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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Casting out Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

This is a tricky one to approach without raising a few eyebrows. No pun intended. I understand that many Christians have mixed feelings about this icon of the occult and fair enough, it is about witches and wizards after all. I have heard over the years a great deal said about J.K. Rowling and her motives for writing this story that makes the occult look cool - usually along the lines of “...the spells cast in the series are actual spells used by real witches” and that “the names of spiritual entities are the names of real demons...” I have to say already I am a little suspicious of any Christian who would claim to know anything about the actual names of individual demons or the actual incantations of magic spells – they would have to be reading material that goes far beyond your average Christian bookshelf.

So I’ve heard a lot of rumours that she wrote the series intentionally to undermine Christianity but if you visit her website she says nothing of her beliefs and a cursory glance at wikipedea suggests that she is a Christian who struggles with her personal beliefs. She said in an interview “I believe in God, not magic” and attends the Church of Scotland. But ok, so what, obviously going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to Starbucks turns you into a puddle of coffee.

My hunch though, and I think this is safe to assume, is that she sat down one day, started writing and Harry Potter is what came out and because of the occultic connotations of her chosen subject matter she has copped a great deal of flack for it. But rather than feverishly attacking her we should be praying for her, that now as she plans her next novel maybe she will be inspired to write about something else!

So before I get into the spiritual stuff lets talk about what the film is actually about. This is the sixth instalment of the Harry Potter series, based on the book obviously. However you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise because director David Yates has chopped it up into lots of little bits and put them together out of order, while throwing other bits away entirely!

Harry finds himself returning yet again to a very security conscious Hogwarts now that Voldemort has come back from the dead threw diabolical means. In order to meet his destiny and defeat his nasty foe Harry must walk the various memories of other Wizards, including Dumbledore’s, for clues. The new Potions teacher, Professor Slughorn’s memory has been tampered with and Harry must befriend this odd little man and win his trust in order to retrieve the real memory lurking inside his brain. Meanwhile Draco Malfoy has been given a task which involves assassinating Dumbledore and fiddling about with a magic cupboard which can transport the baddies into Hogwarts despite the rigorous security keeping them out. With a bit of luck Harry manages to retrieve the memory and learns that the young Voldemort had used Slughorn to obtain information on how to make a Horcrux, an object which contains a piece of ones soul for future use should that person die.

Already it sounds a bit dodgy. Chuck into the mix that all the characters, now past 16 have discovered a clever little thing called snogging. So there are love triangles tingling away throughout the entire movie, and it becomes a bit nauseating! In this respect the movie isn’t as subtle as the book. Another great flaw in the adaptation from book to film.

As a Christian I can’t really condone Harry Potter or sing its praises too loudly. It is after all my job to watch these movies so I have not supported the franchise financially and feel strong enough in my faith not to allow the content to do me any spiritual (or mental) harm. However I must say that if you, in any way, feel in your conscience that it is not right to watch any movie that features such things as witches and wizards then please do your conscience the honour of listening to it! I do not want my freedom to lead a brother or sister down the slippery slope of sin, so for your own sake stare clear of this movie if you think it will make you stumble. (Please refer to Romans 14 to further appreciate my position on this)

Just a few points with my imaginary pen before I press “save”... when thinking of this film review a few things struck me which I think are worth jotting down...

The eye is the devils domain. We learn this right at the beginning when the “women saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye she took some and ate it.” (Genesis 3:6) Therefore, I wouldn’t watch a raunchy flick because I know that it will likely lead me into sin. So if your right eye offends you, gouge it out and kick it down the street! A film that features witches and wizards is not going to entice me personally into seeing a clairvoyant or to hop naked around a pentagram, not in a million years. But, the sad truth is that I know of some nominal believers who get so worked up about their futures that, rather than trust in God’s promises, they will sneak a peak at what the gas giants of the heavens have to say about them in the astrology columns, or worse, they might go as far as consult a psycho... sorry, psychic... or secretly enjoy watching New Zealand’s Sensing Murder on the telly. If that’s you then stay well away from films like Harry Potter because they will just serve to entice what is already inherent in your flesh. ( And might I add, if you are that sort of Christian then get your act together and start taking the creator of the universe seriously when he says “Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” Isaiah 8:19)

The Devil is described as being more subtle than any other creature the Lord has made. He’s very clever. He’s been playing this game of stumbling believers for millennia... and I don’t think he’s getting rusty. It would be just like him to make a movie like Harry Potter and get Christians upset about it just enough so he can sneak something in through the back door, in movies like Shrek which promote transgenderism, Ice Age which supports evolution or Monsters vs Aliens which goes so far as to use the name of Christ as an innocent swear word in the first five minutes of the film! We let our kids watch them because they’re cute, but the truth is we are either so biblically illiterate or simply too lazy to see the majority of movies for the Devil’s pulpit they really are! (Please see my article on The Golden Compass and Ice Age 3 for more details)

What a fantastic opportunity movies provide us with to enhance our children’s understanding of scripture! How many parents sit through a film with their child and then at the end pull out the Bible for a juxtapositional Bible Study about the movies themes and ideas and how they measure up against scripture? That way you can turn a movie into a sort of mnemonic! Over time your child will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, having developed a critical mind and a discerning spirit.

We seem to set a dangerous double standard if we are prepared to slam a series like Harry Potter and yet wait in eager anticipation for the sequel for Twilight, which is about vampires no less, or can’t get the last episode of Brothers and Sisters out of our heads. To me this is an example of trying to keep the law and yet breaking it in one small area and therefore are guilty of breaking the whole thing!

So the question is will I be taking my child to see Harry Potter? No, because she is only six weeks old. But even if she was 6 years old or even 12 I still wouldn’t take her. Not unless I knew she was mentally and spiritually mature enough to take the good and reject the bad.

But having said that, this particular instalment is NOT for kids. Its dark, quite violent and has a lot of creepy things lurking about in it. When Rowling wrote the series after all, she wrote it for an aging audience, meaning the 10 year olds who read the first book would be the 16 year olds reading the sixth. It seems to evolve from being Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Nightmare on Elm Street as the series goes on... very heavy and very dark.

So for spiritual content I would give this film a big loud zero.

For entertainment, possibly a six.

And for successfully adapting a book to screen, sorry David, you get a two.

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