of the evils and good of the natural world being influenced by and influencing the spiritual world, things like that. The only difference is that Piretti’s fiction deals with these things in a distinctly Christian worldview.
Here is the big difference, though: Many Christians, the conservative fundamentalists especially, read these works of fiction and see them as being real. They read about the battles between angels and demons, the demon possession, the way that things like abortion and “new ageism” give the forces of evil a foothold in our world and they think it is 100% truth! They read everything as if it were allegory or based on a true story. So when they see a game where you call on magic to battle monsters, or even call on demonic creatures to aid your fight, they think it is real! When they see a book with kids who go to a school to learn how to use magic they think there is an element of truth to it, that kids will seek out the occult to do the things that Harry and his friends can do.
Back to Focus on the Family, they have a radio drama for children called Adventures in Odyssey. The show relates some moral lesson through the events experienced by a group of children living in the fictional town of Odyssey, usually brought home by the wise old John Avery Whittaker, proprietor of Whit’s End (which was a sort of soda shop/clubhouse for all the kids in town, I think).
I remember, in particular, an episode dealing with RPGs. One of the children had made friends with the new kid in town and the new kid introduced him to a game called Castles & Cauldrons. The two boys get caught up in the game and some truly evil stuff happens (including a girl’s doll being ripped apart by a cat, supposedly possessed of an evil spirit invoked by the gaming boys) and Mr. Whittaker puts a stop to it by destroying the game. (A synopsis of this episode can be found here, written by a gamer. Also just noticed that PZ did a short write-up about this episode just yesterday, it’s linked below.)
I thought it was a load of crap when I heard it in the early 90s and I know it is a load of crap now. I read lots of fiction, Piretti and Lewis alongside the likes of Timothy Zahn and Arthur C. Clark, and I never once believed any of it was real. I saw movies where characters used magic and never once thought that maybe what they were doing was actually possible. But I know that for most Christians it is different, at least on some level. No, they don’t assume the characters in movies are using real magic, or that the magic in books is actually possible, but they do think that the idea of it all is possible.
Really, they have to. They assume that supernatural things are possible, real, and occurring around us all the time. If they didn’t then they would have a hard time believing in god, angels and demons, and heaven and hell. I think that, to some extent, their fear of these works of fiction isn’t just because of the horrible evil they perceive in them but because, on some level, they realize that if they can accept these stories as 100% false with no basis in reality whatsoever, then they have let in just a little bit of doubt that possibly the stories in the bible may, also, not be true.
And you know what? They’re right. I can easily look back at my childhood and see that the science fiction I read as a young boy and teen was one of the major influences in my skeptical mindset. I saw that there were so many possibilities of how things could have come to be, and how things might occur in the future. I saw, over and over, the idea that something might seem supernatural to the uninitiated, uneducated mind, but have a purely scientific and even simple explanation. Reading these stories opened my mind to the wonders of the universe and science, and gave me glimpses into other worldviews without leaving my room. I am sure that if my parents had realized what my love for reading would lead to they wouldn’t have fostered it in me.
- Pat Robertson Calls Twilight and Harry Potter Films Evil (celebs.gather.com)
- Those so-called “fantasy role playing games – are non-Christian! (freethoughtblogs.com)