Finding God in Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is hitting bookstores today. And while some Christians still ban the fantasy novel, others are finding God through the story about a young wizard boy.

The sixth Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," is hitting bookstores today.

According to Reg Grant, a professor of pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary, more and more Christians are discovering in these novels many lessons to “celebrate and shake hands on,” reported the Dallas Morning News.

For Grant, much credit goes to the films.

"I think the movies illustrated how much Christian theology has in common with the message of Harry Potter,” said Grant. “Without the movies, we would still have a huge uproar."

Since “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" made its U.S. debut in 1998, these fantasy novels about a wizard boy have been a target of criticisms for many. They have even topped the American Library Association(ALA)'s top-ten list of “most protested” books since 1999, according to Beverley Becker of the association's Office for Intellectual Freedom in Chicago.

But things have changed.

"We were hearing so many complaints, and now we're hardly hearing any complaints at all," Becker said.

Harry dropped off the top-ten most protested list last year, and is increasingly gaining support -- especially among Christian writers, who are saying Harry is actually a “parable.”

Connie Neal, former youth pastor and now an author of Christian and inspirational books, read the first Harry Potter book, "thinking I would explain to my kids why they wouldn't be reading it."

When she got to the end, however, “I thought that in all my years I can't think of a better illustration of the battle we're in against evil than of one who dies to save the one she loves,” she said, referring to the moment when Harry discovers that the love of his mother, who died to save him when he was a baby, continues to protect him.

Yet, other Christians still oppose “Pottermania,” according to Dallas Morning News.

Richard Abanes, an author of Christian books, including the newly released "Harry Potter, Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings,” resists the idea that Potter series promotes Christianity.

"That's just wrong," said Abanes, 44, an evangelical Christian whose new book is the third he has written about the Potter phenomenon. "Many real-world occultists and Wiccans are using the popularity of Harry Potter to bring kids into their practices.”

According to Retail Trends, interest in Wicca materials, schools, spells has doubled since the release of the Harry Potter series.

Nevertheless, the tide seems to be shifting, especially with the release of the movies.

Instead of leading children down the path of the occult, J.K. Rowling is using magic in the way that Christian authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien did: as a way of enchanting children into hearing the story of the Gospel.

Like Grant, Gina Burkart, whose book, "A Parent's Guide to Harry Potter" came out in June, credits the movies and feels the books have helped her three children understand their Catholic faith.

"One of the most powerful connections my son made was when he was in the fourth grade," Burkart said. "He told me that when Harry drives the serpent's tooth through Tom Riddle's journal in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, that reminded him of how Christ destroyed Satan's book of lies when they drove the nails through Christ's hands and feet.

"And he told me that when the phoenix's tears heal Harry, that made him think of Christ's tears at the crucifixion. That's how Christ heals us."

John Granger, a classics teacher and devout member of the Greek Orthodox Church, picked up his first copy only so he could tell his daughter why she shouldn't read it.

When he when ahead with the screening, the messages surprised him and inspired him to write his own book: "Looking for God in Harry Potter."

"Harry rises from the dead after three days. Harry is saved by the sacrificial love of his mother,” he said.

"This book - and later I found out every book ends with Harry's figurative death and his resurrection in the presence of a traditional symbol of Christ.”