Kids around the globe dressed in wizard hats and Hogwarts school uniforms complete with capes and scarves got their hands on the final book in the Harry Potter series Saturday morning at 12:01 a.m.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is the seventh and final installment in J.K. Rowling's hugely popular series and critics and fans are calling it possibly the best with action-packed drama from the start. With 325 million copies sold worldwide, it's a Harry Potter phenomenon that booksellers have never seen before and may possibly never see again.
But it's a series some Christian parents are still trying to avoid.
Rodney Redmond, owner of The Sanctuary Christian Store in Columbus, Ga., told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that his three young girls haven't read the books or seen the movies, the latest ("Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix") of which broke several box office records quickly after its release this month and marked the strongest five-day performance in the movie franchise's history.
"They're selective and discerning and they chose not to read them," said Redmond, who attends Cascade Hills Church with his family.
The big question parents have is: "Should ... kids be reading novels about wizards and witches and magic?" noted conservative evangelical Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries.
Many evangelicals are saying "yes," but with caution.
For kids with an unhealthy interest in the occult, they probably shouldn't read the books, as suggested by Connie Neal, a veteran youth pastor and mother of three, in her book What's a Christian to do with Harry Potter? Others kids, however, could benefit from the moral lessons the Potter books teach, some Christians believe.
While parents should be concerned about modern witchcraft – a seductive false religion that they should protect their children from – "the literary witchcraft of the Harry Potter series has almost no resemblance to the I-am-God mumbo jumbo of Wiccan circles,'" stated a past review by Christianity Today magazine. "Author J.K. Rowling has created a world with real good and evil, and Harry is definitely on the side of light fighting the 'dark powers.'"
Colson personally doesn't recommend the Harry Potter books for Christian kids to read. He, however, acknowledged that kids will probably see them and hear others talk about them and that they're probably going to read them anyway.
So the key to keep children from becoming immersed and influenced by the Harry Potter world is teaching them discernment, Colson pointed out.
To illustrate this, the ministry leader pointed to the biblical story of the prophet Daniel, where author Neal's belief that it's okay for Christians to read secular novels comes from. Daniel – who had studied the language and literature of the pagan culture at a school that trained Babylon's magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers – studied it well to understand it.
"But, because of his deep devotion to God, he didn't defile himself," said Colson, citing Neal.
"God put Daniel in Babylon to be a light in the darkness – and he was," Neal had said. "He was not afraid to read literature that resounded in the hearts of the people with whom he lived. He used his familiarity with this pagan literature to reveal the true and living God."
So how do kids share their faith using Harry Potter?
"Use it to turn the conversation toward Jesus," says Jane Dratz of Dare 2 Share youth ministries.
Ask your friends if they believe there is a spiritual battle raging in the real world and talk about the spiritual weapons the Bible describes are available to followers of Jesus, Dratz suggested.
"Harry is a topic every follower of Jesus should be ready to discuss thoughtfully – whether you love him or hate him, he can be a springboard to talk about your faith with your friends," she stressed.